Mexican History: The Rurales (1861-1914)

Figure 1.-- Source: General Huerta after seizing powe attempted to build an effective miliary force. One of his efforts was to turn the Rurales into a major calvalry force. Here horses are beeing unloaded from a railroad car. The unit was commanded by Carlos Ribcón Gallardo who was preparing a drive on Aguascalintes (May 18, 1914). Source: Augustí Víctor Casasla

The Rurals was the popular name for thev Mexico's Guardia Rural. It was a force of mounted police established as a Federal constabulary by President Benito Juárez (1861). It became an important force during the extended rule of President . It might be likened to the Texas Rangers, although it was a national force. The purpose was to comat the widespread banditry that existed in rural Mexico. The Rurales were incorporated into the Republican forces fighting the French intervention, often fighting as irregulars (1861-65). After the French intervention, the Rurales were reconstituted as aeparate force. Under President Porfirio Díaz (1876–1911), the Rurales were expanded from a few hundred to 2,000 men as part of a modernization effort. Recruitment coud be unconventional, in some cases forcing captured bandits into the service. Eventually it became more conventional. Officers were commonly recruited from the Federal Army. The Rurales developed the repulatioin as both brutal and efficent. There carefully constructed reputation was to use the ley fuga and ratrely taking prisoners. Modern scholarship has called this into question, suggesting that the Rurales were neither as efficent or as brutal as commonly believed. The Rurales never had more than 4,000 men. A force this size can not be expected to maintain orderin a country the size of Mexico and with the rugged geography. The Rurales were, however, of some importance in central Mexico around the capital where Díaz and his Cientifico advisers wanted stability to present an aura of stability to promote foreign investment. Díaz often relied on the Federal Army to maintain order in Mexico City and the major industrial cities. The Rurales were used to mauntain order in rural areas, unless rebelions reached a level beyonf their capavility and the Federal Army needed to intervene. The Rurales had a striking grey uniform with elaborate silver braid modelled on a kind of national costume--the charro. And it was topped with a wide sombrero and red or black necktie. Díaz often used them in ceremonial parades. They were noted for superb horsmanship. Some states set up their own force of Rurales. Madero maintained the Rurales afyer overthrowing Díaz. He saw it as necesary for law enforcement in rural areas. He apparently wanted its brutality curbed. He allowed the force to induct a substantial number of his fighters as a temporary expedient which appears to have disrupted the organization. Huerta had a more expansion vision for the Rurales. He used a detachment to murder Madero during the Decena Tragica (1913). Huerta incorporated the Rurales into his Federal military forces. He envisioned expanding the Rurales to a hard hitting calvalry force of more than 10,000 men. The Rurales were also useful in his efforts to maintain control by installing a police regime that would carry out his orders without any legal scruples. The police" force in general and the Rurales in particular were notorious for brutality in the use of force. The problem of recritment that faced the overall Federal Army prevented Huerta from expanding thec Rurales as he had hoped. Carranza and the Constitutionalists after forceing Huerta into exile, disbanded both the Federal Army and the Rurales (August 1914).


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Created: 7:30 AM 6/23/2008
Last updated: 7:30 AM 6/23/2008