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What Manner of Man Is the New
President of Mexico?
Alvaro Obregon, Who Is To Be Inaugurated Next Thursday, Has
Proved Himself a Good Business Man and a Brave Soldier. Now He
Must Show His Executive Ability. Mexican People Hope for Peace
By Sophie Treadwell
NEW President takes the
rule of Mexico Thursday?
Alvaro Obregon. Can he,
as we say, get away with
;t? For being President of Mexico
is no sinecure. Perhaps it could best
be listed as a risk.
In the last ten years of the three
actual Preside!.*- since Diaz two
I avu been murdered and one died,
practically a prisoner, in a foreign
But if it isn't particularly safe,
being President of Mexico, yet it is
everlastingly exciting. Probably no
job in the world to-day available to
the ordinary man can so fulfill the
normal lust for power of the aver
?ige human being.
Diaz. Absolute Dictator
Diaz, President for thirty year?,
was an absolute dictator, wielding a
personal, direct and unappealable
from power that reached into every
branch of the government and that
could make or break any human be
i'.g in the country from lowest peon
to highest scientifico.
\:.l every President, who preceded
or who followed him has held in his
hand, if not the same scepter (and
'che power of the rod is in the hand
that wields it) at least the potential
makings of the same scepter.
Mexico is a republic, but a repub?
lic in which more than one-half of its
citizens can neither read nor write;
a republic in which 40 per cent of its
people are pure Indian and almost
50 per cent halfbreeds, mestizos, peo
f mixed race.
>peak Sixty-three Languages
This Indian strain has produced
some great men: Juarez, a pure
Indiar ; Diaz, almost. Yet the great
mass of the Indians of Mexico are
still, as the Russian? say, "people
in darkr.es?." More than
L\000;000 of them understand noth
it their native dialect. Of the
sixty-three languages spoken in the
republic f.fty-two are Indian.
Yet the Indians of Mexico enjoy
all the political and civil rights of
The constitutions of Mexico, since
the independence, have been models
I --gal phraseology. Her laws are
among the most enlightened in the
'"?"??rid. But her people, the mass of
>r people, ar? still helpless in the
of ignorar.ce and poverty,
while the land itself is fabuloui ;,
?ich and brilliant in its Insauty and
"Mexico," said Baron von Hum
??oldt, "la a beggar aitting in 4
It is to rule this land and this
people that now eomei Alvaro
' Jbreg on.
What ?fort of man is he, and what.
'? he look like?
Ha? a Powerful K>?
t?a ?R a good looking, robust r-i-ru,
?f juet forty, medium height, strong
looking, thick cheated. He has high
coloring; he-looks as though he en?
joya life. You are ?war? first <A
lie eye?. He know? how to tin*
them orer raen and women. Thej
ALVARO OBREGON, who
* will be inaugurated Pres?
ident of Mexico next Thurs
are tremendously expressive, with
a certain curiously appealing qual?
ity. And his voice is alluring,
He can say "no" so indulgently
one believes the favor granted.
He dresses like a successful Amer?
ican business man?and make
money like one, too.
Difficult to Analyze
He began life as the youngest of
twenty children in a family prac?
tically without means. ?As a boy he
did any and every sort of work that
came to hand. Then he rented a
piece of land to farm. Then bought
it. He is now a millionaire. He is
said to have made most of his for?
tune by getting a monopoly on the
bean crop of the North. Wre would
probably call him "the Garbanza
Just what is his character?
Nothing more difficult to say. I
had several interviews with him, but
I confess I was able to know him,
through them, very little. His qual?
ity is one of fluidity rather than of
concreteness. He gives an impres?
sion of great frankness, impulsive?
ness. But he is illusive. He has the
great gift of seeming to take off ali
the lids, yet never give himself away.
He isn't afraid of being questioned.
He answers everything immediately,
without reflection, offhand. But he
knows what he is. saying. And he'll
stand by it.
I remember an interview I had
with him when he first entered the
capital. It was cabled back from
The Tribune and carried in the
Mexican papers. His statements
created quite a stir in Mexico City,
and the Mexican reporters bom?
barded him en masse.
"Did you really say those things
the American paper quoted?"
"We thought maybe there was a
"We thought perhaps if you didn't
want to deny, you might like to
modify the interview."
Finally one of the Mexican jour-]
nalista said: !
"My Genera:, hereafter when you
are going to make important decla?
rations like this, won't you be kind
enough to make them to us first?"
".Surely," with a pood natu red
laugh, "if you ask me first."
Easy to Have II?e<lg??tI
One of the men present told me
of this. It was an easy moment for
Obregon to hedge a. little, if he
didn't deny; with only a probably
instinctively disliked American re
porter to be sacrificed and his own
compatriot:! to be pleased. Yet he
Obregon is not a popular idol in
?Mexico by any means. In the North,
where he comes from, perhaps. But
in the capita!, and the South, not.
i H? has been carried to the Pre;ii
j TYPICAL Indian home
?* of the poorer sort in
dency by the force of his own arm
and brain ; not by any emotional
wave of popular demand.
Obregon the politician i? a very
clever manipulator. But he is not a
cheap panderer to public opinion in
any sense of the word. He has con?
victions and sticks to them, no mat?
ter how they run counter to public
favor and the fulfillment of his own
The most striking proof of this is
that in a country where 12.000,000
of the: 10,000,000 inhabitants are
Catholics Obregon is anti-Church.
This is perhaps the greatest factor
in Obregon's unpopularity in some
quarters. 'This and the instinctive
suspicion?made instinctive through
centuries of experience?that the
average Mexican has for any man
Mexican a Weary Cynic
There is a certain weary cynicism
in the heart of every Mexican, even
of the most childlike peon. The
Mexican may be impressionable, but
he is hard to fool. The reason he
submits to having so much "lumpy
work" put over on him by his leaders
is not that he is tricked, but that he
doesn't think the situation can be
bettered. He is essentially a fatalist.
The innate difficulties and "easi?
ness" of Obregon's new situation?
contrasts that have their root deep
in the race and its history?are com?
plicated by the immediate last ten
year??these last ten years that
have destroyed the old order an.l
created new hates.
The whole crop of debt?, dictates
and disillusions that were the sierile
products of his predecessors has
been inherited by Obregon.
All tho injustices, confusion?,
promises, grouches and grievances
have been kept stewing and are now
dished up?piping hot?to Obregon.
A sort of inaugural banquet.
All the thwarted ambitions, from
the Felicistas who never got in to
the Carranzistas who just got out?
all disgruntled, all sore, all enduring
an imposed period of watchful wait?
ing -a hungry pack at the foot of
the Presidential plum tree, where the
Obregonistaa are now busily occu?
pied in the top branches.
How Did He Rise?
How did Alvaro Obregon get ti?
the top branch?
His friends will tell you h<
His enemies?well, his enemiet
have many differing stories.
I was m Mexico only the last si:
months. I saw the dinner served
But I wasn't in on the catering o;
the. cooking. This much, however, i:
h in tory :
Obregon \* a Mexican of th?
North. He was a small farmer ii
the village 'of Huntabampo, In So
?ora, when the Madero revolutioi
STREET SCENE in the town of Guadalupe, near the
City of Mexico
broke out. He joined the revolu?
tionary forces with an insignificant
force of Yaqui Indians. He fought
during the Orozco rebellion in 1912
and came lut of that; campaign a
colonel of volunteers.
lit- marched his now considerable
force of Yaquis back to Sonora and
was preparing to disband them when
?he news arrived that Huerta had
overthrown Madero. That night
Obregon, with his Indians, again
rose in arm?. Friends claim he was
the first officer to take the field
Carranza, then Governor of the
State of Coahuila, organized around
himself the rebellion against Huer?
ta. He called himself "the First
Chief." Obregon and also Villa
were among the generals who sup?
Grew to a Big Arnix
By this time the Yaqui army of
Obregon had grown like a herd in
a round-up. He led them down the
west coast to the capital. And when
Huerta fled Obregon was outside, the
gates to receive the surrender of
what was left of the Federal army.
Meanwhile, Villa, leader in the
North, had turned against the First
Chief. Obregon tried, by personal
mediation, to patch it up and nearly
got himself before a firing squad for
Finally, however, a peace conven?
tion was brought about between all
the antagonistic leaders- at Aguas
calientes. This convention lasted
two months. The convention ended
when Carranza said ho would no
longer heed the actions of the dele?
gates unless they met in Mexico
City, which he controlled.
Villa declared war again, and
with Zapata entered the capital in
Obregon, who still remained loyal
to Carranza, fell back before Villa's
;;uperior army and remained inactive
for several months, reorganizing his
Reorganizing one's forces in Mexi?
co h h a its humorous side. A Villista
general who commanded 2,000 Yaqui
i IT IS oil that gives the
| * United States its greatest
interest in Mexico
Indians rushed to Villa's headquar?
ters one dawn with the disconcert?
ing news that Obregon had stolen
Controversy runs high among the
best of friends in Mexico City over
the question of Obregon's lineage.
Has he or has he not Yaqui blood?
Those for cite the fact that he
speaks the difficult Yaqui language
and has tremendous influence over
these refractory people, a power
they scarcely would recognize in any
one not of their own blood. While
the "Nos" cite Obregon's looks. He
is purely a European type?Span?
ish, with perhaps a bit of Irish back
Be that as it may. Obregon's
force- grew. Suddenly, he swept
upon the Zapata army in Puebla,
and then came on to attack Villa.
Villa made his stand at Celaya.
Here was fought the celebrated bat?
tle in April, 1915, that ended Vil?
la's power and took from the vic?
torious Obregon an arm.
The loss of an arm by Obregon
has not been without its advantage.
Confirmed optimists who claim to
find good in every bad could find no
better proof of their philosophy than
Obregon's lost arm. There is no
doubt that this visible crippling has
contributed much to what popularity
he has gained. Here is a general who
has obviously suffered for his coun?
try; an officer who undoubtedly has
Obregon the Strong Man
To a people experience?! largelj
in generals who have achieved
their rank through favor, and whc
have used it only to sign infiatet
vouchers, the sight of one who ha:
not only really fought with his men
but has actually lost an arm doinf
it, naturally routes them to enthu
This was in 1915. Obregon wa
ONE OF the typical beggars of Mexico, an all too common
the strong man in the Carranza
camp. And when in 1917 the First
Chief became the constitutional Pres?
ident, Obregon had the post of Min?
ister of War.
The story of his military rise in
these few year?, from a volunteer
captain to Minister of War, is set
forth by Obregon himself in a thick
volume called Six Thousand Kilo?
meters of Campaign.
But he has brought to the swift
growing of his career other gifts
beside n native military talent.
These gifts now found fertile field
of action. Carranza personally was
never much liked by Obregon, nor
did his public actions as President
find favor ?*ith his minister. Fur?
thermore, Obregon felt that he had
made Carranza, and this is always a
difficult feeling in any walk of life
for one man to cherish toward an?
Obregon knew In? was the strong
i A N INDIAN of the San I
i x Juan Teohbuacan
man. But he was a strong man
strong enough to wait.
Knows How to Wait
Here was the field for other tal?
ents. There is no doubt that, in
spite cf Obregon's so-called impul?
siveness, he knows perfectly how to
wait. He knew how to wait until
Villa eliminated himself by banditry,
until Zapata was killed, until Car?
ranza had played his string out ab
solutely to the end and until the
skids were ready for Gonzales. Then
once again, at the head of his Yaquis,
he rode into Mexico City.
People were amazed at the swift?
ness, completeness and orderliness of
the last revolution. They knew
Obregon only as a fighter, the man
of quick raids, sudden onslaughts,
ruthless forward marches. They
knew nothing of the Obregon of
quiet plan and plot, of Obregon the
And Vet He Fell
Carranza, the elected President of
Mexico, behind him the army, the
treasury and all the ramifications of
a complicated governmental ma?
chine, was overthrown, uprooted,
cast aside, dead and forgotten in a
What months, what weeks. Obre?
gon had been getting ready for this!
Another thing: When Obregon, at
the head of his Yaquis, took pos?
ses-ion of the capital the last time
complete order was maintained.
Probably the record of crime in the
city was never lower. And through?
out the country, now that Obregon
ism is established, respect for prop?
erty is the order of the day. Mexi?
cans who were in the capital when
Obregon came in five years ago tell
of houses looted, churches used a*
stables. Pc? pic who lived in th<
North when Obregon .-wept througl
after Villa tell of general devasta?
tion. 11 believe Obregon, in Ria
boo'k, remarks that he learned much
from Sherman's march to the sea.'
The Mexicans who remember the*-*
things are still incredulous before
the order that came into the country
' six months ago.
A Man of Yer?-atilit)
They do not realize that Obn &
is a very vers?til.? man, who can do
one thing one time and the opposite
the next when the opposite is t:e
thing demanded. They do not ap?
preciate the many sides to Obregon's
character, the variety of his talents.
nor the difference between Obreg;.' .
the soldier, fighting to win,
Obrcgoi:, the soldier and politic!a .
v. ho has won.
Obregon's range of talents is, in?
deed, v<ry little appreciated in h
own country. He is not only the
strong man, the soldier who km v ??
how to handle troops and the quiet.
?ubtie man behind who knows how to
plant a plan and wait for it to ripen,
but also he is the actor in the lime?
light. He can make a stirring spee? ;
and write a thrilling phrase. Or.
our parlance, he is not only the l?r**
but the'standard bearer as well.
There is still another Obregon foi
, whom the Mexican public is qui??
unprepared. That is Obregon Ih?*
Obregon the politician is a radi?
cal. But what of Obregon the Pres?
ident? Obregon the private citizen
does not particularly like Americans.
But what, of Obregon the Presiden! ?
Obregon the man behind the Ca
ranza throne was a Constitutional
ist; but is Obregon the President |
going to let a literally interpn. I
Carranza document stand betv?
his country and peace?
Upon the answer to these last two
questions depends the stand or fall
of the Obregon r?gime. Whether or
I not the situation is just, whether or
not it is being handled not i j
with fairness but with tact, has
now nothing to do with it. The situ?
No President in Mexico car a*
this time endure without the .friend?
ship, the backing, of the United
States. This may not be an agree?
able or a pleasant fact below the
Rio Grande. ?\nd any one who
knows anything of Mexico, her
tragic historv. her sensitive char?
acter, must know that it is not. But
it is, for this moment anyway. ?
The United States cannot flood on.
on the tifle of vast material achieve
ment in which she is being carried.
with? it oil. Mexico to-day produce
GO per cent of the world's supply.
It is oil under Mexico's soil, but
brought out by Anglo-Saxon money
The American Urge
Now, this terrible urge of Amer-'
ica is not to be stopped by a dictate
that she holds as unjust as it is in
the way. Article 127 of the last
Mexican Constitution enrages Amer?
icans, not only because it is a barrier
thrown up suddenly across the way
they '.sere going, and going fast, but
a!-?o because, very sincerely, very
truly, it seems to them essential:j*
Is Obr?aron tha ?"?rastcjent ?*<..wv
enough, self-contained enoagu ?*?
accept his country's destiny? Or
will his Mexican pride and high
strungness betray him in these diffi?