Popular Politics and Rebellion in Mexico
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The political conflict during Mexico's Reform era in the mid-nineteenth century was a visceral battle between ideologies and people from every economic and social class. As Popular Politics and Rebellion in Mexico develops the story of this struggle, the role of one key rebel, Manuel Lozada, comes into focus. The willingness of rural peasants to take up arms to defend the Catholic Church and a conservative political agenda explains the bitterness of the War of Reform and the resulting financial and political toll that led to the French Intervention. Exploring the activities of rural Jalisco's residents in this turbulent era and Lozada's unique position in the drama, Brittsan reveals the deep roots of colonial religious and landholding practices, exemplified by Lozada, that stood against the dominant political current represented by Benito Juarez and liberalism.

Popular Politics and Rebellion in Mexico also explores the conditions under which a significant segment of Mexican society aligned itself with conservative interests and French interlopers, revealing this constituency to be more than a collection of reactionary traitors to the nation. To the contrary, armed rebellion--or at least the specter of force--protected local commercial interests in the short run and enhanced the long-term prospects for political autonomy. Manuel Lozada's story adds a necessary layer of complexity to our understanding of the practical and ideological priorities that informed the tumultuous conflicts of the mid-nineteenth century.



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Date de parution 15 juin 2015
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EAN13 9780826520463
Langue English
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Popular Politics and Rebellion in Mexico
Manuel Lozada and La Reforma, 1855–1876

Zachary Brittsan
Vanderbilt University Press
© 2015 by Vanderbilt University Press
Nashville, Tennessee 37235
All rights reserved
First printing 2015
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data on file
LC control number 2014019560
LC classification number F1231.5.B75 2014
Dewey class number 972’.04092—dc23
ISBN 978-0-8265-2044-9 (hardcover)
ISBN 978-0-8265-2046-3 (ebook)
For Peggy and Ted
Introduction: Fragments of a Buried Mirror
Part One: A Nation of Brigands
Chapter One: Honorable Thieves, 1824–1856
Chapter Two: Popular Conservatism Emerges, 1857–1860
Chapter Three: Ideological Interlude, 1861–1862
Part Two: Brigand Nation
Chapter Four: Popular Conservatism Enacted, 1862–1867
Chapter Five: Uncomfortable Autonomy, 1867–1871
Chapter Six: From Revolution to Obscurity, 1872–1884
Conclusion: Reflections upon a Forgotten Rebel
The past decade in which this book took shape has constituted the most challenging and rewarding professional period thus far in my life. The sense of accomplishment cannot be overstated. While the rewards have been many, they are not mine alone. I owe an immense debt of professional and personal gratitude to those who made this journey possible.
The genesis of this project was in 2003 at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Over the subsequent seven years, my faculty advisors did their best to teach me the skills necessary to become a historian. Eric Van Young gave freely of his time, his counsel, and his knowledge. To say that I am fortunate to have studied under his guidance is an egregious understatement. This book owes many of its strengths and none of its shortcomings to his thorough comments on chapter drafts. Christine Hünefeldt, Michael Monteón, Everard Meade, and Leon Zamosc each contributed at different stages of this project’s development. In hindsight I realize how fortunate I was to have such an engaged group of Latin Americanists with whom to work at UCSD. I can only hope that this book reflects a modicum of their collective expertise.
My experience at UCSD was greatly enhanced by my community of peers in the Department of History. I give many thanks to a special group of Latin Americanists who preceded me—Matthew O’Hara, Eddie Wright Rios, and Miriam Riggs—for sharing their accumulated wisdom and practical advice. I also owe a significant debt of gratitude to those in my cohort. Jesús Pérez, Miguel La Serna, Chris Wisniewski, Bárbara Zepeda Cortés, Ricardo Fagoaga Hernández, and Jimmy Patiño all provided me with strong moral and intellectual support that extended from the seminar room to student conferences and on to social gatherings on the pastoral grounds of student housing. Finally, many thanks to my reading group: Todd Welker, Merina Smith, Christian Gonzalez, and Kelli McCoy. They took time out of their own busy schedules to read many chapter drafts of dubious quality, always offering constructive feedback.
Since I arrived in Lubbock, my colleagues at Texas Tech University have helped me with the book. Miguel Levario, Aliza Wong, Gretchen Adams, and Karlos Hill all shared their insights about the publishing process or commented on drafts of the book proposal. Abby Swingen and Alan Barenberg listened to my questions during the course of revisions, shared their own experiences and work, and still found time to comment on a revised chapter or two. My other colleagues in the Department of History were quick to supply words of support and congratulations as the book inched closer to publication. I am grateful for such a strong showing of collegiality.
Ideas never would have been transformed into words on the printed page were it not for multiple streams of financial support during my time in San Diego and Lubbock. External funding in the form of a research fellowship from the Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS) at the University of California, Riverside, and a Teixidor Grant from the Institute of Historical Investigations at the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) funded the bulk of my research abroad. Local support from the Department of History, the Friends of the International Center, and the Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies (CILAS) at UCSD allowed me to extend my stay in Mexico to a full calendar year. More recently, Texas Tech University has provided funding for additional research in Mexico and at archives in California and Texas. I am thankful that these organizations saw sufficient potential in my project to provide the material means with which to bring it to fruition.
Getting to Mexico, let alone successfully navigating the archives, would not have happened without a great deal of intellectual and practical support from academics, professionals, and friends in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Tepic. Professor Antonio Escobar Ohmstede at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS) provided much-needed advice regarding the organization of my archival visits in Mexico City, in particular facilitating my access to the Archivo de Defensa Nacional (ADN). Othón Nava Martínez, whom I first met during a preliminary research trip in 2005, placed his vast knowledge of the city’s archives at my disposal, further inviting me into a community of historians that included Miguel Ángel Hernández and Claudia Ceja Andrade. In Tepic, I met a thriving community of local historians who share my fascination with Manuel Lozada. I thank them, in particular Pedro López González, Jesús Jáuregui, and Enrique de Aguinaga Cortés, for inviting me into their conversations. No one opened his or her door so widely, however, as Joe Uberuaga, who first let me impose upon his hospitality in 2003 as a favor to his great-niece, Micaela. Little did he know that I would return on multiple occasions for extended stays, frequently regaling (or was it boring?) him with tales from the archives while liberating an apparently endless supply of papaya and coffee from his kitchen.
In Mexico City, archivists and the support staffs at the Archivo General de la Nación (AGN), the ADN, the Fondo Reservado of the Biblioteca Nacional (BN), the Mapoteca Orozco y Berra, and the Archivo Miguel Lerdo de Tejada tolerated my imperfect Spanish and did everything in their power to make my investigations as efficient as possible. Special thanks go to Professors Linda Arnold and Patrick Timmons for freely sharing some of their hard-earned research and experience with such an inexperienced gringo at the AGN. Thanks also to the librarians at the Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas and the Instituto Mora who provided access to their considerable libraries. In Guadalajara, Alejandro Telles Vázquez made the Archivo Histórico de Jalisco (AHJ) feel like a second home. I am also quite grateful to the personnel at the Biblioteca Pública del Estado de Jalisco (BPEJ) and the Archivo del Arzobispado de Guadalajara (AAG) for treating me so kindly, even as my limited time in Guadalajara ran out.
I thank my parents, Ted and Peggy, for teaching me about perseverance and how to embrace challenges with civility and grace. I may have spent much of the past decade training to become a specialist in a field of the humanities, but they long ago helped me develop the moral compass that guides me to this day. Nearly fifteen years ago, I met the person without whom this particular adventure never would have begun. Kelly Ainsworth introduced me to study abroad and Latin America when I was an undergraduate at Willamette University and later encouraged me to pursue history as a profession. I hope to capture in my own career a small part of the joy and humanity with which Kelly lived and worked. And, finally, I thank Micaela, who has been brave enough to seek new adventures with me in San Diego and Lubbock, pursuing her own professional path while helping me to achieve mine. Micaela has also shouldered disproportionate responsibility in the raising of our young daughters, Amaia and Isabel, while Daddy finished his book. Although my emotional debt can neither be quantified nor settled in so few lines, suffice it to say that I am forever grateful for her unwavering love and support.
I reneo Paz, a Guadalajara native, an ardent liberal, and a contemporary of Manuel Lozada, penned a fictionalized account of the dead man’s life in 1885. The story begins with the fateful first meeting between the bandit Lozada and a representative of the prominent Barrón y Forbes Company, presumably taking place in the late 1840s. By highlighting the nascent alliance between conservative regional elites and the rural masses, Paz revealed his preoccupation with how a small-time bandit could have managed to sustain a conservative rebellion against liberal rule for fifteen years. Although Paz’s focus on the marriage of elite ideology, money, and weapons with unscrupulous peasant foot soldiers disregards peasant agency and political culture, his opening pages reveal a wealth of contextual clues about the physical environment and patterns of human engagement in Jalisco’s seventh canton that inspired a sustained defense of local interests. 1
The encounter between Lozada and the unnamed representative occurred at an undisclosed site along the banks of the Santiago River in the foothills of the Sierra de Álica, a jagged expanse of mountains in Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental that runs north and south across the region. Located outside the urban center of Tepic (the capital of Jalisco’s seventh canton), the meeting place constituted an environmental crossroads. Although the river was a valuable source of water and served as a thread that ostensibly connected some foothill villages and haciendas with urban centers downstream, it was not navigable for large stretches and therefore limited as an engine of commerce. The semitropical climate of Tepic and the surrounding foothills nevertheless supported a wide variety of seasonal commercial agriculture and pasturelands. To the east, the foothills gave way to the more temperate climes, scrub oak, pine forests, and limited agricultural space of the Sierra de Álica. To the west, tropical lowlands descended to a mix of rugged coastline and marshy swamplands.
This particular environmental setting certainly affected the human geography in significant ways, ensuring the demographic and commercial vibrancy of the city of Tepic and surrounding plateau. San Blas, the only major port communicating with Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city, was of paramount importance to the regional economy in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Yet the muggy climate that supported tropical diseases and biting gnats in the port town made Tepic much more desirable as a place of residence for merchants. 2 While San Blas maintained relevance as a point of commerce, most of the pesos generated from trade were reinvested in Tepic and surrounding environs. The growing commercial networks and agricultural sites of production also made the plateau region desirable as a labor site. Many indigenous and mestizo peasants from the area and surrounding highlands of the Sierra de Álica constituted the primary workforce. Even Manuel Lozada and his gang members, who had found sustenance by preying on growing streams of commerce, spent their early years working on the region’s haciendas. So, more than a geographic crossroads, the large central swath of Jalisco’s seventh canton constituted a point of congregation, interaction, and investment for a diverse cross-section of local society.
But just because foreign merchants, mestizos, and Indians intermingled regularly in and around Tepic, the seventh canton did not constitute a proverbial melting pot. Paz’s words make this clear. The unarmed representative of the Barrón y Forbes Company was “respectably dressed” and traveled on a bridled horse. In addition to such markers of class, civility, and urbanity, his manner of speech suggested that he had enjoyed a formal education. Even if the representative had been born locally, he was linked to a small but growing community of mostly European foreigners who entered the region after the fall of the Spanish monopoly to find their fortune. In contrast, Lozada and his gang were largely illiterate, humbly dressed, traveled by foot, and had never ventured too far from home. Although Paz dismissively and incorrectly refers to Lozada as a “little Indian” of limited mental agility, his language reveals an air of perceived ethnic distinction that had long divided the European and mestizo lowlanders—with whom Paz clearly identified—from the mestizo and indigenous residents of the foothills and highlands. 3 Even if three hundred years of racial mixing and nearly thirty years of independence had rendered useless most legal measures of difference, a mélange of cultural markers constituted an enduring vocabulary upon which one could call to discern oneself from an inferior “other.”
These tensions rarely surfaced, however, and they certainly did not limit commercial interaction across class lines. In fact many residents of Tepic exuded optimism about the economic and social potential for the region so long as certain obstacles to trade could be overcome. According to Paz, the representative of the Barrón y Forbes Company quickly revealed to Lozada that the primary impetus for his visit was to persuade Lozada to put his muscle and local knowledge to work for the merchants. Specifically, he wanted Lozada’s gang to facilitate the illicit exchange of goods, describing them as “cargos of merchandise that sometimes enter via permitted ports in agreement with port employees, and other times via any coastal point, which have to be defended from the port attendants or any public force that tries to capture them.” 4 Despite the public prominence of the Barrón y Forbes Company, they and other commercial entities like them would go to great lengths to protect themselves from the onerous tariffs assessed on imported goods as well as the alcabalas (sales taxes) assessed on the overland transit of these goods. When port officials could not be paid to look the other way, the area under their watchful eyes could be circumvented. Such practices were part of doing business in the seventh canton of Jalisco and speak to local economic interests that spanned social categories to the degree that white elites and mestizo toughs found common cause. By manipulating or defying the tax collectors, merchants padded their profits and ensured their local economic dominance. For his part, Lozada entered into contact with the very revenue streams that later would underwrite his authority as an arbiter of local politics.
If a specific set of environmental factors and financial incentives brought a diverse array of actors together, an amorphous honor code cultivated a sense of trust among them. In Paz’s imagination, after agreeing to the terms under which Lozada would provide protection for illicit trade, the Barrón y Forbes representative learned that Lozada’s illiteracy prevented him from faithfully executing a written contract. Without hesitation, the representative responded, “It does not matter. Do you, sir, give your word of honor?” Lozada ratified the contract simply by responding in the affirmative and offering the visitor “a measure of cane liquor and cold rolls filled with chopped meat.” 5 The inviolability of such niceties should not be overestimated, but they speak to the prominence of shared cultural understandings based in a sense of masculine honor that easily substituted for universalizing legal codes and contracts. One’s good character, affirmed through an observable respect for the sanctity of interpersonal relations, formed the basis for mutual trust and did not require the presence of a lawyer. In this manner, parties of distinct social and racial backgrounds entered into agreements without the pretense of resolving or eradicating such markers of distinction. 6
The involvement of the Catholic Church as a transmitter of moral authority in Jalisco also speaks to the ongoing relevance of supposedly passé forms of engagement. Contrary to the assumption that it was a monolithic body taking a reactive stance against liberal initiatives from the moment of independence in 1821, the hierarchy in Guadalajara recognized its privileged position and sought to shape the secularizing tide of the Age of Revolutions as committed citizens of the Republic, at least until midcentury. 7 Rural priests, a much less privileged subset of the church with a stark awareness of local needs, were more varied in their relationship with temporal authorities. 8 One of the ways in which religious authorities in Guadalajara attempted to steady themselves against the pull of anticorporate liberalism was to expand their presence in Tepic in the early 1850s, traveling through the Sierra de Álica and inquiring about local religious needs. If anything, they hoped to maintain and even expand the moral authority of the church by engaging with an increasingly restless flock.
In the case of Tepic proper, the Sierra de Álica, and many villages along the foothills of the seventh canton of Jalisco, secularization was less visible than in the capital. Here the colonial church had established strong ties of affinity, and even as those ties were weakened after independence, the laicization of faith kept religious sentiments strong in the region. Missionaries may have encouraged Guadalupan devotions among indigenous communities with some success, but such devotions took on a life of their own. The popularity of a Marian shrine in the town of Talpa grew immensely after independence and drew devotees from all over the western mountains of Jalisco. This “Queen of the Lowly,” as she was known, became one of the most important shrines in western Mexico by midcentury. 9 Far from constituting a brake on material well-being or a rigid imposition from the Catholic hierarchy, local residents engaged the church and rural priests as sympathetic if not always malleable spiritual interlocutors.
Even liberals like Ireneo Paz, who rejected the legitimacy of religion as a component of contemporary political culture, could not ignore the vibrancy of local religiosity in Jalisco. For him, Lozada’s religion stood as a substitute for political agency. During a second meeting in late 1857, Paz’s fictionalized representative requested that Lozada take sides in the country’s brewing political dispute. At first Lozada was reluctant, suggesting that national political debates “will happen over there, in Mexico City.” After convincing Lozada that the upcoming conflict was already having local repercussions, the representative explained the nature of the contending political platforms. Paz depicted Lozada in this moment as having great difficulty comprehending the ideological framework for armed rebellion. Nevertheless, Paz’s Lozada enthusiastically pledged to defend Catholicism, saying to the representative, “It will not cost me anything—I will do it right now if you want—all the more so because I have a very strong devotion for the Virgin of Guadalupe.” 10 In this reading, provincial religiosity, alongside financial reward, served as the primary motivator for Lozada and his fellow rebels. Political awareness was as distant and foreign to them as the nation’s capital.
Although the dialogue between Lozada and the representative of the Barrón y Forbes Company is apocryphal, the important alliance that emerged from the meeting can be verified in historical documents from just a few years later. Furthermore, Ireneo Paz’s temporal and geographic proximity to events as they unfolded offers an intriguing lens through which to appreciate the economic, social, and cultural environment of Jalisco’s seventh canton in the mid-nineteenth century. Tepic and its environs may have been geographically distant from Mexico City, but contrary to Paz’s view, it resided firmly within the bounds of national political discourse. Over the course of Mexico’s violent Reforma (1855–1876), Manuel Lozada and his supporters willingly took up arms against liberal initiatives. Their local conservative currents may not have been strong enough to stand in perpetual opposition to the growing national tide of liberalism, but they continue to inform the story of Mexico today.
Popular Politics and Rebellion in Mexico
Fragments of a Buried Mirror
When the late literary giant and cultural observer Carlos Fuentes authored The Buried Mirror (1922), he chose a simple but compelling metaphor to frame his study of five hundred years of the history of the Americas. The titular mirror represented the Spanish, indigenous, and African cultural traits that had imprinted themselves to a great degree upon Latin American societies. So strong were these characteristics, the metaphor suggests, that Latin American individuals holding the mirror could in fact recognize a part of themselves by looking upon any one of these sites in the Atlantic World. This idea is particularly jarring in the sense that many Latin Americans and most of Latin America’s leaders since 1810 have taken pains to distance their countries and communities politically, economically, and culturally from their Spanish ancestors. Although these same leaders have embraced some aspects of Mexico’s indigenous heritage—especially in the twentieth century—they have done so with unease. Fuentes took issue with these tendencies, arguing that half-hearted measures denied or “buried” the very essence of what it meant to be Latin American. He proposed a different tack, recognizing the enduring importance of Spanish, indigenous, and African heritage in contemporary society. For all the historical tragedies inherent in the colonial experience, he insisted, an understanding of the cultural continuities between Latin America and Spain could potentially “transcend the economic and political disunity and fragmentation of the Hispanic world.” 1 Although the publication of the book coincided with the quincentennial of Columbus’s seminal crossing of the Atlantic, it was not so much an exaltation of Europeanness as it was an appeal for readers to make peace with this past, gain a better understanding of their present, and be less fettered by historical baggage in their confrontation with contemporary problems.
Fuentes’s laudable if over-optimistic endeavor, which gazed across the Atlantic Ocean and multiple centuries, has a modern and more local echo. A fragment of his metaphorical mirror, certainly one of many, lies buried in the nineteenth-century earth of rural Jalisco. As liberal statesmen and military men expelled French imperialists from Mexico in the 1860s, they simultaneously sought to inter the remains of a domestic, conservative opposition that had tolerated and in some cases fought for the imperial cause. Mid-nineteenth-century Mexico, not unlike early twenty-first-century Mexico, was plagued by violence in the countryside. Entire portions of the country pursued agendas that undermined national stability. Broadly national conflicts like the War of Reform (1858–1860) and the French Intervention (1862–1867) obscured local conflicts even as they fueled them. Such regionalized rebellions are crucial to understanding deeper, more personal characteristics of the ideological disagreements that shaped the period. One popular movement in particular, led by a nominally conservative mestizo, Manuel Lozada, spanned the War of Reform and the French Intervention before peaking in the early 1870s. The rebellion ranged widely across the western state of Jalisco (at that time also encompassing present-day Nayarit) and counted approximately seven thousand people among its ranks. Rebel leaders drew the ire of leading figures like Benito Juárez and Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada while pretenders to the throne in Mexico City like Maximilian von Hapsburg and Porfirio Díaz sought alliances with Manuel Lozada to enhance their military status. Despite such high-profile dalliances, Lozada’s rebellion has remained little more than a historical footnote.
How did such a prominent rural caudillo (leader) slip so quickly from the historical registry? In July 1873, just five months removed from his largest military campaign, Lozada sat in the Tepic jail awaiting execution. Federal troops aided by Lozada’s former ally, Andrés Rosales, had captured Lozada near his hometown of San Luis de Lozada in the company of his wife and twenty-five loyal followers. They brought him into Tepic and put him on trial before a hastily assembled military tribunal. Two days later, officers sentenced Lozada to death and photographed him for the first time in his life (see fig. 1 ). Early on the morning of 19 July 1873, liberal troops escorted Lozada to a hill outside of town and put him before a firing squad. They placed his body in an unmarked grave, attempting to bury him in the anonymity from which he had emerged nearly two decades earlier. From their perspective, they had stamped out a relic of Mexico’s barbaric past, further clearing the way for the liberal vision of national consolidation and progress. 2
Lozada’s death corresponded with the decline of political conservatism at the national level, rendered unviable well before the dawn of Porfirian rule in 1876. Conservative Catholics’ ill-fated alliance with the French invaders and subsequent military defeat by liberals in the 1860s had relegated them to public obscurity. The emerging liberal state did everything in its power to dictate the terms of public memory, and their remembrances to Lozada clearly revealed their plans for Mexico’s future. By essentially hiding the physical location of his body, federal troops greatly reduced the possibility that any heroic memory of Lozada would enjoy a posthumous celebration. 3 Unlike the heroic cult that authorities quickly embraced in the wake of Emiliano Zapata’s assassination during Mexico’s 1910 Revolution, liberals in Jalisco in 1873 took pains to avoid the attachment of sacred meaning to Lozada’s corpse. 4 Instead authorities erected a fluted column with a Corinthian and Ionic cap in the middle of Tepic’s central plaza as a memorial to Lozada’s military defeat. The monument, which still stands today, clearly symbolized the victory of the Republic over the forces of disorder that Lozada represented. Tepic’s citizenry, the monument conveyed, would be better served reflecting on the Greek heritage of their ideas than on the bandit scourge that had spent the better part of fifteen years inciting ethnic, religious, and political violence.

FIGURE 1 : This image is one of two photographs taken of Manuel Lozada in Tepic after he had been sentenced to death by firing squad in July 1873. In keeping with the somber moment, the portrait is devoid of objects or accessories that might have indicated his prominence as a regional leader. An unintentional dynamite explosion the previous year had scarred the right side of his body, visibly damaging his right eye. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
For decades, this narrative controlled the public sphere both at the national and local levels. Although this figurative act of forgetting was underwritten by real violence, the largely successful suppression of conservative narratives and memory has had lasting cultural and political ramifications. The liberal campaign to exude modernity and exclude a political identity that traced its roots to the indigenous precolonial and Spanish colonial eras was based on the false assumption that Mexico in the mid-nineteenth century constituted a tabula rasa . Instead of peering into the mirror and embracing the maddeningly disparate yet vibrant regional polities that constituted Mexico, public authorities buried their mirror and sought to move on. As the contentious and regionalized nature of contemporary politics suggests, however, moving on has proved to be much easier in theory than in practice. Digging up the story of Manuel Lozada will not alone heal ongoing political fragmentation in Mexico or elsewhere in Latin America, but it can provide a much-needed understanding of cultural difference.
This telling of the story may not rewrite the history of liberal victory at the national level between 1855 and 1876, but it does raise serious questions about the consolidation of liberal nationalism among Mexico’s rural citizenry. 5 By openly embracing and expressing conservative sympathies after 1855, Manuel Lozada engaged with a local cultural-value system and generated a groundswell of support from everyday people, which challenged an elite worldview. Analysis of government correspondence, military documents, parish records, newspapers, and Manuel Lozada’s proclamations and personal letters makes clear that he had tapped into an ideological undercurrent that I term “popular conservatism.” 6 Defense of the Catholic Church, the integrity of communal landholdings, and local political autonomy constituted the mainstays of this belief system that was rarely articulated but consistently enforced by Manuel Lozada and his followers. Lozada’s brand of rough justice and conservative military alliances made him unpalatable to most outside observers, yet they allowed an individual of modest origin to maintain a viable rebellion until his capture and execution by federal forces in 1873. Although Lozada’s supporters contested national reforms and shaped state formation within the confines of the nineteenth century, knowing their story is essential to a fully realized understanding of political culture in Mexico today.
A Corner of the Mirror Revealed
A glimpse of this alternative narrative emerges in an unusual obituary recorded by the priest of Tepic in 1873. The entry about Manuel Lozada is unlike any of the hundreds of otherwise formulaic obituaries that year. Four identical illustrations of skull and crossbones adorn each corner of the entry. Above each skull hovers a small cross (see fig. 2 ). Like those before and after it, the entry was made by the priest of Tepic, Ignacio Ayala. Although the meaning of the skull and crossbones today is often associated with poison or piracy, it held an entirely different meaning for Father Ayala. Dating back to the colonial period, the skull and crossbones often marked the entryway to Catholic burial grounds, distinguishing the holiness of the space. 7 More contemporaneously, the symbol adorned the sarcophagi of individuals who had served the church during their lives (see fig. 3 ). The sarcophagus pictured below is located in the chapel adjacent the cathedral in Guadalajara, Jalisco’s capital and urban core. It contains the remains of José de Jesús Ortíz y Rodríguez, Guadalajara’s archbishop between 1901 and 1912. 8 The Latin inscription above the skull and crossbones, “ Ossa et cineres ” (bones and ashes), yields little insight, but the symbol’s association with such an important religious figure and its prominent location on the sarcophagus near the chapel’s altar suggest that the image was intended in homage to Rodríguez’s high standing within the church.

FIGURE 2 : Father Ignacio Ayala recorded Manuel Lozada’s violent demise in July 1873. Although Lozada’s obituary in Tepic’s libro de defunciones (death register) is formulaic in many respects, the highly visible skulls and crossbones adorning each corner of his entry stray significantly from the script. Courtesy of the Archdiocese of Tepic.
In Lozada’s case, in addition to the symbolic meaning conveyed by the skull and crossbones, the text of the obituary entered by Ignacio Ayala is also notable. Obituaries tended to be extremely formal (and formulaic) in their manner of addressing the recently deceased, but Lozada’s title was particularly reverent. Most of the names of the dead were preceded by “Sor/Sra” or “Don/Doña,” yet Ignacio Ayala identified Lozada as “Sor. General D. Manuel.” 9 This combination of honorific and title suggests that Ayala held Lozada in high regard. Acknowledging his standing as a general is especially interesting, since it was a title granted Lozada by the French imperialists in the 1860s and later used only by Lozada and his supporters in the seventh canton of Jalisco. Members of the opposition generally refused to attribute such a high military grade to Lozada. Even granting that some residents may have addressed Lozada as a general out of fear rather than loyalty and respect, that fear must have been greatly diminished after 19 July 1873, when Lozada was executed. Father Ayala chose to draw the skull and crossbones around Lozada’s especially formal obituary without any conceivable pressure to do so. His decision stands as a lasting indicator that religious leaders recognized Lozada as an ally of the church. Such an unexpected find suggests there is another side to the story of Manuel Lozada’s movement than the one created by government officials in 1873.

FIGURE 3 : This sarcophagus in the chapel adjoining Guadalajara’s cathedral contains the remains of Archbishop José de Jesús Ortíz y Rodríguez. The skull and crossbones in high relief at the image’s center mark the final resting place for a distinguished leader of the Catholic Church. Courtesy of the Archdiocese of Guadalajara.
Establishing Manuel Lozada’s religiosity, however, is a difficult endeavor; the record of his religious practices is scant. Enough information does emerge, nonetheless, to conclude that he did embrace Catholic spiritual moorings at important junctions in his life. Born in San Luis on 28 September 1828, he was taken to the parish seat near Tepic by his parents, Norberto García and Cecilia González, and baptized two days later. 10 Lozada’s engagement with the Catholic Church as a parishioner is unknown until much later in his life. At some point in his adulthood, Lozada called upon the priest of Jalisco (a small town near Tepic, not the state by the same name), Father González, to take his confession and marry him to Eligia Montes. 11 It is likely that he cultivated amicable relations with religious personnel beyond that point, attending mass occasionally, baptizing his children, and sending them to primary school under the tutelage of priests in the 1860s and early 1870s. These moments may reveal little about the depth of Lozada’s belief system, but they do illustrate that his personal convictions generally adhered to established norms of religious service. Lozada’s obituary in 1873 may have marked his final religious transaction, but it was far from being his only interaction with the Catholic Church.
As will be developed in the chapters to follow, the church was much more forgiving of his human peccadilloes than was the state. Understanding Lozada’s personal piety in the context of the political struggle described above demonstrates how his enigmatic relationship with the religious establishment developed and why local priests tolerated the violence associated with Lozada’s rebellion. At the same time, an analysis of Lozada’s faith explodes any notion that he was just a millennial figure seeking to bring otherworldly salvation to the residents of the Sierra de Álica. Lozada was a natural ally of the church when the national conflict pitting religious conservatives against liberal statesmen erupted into civil war in 1857, but the relationship that emerged over the intervening years was much more practical than fanatical. What it did reveal was that religious piety constituted an important component of popular conservatism throughout the period, no matter how irregularly demonstrated. Reassembling the fragments of Lozada’s life and rebellion in this way will reveal a truer reflection of rural existence in mid-nineteenth century Nayarit.
Revisiting the Rebellious Peasant: Historiographical Considerations
Although this approach to telling the story of rural peoples has developed only recently among historians, interest in Lozada as someone other than a savage bandit began to appear as early as the 1920s. In short, the twentieth-century flip-flop by academics and national leaders made sense within the trajectory of consolidating the revolution and implementing agrarian reforms. Reevaluating the once-dangerous but long-dead rebel promoted optimism about the possibility of state-led changes to improve life for many Mexicans, especially campesinos (country people). This position also encouraged a broader celebration of lo mexicano , a search in which journalists, intellectuals, and politicians eagerly engaged. The expanding currency that Marxism carried among intellectuals ensured that agrarianism remained a focal point of study well into the 1980s, even as optimism about the transformative potential of PRI-led changes faded. 12 Jean Meyer’s Esperando a Lozada and La tierra de Manuel Lozada , thus far the most foundational studies of Lozada’s rebellion, add nuance to this structuralist approach by reproducing some of Lozada’s writings in an attempt to clarify his obscure biography. 13 But they do not go far enough to escape the rigid dichotomies that pit traditional, spiritually rich peasants against the secular forces of modernization.
Recent publications have begun to deepen the analysis of the cultural underpinnings of indigenous communities in Nayarit through oral histories and discursive appraisal of conservative and liberal documents published between 1850 and 1880. The outcomes of these efforts have been extraordinarily diverse: whereas some have concluded that indigenous participation in the Lozada rebellion was a practical measure motivated by short-term preservation, others have identified long-standing ethnic bonds dating back to before the Spanish conquest. 14 This work is therefore a direct acknowledgement that each of these seemingly opposed interpretations contains certain truths. 15 Fear is an extremely powerful motivator, especially among some communities in moments of heightened conflict. But Manuel Lozada’s coercive powers were limited at best. Some kind of deeper, affectual bonds must have come into play over the more than fifteen years that Lozada maintained his rebellion. Whereas ethnicity undoubtedly featured prominently (Lozada issued most of his public proclamations on behalf of Nayarit’s indigenous communities), he and his most prominent associates were mestizos. They were more likely to work in consort with people of European descent than to declare war against them. By focusing on the local political milieu in midcentury Mexico, the combined impact of relations that developed in the colonial context, including land tenure, ethnic ties, and religious affinities, can be measured in their moment. This approach acknowledges the endurance of colonial sensibilities without reifying them as antimodern. 16 In this way, the Lozadista movement may be viewed in cultural terms as something other than a simple reaction to the modernizing reforms of nineteenth-century liberals.
Such an approach is not without precedent. Over the last two decades, studies of peasant rebellion have focused ever more tightly on peasant culture as it relates to political ideologies. Peter Guardino’s Peasants, Politics, and the Formation of Mexico’s National State: Guerrero, 1800–1857 and Florencia Mallon’s Peasant and Nation: The Making of Postcolonial Mexico and Peru deserve credit as innovative and enduring studies that constitute nineteenth-century peasants as political agents whose world-view emerged in the context of local political developments, not as a response to elite ideas. Both have identified anticonservative political currents (popular federalism in Guerrero for Guardino and popular liberalism in Puebla and Morelos for Mallon) that informed the growth and consolidation of nationalism in the mid-nineteenth century. 17 Their work has been extremely influential, inspiring case studies for other regions in Mexico like Oaxaca, Veracruz, Hidalgo, and Yucatan. 18 Liberalism in the nineteenth century, it seems, was spreading from the ground up all across the country. While analysis of political belief systems among Mexico’s rural constituents continues to be welcome in all its forms, persistent barriers to this rising tide of peasant liberalism should not be forgotten. Orthodox histories of conflict during the nineteenth century have long suggested that peasants shared greater ideological overlap with conservative elites than with liberals, yet more recent studies of peasant culture, rebellion, and conservatism are gaining steam. 19
Those who have navigated the difficult waters of religious belief and its connections to the formation of peasant ideologies or actions have made rewarding discoveries. Whether altering the course of modernizing reforms within the Catholic Church or combating the injustice and anticlericalism of the state in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, religious and political cultures matter. 20 They consist of enduring ideas that inform and actively shape popular responses to crisis. Benjamin Smith, for example, looks across more than two hundred years of Oaxacan history to chart the emergence, consolidation, and survival of an ideology he identifies as “provincial conservatism.” 21 Although my concept, popular conservatism, emphasizes land disputes, rebellion, and local politics to a greater degree than Smith’s, this book seeks to travel a similar path, extending such ideological considerations to new places like rural Jalisco and to peasant actors like Manuel Lozada, who consistently found themselves on the wrong side of the dominant narrative of Mexican history. Conservatism by any name was a multiregional, dynamic part of Mexico’s state formation; furthermore, as the emerging chorus of recent studies suggests, the liberal imagining of Mexico is far from complete. 22
A Rebel and His Rebellion in Context
So how should Manuel Lozada be characterized, and what was the social and political milieu from which he and his followers emerged? In many ways, it seems, Manuel Lozada fit the description of an insurgent more than that of a bandit. 23 According to Eric Van Young, the typical insurgent in the early nineteenth century tended to be “an Indian villager of about 30 years old, a farmer, married, and probably captured within a relatively short distance of his home.” 24 By midcentury the description had not changed dramatically. Those imprisoned on charges of banditry typically were married, young, illiterate, and most frequently worked as farmhands or day laborers. 25 The majority of people who followed Lozada probably did not stray dramatically from this depiction. Lozada himself worked as a rural laborer in his youth, did marry, and was captured not far from San Luis de Lozada, the town where he was born and lived for much of his adult life. Although Lozada likely engaged in some banditry as a young adult, he began the most active stage of his insurgent career not long after his thirtieth birthday. Of course, the success of his rebellion kept him alive until the reasonably advanced age of forty-four. Opposition politicians, military men, and journalists frequently categorized him as a salvaje (savage) or a cacique (chief), terms they used derogatorily to imply indigenousness. Such elite appraisals of the problem must be interrogated critically: Lozada was mestizo, not Indian, but he spent the latter part of his career advocating for the rights of Nayarit’s indigenous communities. Without denying that widespread banditry existed along Mexico’s overland routes of commerce or that Lozada himself parlayed his abilities as a bandit into a larger rebellion, one might say that his career arc was not altogether atypical.
For all of Lozada’s unique trappings as a bandit and insurgent, he was just one among many to exert regional control and become the face of a rural rebellion in nineteenth-century Mexico. A brief portrait of some of Lozada’s contemporaries at the peak of their influence may contribute to a better understanding of Lozada himself. What emerges at first glance is the clear sense that these caudillos operated within historical circumstances that were unique to their geographic location. As a result, local conditions dictated very different leadership styles and rebellions from place to place. On the other hand, certain similarities emerge, pointing to larger institutional problems. Most obviously, recurrent rebellions in many different areas of midcentury Mexico illustrate the relative shortcomings of the state. A second, related observation is that authorities, whether liberal or conservative, responded to these rebellions in consistent and similar ways. State formation may have been an ongoing project, but officials working within the existing structure already demonstrated an enduring capacity to ignore peasant complaints when possible, meeting them with decidedly punitive action when they could not be ignored.
Although Lozada’s movement lasted longer than most other rebellions, it was part of a larger pattern of nearly twenty uprisings that occurred in the region during the same time period. Juan Álvarez was arguably the only leader of peasant rebels to enjoy a longer career and greater success at the national level than Manuel Lozada did. His military experience began after 1818 as a fighter for the insurgents during the Wars of Independence. He specialized in guerrilla warfare, building a loyal following among the mulatto militia along the Costa Grande near Acapulco. 26 He curried favor and support with this local peasant base throughout his life, giving him a great deal of leverage in conflicts at the national level. By the 1840s, Álvarez occupied a unique place as a general in the federal army and regularly advocated fairer taxation polices for rural residents. He parlayed his position as an intermediary between peasants and the state into remarkable achievements such as the recognition of Guerrero as a state in 1849 and the Revolution of Ayutla, which pushed Antonio López de Santa Anna out of power for the last time in 1855 and briefly made Álvarez the president of Mexico. After his death in 1867, his remains were transferred to Mexico City to be buried alongside other leading figures of the period, his legacy firmly tied to the celebrated and victorious liberal reforms of the moment.
Most rebel leaders, however, never enjoyed this much success at the national level. None are so fondly remembered. They do, nonetheless, share much more in common with one another and with a broad segment of Mexico’s rural population. Relatively close to Lozada’s territory, rebels led by Lugardo Onofre in the southern canton of La Barca rose up in 1856 in a dispute over land measurements that lasted into the following year. Nearly two thousand peasants mobilized before authorities could muster enough federal troops to defeat them. In the State of Mexico, a February 1868 rebellion led by an ex-soldier of the federal army, Julio López, gained ground, “proclaiming a war against the rich and the division of hacienda lands among the indigenous.” 27 President Juárez dispatched troops to put down the rebellion, offering a pardon to López for his participation. López accepted the offer but took up arms just a few months later. Troops caught up with López on this occasion and executed him almost immediately upon his capture. A similar pattern of interaction between rebel leaders and government forces emerged in an uprising led by Sotero Lozano, Francisco Islas, and Manuel Domínguez in the State of Hidalgo in 1869. They led attacks against area haciendas by Tezontepec peasants, who began removing stone markers that divided Indian towns and haciendas. The movement was put down violently by federal troops in 1870, but Islas and Domínguez survived long enough to receive and accept pardons from the Juárez administration. 28
Comparing peasant rebellions is a difficult and sensitive matter, especially when considering where one rebellion ends and another begins. Should these movements in different areas of Mexico be lumped together analytically because they were constituted by peasants who had complaints with the given authority structure, or should each be weighed on its merits? Certainly, there are reasons for and against taking a particularly micro- or macro-approach to rebellion. The parallels between the uprisings mentioned above and Manuel Lozada’s are striking: excessive taxation and access to land were common provocations for rebellion, as were state responses that alternated between violent repression and offers of amnesty. Such similarities provide the basis for useful generalizations, but run the risk of obscuring unique local conditions. My own approach is to view each regional rebellion first as a unique phenomenon and only later scrutinizing other rebellions for signs of overlap. As a result, I tend to see many rebellions occurring contemporaneously without any one of them serving as representative of the lived experience of all Mexican peasants.
In terms of the individuals who constituted the majority of rural rebels, whether these challengers are best identified as indigenous peoples or peasants requires some clarification. 29 Without denying the importance of ethnic or racial divisions, it must be noted that communities located in more isolated parts of the Sierra de Álica, like the Santa Catarina and San Andrés, shared many characteristics, including a tendency to be poor, primarily but not exclusively indigenous, and dedicated to agricultural production. These similarities notwithstanding, most communities in areas of rebellion were primarily linked by their claims for access to land. 30 Although privatization of lands had been legally mandated in Jalisco since 1822, such decrees went largely unenforced. Disputes over the boundary limits of haciendas and indigenous communities were much more consistent threats to rural harmony. The loss of fertile soils, grazing lands, or access to water proved inflammatory in the 1850s when Lozada began to figure prominently in the Sierra de Álica. 31 Identifying Lozadista fighters as peasants without supposing that their agrarian claims sprang from a consolidated class movement correctly places emphasis on the social origins of rural dissent in Jalisco.
But a more accurate reading of rebellion also requires an understanding of the ideological context in which it played out. Lozada’s movement was built on a long history of legal conflict between white, often politically conservative hacienda owners and indigenous peasant communities, yet was itself decidedly conservative. As further contextual frameworks for this investigation, nineteenth-century concepts of liberalism and conservatism are crucial to understanding the contending political and economic forces in Mexican society and, as such, must be clearly distinguished from twenty-first-century liberal and conservative notions. Liberals, to begin with, advocated a separation of church and state to create a secular, civil society. Furthermore, an educated citizenry was, for them, a crucial first step to exercising democratic ideals such as freedom of press. In economic terms, liberalism meant turning away from guilds and artisan modes of production to pursue open markets and divisions of labor. Conservatives, on the other hand, supported certain corporatist privileges, such as special military and religious courts, in the interest of maintaining strong institutional identities. In their view, a paternalistic society ordered by class or caste was essential to national well-being. Although many conservatives advocated industrialization, they generally preferred to organize it through protected and controlled markets. Liberals clearly emphasized individual progress, whereas conservatives gave priority to social order. My point in describing these contrasts is not to mold rigid ideologies into which indigenous communities can be pressed, but rather to establish a framework with which to analyze the actions and viewpoints expressed by peasants and nonpeasants alike.
Determining the extent to which peasants in rural Mexico acted in accordance with liberal or conservative values is one of the objects of this study. I do not assume that conservative ideologies expressed in Mexico City were necessarily reflected in rural political practice. In fact, regional politics in mid-nineteenth-century Mexico were hardly uniform. The incomplete implementation of liberal or conservative forms of governance before the War of Reform (1858–1860) generated many different rural manifestations of political affiliation. The physical distance between communities in Jalisco and urban centers like Guadalajara or Mexico City, if not constituting an ideological buffer, at least created space for alternative conceptualizations of how one’s society could and should be ordered.
The life of Manuel Lozada demonstrates the dictum that all politics are local, in this case the local manifestation of national struggle between liberals and conservatives in nineteenth-century Mexico. In the early part of his career Manuel Lozada was a mestizo bandit, a rural tough who robbed villages and mule trains for his own survival and enrichment. He was not a Mexican Robin Hood, nor was his movement a precursor to later revolutionary movements. In fact, his political intransigence would doom the long-term prospects of his rebellion by the early 1870s. Nevertheless, he became a powerful regional figure in mid-nineteenth-century Mexico, just as the country entered a critical period of national political change. He became something of a caudillo, administering territorial units, leading military campaigns, and serving as an interlocutor between government officials and indigenous communities. 32
Lozada rose to national prominence with the conservative backlash to liberal reforms in the 1850s, and his death in 1873 roughly corresponded with the consolidation of liberal government in the 1870s. But Lozada’s brand of politics should not be construed as derivative of national events and conflicts. His rebellion demonstrated the essence of popular conservatism in rural Mexico, meaning that a political ideology framed in terms of land rights and local autonomy (in all its forms—economic, political, and cultural) resonated with rural residents in Nayarit. Furthermore, ineffective federal interventions in rural affairs during most of his lifetime only enhanced the belief that liberalism offered citizens very little. These incursions also provided convenient cover for instances of reactive violence that exceeded the limits of ideological justification. Inefficient governance by ideological foreigners, whether emanating from Mexico City or Guadalajara, encouraged the very armed rebellions that propelled local peasants like Manuel Lozada into a national conflict.
Such was the strength of Manuel Lozada’s movement that it forced both the conservative government of Maximilian and the liberal state under Benito Juárez to negotiate with the rebel leader for control of Jalisco’s seventh canton. The nature of this rebellion remains crucial to understanding the culture of the region today. It is also essential to understanding national politics in late nineteenth-century Mexico as a representation of popular conservatism in the face of ascending liberalism. Violence, in its extremity, is the clearest expression of politics and illustrates the extent to which rural support for Lozada was couched in good faith or fear. This book considers the multifaceted yet converging histories of Manuel Lozada’s life, peasant rebellion, political boundaries, contraband trade, property disputes, and religion in order to disinter the story of how residents of Jalisco’s seventh canton engaged the national political process on their own terms.
“You know there is honor among thieves and we keep our word.”
Manuel Payno, The Bandits from Río Frio
Honorable Thieves, 1824–1856
In the wake of the Wars of Independence in 1824, the region newly designated as the state of Jalisco demonstrated an apparently smooth political transition from colonial to republican governance. Despite a history of unrest that includes an 1801 indigenous uprising in the region’s northwest corner led by a mysterious individual remembered as “El Indio Mariano,” and by wartime occupations of Guadalajara by Mexico’s most famous insurgent, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a general sense of calm characterized the region. 1 Such was generally the case across much of Mexico for the next thirty years, despite the ongoing and considerable upheaval in the highest levels of government. 2 The general consensus among historians is that the fragmentation of the colonial political and economic apparatus, aided by slow population growth coming out of the Wars of Independence, reduced demographic pressure and restored significant autonomy to regional polities. Paradoxically, for a while at least, the inconsistent implementation of a new regime of federal law and order may have enabled rural stability.
An analysis of the material and nonmaterial core of daily life in rural Jalisco during the first thirty years of independence reveals a social milieu that is consistent with other places in Mexico. Limited population growth in most of the region did not portend a Malthusian crisis. Much of Jalisco’s seventh canton operated with great political autonomy, relatively free to adhere as much or as little as desired to decrees emanating from Guadalajara or Mexico City. This was especially true of land reforms and early state attempts to turn presumably communal Indians into private landholders. Towns and villages in the area issued titles of individual land ownership at their discretion. Disputes over property boundaries, especially instances in which haciendas encroached on indigenous lands, were not infrequent, but these cases were settled locally and usually without armed conflict.
In the absence of consolidated state power in rural Mexico, another institution, the Catholic Church, proved much more influential. Remote mountain communities scarcely appear in civil records—a reflection of their autonomy—but most featured a chapel of some kind and observed many Catholic teachings alongside indigenous traditions. Remarkably, the church, like the state, largely failed during the early days of the Republic to establish a regular presence of personnel in the region. Rural communities chose to perpetuate Catholicism of their own accord, reflecting a cultural identification with the institution. This colonial holdover—with its ubiquitous structures and practices, core set of beliefs that could unite communities across caste and class, and variety of devotional celebrations and feasts—proved to be a formidable source of social glue across rural Mexico well into the nineteenth century. 3 The indigenous communities of Jalisco’s seventh canton proved no exception to this tendency.
Yet for all the apparent stability that characterized those first thirty years after independence, signs of unrest became increasingly widespread by midcentury. Modernizers of all political stripes in the government, along with wealthy merchants in the private arena, sought to accelerate economic growth in Jalisco, generating a push to bring the seventh canton under the effective control of legislators in Guadalajara. State forces began to appear more regularly in the foothills surrounding the primary route of commerce in an attempt to curtail the endemic banditry that presented an ostensible threat to business and good governance. Violence flared, and previously anonymous individuals like Manuel Lozada gained notoriety in the press for their exploits (characterized as banditry), some imagined and some very real. Rural residents confronted difficult decisions with regard to which side best protected their interests. Justice on the frontiers of Mexico could look very different depending on the beholder. 4 Indigenous communities did not uniformly adhere to conservative politics, mapping neatly onto the emerging ideological divide between conservatives and liberals, but they recognized in the accelerating changes of the mid-nineteenth century a liberal state defined by increasingly ambitious rhetoric rendered hollow by limited local implementation.
Liberals may have imagined clear goals for Mexico’s future as a nation, but they failed to demonstrate a place in that future for a significant portion of the seventh canton’s residents. By late 1855, after the victory of the Revolution of Ayutla (1854–1855) and amid hardening ideological lines, it became clear that Lozada and his armed followers represented for a broad swath of rural society a viable alternative to the liberal project. Beyond the indigenous communities and mestizo towns that supplied workers for area haciendas—areas traditionally frequented by Lozada—prominent merchants living in Tepic eyed more drastic means of protecting their interests. Eustaquio Barrón and William Forbes, founders of the Barrón y Forbes Company, sought out Lozada as a sort of hired gun. In addition to the obvious financial incentives for each party, this otherwise unlikely pairing constituted a peripheral closing of ranks against an increasingly intrusive political center. The soon-to-be rebels in Tepic had not yet issued a political program of their own, but they were not prepared to sacrifice their local autonomy for an uncertain future.
Inauspicious Beginnings: Tepic’s Early Road to Statehood
Political divisions in Jalisco during the mid-nineteenth century were more than just imaginary lines on the ground. It is certainly true that borders between states and cantons were chronically unstable. Territorial limits remained controversial and ill defined throughout the period under study as ranch owners, town residents, Lozadistas, and government soldiers regularly crossed borders to lay claim to neighboring pieces of terrain or towns. But changing political designations were part of not just a strictly technical process associated with liberal and conservative conflict but also a social, historical one. 5 Over the course of the Lozadista rebellion, the defense of local autonomy became increasingly intertwined with the creation of a state known as Nayarit. Manuel Lozada and his followers did not initiate their rebellion as a quest for statehood, but they appropriated an admittedly federalist conceit to enhance the status of their conservative movement.
Writers of the 1824 federal Constitution created the state of Jalisco and established its political boundaries in accordance with the colonial territory known as Nueva Galicia. This territorial designation, which had held up for over three hundred years of colonial rule, slowly disintegrated over the course of the nineteenth century. Today the state of Nayarit is a relatively compact state in western central Mexico, roughly equivalent in size to North Carolina. 6 It shares relatively short borders with Sinaloa to the north, Durango to the northwest, and Zacatecas to the east. Jalisco, Nayarit’s most prominent neighbor, wraps around the majority of Nayarit’s southern and eastern borders. Although the southern and northern boundaries are marked along the meandering paths of the Ameca and Cañas rivers, respectively, much of the eastern boundary resembles the edges of a jigsaw-puzzle piece cut out of the mountainous western Sierra Madre. To the west, Nayarit possesses an extended coastline on the Pacific Ocean (see fig. 4 ). Much of this coastline consists of salty marshlands, with only the town of San Blas serving as an active port of entry. Most economic activity occurs along Nayarit’s southern coast and border with Jalisco, where nearby Puerto Vallarta draws in a sizeable tourist trade. Large hotels and resorts now dot the Pacific shores of Nayarit, where Nueva Vallarta has expanded dramatically during the past decade. Inland, the city of Tepic sits away from the new highway that connects the metropolitan center of Guadalajara with Puerto Vallarta, yet it remains a bustling capital city of nearly three hundred thousand people. 7 Apart from serving as the political center of Nayarit, Tepic functions as a regional economic center and stopover for goods and people moving north and south between coastal Mazatlán in Sinaloa and Guadalajara along the Pan-American Highway.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Nayarit’s political borders and economic orientation looked much different. Although Guadalajara functioned as the largest economic engine in the region, and most goods traveling over land from Guadalajara to the Pacific coast passed through Tepic, their departure and entry point was San Blas rather than Mazatlán or Puerto Vallarta. No reliable road connected Mazatlán to Tepic, and Puerto Vallarta had not been developed into a serviceable port during the colonial and early republican periods. Tepic was the only municipality in the vicinity to have a formal town council staffed with a mayor, councilors, and a trustee, but surrounding villages and towns remained off the political and administrative grid. 8 Most importantly, the state of Nayarit did not yet exist in any formal sense. Instead, it formed an integral piece of Jalisco known as the seventh canton. Northern and western borders with Sinaloa, Durango, and Zacatecas were already established much as they are today, but the canton itself sat on the periphery of the Jaliscan center, economically oriented toward the market that was Guadalajara and the port of San Blas.

FIGURE 4 : This map emphasizes the political contours of Jalisco’s seventh canton and future state of Nayarit, the region in which Manuel Lozada exercised direct influence. Many of the villages, towns, and cities directly affected by Lozada’s rebellion and mentioned in the text appear.
The federal Constitution of 1824 formalized the existence of the state of Jalisco with eight cantons (roughly equivalent to US counties) containing twenty-six departments. Authorities designated five departments (Ahuacatlán, Compostela, Tepic, Sentispac, and Acaponeta) within the jurisdiction of the seventh canton, the territory that would later become the state of Nayarit. For the most part these designations corresponded to colonial territorial demarcations and represented a very limited alteration of political orientation. 9 Until 1851 the district court for Tepic was located in Guadalajara, a clear indicator of the strength of the state government in judicial matters. Unwilling or unable to expend the resources necessary to place a representative in Tepic, state officials established the largely symbolic post in the capital. By midcentury, however, the state had stepped up efforts to administer its most far-flung canton. Officials attempted, for example, to reduce transportation costs for goods traveling between Guadalajara and the port in San Blas with limited investment in commercial infrastructure. By 1852, Governor Joaquín Angulo had successfully set aside funding to improve the road connecting Tepic to San Blas, and he subsequently encouraged the initiation of regular stagecoach service between Tepic and Guadalajara. 10 Officials also agreed to install a judge in Tepic in June of 1851 but reduced both the responsibilities and the normative salary of the position by 25 percent in the move from Guadalajara. Judge Buenaventura, the first magistrate nominated to take the post, protested the reduced salary and requested further financial aid to facilitate his transfer to Tepic. State officials balked at the request and cancelled the move, if only temporarily. 11 By midcentury, the state’s attempt to consolidate territorial control clearly manifested itself in Tepic, if only on a very limited basis.
Next-Door Neighbors a World Apart: The Sierra de Álica at Midcentury
If the state had gained a marginal foothold in Tepic in its efforts to marshal the flow of goods between Guadalajara and San Blas, the nearby Sierra de Álica, an imposing array of mountains and canyons, remained beyond its reach. Only treacherous footpaths traversed the inhospitable terrain, linking small indigenous villages and connecting them with haciendas and small towns in the foothills. It was not quite the dry, desolate badlands of Northeastern Brazil, but the comparison, especially from the perspective of military officers pursuing Lozada in subsequent years, is particularly apt. 12 Apart from the infrequent police or military incursion, state officials had little interest in the comings and goings of the region’s residents.
The Catholic Church, on the other hand, had a measurably stronger if somewhat neglected presence in some of the mountain communities. Foothill towns like San Luis and San Andrés each possessed chapels constructed of grasses and weeds that could be mistaken for huts, whereas Pochotitan enjoyed a more formidable adobe structure with beams. 13 These structures, which priests in Tepic considered indecent and only periodically visited, had been maintained since Mexico’s independence but required residents of more mountainous villages to walk a considerable distance to receive religious services. In terms of religious practice, indigenous communities of the Sierra de Álica observed Catholic conventions that had been adapted to traditional religious celebrations ( mitote ceremonies) over the course of the preceding centuries. This religious syncretism dated back to the sixteenth-century arrival of Franciscan missionaries, who by the mid-seventeenth century had established houses of worship throughout the Sierra de Álica, including smaller towns such as Mesa del Nayar, Jesús María, Huaynamota, Santa Teresa, and Atonalisco. 14 The Catholic Church initially had limited success attracting converts, and throughout the seventeenth century friars were occasionally killed by local residents. The church probably did not achieve a lasting presence until sometime in the eighteenth century. 15 But by the nineteenth century, the long history of hosting Catholic missionaries meant that religious officials were relatively integrated into the daily existence of indigenous communities.
This integration can be measured in a few ways. Cora and Huichol people, who constituted the largest indigenous populations in the Sierra de Álica, traditionally spoke different dialects of the same language family, sharing a cultural and historical ancestry befitting their close geographic proximity. 16 Nonetheless, the majority also understood Spanish, even if some did not speak it well. 17 The spatial organization of mountain villages also marked the Catholic imprint, as ceremonial plazas inevitably featured a Catholic church to one side, easily the largest and most impressive structure in town. Although most residents lived in dispersed homesteads radiating out from the central plaza, they would convene at the plaza to hear visiting friars. 18 The declining presence of the Franciscans in the early nineteenth century created something of a Catholic void; some chapels fell into ruin as the secular church largely failed to establish a regular presence. Although priests often lamented the ongoing worship of false idols, such as the sun and the moon in Huichol communities, they simultaneously noted that many continued to pursue the Catholic doctrine. Even in the early 1850s, after decades of freedom from Catholic evangelism, Huichol Indians generally baptized their children, celebrated marriages, and buried their dead in accordance with Catholic practice. 19 Despite fluctuating numbers of religious personnel living in the Sierra de Álica during and after the Wars of Independence (a state-led count of population in 1855 found that the seventh canton of Jalisco housed thirteen permanent parishes), 20 rural residents continued to blend indigenous and Catholic ceremonialism throughout the nineteenth century. Very little is known about Manuel Lozada’s religiosity during this period, though it is possible that he got married in the early 1850s. At some point—the actual date is unknown—Lozada paid Father González, a parish priest who served in the early 1850s in Jalisco (the town and parish seat near Tepic, not the state), one hundred pesos to not publish banns in Jalisco and instead travel on two occasions to Lozada’s hometown in San Luis, where the confession and public ceremony were held. 21 The concerted effort by Lozada to sanctify the matrimony in San Luis instead of Jalisco may well point to the importance of locating important Catholic rituals closer to a historically underserved population. As will be seen below, such behavior is consistent with Lozada’s larger campaign on behalf of the residents of the Sierra de Álica to elevate the profile of San Luis as a religious center in the 1860s and early 1870s.
If the first thirty years of independence marked a lull in church activity in the Sierra de Álica, the 1854 ordination of a new bishop in Guadalajara, Pedro Espinosa y Dávalos, marked something of a revival. A native of Tepic, Espinosa detested the lack of Catholic representation in rural communities and embarked on a personal tour of the Sierra only months after assuming his new post. His visit, accompanied by the parish priest of Tepic, Ignacio Castro, provides a revealing assessment of the region. In addition to the topographic features that included deep canyons and hot, arid passes “with paths no wider than a bandage,” Espinosa and Castro encountered many locals who gave them a warm reception. 22 The ecclesiastical visitors were initially somewhat alarmed by the lack of clothing worn by the Coras, but this only enhanced their surprise and relief when they discovered that these same people knew the sign of the cross, the Sunday prayer, and the Ten Commandments. Buoyed by a consistent interest in his services, Espinosa performed numerous confirmations, held masses, and took confessions—sometimes before hundreds of assembled Indians in places like Jesús María and Huaynamota or, on other occasions, before as few as one or two individuals encountered along the winding mountain paths.
In addition to the administration of immediate religious services, Espinosa ambitiously charted a future course for an expanded church presence in the Sierra de Álica. He ordered that three additional priests make regular visits to the towns of Mesa del Nayar, Santa Teresa, and Huaynamota to satisfy religious needs that could not be met by the once- or twice-yearly visits by the priest stationed in Jesús María. Espinosa further proposed that the newly established priest would devote one hundred pesos annually to sustain primary schools for girls and boys; in exchange, he could draw on the labor of the adult residents to renovate the chapel and build the priest’s residence. 23 How many of these other ambitious projects in the region came to fruition is difficult to determine; nonetheless, they suggest that the church and its local representatives in Jalisco’s seventh canton were on the rise at midcentury. Despite the paternalism inherent in the observations and, likely, the actions of religious men, their rural constituents perceived that real benefits would accrue from a collaborative relationship. The lack of any hostile interactions reported by Espinosa during his two-week sojourn and the large turnouts he witnessed each step of the way confirm such a reading of events. Local representatives of the state, on the other hand, did not deign to cultivate such potentially cohesive bonds. Certainly this state of affairs informed the political and military leanings of rural communities when civil war erupted a few short years later.
Religious leaders certainly exceeded their civic counterparts when it came to establishing a mutually beneficial working relationship with indigenous communities, but a deeper historical connection between the church and rural residents of the Sierra de Álica, however, did not automatically translate into religiously motivated rebellion. Usually, priests were not actively involved with rebellion, only occasionally being charged with inciting their parishioners to take up arms. Most of the time, they avoided military conflict, working to conserve the revenue streams and practices being curbed by liberal legislation. Generally speaking, parishioners viewed priests as their respected local leaders who performed important services for the community. 24 The writings and actions of priests in the seventh canton of Jalisco generally uphold the idea that their rural constituents saw them much more as middlemen than messianic leaders. Rural residents valued the priest’s service to the community, but they did not extend sacral power to the person of the priest. 25 Perhaps to an even greater degree than local political leaders, priests were expected by their parishioners to uphold standards of community. 26 As a result, although religious leaders were natural allies of the conservative cause during the War of Reform, they did not usually rally their parishioners to take up arms.
Regional Population Growth: One Ingredient for Political Unrest
To understand the context of rebellion, structural conditions associated with violence also deserve some consideration. In particular, changes in population often reflect the presence of violence and disease, as well as stability and prosperity. They also provide the historian with a concrete account of important changes measured in the most definitive terms—births and deaths: “In a historical sense, the most important raw material for the process of rural change was not land, or capital, or cattle, or stalks of wheat or maize, but people: they made the economic decisions, consumed the products of agriculture, and supplied the labor for tilling the fields and running the herds.” 27 Although this section does not attempt a full treatment of the productive and consumptive behaviors related to demographic change of the region’s inhabitants, it draws on the idea that a basic sense of population statistics in Jalisco and Tepic during the period under study will serve as a foundation for comprehending the environment in which social and political conflict emerged.
The mechanics of interpreting demographic data, however, are fraught with inherent challenges. First, census taking in early nineteenth-century Jalisco was anything but scientific. The Catholic Church generated the most reliable information available as parish priests circulated through rural communities to count the number of adherents who might need religious services or supply tithes for ecclesiastical coffers. Such surveys were carried out irregularly and without evident standardization. 28 Although head counts occasionally distinguished between the number of men and women in a given community, there was little attempt to determine ages or the size of family units. Even thirty years after independence, officials in Jalisco lamented the lack of public information available and turned to the church for demographic data. 29 Civil authorities began to record population figures periodically after midcentury, but their numbers were far from impartial. The primary source of discrepancies in the data has been traced to local officials in Nayarit, who tended to exaggerate population figures, and to state officials in Guadalajara, who wanted the population of Tepic to remain insignificant to justify its continued political subordination to Jalisco. 30 In either case, actual numbers are difficult to ascertain.
Nevertheless, some reliable observations can be made. Annual aggregate population growth rates in Mexico during the nineteenth century averaged 1 percent, which was less than half those of the eighteenth century. 31 Overall, the first thirty to forty years witnessed slow if steady population increase, whereas growth occurred slightly more rapidly under Porfirian rule. Recent information suggests that Jalisco proved no regional exception to the rule, demonstrating slightly stronger growth rates before 1850 than did southern regions. 32 Although statistics for the early nineteenth century are scarce, data from later in the century show that infective, epidemic, or febrile diseases remained the primary cause of death. As of 1880, dysentery, fever, smallpox, and pneumonia caused 65 percent of all recorded deaths. This percentage likely was higher in earlier years and only declined significantly in the twentieth century. 33 Such data indicate that population growth in the nineteenth century came in small but steady increments occasionally checked by war or naturally occurring illnesses.
This pattern holds up relatively well when looking at the communities in and around the Sierra de Álica. Although demographic information is generally scarce, and completely nonexistent during the years of active Lozadista rebellion, reports from parish priests in the years before 1850 offer a few insights. Most towns were small, ranging in number from three inhabitants in San Dieguito to 960 reported in Jesús María. In the twenty years after independence, a few towns dwindled in population and were practically abandoned, while the majority exhibited uneven growth. Over short periods of time in the 1830s and 1840s, towns like San Luis de Lozada exhibited annual growth of 4 percent, while nearby Atonalisco experienced a decline of more than 3 percent. 34 On balance, nearly an equal number of towns grew or shrank in the early nineteenth century, with a tendency toward greater population expansion than reduction. While there are insufficient data to draw broad conclusions, it does appear that population trends in the Sierra de Álica did not stray significantly from those in greater Jalisco. The seventh canton of Jalisco, for which census data is more readily available, exhibited growth rates hewing close to the norm for the rest of the region. The population in 1823 stood at 61,664 and neared 134,701 by 1894, for an annual growth rate approximating 1.7 percent. Again, growth was slow in the first thirty years after independence and accelerated toward the end of the century. 35 In all likelihood, people tended to move from less desirable towns to more desirable areas as conditions changed over time.
In sum, the way the vast majority of people in Jalisco lived and died before, during, and after the life of Manuel Lozada changed little. Over the course of the nineteenth century, migration from Nayarit to the urban hub of Guadalajara remained low, indicating a modicum of economic and social stability vis-à-vis demographic growth rates. 36 Such a conclusion yields few clues to why there was rebellion in Nayarit, but it allows us to discount consistent population growth as the sole explanation. This corrective is necessary because some authors have tended to place too much emphasis on demographic pressure as the reason for generalized rebellion. 37 Although population growth may have been problematic in some specific areas at given moments, especially if inhabitants moved from one troubled town to another, causing a sudden influx of outsiders, there is little evidence to suggest that a generalized pattern of demographic expansion pushed the region’s inhabitants toward violent conflict with one another.
Nonetheless, even if demographic change did not portend a Malthusian crisis in rural Jalisco, limited growth signified slowly increasing demands placed upon the region’s resources. The environmental carrying capacity of the land at midcentury had not been exceeded, and indigenous communities were still able to meet their own material needs, but there was an intensifying encroachment of local estates upon lands previously claimed by indigenous communities. Evidence of sudden population growth in San Luis de Lozada, where the rebellion’s leadership emerged, certainly may have heightened tensions in that particular town. On the whole, a stable and growing regional population stimulated both a heightened desire for productive land and an awareness of the limits that divided one property from another. Disputes over communal land rights and property encroachment, sharpened by liberal reforms in the mid-1850s, would have a destabilizing effect in rural Jalisco. 38 The impact of political and cultural debates playing out in this period was only sharpened by the presence of greater numbers of people.
Work and Land in Rural Jalisco
A growing sense of movement in the region did not necessarily correspond to a radically altered relationship between labor and land. In addition to treating religious visitors cordially and attending masses when available, most male residents of the Sierra de Álica spent a significant portion of their active time traveling to and working on area haciendas or in small-scale production to sell in local markets. 39 This dynamic had changed little in the transition from colony to republic. As late as 1838 the latter occupation employed more laborers than did the former. In addition to the subsistence production of beans and maize, residents of Jesús María and Santa Teresa, villages with abundant fruit trees, specialized in extracting tinder to sell alongside apples, peaches, and herbs such as oregano. 40 Limited cattle and mule production also existed in some places but had been in decline since the end of the colonial period and the closing of the small silver-mining operations it had supported in Compostela and Sentispac.
This is not to say that economic activity in Jalisco was stagnant; haciendas continued to grow and draw laborers from nearby towns well into the independence era. By 1760, markedly rising land values, intensified use of land and labor, expanded markets, and increasing capital investments generated a gradual restructuring of the countryside. Drawing on the availability of inexpensive labor and increased demand in urban Guadalajara, large-scale commercial agriculture supplanted livestock raising and drove land values up. 41 Although land values were not yet high enough to promote the development of intensive agricultural techniques, they did ensure that the hacienda continued to be the most viable form of economic production in the region well into the nineteenth century. Capital investment in irrigation works or storage facilities, for example, positioned some haciendas to meet urban needs for the next century. This structural framework affected peasant workers in a number of ways. On the one hand, many hacendados attempted to foster a sense of community to make residency on the hacienda more attractive to peasants; most built a chapel on the grounds in order to administer religious services. On the other hand, hacendados, outnumbered significantly by their laborers, often resorted to threats of force and ad hoc detentions to maintain an advantage. 42 After independence, haciendas remained crucial centers of cultural interaction and conflict vis-à-vis their importance as sites of economic production.
Aside from serving as enduring places of employment for nearby residents, however, thriving, privately held haciendas also represented a potential threat to communally held lands. Although legal attempts to resolve land ownership disputes are widely documented only after the mid-1850s, the process itself, at least as applied to communal ownership and indigenous communities, had much precedent. One of several influential physiocrats in the late eighteenth century, Manuel Abad y Queipo, argued in a letter to King Charles IV in 1799 for the redistribution of communal indigenous lands to individual property owners. Similarly, the bishop of New Galicia, Juan Cruz Ruiz de Cabañas, declared in 1805 that “the most effective stimulus to create useful lands would be for each Indian to possess his own land, which he could then rent or transfer ownership.” 43 These colonial expressions of desire for land reform to boost economic productivity and tax receipts translated into piecemeal reforms during the first thirty years of republican government in Mexico. The main legal basis for reform during this period in Jalisco was the ambiguous and unimplemented decree number two of the 1825 state Constitution, in which Indians were declared to be owners of the privately held lands on which they lived.
Alternating centralist and federalist administrations in the following years only complicated the matter further. The net effect, however, appears to have been a hodgepodge of partially implemented land-ownership designations that obstructed consistency in legal regulation. In 1842 in the town of Ahuacatlán, for instance, the judge reported that “there were no obstacles to the redistribution of lands and vacant lots,” yet individual titles in the nearby towns of San Luis and Pochotitan were not designated because the “concerned parties did not make their claims in a timely manner.” 44 However, leaders in other area towns such as Santa María del Oro, San Pedro Lagunillas, and Ixtlán reported that individual titles were distributed successfully to all indigenous landholders. Whereas most of these processes were conducted without apparent conflict, it is likely that the distributed lands were among the most undesirable vacant plots in any given area. The existence of litigation by indigenous groups against hacienda owners in towns like San Andrés, San Luis, and even Ixtlán suggests that the most productive lands had already been claimed. It is safe to say that land distribution in the towns around Tepic, at least until 1856, was clearly not an intensive process and occurred sporadically. Nevertheless, the matter had become part of the fabric of local social relations in which day-to-day life was measured.
Landowners themselves contributed to this dynamic through a gradual, relatively steady effort to expand their properties. As the main source of water for irrigation and growing livestock production in the seventh canton, the Santiago River remained a valued resource throughout the first thirty years after independence. Haciendas specializing in livestock—like Mojarras, Mora, San Gerónimo, Costilla, and Camotlán—all acquired lands nearer to the river, which had previously been claimed by towns such as San Andrés, San Luis, Huaynamota, Mespan, Ahuacatlán, and Atonalisco. 45 Although most of these instances occurred under distinct circumstances and at different moments in time, they each generated some form of written protest that made its way into the public record. While it is unlikely that these complaints resulted in decisive action by the state, at least in a way that benefited the indigenous accusers, the dialogue demonstrates an ongoing, if unequal, negotiation over land in Tepic.
Imagining Lozada: An Elusive Profile
Although Manuel Lozada became the most prominent negotiator on behalf of indigenous communities in Nayarit, the first two decades of his life in no way suggested that the young man would become a dominant regional figure. Even his physical presence ran counter to the stereotypical characterization of the Latin American caudillo. As federal soldiers escorted Lozada into the center of Tepic in 1873, a military officer observed the recently captured fugitive: “I have his portrait here: slight of stature; an eagle-like and thick nose; very pronounced cheekbones; sunken eyes (one of which was lost in a dynamite explosion); a large mouth, drooping at the edges; a pronounced forehead at the space between the eyebrows, with the upper part completely covered by his hair; a dim, inscrutable look.” 46 Only months removed from the peak of the Lozadista movement, authorities had captured Lozada along with a few supporters and put him on trial in Tepic. He had obviously physically weathered some tough circumstances during the intervening years, but he did not exhibit any indications that his long career as an influential bandit and his sudden fall from power had noticeably changed his lifestyle. 47 He was simply dressed, was remarkably lacking in flamboyance, did not possess any significant landholdings, and never spent any time enlisted in the military. In many ways, he constituted an anticaudillo in his adult years.
Although there is limited information available regarding Manuel Lozada’s childhood, the consensus among historians is that he was born on 22 September 1828 in the small town of San Luis, Jalisco; orphaned at an early age, never really knowing his parents, Lozada took the last name of the uncle who raised him into his teen years. He did not have any older siblings, nor did his uncle have children of his own. 48 Most of this story is verifiable. There is, however, conflicting evidence relating to his mother’s fate, which begins to illustrate the constraints upon any attempt to render a comprehensive understanding of Lozada’s formative years. A visitor to San Luis in 1871 was told in no uncertain terms that Lozada “had a mother and always went to receive her blessing before going off to fight, making sure that she had everything she needed under any circumstances.” 49 While the account may be contrived to portray Lozada as the “good son,” it gives little reason to doubt that his mother may in fact have been alive. Moreover, two years later when Lozada was in captivity and facing imminent execution, the federal official who documented Lozada’s capture and eventual execution suggested that Lozada’s mother was alive and had attempted to visit him in captivity. 50
The historical record similarly yields conflicting information about Lozada’s education. He did learn to read and write at some point—many letters written in his name attest to this—but how or when is difficult to determine. Officials in Tepic informed a British visitor in 1865 that Lozada’s son, whom the visitor briefly met at a seminary school in Tepic, had only recently taught his father how to read and write. 51 Although Lozada may well have had a son attending seminary in Tepic, it seems unlikely that he only learned to write in the mid-1860s: letters attributed to him and supposedly bearing his signature had been circulating since the late 1850s. 52 As with much about Lozada, the truth in this matter remains opaque. Myth and reality coexist rather comfortably as one delves into the details of his personal life. Nonetheless, these fragments of information coincide to paint a picture of an individual with limited possibilities in a century in which only three sanctioned roads toward political prominence (the military, the priesthood, or the study of law) existed for people of humble origins. Possessing a clear wealth of ambition but pursuing none of these paths, Manuel Lozada found his way to prominence outside the boundaries of the law.
Becoming a Bandit: “El Tigre” Emerges
Most historians who have written about Lozada take an important leap of faith when documenting his path into banditry. The commonly repeated story begins at some point in the 1840s when Lozada is believed to have begun working regularly on the Hacienda de Mojarras, located near San Luis, laboring there as a livestock hand into his early twenties. 53 Lozada’s unremarkable existence changed suddenly in 1852, when he came into conflict with authorities for the first time. Two versions of the dispute survive to this day. In the first and more credible of the two, Lozada robbed another young laborer on the hacienda where he worked and quickly ran away with the stolen money. 54 A more storybook alternative, which journalists initially developed and historians eventually repeated in the 1950s, asserted that trouble began when Lozada declared his love for the hacienda administrator’s daughter. When the administrator predictably forbade their marriage, Lozada and the girl ran away together. 55 Whatever the origin of Lozada’s flight from the hacienda, both stories coincide regarding subsequent details: men mounted on horseback pursued Lozada, eventually arriving at his mother’s house in San Luis. 56 When she refused to reveal her son’s whereabouts, the hacienda goons whipped her severely before giving up the search. Lozada responded to the injustice carried out against his mother by returning to the Hacienda de Mojarras, shooting the administrator who ordered the whipping, and fleeing into the Sierra de Álica. This series of tragic events, whatever their sequence, may have marked the beginning of Lozada’s life as an outlaw. 57
One certainty, however, is that Lozada’s status as a leader of local outlaws was already established by the time he first appeared in government sources. In July of 1854, a military dispatch from Tepic stated that “the gang led by Manuel Lozada keeps committing every class of crimes in the villages and ranches in the department of Tepic; in fact they enjoy absolute impunity since they murdered Mr. Mariles who had been pursuing them in the sierra.” 58 Although primary documents yield little additional information about Mr. Mariles or his reasons for pursuing the Lozadistas through the Sierra, it is likely that he was the chief of police in Tepic, sent by the seventh canton’s political boss to bring Lozada in for his crimes. 59 In a separate report, the sub-prefect of Ahuacatlán, located in the southern part of present-day Nayarit, wrote in mid-1855 that “various gangs of rebels have been established in the Sierra de Álica for more than two years.” 60 He identified Lozada as the most well-known leader of these gangs, listing more than sixteen small towns, ranches, and estates that had come under attack in that time span. The sub-prefect dated the beginning of attacks by Lozada to the first months of 1853, further suggesting that financial gain, not political rebellion, was the main motive of these bandits. These early descriptions suggest that Lozada’s gang initially confined its activities to the Sierra de Álica, perhaps settling scores with local rivals, robbing for personal gain, or even bullying area residents. Whatever the reason, this initial report indicated that the criminal behavior was recurrent and that there was little reason to expect it to end soon.
An attack that was presumably orchestrated by Lozada later in July 1854 in the Sierra de Álica (he went unnamed in military reports on this occasion) revealed the gang to be violent yet in accordance with local expectations of justice. On this occasion the Lozadistas surprised a small contingent of federal troops in the town of Huajimic, where they were spending the night after arresting a suspected thief, Margarito Huizar. A firefight erupted but soon evolved into a standoff, with the troops trapped inside two of the town’s houses. The commanding officer, Colonel Romero, called for a ceasefire and surrendered his weapons. Instead of a negotiated truce, however, Romero received several pistol shots and a severe beating at the hands of the Lozadistas, which culminated hours later with a tiro de gracia . The Lozadistas also put a couple of Romero’s sublieutenants against a fence post and executed them before leaving town with the soldiers’ money, weapons, and horses. Just before the gang withdrew from Huajimic, the wife of the accused thief approached Colonel Romero’s body, stripped the corpse of its garments, and uttered a rueful condemnation: “Yesterday was for you, and today is for me.” 61
Both attacks by the Lozadistas confirm the localized nature of their activities in 1854, yet the second episode brings the scope of Lozadista activity into sharper focus. In the former example he was depicted as a potential menace to all residents of the Sierra, in effect a predatory outsider. The darkly poetic commentary by Margarito Huizar’s wife in the latter skirmish established the federal troops as the outsiders, as well. We do not know what she thought of the tactics employed by the Lozadistas, but her scorn for the dead officer implied that the soldiers arresting her husband in no way constituted a force that protected her security. Furthermore, such a description confirmed Lozada’s status, especially among government authorities, as a dangerous outlaw who was not afraid to attack armed representatives of the state. Over the following nineteen years, Manuel Lozada’s actions constantly reinforced this perception, inciting fear within the Sierra de Álica and far beyond, to Guadalajara and even Mexico City.
But Lozada also inspired some support among residents of the Sierra de Álica in the early years. Documentation is difficult to come by, but a near-death brush with authorities in 1854 gives a glimpse of those who rode with him. In late November, Lieutenant Felix de Llera led a campaign into the Sierra de Álica to stabilize the area. After capturing and killing one unnamed gang leader, Llera pursued a second gang of men led by Manuel Lozada. He captured a Huichol Indian near a small ranch on November 13 and prepared to execute him for being a thief in the company of Lozada. Faced with imminent death, the prisoner offered to lead troops to Lozada’s current whereabouts, an area of difficult terrain in the Sierra de Álica known as Laguna Seca. The government soldiers then surprised Lozada and his gang, sending them into flight after a brief skirmish in which Llera’s men killed six Lozadistas, allegedly wounded Lozada himself, and captured an unspecified number of horses and weapons. The troops then raided a settlement of approximately ten houses thought to have been constructed by the gang, finding riding equipment along with men’s and women’s clothing. Although no women were identified among the bandits, it was clear from the clothing that the space had been one of regular if not permanent residence. The settlement may have been served by other area residents, whom authorities captured nearby in possession of large quantities of tobacco and chickens. Llera did not have these people killed, preferring instead to charge them with spying on behalf of Lozada. Whether those captured ever made it to trial is unclear. If so, they were quite lucky. The lieutenant colonel made a point of retrieving the bodies of the dead Lozadistas, hanging them from nearby trees as a warning to other would-be supporters. Soldiers then burned the residential structures after retrieving useful items from them. 62 This snapshot of a Lozadista settlement suggests that these people were not just roving bands of brigands preying on rural communities, but something much more integrated into the everyday fabric of rural life.
Newspapers, which regularly reported bandit activity in Jalisco and elsewhere, occasionally gave clues to how Lozada might have garnered a following. Although editors devoted ample column space to graphic descriptions of the robberies and killings carried out in the Sierra de Álica, they also occasionally suggested that Lozada and his ilk represented a form of rural justice for local residents. One 1855 attack by Lozadistas against a small village near Santiago in Jalisco’s seventh canton targeted the local mayor. At the personal intervention of Lozada’s second in command, they tied up the mayor, stripped him of his staff—a symbol of his authority—, claimed “he was unworthy of it,” and handed the staff over to another local resident. 63 Before leaving town, and hanging the deposed mayor from a tree as they departed, the Lozadistas urged the newly installed mayor to carry out his duties in good faith unless he desired a similar fate. Like the case of Margarito Huizar described above, accounts such as these ascribe something more than criminality and profiteering as motives for Lozada’s extralegal activities. Given his subsequent proclamations in defense of rural communities and indigenous rights, it is entirely possible that Lozada’s insight into notions of local justice made him more of an insider than other regional bandits, not to mention the military men who pursued him.
Nevertheless, at this stage in his career, Lozada was not the only outlaw operating in Jalisco’s seventh canton in the early 1850s. Conservative military commanders reported in October 1854 that numerous small gangs operated independently of one another in the mountain ranges dividing northern Jalisco and Zacatecas. Some observers dismissively claimed, “There is neither an influential man nor a representative that moves [the thieves].” 64 They were relatively indiscriminate in their attacks, targeting haciendas, mule trains, and rural villages. Gangs attacked the Hacienda de San Antonio and Hacienda de Mojarras, a later target of Lozada’s, in late 1854; other villages were reportedly invaded, but their names went undocumented. In light of such reports, the leading military commander in the region, Juan N. Rocha, expressed his concern for the growing number of “bad people” in the Sierra de Álica. 65 Banditry, it seems, was becoming something of a cottage industry in the Sierra de Álica in the early 1850s, attaining greater legitimacy in the eyes of local residents. If spreading bandit activity had finally caught the attention of authorities in 1854, they had not yet developed a clear idea of what they confronted.
Hyperbolic explanations of Lozada’s banditry were almost as numerous in these early days as the number of bandit leaders in the Sierra de Álica. Such accounts also pushed the limits of credibility. One accusation leveled against Lozada attested that he captured and stashed multiple women in mountainside hideaways, eventually killing them with a knife (to save ammunition) when he had kidnapped newer women to replace them. This particular account filed in 1855 by a federal soldier is unverified and probably not true, but it is indicative of the base instincts (not to mention hypermasculinity) occasionally attributed to Lozada. 66 Although the origin of his nickname, “El Tigre de Álica,” is difficult to ascertain, such reports likely contributed to its creation and propagation. A related motive outlined by officials suggested that Lozada channeled his violent behavior toward the larger goal of destroying the white race. Lozada’s actions never really supported such a conclusion, but charges of leading a so-called caste war dogged him for the remainder of his life. One accusation that arose on only one occasion stands as a preeminent example of how little military officials understood about Lozada’s motives. The military commander in Zacatecas, who usually characterized rural rebels as leaderless bandits, suggested instead that they were “revolutionaries who await a propitious moment to declare [in favor of] the Federation.” 67 Considering the overwhelmingly conservative bent of Lozada’s future political affiliations, the connection was unlikely or, at most, short lived.
From Business as Usual to Rebellion: Manuel Lozada and the Barrón y Forbes Company
Lozada’s political leanings and associates did not remain enshrouded in mystery for long. Political changes at the national level in late 1855 inflamed tensions at the local level, linking events in Mexico City to those in Tepic. The victorious Revolution of Ayutla finally deposed Santa Anna for the final time, and liberal commander Juan Álvarez assumed the presidency in August. His brief tenure was marked by passage of the Ley Juárez in November and the unraveling of the diverse regional coalition that had propelled the liberals to national power. Conservative rebellions arose almost immediately, failing to threaten liberal control in Mexico City but quickly destabilizing the countryside. One plan protesting the persecution of the Catholic Church was launched in Guanajuato by that state’s governor, Manuel Doblado, in early December and helped convince Álvarez to abandon the presidency, which fell to a more moderate leader, Ignacio Comonfort. Comonfort assumed power on December 4, satisfying some of the demands of rebels in Guanajuato and seemingly reducing national tensions.
But on December 13, a short-lived conflagration in San Blas and Tepic, partially inspired by the transition to decidedly liberal forms of government, defined Lozada’s rise to political prominence. Newly appointed liberal authorities in Jalisco, primarily Governor Santos Degollado in Guadalajara, attempted to exert greater control over the state’s financial resources by implementing a budget calling for ambitious investments in education and other liberal priorities. 68 To pay for these expenditures, the government intended to levy increased taxes on goods transiting the state. Seemingly out of thin air, an ad hoc militia appeared in San Blas and declared itself in rebellion against the government. The rebels seconded the Guanajuato Plan and called for the removal of all illegitimate civic and military leaders in Tepic. Led by naval captain José María Espino and dubbed the Batallón de Libres, they seized control of the port of San Blas before making their way inland to Tepic. 69 Their known ranks consisted of disgruntled civic authorities from San Blas and Tepic. Once in Tepic, they proceeded directly to the home of José María Castaños, a prominent area merchant, and began arresting the liberal authorities who had taken shelter inside. 70 The curious targeting of the region’s liberal civic leaders at Castaños’s private home was made all the more intriguing by the fact that the Batallón de Libres appears to have been financed exclusively by Castaños’s primary competitor in the region, the Barrón y Forbes Company. Barrón y Forbes had leaned conservative in their political tendencies, so the factionalism fit within the larger political conflict playing out at the national level. But the political and religious motives clearly rested upon a history of increasingly tense competition between the merchant firms.
After Mexico’s independence in 1821, no country was better positioned to capitalize on the departure of the Spanish than Great Britain, so it is of little surprise that representatives of the island nation soon found their way to San Blas. The British desire to invest in Latin America had been building ever since travelers like Alexander von Humbolt had marveled at the natural resources and untapped economic potential of the continent during the late eighteenth century. Independence coincided with a speculative boom at the London Stock Exchange, which created the perfect conditions for investment from across Great Britain. Although the number of new joint-stock companies was quite small, the capital investment that targeted Latin America constituted nearly 50 percent of the total value of all investments recorded at the Stock Exchange. 71 Among these new investors, a Scot, William Forbes, and the Spanish-born son of an Irishman, Eustaquio Barrón, became business partners in 1827 and used Barrón’s political connections as the British consul in San Blas to pursue their trade interests. Investing their capital as far south as Acapulco and as far north as Sonora, their newly minted company generated a steady stream of income that, within a decade, had them challenging the largest merchants in the area for supremacy.
Despite their wide-ranging commercial interests and foreign origins, Barrón and Forbes had more than a passing interest in Tepic. In 1824, Barrón married Cándida Añorga, a prominent Tepic widow, and the couple went on to raise ten children of their own. Approximately a decade later, Forbes pursued marriage with Manuela Pintó, Cándida Añorga’s daughter from her first marriage and Barrón’s stepdaughter. By establishing family roots in Tepic, Barrón and Forbes integrated themselves into local society, interweaving their private and public lives at the same time. 72 Clearly, Barrón and Forbes intended to live and operate in the region for the foreseeable future. By the 1840s, with Tepic as the center of their operations, their burgeoning family was well positioned to thrive as a commercial force.
When Barrón and Forbes began to invest in 1827, however, they were hardly the primary movers in the region. That title belonged to the family of José María Castaños, Spanish landowners based out of Guadalajara and their descendants, who controlled much of the commerce in the region between 1824 and 1852. 73 But by 1847 they were being out-competed by the Barrón y Forbes Company. Castaños invested great amounts of capital to buy Belgian weaving machines that year but was less successful obtaining the technicians and parts needed to keep them running. 74 His ambitiously modern textile factory at Bellavista was burdened by great debt and inferior production output. Unable to pay off their creditors, the Castaños family sold Bellavista in 1852 as well as their newly opened sugar mill, La Puga, and relocated to Guadalajara to bide their time. 75 Through this series of transactions, Barrón y Forbes, the buyer of Castaños’s sugar mill, established itself as the dominant merchant in the region within one year.
The relatively quick attainment of economic and territorial dominance rested in no small way on a strong financial base. The formula for the Barrón y Forbes Company’s success depended in part, as it did for other merchants of the time, on its ability to function as a regional bank of sorts. A national banking system was not able to develop for decades after independence, so successful merchants were the only consistent source of liquid capital. In San Blas, Barrón y Forbes loaned cash to individuals to cover customs taxes and forwarded salary payments to the state for customs employees and soldiers in the military reserve. This role expanded at midcentury as Barrón y Forbes appeared in documents as the holder of English bonds and the manager of a percentage of the debt Mexico owed to England. In 1849, for instance, Barrón y Forbes received Mex$45,000 in debt payment from the Mexican treasury for the portion of the national debt that it managed. Financially, Barrón y Forbes was integrated into every level of Mexican society, which explains much of the animosity expressed by liberal politicians and competing firms toward the company’s economic expansion in the seventh canton of Jalisco; yet at the same time, this integration also ensured the company’s enduring presence in the face of opposition. Such involvement at the national level distinguished Barrón y Forbes from other merchants in the region while illustrating the relative weight that merchants bore as catalysts for economic activity. As the fortune of Barrón y Forbes rose during the early nineteenth century, so did the commercial opportunities in Nayarit itself. There appeared to be no limit to how far the owners’ aggressive commercial agenda could take them.
The merchants did not hesitate to protect their commercial interests by any means possible. Until 1855 this consisted of cultivating local political contacts, regularly engaging in contraband trade to subvert what they viewed as injurious customs duties, and leveraging their international and national connections to resolve legal disputes. 76 Even though Eustaquio Bar

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