“Y se oía que decía
Aquel que tanto se moría
Y si acaso yo muero en la guerra,
Y mi cadáver lo van a sepultar,
Adelita, por Dios te lo ruego,
Que por mí no vayas a llorar.”…
(And he could be heard saying.
The one who was dying…
And if should I die in the war,
And my body be taken and buried;
Adelita, for God’s sake I beg you,
That for me you do not cry.)
This photograph was taken in the barren hills that lie between Cerro Castellan and Mule Ears Peaks, in a part of Big Bend National Park where hardly anyone goes. I was making one of my loops on foot and prowling through the area, and though mid-January it was still a warm day.
I had climbed out of the flats below and was circling around to place myself behind the De La O ruins, enjoying my solitude. When out by myself music unheard by anyone else often plays in my mind. Sometimes it latches on to one song that repeats itself for hours. Much like an old Wurlitzer that refuses to quit even when you pull the power cord.
And when I crested that last rise and looked behind me at half of the lower Big Bend and a good sized chunk of Chihuahua, the tune of ‘La Adelita’ cranked up and would not leave me for the rest of the day.
‘La Adelita’ is one of the most famous and enduring folk songs to come out of the Mexican Revolution. That fact, coupled with the memories of my childhood and another old Wurlitzer we had at the Lajitas Trading Post, put it on a playlist that Lone Star Literary Life requested for my historical novel ‘Destiny’s Way.’
The book itself has several back stories to the revolution, along with another war that followed in the 1920s known as ‘La Cristiada.’ Often times the latter is referred to as The Cristeros War. Both of these events are main historical backdrops for two of my future historical novels, basically prequeling the first.
In the decade of 1910-1920, the Mexican people not only suffered through the brutalities of an almost genocidal war, but also through the trio of pale horsemen that represented drought, starvation and epidemic. Some still call this horrifying conflict ‘La Gran Revolución’ but in truth, the only thing great about it was the amount of dying.
The end results, though near continually heralded and heavily romanticized, found the average Mexican citizen far worse off after the conflict than he was before it began. That is, if he or she managed to survive the ordeal.
No one really knows how many died during those years. It was a colossal human tragedy beyond the comprehension of most minds. Robert F. Kennedy once commented that killing one man was murder, killing millions was a statistic. When thinking of the Mexican Revolution, you think in terms of statistics.
That does not count refugees who fled the country, estimated to be somewhere around 200,000 people. Most went to the United States and became American citizens. Knowledgeable scholars say the families of eighty to ninety percent of Texans with Mexican ancestry first came here because of the Mexican Revolution.
And when you hear a song like ‘La Adelita’ you can’t help but think of the individual hopes, heartbreaking losses and grief without measure of those caught up on all sides.
We Americans, who seem to know so much about what is happening a half world away but little to nothing about our next door neighbors, can learn much from the history of Mexico.
One of those lessons is that revolutions, no matter how seemingly just or needed, can be messy affairs. They seldom turn out well for anyone save for the most scheming, the most brutal and the most murderous.
The short and long range results of the American Revolution, as well as the Civil War and our Texas Revolution, were very much anomalies ton such events. One only has to study the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and the Spanish Civil War to understand just how horrific such conflicts can be.
Mexico’s was no better.
I hope that in our current troubled times with such rancor, polarization and senseless violence such hard lessons are not forgotten.
Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.
Or at least, someone else’s.
The link below will take you to one of the more traditional versions of La Adelita. I hope you enjoy it…
Ben H. English
Front Street Books
Crockett County Public Library
Medina Community Library
Old Town Books
Creative Texts Publishers
The Twig Book Shop
The Boerne Bookshop
Hill Country Books