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In the last decades of the nineteenth century, dueling acquired new meanings for Mexican elites. Military men, politicians and journalists fought and died in duels. The code of honor became a guide for the behavior and speech of public men during a key period in the construction of a modern political legitimacy. A national ruling elite was trying to establish its primacy after conflicts--such as the Reforma war (1857-1860), the French intervention and Second Empire (1861-1867)--which generated deep and often bloody political cleavages. In this context of recent factional strife, the practice of dueling coexisted with other elements of the Mexican state's and upper classes' embrace of European progress. As was the case in France and Germany of the time, a renewed interest in dueling in Mexico coincided with greater concern about personal reputation in public settings.

Dueling reveals, perhaps better than any other cultural product, the contradictions of Mexican ruling elites' embrace of modem politics. They construed the duel as a prestigious gesture of modernization, because it echoed the uses of other political elites in contemporary Europe. But dueling also exhibited their concern about status. Dueling expressed urban elite's claims to respectability in a context in which the markings of social hierarchy were becoming less obvious and ignored by the liberal 1857 Constitution. Dueling, in sum, was particularly useful in the process of consolidating a unified political elite because it articulated the equality of its members: educated, brave men, regardless of their profession or partisan persuasion. The decline of dueling coincided with the introduction of new political uses of violence by the 1910-1917 Revolution, but not with a decreased concern about politicians' honor.

The writers and journalists who explained to Mexican readers the benefits of dueling stressed the role of public opinion in sanctioning honor. This was the same public opinion that these educated men thought would eventually guarantee the political stability of the country despite a past of civil wars, a political system centered on an aging dictator (Porfirio Diaz's regime, or porfiriato, 1876--1911), or a massive popular mobilization after 1911. Public opinion, it was thought, could prevent unrest by making Congress and the press an effective representation of popular sovereignty. By establishing the honor of congressmen, dueling was a central piece of that process, which required the continuity, in a new form, of the social restrictions to political participation abolished by the liberal 1857 Constitution. [1] Therefore, and despite the provisions of the penal code, duelists were only lightly punished. The modern faith in dueling and honor was based on the implicit acceptance of a traditional feature of t he Mexican polity: a judicial and police system that protected upper-class suspects and turned all lower-class men into suspects, and a political system that excluded women and the poor. As a result, duels are conspicuously absent from the judicial archives in Mexico City. The following pages are an account of public men's belief in their own honor and equality, a paradoxical belief that was supported by their exclusion of others from the public sphere--at the same time as they proclaimed the importance of public opinion.

This article seeks to explore new paths for a cultural history of Mexican political elites. Mexico's political history is still the most interesting sub-genre for Mexican readers of history. Yet, many unchallenged assumptions and omissions plague the literature. Too often, political history becomes history of "great men." [2] Traditional narratives leave many unanswered questions: Why and how were women excluded from politics? How did elite groups claim the legitimate representation of popular interests after the massive mobilization of the Revolution? Dueling and honor are relevant topics because they embody the gender and class exclusions that constituted basic ingredients of Mexican politics.

Dueling and Modernity

Duels in Mexico, seldom employed in past centuries, became frequent after 1880, despite the penalties against duelists established in the 1871 Federal District's penal code. Official statistics of criminality count 32 convictions for dueling between 1871 and 1885 in the Federal District--19 of them between 1880 and 1885. [3] After the last year, published statistics do not list a single case-- probably due to the lack of prosecution against duelists (discussed below) and to the sketchy nature of Mexican quantification of crime. Other attempts to count duels, however, support the impression of an increasing frequency in the last decades of the nineteenth century and only a gradual decline after 1910. In 1894, for example, lawyer Manuel Lombardo cited newspaper reports of 43 duels resulting in wounds or deaths since 1871. [4] That same year, congressman and political writer Francisco Bulnes claimed that dueling was a recent fad, without strong roots in Mexico. [5] Angel Escudero's El duelo en Mexico, published in 1936, reviewed 78 cases, as shown in Table 1. The years with more duels in Escudero's account were 1892 (with 8 cases) and 1893 (with 7). [6] Given the secretive nature of dueling, it is not possible to establish how many cases are left out of these counts. Duels were certainly few in comparison with other violent crimes, and Mexican duels in particular may have been less frequent, at least in absolute terms, than in France, Germany and Italy. [7]

According to Escudero, the last duel performed in Mexico took place in 1926, between an Italian aristocrat, Valerio de Pignatelly, and a banker, Eduardo R. Meade. [8] At the end of his account, Escudero lamented: "Unfortunately, the custom of dueling is disappearing among us, and soon fists will solve disputes between two offended men in Mexico, as happens among Yankees." [9]

Despite Escudero's nostalgia and the numbers cited above, dueling loomed large in the life of the upper classes and public men. During the last decades of the nineteenth century, several texts concerning the duel were published in Mexico, including colonel Antonio Tovar's 1891 Codigo nacional mexicano del duelo, as well as editions of European codes. [10]

Mexican commentators depicted the duel as a sign of modernity. The key moment in their history of modern dueling was the French revolution, when the practice ceased to be the exclusive territory of the aristocracy. [11] The contemporary appropriation of the duel was therefore a sign of progress analogous to modern science. According to colonel Francisco Romero, writing in 1891, men in antiquity believed in a religious version of the duel, the ordeal, but "Our century is more positivist than the Middle Ages. ... We rather trust the sword." [12] The concern about modernization was also used against the duel, however. Catholic writers who criticized the growing prestige of the practice invoked progress too. In 1869, Jose Maria Rodriguez, a physician and member of the Sociedad Catolica, published a pamphlet against the duel. He defined dueling as one of "the perverted customs that human depravity has inherited from ancient times." [13] Rodriguez noted that the barbarians introduced dueling into Europe, the corru pted absolutist courts tolerated it, and the French Revolutionary Assembly--"that meeting of madmen"--granted amnesty to those involved in it. [14] According to the editors of El Heraldo Catolico, in 1890, dueling had to be eradicated because it was an "aristocratic custom." [15] In the perspective of the predominantly liberal Porfirian political elite, however, the Catholic church's condemnation could only be construed as additional proof of the progressive meaning of the duel.

Dueling was modern because it expressed Mexicans' cosmopolitanism and their identification of modernity with the customs of contemporary European elites. [16] The fashion of dueling in Mexico paralleled a similar trend in Italy, France and Germany, where dueling was a visible aspect of public life. The Mexican editors of a French code noted that "Currently, dueling in France is as frequent as it was in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It has become a literary fashion." [17] According to Robert Nye, there was an "extraordinary revival of the idea of honour in France in the late nineteenth century and of the skills and ritual practices that sustained it." [18] Mexican readers learned about famous duels and hired fencing instructors from France and Italy--the most famous among them the world champion Louis Merignac. [19] France had a considerable cultural influence on Mexican elites, but merchants, bankers and industrialists from Germany were also visible actors in the world of Porfirian elites. [20] B y engaging in duels, Mexican men became members of an international group of men of honor. Several cases in El duelo en Mexico refer to confrontations between Mexicans and Europeans. Patriotism was the cause in some cases: in an early example, a Mexican fought a Spaniard who had failed to stand during the performance of the Mexican anthem; a similar reason prompted a duel in Paris involving a Mexican citizen. Most "international" duels, however, referred to points of personal honor, thus demonstrating that Mexican duelists belonged to the same community as their European counterparts, as all shared a precise knowledge of the rules of dueling. [21]

As in Europe and other areas of Latin America, dueling and the new concern about honor were part of a bourgeois claim to social respectability. Avoiding a duel in early eighteenth century Prussia meant "a social death sentence." This claim remained important in growing and complex urban societies, such as that of Mexico City, where social hierarchies were no longer obviously expressed by ethnicity, demeanor, or nobility titles. The public defense of honor stated an individual's claim to high social status through the protection of his reputation and integrity and that of his family. [22] Arguing for the usefulness of duels, colonel Tovar exemplified the situations and fears associated with the defense of honor in Mexico City. "A gentleman," writes Tovar, "goes to the theater in the pleasant company of his young and beautiful wife, whom he loves." When they are leaving, someone says "me gusta!" ("I like her" or "I like it"). The gentleman has three options. He could engage in a fight in situ, which would lead to a judicial process, a "social scandal and the corresponding open comments [comentarios al aire libre]." This option would expose the lady to the obligation of testifying in front of a judge and a court audience. "Is this morality?" asks Tovar. He could file a civil suit, but this would only achieve a fine against the offender and, continues Tovar, "Is this the reparation?" Or he could challenge a duel, which would be more discreet, but legitimate enough to allow the gentleman to continue patronizing the theater and would make his wife "proud to have as a husband a man who possesses the necessary dignity and courage to make her respectable and respected." The answer, for Tovar, was obvious. [23]

Theory prefigured reality. In a 1923 case resembling the situation discussed by Tovar, colonel Francisco Torres was tried and acquitted for the murder of Carlos Susan. Susan had behaved improperly at the movie theater, while Torres and his wife sat in the next row. As Torres advised Susan to "be decent," Susan threatened and slapped him, and invited him to go our. Torres asked another man to take care of his wife, and killed Susan outside the theater. When a policeman arrived, Torres surrendered his gun saying that "he was not a vulgar criminal, but a colonel of the army." Despite the fact that Susan was unarmed, and Torres obviously did not follow the rules of the duel, the jury acquitted the latter for having acted "in the defense of his honor." [24] This was not an isolated incident. Most challenges discussed by Escudero were also prompted by an offense at a public function, such as the theater or a ball.

The prestige of dueling was based on the perception, exemplified by Torres' acquittal, that aggressive methods to defend personal integrity and reputation were a necessity of modern life. Tovar claimed that the duel was better than other legal means to solve personal conflicts, such as civil suits, because publicizing issues regarding honor in court only produced additional stains on the reputation of those involved. A trial could be embarrassing for the lady in Tovar's example because it would probably attract a large audience and even the press. Tovar and other authors also noted that the judiciary in Mexico was corrupt, thus making it less reliable for the defense of honor. [25] Even Antonio Martinez de Castro, author of the Federal District's 1871 Penal Code, which punished duelists, noted that the duel was a social need." The law could not penalize a duel the same way that it would punish a fight in which contenders are "drawn by the irresistible force of vulgar preoccupations." Thus, he admitted, repre ssive legislation faced the risk of "confronting public opinion." [26]

Honor and the Law

As a result of these beliefs, dueling was only halfheartedly punished. The 1871 Penal Code devoted an entire chapter to the duel, but it allowed considerable leeway for the defense of upper-class honor. The code mandated judicial authorities to prevent combats by mediating between the two parties and formalizing an honorable solution through a notarized act. In addition, the code provided reduced penalties for wounds or homicide if witnesses had been present and the weapons had been properly chosen by contenders. The maximum punishment for a duelist who killed his rival was six years of prison and 3,000 pesos in fine, instead of the death penalty that common homicides could receive. [27] According to general Sostenes Rocha, perhaps the greatest authority in matters of honor during the Porfiriato, the Mexican government and those of other "enlightened peoples ... tolerate" dueling, although they watch that duels take place "under the best circumstances of equality ... and in consonance with the prescriptions of the codes governing the duel." This indeed was the same ambivalence of modern European states, which saw the duel as an intrusion on their sovereignty, yet failed to prosecute it strictly. [28]

Enforcement of the Mexican law was light. Authorities turned a blind eye to fairly well-known cases, and few duels were prosecuted by judicial authorities after 1886. Information about these cases suggests a great deal of respect toward suspects. Juries were integrated by well-off men, who tended to be sympathetic toward those involved. [29] In 1874, Eduardo Molina, Luis Amato and the witnesses in their duel were brought to trial. The suspects were the only ones to testify. All of them declared that nothing had happened, and that the wounds suffered by Molina and Amato had been caused by an accident. The jury took fifteen minutes to acquit all the suspects. [30]

The law's prohibition could have no effect over dueling, argued apologists, because the practice was, by definition, preferable to the law, as it expressed public opinion. This was illustrated by an 1894 case in which colonel and federal deputy Francisco Romero killed Jose Verastegui, a high ranking public official in Porfirio Diaz's government. All those involved in the case were acquitted, despite the fact that the press published the details of Verastegui's death, including a print by Jose Guadalupe Posada. (Figure 1.) [31] The suspects and their attorneys stated that, since dueling was approved by public opinion, those involved in it were beyond the reach of the law. Alfonso Lancaster Jones, attorney for general Sostenes Rocha (who had been a witness), claimed that Rocha could be acquitted because the jury did not have to follow the letter of the law. Lancaster Jones added that "since our current trial system was established, there has not been a single verdict against the few duelists brought to trial." [32] Manuel Lombardo, arguing in the chamber of deputies for Romero's parliamentary immunity, reasoned that since the penal code's regulations of dueling had not been applied, and article 183 of the Constitution abrogated any penal law that had not been applied during ten years, it followed that dueling was no longer sanctioned by the law.33 Although the penal code's articles dealing with the duel were not abrogated, punishment remained a distant possibility for Mexican duelists.

The Romero-Verastegui case had a great impact on Mexican ideas about the practice, almost becoming a source of national pride. In 1896, among the first films made in Mexico was a reconstruction of the "Romero-Veraza" [sic] duel ("Un duelo a pistola en el bosque de Chapultepec"), by French cinematographers the Lumiere brothers. Press criticisms of the film prompted colonel Francisco Romero to sue newspaper El Globo, arguing that he was not the Francisco Romero portrayed by the movie. [34]

Public opinion, a key notion in modem European conceptions of the duel as a social need, was always in the minds of Mexican politicians. While in the production of "Un duelo a pistola" actual policemen had been used for added realism, in several cases Porfirian authorities went so far as to protect and encourage duels. Presidents Manuel Gonazalez (1880-1884) and Porfirio Diaz authorized the celebration of at least two duels. The latter had initially ordered the director of Mexico City's Colegio Militar to prevent a student from participating in a combat, but he was convinced by general Carlos Pacheco, a fellow veteran of the Intervention war, that he had to allow Pacheco's protege to defend his reputation--as he would do, argued Pacheco, if Diaz's own son was in that situation. [35] In an 1884 case, one of the duelists, nephew of the governor of the Federal District, obtained the help of rural guards to prevent any external intervention in the fight. [36]

The few Mexican critics of dueling, such as Francisco Bulnes, argued that the Penal Code's regulation of dueling implied class differences in the legal status of citizens that contradicted the Constitution. Bulnes noted that article 183, cited by Lombardo, might abrogate the Code's articles concerning the duel, but not the usual penalties against battery and murder. Thus, a correct interpretation of the law in the Romero-Verastegui case would apply to those involved the same penalties applied to common criminals. Bulnes criticized dueling as an example of the class-biased enforcement of the law in Mexico. "After his homicide," concluded Bulnes, "the duelist is usually acquitted ... and he is considered more honorable than ever; while the humble man who commits the same crime in a fight, without advantage, is sentenced to twelve years in prison for homicide ... and loses his reputation for the rest of his life." [37]

The 1871 criminal code did take into account the status of those involved in duels, [38] but Bulnes' criticism went beyond the letter of the law. An informal rule governed the judicial and police system in Mexico according to which people who possessed wealth or political clout should be excused the embarrassment of an arrest or even participation in trials. In 1894, lawyer Jacinto Pallares declared in front of the Federal Congress that "personal considerations" had once spared him prison and "the shame of being registered in prison records." [39] In contrast, it was obvious that no lower-class suspect would seek clemency by declaring that he or she had engaged in a duel. Even though many street fights emulated the basic rules of the duel (by involving witnesses, using equal weapons, and avoiding the intervention of the police), authorities never referred to them as duels, thus implying that the lower orders of society lacked honor. [40] According to Tovar's Codigo nacional, educated men solved their quarrel s through the duel, while "men of the lower strata ... solve theirs with a knife or with their teeth in the middle of the square." [41] Science confirmed these distinctions. According to criminologist Miguel Macedo, "Mexican criminality has the fundamental character of barbaric crime," while the upper classes prefer to use other ways to solve disputes concerning their reputation. [42]

In the particular version of modernity represented by the duel, class distinctions and the dictates of honor counted more than the letter of the law. Duels were distinguished from mere fights by the fact that they were based on a contract that had been signed or verbally accepted by the two parties and their seconds. [43] Furthermore, the codes regulating dueling did not have the character of other laws. They were not passed by Congress or decreed by any other authorities, even though they enjoyed the support of congressmen and other public figures. [44] Its contractual nature made the code of honor as serious an obligation, in the duelists' view, as those imposed by the law.

The Technology of Honor

A strict set of rules guaranteed that the contracts entered by duelists would uphold their honor. These rules and procedures implied a considerable knowledge about the relevant codes. Written regulations, fencing classes, shooting ranges and the participation of "honorable" seconds conveyed those rules to elite men. Experienced duelists, such as Sostenes Rocha or Francisco Romero, transmitted this knowledge verbally and by example. The rather complex technology that resulted guaranteed that only a few could achieve an adequate performance in a combat and thus the legitimate defense of their reputation. [45] Mexican elite men embraced the technology of honor with the same progressive faith they put in science applied to politics or social reform. As with other advances linked with modern science, the "positive" belief in the sword, to use Romero's phrase, could be placed above the "metaphysical" dictates of the civil and criminal law. [46] Mexican scholars of European codes of honor applied great care in disc ussing the details concerning the instruments and the performance of duels. A level field, one in which no contender had an advantage, was the highest priority of the regulations of dueling, which went into great detail on the precise specifications of the swords and pistols to be used.

This concern for equality explains Mexican duelists' preference for pistols. Forty two out of the 78 duels examined by Escudero (53 percent) involved pistols. Pistols were also favored by Prussian combatants in 77 percent of the recorded cases between 1800 and 1914. In France, by contrast, pistols were used only in 10 percent of the duels of the 1880s. [47] Dueling pistols were the weapon of choice in many Mexican duels, because, unlike swords, they could be used without much previous training. Pistols might be dangerous, but they were also less precise than other available fire arms. They offered a less predictable outcome and guaranteed the courage of both combatants. Dueling pistols had to have a smooth barrel to reduce their accuracy and the destruction caused by bullets. [48] Training in the use of pistols seemed less exacting to Mexican duelists, and several of them attempted it in the hours preceding the encounter. Romero and Verastegui ran into each other, before their fateful duel, in a shooting ran ge. [49] In contrast, preparing, loading and randomly selecting the pistols was a complex process that emphasized the participation of seconds.

If proper procedures were followed, it was easier to preserve the equality of pistol combat than it was to intervene between two fencing rivals. The ritual of pistol duels (the distance between fighters, the timing and the order of shots) was unambiguously established by the codes, thus providing clear criteria to judge an honorable performance. [50] From the multiple alternatives in organizing a pistol combat, Mexican duelists preferred the variant in which duelists fired on the cue of a hand clap by one of the seconds, usually with a limited number of shots in case the bullets missed their target. This method was also preferred in France, while Germans stressed shorter distances and prided themselves in the higher mortality of their duels--thus criticizing French feebleness. [51]

Even though easier to use than swords, dueling pistols also served to exclude common people from duels. A good dueling pistol could cost from 400 to 500 pesos. [52] While in Guatemala the use of revolvers was favored before the turn of the century, Mexican codes specified instead the use of single-shot pistols. Any variant that would give one of the duelists an advantage was shunned. A duel was aborted in 1906 when the seconds of the challenged party found out that his rival, a Cuban diplomat, was extremely skillful with the revolver. [53]

As with duels, guns enjoyed social approval. The increased risk generated by firearms did not move authorities to limit civilians' use of guns, although efforts were made after the Revolution to regulate them. In 1921, President Obregon authorized the use of guns for those who could demonstrate their "honorability" and pay a fee. [54] The technologies of dueling helped in this attempt. In 1924, a pistol contest was celebrated, reproducing the ritual of dueling but using wax bullets and protective vests and masks. Among the participants, the press noted the presence of "distinguished military officers" and a "distinguished audience." The winner was general Celestino Gasca, chief of the Departamento de Establecimientos Fabriles y Militares. Angel Escudero served as one of the judges, and he himself received a commemorative present from the participants. Days later, Escudero won a shooting contest at the Colegio Militar. [55]

Dueling and Equality

The concern about a level field revealed a central trait of Mexican elites' perception of the duel: they saw it as an instrument of equality among members of the political elite. For Escudero, fencing and pistol training "dissipated social and age differences ... into an open camaraderie." [56] The acceptance of a challenge implied that both rivals were of the same status. The ceremonies preceding the duel and the ritual of combat itself were organized on the premise that honor presided over the behavior of contenders. An honorable fight, even if no one was seriously hurt, would result in the restoration of both men's honor and often in a reconciliation. Since many encounters in Mexico resulted in minor injuries, if any at all--in contrast with German duels--, it was common to see Mexican rivals walk off of the field of honor as "excellent friends." [57] As in Germany, however, even mortal duels could also create "fraternal bonds" across social differences. [58]

The political function of the duel in Mexico resembles that described by Steven Hughes for post-unification Italy: aiding in the consolidation of a political elite and conveying the meaning of free speech and other "forms of interchange with which Italians had little social or legal experience." [59] Dueling in Mexico condensed the need to unify and formalize public interactions among political elites that had been bitterly divided by war and ideology well into the second half of the nineteenth century. Duels, for example, established connections between civilian public men and the members of the military. In fourteen of the 78 duels discussed by Escudero a civilian confronted an officer of the army. Under the Pax Porfiriana, dueling placed in the same field of honor educated members of the political elite and the military, particularly the generation of veterans of the Reforma and French intervention wars. General Sostenes Rocha, for example, was a distinguished veteran. By playing according to his rules, o ther members of the Porfirian elite could assert their own claim to the values of courage and honor associated with Rocha's prestigious past. This equalization became particularly relevant in the latter part of Diaz's regime, when a new generation of well-educated administrators, derisively called "cientificos," entered the higher echelons of public administration. Their rapid rise generated resentment among older cadres. It is telling that the highest frequency of duels recorded by Escudero and published statistics coincides with the consolidation of the Porfirian policy of "reconciliation" within the elite and with the ascendance of the cientificos. [60] According to Escudero, the duel between Romero and Verastegui was not caused by a woman (as was then commonly believed), but by political reasons: Verastegui was close to the cientifico group and Romero had supported general Martin Gonzalcz against Rosendo Pineda in the elections for the Oaxaca governorship. Verastegui's remarks on the issue prompted Romero to demand an explanation and caused the fatal confrontation. [61]

Dueling was useful within the process of professionalization of the military during the Porfiriato. Reformers sought to impose values of discipline and scientific knowledge on an army characterized by scarce cohesion since its very inception. Part of that process involved importing technologies and organizational techniques from European countries, Germany in particular. [62] As in Germany, dueling was part of the code of behavior of Mexican officers. The military code of justice included articles on dueling. Sostenes Rocha's manual for Mexican soldiers, Enquiridon, provided a discussion of the rules that every officer should know about dueling. [63] Military duelists were protected and encouraged by higher commands. According to Francisco Bulnes, multiple cases of dueling among officers escaped the scrutiny of public opinion. [64] Regulations on dueling survived in the military code after they had been stricken from the Federal District's Penal Code. [65] In Germany, military education contributed to spread the code of honor among middle-class civilians. In Mexico, a short-lived reserve corps was established in 1900, following the model of the German Landwehr. Besides expressing, as in Germany, civilians' admiration for military values, the Mexican Segunda Reserva del Ejercito Nacional sought to unite the population around "the defense of the nation's honor and sovereignty," tying together the defense of the fatherland and "the respect for the household." According to supporters of the project, the Reserva would soon create "a well-developed public opinion." [66]

Further supporting equality within the ruling elite, dueling also acknowledged the honor and public influence of journalists. Tovar's Codigo nacional listed the press offenses (including caricatures) that could justify combat. [67] The responsibilities of newspaper editors involved responding to challenges from those offended by unsigned articles. In a famous 1880 case, Santiago Sierra (brother of Justo, who would become a leading cientifico) lost his life fighting fellow journalist Ireneo Paz. The loss, it is said, moved Justo to abandon political journalism. [68] Through dueling, journalists of diverse status and persuasion had to acknowledge each other. In 1897, Francisco Montes de Oca, director of liberal penny papers Gil Blas and El Popular, accused rival newspaper El Imparcial of receiving subsidies from the government in order to keep its price low. Montes de Oca faced El Imparcial's director, Rafael Reyes spindola, on the field of honor. Once again, Sostenes Rocha was one of the witnesses, and no one died. [69] The danger faced by Montes de Oca, however, should not be construed as part of the regime's policy to neutralize the free press. The regime had more direct and efficient ways to silence independent journalists: Filomeno Mata and Heriberto Frias were often imprisoned, and El Imparcial's low price continued to trouble the life of the opposition press. Rather than teaching journalists, as in the Italian case, the guidelines to use "their newfound freedom," the duel in Mexico simply gave journalists such as Montes de Oca greater prominence, by introducing them into the group of public men concerned about honor. [70]

The duel also enhanced the role of members of Congress in public life. According to Francois-Xavier Guerra, the Federal Congress during the Porfiriato was an "honorific" showcase for the elites, but hardly a representative of the population in general. [71] Although parliamentary debates were usually ineffectual in terms of state policy, they constituted the highest forum for the discussion of honor. Congressmen were often involved in duels. Deputies Nicolas Lemus and Trinidad Garcia engaged in a pistol duel during the years of Benito Jarez's presidency (1858-1872). After Garcia missed, Lemus refused to shoot, and there were no wounds nor arrests. [72] The threat of a duel was present in several confrontations in Congress throughout the Porfiriato and after the Revolution.

Veracruzano poet Salvador Diaz Miron provides an example of the role of Congress as the scene for the construction of elite honor. His case also reveals the reactions against those who, like Diaz Miron, did not use the duel to temper their aggressiveness. Diaz Miron was a common name among those familiar with dueling. He participated in several combats and was known to be excessively sensitive about honor. He had lost the use of one arm after a shooting in Orizaba in 1878, but that had not limited his skill with guns. He always carried a revolver and he had outstanding aim. According to Gabriel Chazaro, he "could write his name and sign it with bullets at a distance of 20 meters. He could throw a coin in the air and break it with a shot. He knew, therefore, that if he pulled the gun, the death would be that of his adversary, not himself. [73] In December 1910, in a room by the Chamber of Deputies' main salon, Diaz Miron asked Guanajuato representative Juan Chapital whether he had uttered "certain expressions " about the poet. Chapital denied it. Diaz Miron called two witnesses and, as Chapital repeated his denial, Diaz Miron suggested that Chapital was afraid of him. The argument became violent and Chapital, knowing that Diaz Miron had a gun in his jacket, put his arms around his rival's. Diaz Miron managed to get his gun out and shoot twice, but nobody was hurt. Days later, the incident was discussed in a plenary meeting of the Chamber. A committee proposed suspending Chapital and Diaz Miron from Congress for two and eight months, respectively. After a debate, however, the majority decided to rescind only Diaz Miron's judicial immunity, so he could be tried in a criminal court. Thereafter he was sentenced to six months in jail--the second time that he had been imprisoned because of a violent crime. [74] During the debate, the deputies emphasized the need to be particularly careful and not to be tied by a strict reading of the law, as they were dealing with "an extremely serious matter ... the honor of two men." [75]

Although nobody voiced a doubt about the honorability of the contenders, Diaz Miron's indictment demonstrated his fellow congressmen's disapproval of his violent tendencies. [76] Diaz Mir6n was obsessed with honor and was not foreign to the code of honor, but he consistently failed to follow the rules of the duel. In 1879 he publicly challenged governor of Veracruz Luis Mier y Teran to a duel, accusing him of the murder of nine opponents of his government. Mier y Teran avoided the combat by submitting the matter to a "jury of honor" which he appointed. [77] By using a challenge as an instrument of political propaganda, Diaz Miron subverted the proper use of the duel. [78] Throughout his career, Diaz Miron further defied the rituals of violence encoded by dueling. He exercised constantly to improve the speed of his draw. In other fights, he had killed at least three men. [79] Thus, the decision to deprive him of his immunity in 1910 was a punishment for his subversion of the rules governing violence, not for his concern about honor. After all, he had been a deputy several times before the revolution and he remained a revered poet afterwards. Writing from prison, in 1895, after one of his fights, Diaz Miron expressed the views of many of his fellow politicians:

[umlaut]Qur mal obre para tamano enojo? El honor del poeta es nimbo santo y la sangre de un vil es fango rojo! [What have I done to cause such wrath? The honor of the poet is a sacred aura and the blood of a miserable is red mud.] [80]

The Duel and "Revolutionary Virility"

The association between dueling and public life remained strong after the Revolution. The language of denouncing, challenging and even fighting adversaries was common during the l92Os, when congress acquired a central role in the reconstruction of post-revolutionary legitimacy. [81] Post-revolutionary legislators sought to preserve the preferential treatment of duelists inherited from the Porfiriato. The 1929 Penal Code maintained the 1871 code's articles about the duel, and added the establishment of a "Court of Honor" entrusted to mediate disputes between potential duelists. [82] The 1931 Penal Code, passed as a more pragmatic alternative to the positivism of its predecessor, eliminated the specific regulation of dueling, but maintained it as an attenuating circumstance in cases of battery or homicide. [83]

Most congressmen carried guns into Congress after the revolution and, when discussions became too intense, they were reminded to take their quarrels outside, "to the field of honor," rather than solve them inside the chambers. [84] In 1924, labor leader and deputy Luis N. Morones was seriously wounded and another congressman died in a gun battle inside the Chamber of Deputies. Although the violence seemed out of control, the formalities of dueling were clearly present in the minds of those involved. One of his adversaries, deputy Jose Maria Sanchez, had warned Morones to recant his accusations of corruption against the City Council, lest he receive Sanchez's seconds. Morones declared that he was ready for combat and the battle begun without further formalities. When Morones was in the hospital, one of his supporters offered Labor leaders to "help the cause of the Labor Party" by challenging the man who had wounded Morones. Despite the political motives behind the confrontation, all parties involved explained it, above all, as a matter of honor. [85]

Honor was an important asset for 192Os politicians, as they struggled with increasingly frequent accusations of corruption, such as those uttered by Morones in 1924. Violence, particularly when it echoed the duel, could solve conflicts that emerged from public debates without the need to appeal to powers outside of the assembly, like civil or criminal courts, or the Presidency. This concern about honor coupled with the need, among post-revolutionary politicians, of incorporating martial values into the new phase of civilian politics. During the civil war, civilians had been excluded from the Sovereign Revolutionary Convention, in 1914. Participation in the armed operations of the revolution gave greater personal influence to deputies in the 1916-1917 Constitutional congress and subsequent legislatures. [86] The revolution provided a common vital experience to a new generation of politicians, similar to that of S6stenes Rocha, Francisco Romero, Jose Verastegui, who shared the experience of the Reforma and Fre nch intervention wars.

As the case of Diaz Mir6n prefigured, however, the duel began to lose its ability to regulate the use of violence within the elite after the revolution-a comparable impact to that of the massive violence of World War Ion European would-be duelists. [87] In particular, the restrictive function of dueling pistols in Mexico eroded after the revolution. The "fiesta de las balas" ("party of bullets") in the battlefields had an impact on the everyday life of Mexico City and other urban centers. Guns were expensive, but they became increasingly ordinary in fights that had formerly been resolved with knives. With the entrance of revolutionary armies in the capital, soldiers would use their guns to solve personal matters--the police powerless to stop them. [88] Lethal violence became a greater risk in personal confrontations among members of the upper classes. Soldiers of humble origins, such as Pancho Villa and Rodolfo Fierro, mastered the use of revolvers. [89] The use of archaic single-shot dueling pistols would p revent revolutionary bravi from having an unfair advantage over their potential rivals.

Official protection for Mexican duelists waned in the 1920s. The few late cases of dueling after the revolution show greater anxiety among those involved about the intervention of the police. In 1925, according to Escudero, a group of respectable and influential gentlemen had to find refuge in the backyard of a deserted summer house in San Angel Inn, in order to celebrate a duel. [90]

Dueling and the Public Sphere

The coincidence between the decline of congress as the voice of public opinion and that of dueling suggests the connection between honor and the historical construction of the public sphere in Mexico. [91] Revolutionary politicians emphasized the role of public opinion and honor at the same time that they adopted a new "plebeian" political style and demanded effective male suffrage. The political elite's concern about honor expressed its desire to restrict political participation at the highest levels of government. The eruption of the masses into Mexican politics did not in fact correspond with an enhancement of the public sphere. As deputy Luis Cabrera put it in 1917: "If an Indian's vote has not the same value as one from a civilized Creole citizen, it is preferable that the votes of one hundred Indians count as much as one hacendado vote." [92] More than the mere desire to return to the good old times, heard in the nostalgia expressed by Escudero at the beginning of this paper, the brief survival of the duel after the revolution was an attempt to adapt to the new political situation.

The development of a strong and independent public opinion was, for many writers and politicians of the revolutionary period, essential to guarantee institutional continuity after seasons of war and caudillo rule. These writers defined public opinion as the voice of the learned and progressive sectors of society--as opposed to the inarticulate expression of popular moods and desires prompted by mass participation in politics. [93] "Public opinion," rather than any legal sanction, would also punish those who evaded a duel, and would guarantee duelists' adherence to the mandates of the technology of honor. In Lancaster Jones's words, "Opinion [is] the invisible executor of the cruel sentences of society." [94] This definition of public opinion implied its limited reach. In the context of dueling, membership was reserved for the educated upper-class urban population from whom most duelists came from. Thus, the code of honor established a level field by excluding most people from the practice--while guaranteeing that public and private reputations were preserved. "Men of honor" believed that a duel performed in a secluded place, away from officials or undesired reporters, was a better solution than a civil suit, as the essential information about the event would promptly be transmitted to "public opinion," i.e., the restricted circle whose perception defined a good reputation. [95] Abiding by this rule, newspapers did not print the names of those involved in duels, explaining that "our readers will know very well who they are." [96]

"Public opinion," in this context, referred to more than gossip: it implied the political value of honor. Public men were supporters and practitioners of dueling, to the extent that Martinez de Castro himself advised against punishing duelists by stripping them of their political rights, as was done in other countries, because "the Nation could thus be deprived of the valuable services of some very respectable men." [97] In 1891, the signatures supporting Tovar's Codigo nacional included three senators, twenty deputies, six governors and twelve journalists, some of them also deputies, like Rafael Reyes Espindola and Ireneo Paz. Their goal, they stated, was "to invite society to accept as the laws of honor" the rules contained in the Codigo national. [98]

Honor was understood as a vital right for public men. In 1892, colonel Adolfo M. Obregon, in his role of maestro de campo, had allowed colonel Francisco Romero to fight a duel even though his rival's seconds claimed he lacked honor because he had previously been involved in a crime. Obregon had no choice but to declare Romero fit for combat because, he reasoned, "if he [Romcro] was declared outside of the laws of honor, as a military officer, as a man, as a deputy, he had no choice but to put a bullet through his head." [99] The virtues of the political elite became by extension the virtues of the nation. Rocha cited "a brave Mexican soldier" who declared that "the virility of nation can be measured by its honor code." [100] Dueling placed civilians at the same honorable level as military officers. Only honorable men, educated and courageous, could speak for public opinion; only they could establish a clear separation between public issues and their private interests. They were hombres de palabra: men who ha d spoke in honorable words, but also men who could speak publicly.

The loss of influence of the duel after the revolution coincides with a diminished power of congress and congressmen as political actors. After the 1923 Delahuertista rebellion, presidents Obergon and Calles used all available means to limit the power of the legislative branch. The establishment of a unified revolutionary party in 1929 and the elimination of reelection for deputies and senators in 1934 were key achievements within this project. Although presidentialism faced some resistance from the educated and urban post-revolutionary elites, the rules of politics and the autonomy of public opinion began to change in the 1930s. For congressmen, party discipline became a greater value than personal honor. [101] Unchecked violence in congress contributed to the discredit of legislators. In 1926, Chiapas senator Luis Espinosa died in a room near the senate floor, trying to prevent a duel between two colleagues. The incident motivated criticisms from the press against "the complete lack of education and ethics among congressmen" and the subsequent decadence of legislative politics in Mexico. [102] For critics of the legislative branch, these gun battles proved that congress's influence had to be limited in favor of greater presidential power. The new political discipline did not imply the disappearance of violence from politics, but its more centralized, perhaps less honorable, use against political rivals. The process, once again, parallels that of contemporary Germany and Italy, where governments made of violence a central element of their style. While Fascist legislators in Italy saw the duel as a liberal throwback threatening the state monopoly of violence, National Socialists continued to see the duel as a vehicle to instill martial values on the male population. In both cases, the raison d'Etat prevailed: duels were no longer promoted when Germany engaged all its resources in war. [103]


The duel protected public men's freedom of speech because it excluded women from the field of honor. Otherwise, violence could not be used in circumstances of equality. The literature on dueling contains several derisive accounts of female attempts at emulating the rituals of combat. Commentators emphasized women s physiological and psychological inability to fight. [104] Furthermore, men who lacked proper control over their wives did not deserve to engage in duels. According to Tovar's Codigo nacional, a man could claim the protection of the laws of dueling only if "He had not returned to live with his wife from whom he had been separated because of her adultery." [105] In 1892, the mother of a young duelist refused to discourage him from a combat, arguing that she did not want to "intervene in men's business." [106]

The political credentials claimed by veterans of the revolution had clear gender attributes. The revolution, according to general Juan Barragan, "made me a man." [107] In 1917, deputy Siurob defined "revolutionary virility" by opposing it to women's inability to impart justice. "This assembly," he added, "has not lost its virility, because it is imparting justice." [108] Rafael Martinez de Escobar referred to the adversaries of the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista in 1917 as "men who do not have the organs that distinguish a man from a woman," and who are out of place "in an assembly of free men, not an assembly of eunuchs." Women should not be allowed in the Chamber, argued Juan Zubaran Capmany, because that would curtail deputies' ability to use words like "masturbation" and, in general, their freedom of speech. [109]

Explanations for the exclusion of women from politics in twentieth-century Mexico usually refer to their religiosity as a threat to the secularizing policies of the post-revolutionary state. Voting women could be an instrument of the church, said President Portes Gil in the late l920s. It could be argued, instead, that women were excluded from high levels of politics because their participation would undermine the ritualized and implicit use of violence that supported the personal legitimacy of politicians. As in National Socialist Germany, the duel helped contrasting strong men with "home loving" women. [110]

Dueling in modern Mexico reveals the construction of a gendered identity for national elites. As opposed to France and Germany, the virility of Mexican elites was not placed in the context of international rivalries. As in these two countries, however, dueling in Mexico "drew a strict line of division between 'men of honor' and the rest of society." [111] The "caste-honor" inspiring German duelists was also a concern for their Mexican counterparts. Studies of Latin American elites in the modern period have correctly stressed the vertical linkages of patronage that reinforced caste-like identities." [112] Dueling suggests that other, "horizontal" connections between elite groups were central for the cultural articulation of class identity. Honor made those men equal, and distinguished them from the crowd and from women.

The Mexican embrace of dueling in the late nineteenth-century sought to establish the "republican manhood" or "revolutionary virility" of the national ruling groups, and therefore the class and gender exclusions that guaranteed their leadership. This story reveals the contested process of creating a modern public sphere. This had to be a sphere where public and private interests were clearly defined and in harmony but, above all, a restrictive sphere: not, strictly speaking, an egalitarian and open space for public debate. Women had to be silenced in order for upper-class men to maintain their authority and their ability to speak freely. The poor man's defense of his reputation had to remain a crime. The masculine monopoly of public speech was a modern and natural fact of politics only when supported by honorable guns.

Department of History

New York, NY 10027


Preliminary versions of this paper were presented and debated at the Seminario Internacional "Discurso, Hegemonia y Sociedad Civil en el Siglo XIX," Universidad Aut6noma Metropolitana-Ixtapalapa, Mexico D.F., in 1997; at the Multidisciplinary Lecture Series of the Council for Latin American Studies of Yale University, and at the History Department of Georgia State University, 1998. I owe thanks in particular to the organizers of those events, Carlos Illades, Ariel Rodriguez, Sonia Perez Toledo, Gilbert Joseph and Seth Fein, and to the editors of JSH. I have a special debt to David Parker, who shares my interest about dueling in Latin America: he generously shared sources and thoughts, and his own research is bound to yield a comprehensive examination of the theme. Renato Gonzalez Mello and Sandra Lauderdale-Graham made detailed comments on a previous version of this article, and Theo Hernandez conveyed some of the oral tradition about duels and fencing in Mexico City. Funding came from the University of Texas at Austin.

(1.) See 1857 Constitution, articles 34 and 35, Felipe Tena Ramirez, Leyes fundamentales de Mexico (Mexico City, 1967). On public opinion Querido Moheno, [umlaut]Hacia donde vamos? Bosquejo de un cuadro de instituciones politicas adecuadas al pueblo mexicano (Mexico City, 1908); Antonio Enriquez, Dictadura presidencial o parlamentarismo democratico. Estudio critico de nuestro sistema federal, y proposiciones de reforma a la Constitucion. mediante la creacion del parlamentarismo y de la republica central (Mexico City, 1913), 103; Daniel Cosio Villegas, Historia Moderna de Mexico. La Republica Restaurada. Vida politica, 2d. ed. (Mexico City, 1959,1st. ed. 1955), 53; Pablo Piccato, "El parlamentarismo y la construccion de una esfera publica posrevolucionaria," Historias 39 (October-March 1998): 65-86.

(2.) See for example Enrique Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power: A History of Modern Mexico, 1810-1996, Hank Heifetz, tr. (New York, 1997); Claudio Lomnitz, "An Intellectual's Stock in the Factory of Mexico's Ruins," American Journal of Sociology 103:4 (Jan. 1998): 1052-65.

(3.) Direccion General de Estadistica, Estadistica del ramo criminal en la Republica Mexicana que camprende un perioda de quince anos, de 1871 a 1885 (Mexico City, 1890). For the paucity of duels in the colonial period, see Mark A. Burkholder, "Honor and Honors in Colonial Spanish America" in The Faces of Honor: Sex, Shame, and Violence in Colonial Latin America, Lyman L. Johnson and Sonya Lipsett-Rivera, eds. (Alburquerque, 1998), 34. For a similar increase in other countries of Latin America, see David A. Parker, "Law, Honor, and Impunity in Spanish America: The Debate over Duelling, 1870-1920," ins.

(4.) Revista de Legislacion y Jurisprudencia publicada por Victor M. Castillo vol. 7, (Jul.--Dec. 1894): 361.

(5.) Bulnes said that his questioning of elder public figures such as [Guillermo?] Prieto and [Jose Maria?] Vigil and some research in libraries yielded only three duels in the last forty years. Bulnes in ibid., 394.

(6.) Angel Escudero, El duelo en Mexico: Recopilacion de los desafios habidos en nuestra Republica, precedidos de la historia de la esgrima en Mexico y de los duelos mas famosos verificados en el mundo desde los juicios de Dios hasta nuestros dias, par el maestro de armas ... (Mexico City, 1936). Escudero was a fencing and pistol instructor. He was involved in several duels as a witness. His book combined hemerographical research and interviews and sought to remember "those times when honor ... presided over all acts of life, and its defense was supported by the tip of a sword or the mouth of a gun." Ibid., 277, 242-245.

(7.) Between 1871 and 1885, for example, there were 48,196 convictions of battery and 533 for homicide in the Federal District. Direccion General de Estadistica, Estadistica del ramo criminal. The Federal District's population in 1895, year of the first census, was 474,860. Estadisticas Historicas de Mexico, vol. 1 (Mexico City, 1994). According to Robert Nye, there were between 200 and 300 duels a year at the turn of the century in France, Robert A. Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modem France (New York, 1993), 183-187. Between 1882 and 1912 there were 3,466 convictions related to dueling in Germany; Ute Frevert, "The Taming of the Noble Ruffian: Male Violence and Dueling in Early Modern and Modern Germany" in Pieter Spierenburg, ed., Men and Violence: Gender, Honor, and Rituals in Modem Europe and America (Columbus, 1998). See also Kevin McAleer, Dueling: The Cult of Honor in Fin-de-Siecle Germany (Princeton, 1994), 244n. On Italy, Steven Hughes, "Men of Steel: Dueling, Honor, and Politics in Li beral Italy" in Spierenburg, ed., Men and Violence, 68.

(8.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 242-245.

(9.) Ibid., 277.

(10.) Antonio Tovar, Codigo nacional mexicano del duelo por el coronel de caballeria ...(Mexico City, 1891). Tovar's code followed the lines of the European codes by the count of Chateauvillard and the marquis of Cabrinana. See also Vicente E. Manero, Apuntes sobre el duelo (Mexico City, 1884); Gonzalo A. Esteva, El duelo a espada y a pistola (Mexico City, 1878); Codigo del duelo, traducido, arreglado y anotado por Joaquin Larralde y Anselmo Alfaro (Mexico City, 1886). For a translation of Chateauvillard's code see Codigo del Duelo observado en Francia, segun el conde de Chatauvillard, tr. Aristides Simonpietri (Ponce Puerto Rico, 1887). Other available codes were Codigo del honor en Espana formulado por el Marques de Cabrinana (Barcelona, 1900), and Pietro Lanzilli, Codigo del honor para America Latina (Guatemala, 1898). In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century France saw the emergence of a "very successful" literature of codes of honor. Francois Billacois, The Duel: Its Rise and Fall in Early Mode rn France, tr. Trista Selous (New Haven, 1990), 185.

(11.) After the French revolution, according to Escudero, "the new principles of equality placed all social classes at the same level ... granting them the right to seek reparation of any slight through the use of weapons." Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 27. See also Juan Maria Rodriguez, El duelo. Estudio filosofico Moral por ... Catedratico de la Escuela de Medicina de Mexico; Miembro de la Sociedad Catolica, de la Sociedad Medica, de la Sociedad Familiar de Medicina, de la de Historia Natural, Profesor de Quimica en la E.N. Freparatoria, etc. (Mexico City, 1869), 17.

(12.) Tovar, Codigo nacional, ix. Romero (1853-1930) participated in several duels and wrote the preface to Tovar, Codigo nacional, viii-x.

(13.) Rodriguez, El duelo, 5.

(14.) Rodriguez, El duelo, 17. A similar historical account by deputy Manuel Flores in 1894, Revista de Legislacion y Jurisprudencia publicada por Victor M. Castillo, vol. 7, (Jul.-Dec. 1894): 381.

(15.) El Heraldo, Diana Catolico, 4 Jan. 1890, p. 1. El Heraldo expressed the progressive attitudes of late-nineteenth-century Catholic social thought. For a denunciation of the Church's position on dueling, see Enrique de Sierra Valenzuela, Duelos, rieptos y desafios: Ensayo filosofico-juridico sobre el duelo (Madrid, 1878), 26. On Catholic social thought, see Manuel Ceballos, El Catolicismo social: Un tercero en discordia. Rerum Novarum, la cuestion social' y la movilizacion de los catolicos mexicanos (1891-1911) (Mexico City, 1991).

(16.) William H. Beezley, "The Porfirian Smart Set Anticipates Thorstein Veblen in Guadalajara," in Rituals of Rule, Rituals of Resistance: Public Celebrations and Popular Culture in Mexico, William H. Beezley et al., eds. (Wilmington, 1994); Mauricio Tenorio, Mexico at the World's Fairs: Crafting a Modern Nation (Berkeley, 1996), chap. 2.

(17.) Codigo del duelo, traducido, arreglado y anotado por Joaquin Larralde y Anselmo Alfaro, 212.

(18.) Nye, "Fencing, the Duel and Republican Manhood in the Third Republic," Journal of Contemporary History 25 (1990): 366; ibid, Masculinity and Mole Codes, 172. For the growth of dueling in Germany, see McAleer, Dueling: The Cult of Honor, 3. Duel was in decline in other countries of Western Europe by the nineteenth century; V.G. Kiernan, The Duel in European History: Honour and the Reign of Aristocracy (Oxford, 1988), chap. 15. Recent studies correct Kiernan's view of the duel as a bourgeois "fantasy" claiming the values of chivalry, ibid., 265. See the chapters of Spierenburg, ed, Men and Violence; William M. Reddy, The invisible Code: Honor and Sentiment in Postrevolutionary France, 1814-1848 (Berkeley, 1997); Mark Liddle, "Stare, Masculinities and Law: Some Comments on Gender and English Stare-Formation," British Journal of Criminology 36:3 (1996): 361-380; Peter Gay, The Cultivation of Hatred: The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud (New York, 1993), chaps. 1 and 2; Kenneth S. Greenberg, Honor and Slavery: Lies, Duels, Noses, Masks, Dressing as a Woman, Gifts, Strangers, Death, Humanitarianism, Slave Rebellions, The Pro-Slavery Argument, Baseball, Hunting, and Gambling in the Old South (Princeton, 1996), xii, 9.

(19.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 40.

(20.) German merchants had several firms in Mexico City, and France and Germany competed during the Porfirian period for the business of the Mexican military. James R. Kelley, "Professionalism in the Porfirian Army Officer Corps" (Ph.D. diss, Tulane University, 1970), 66; Friedrich Katz, La Guerra Secreta en Mexico: Europa, Estados Unidos y la Revolucion Mexicana, tr. Isabel Fraire, Jose Luis Hoyo, Jose Luis Gonzalez (Mexico City, 1985), 1:81.

(21.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, passim. In contrast, few cases show an American citizen fighting a duel against a Mexican.

(22.) Frevert, "The Taming of the Noble," 41. For the increasing value of honor in contemporary Argentina, see Kristin Ruggiero, "Honor, Maternity, and the Disciplining of Women: Infanticide in Late Nineteenth-Century Buenos Aires," Hispanic American Historical Review 72:3 (1992): 361.

(23.) Tovar, Codigo nacional, 13-15.

(24.) Archive of the Tribunal Superior de Justicia del Distrito Federal, Reclusorio Sur, 19321.

(25.) Tovar, Codigo nacional, 9, 11-12. For the same attitude in other cases, Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes, 176; Parker, "Law, Honor, and Impunity in Spanish America." On jury trials, see Demetrio Sodi, El Jurado en Mexico: Estudios sobre el jurado popular (Mexico City, 1909), 41-44.

(26.) Antonio Martinez de Castro, Codigo penal para el Distrito Federal y Territorio de la Baja-California sobre delitos del fuero comun y para toda la Republica Mexicana sobre delitos contra la Federacion. Edicion correcta, sacada de la oficial , precedida de la Exposicion de motivos dirigida al Supremo Gobierno por el C. Lic.... Presidente de la comision encargada de formar el Codigo (1871; Veracruz and Puebla, 1891, hereafter cited as CP 1871), 53-54.

(27.) CP 1871, p. 53. CP 1871, arts. 587, 590, 600, 597.

(28.) "Prologo" in Tovar, Codigo nacional, iv--v. Frevert, "The Taming of the Noble Ruffian," 43; Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes, 175.

(29.) Most jurors were merchants, as they had to prove an income in excess of 100 pesos a month, La Voz de Mexico, 14 Jan. 1906, p. 1, c. 4 y 5.

(30.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 95-6.

(31.) See print published in Gil Blas Comico in The Works of Jose Guadalupe Posada, Hannes Jahn, ed. (Frankfurt am Main, 1978), 529; Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 231-238. A similar argument in Valenzuela, Duelos, rieptos y desafios, 25.

(32.) Sostenes Rocha, El General Sostenes Rocha ante el jurado popular con motivo del duelo verificado entre los senores Verastegui y Romero (Mexico City, 1895), 58, 5. Lancaster Jones is contradicted by Direccion General de Estadistica, Estadistica del ramo criminal. Rocha wrote the prologue for Tovar's Codigo.

(33.) Revista de Legislacion y Jurisprudencia publicada por Victor M. Castillo, vol. 7, (Jul.- Dec. 1894): 361. Shortly afterwards, the chamber of deputies issued an amnesty for all convict duelists. Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 231-8.

(34.) Aurelio de los Reyes, Los origenes del cine mexicano: 1896-1900 (Mexico City, 1983), 13.

(35.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 158 and 111; Ute Frevert, Men of Honour: A Social and Cultural History of the Duel, tr. Anthony Williams (Cambridge, 1995), chap. 2.

(36.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 122; another case in which the police are instructed not to intervene in a duel in ibid., 177.

(37.) Revista de Legislacion y Jurisprudencia publicada por Victor M. Castillo, vol.7 (Jul.-Dec. 1894): 386-8.

(38.) Article 587, for example, referred to the honorability expected from duelists, and instructed authorities to obtain from potential contenders a promise "under their word of honor" not to celebrate the duel. See also CP 1871, art. 600, paragraph 2.

(39.) Revista de Legislacion y Jurisprudencia publicada por Victor M. Castillo vol. 7, (Jul.-Dec. 1894): 369.

(40.) See Pablo Piccato, "Criminals in Mexico City, 1900-1931: A Cultural History," Ph.D. diss., University of Texas at Austin, 1997, chap. 3.

(41.) Tovar, Codigo nacional, 8.

(42.) Miguel Macedo, La criminalidad en Mexico: Medios de combatirla (Mexico City, 1897), 13, 20.

(43.) Codigo del duelo, 6.

(44.) Tovar, Codigo nacional , 5, 67.

(45.) For the same intended effect of dueling regulations in France see Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes, 214

(46.) Tovar, Codigo nacional, ix. For "scientific politics" see Charles A. Hale, The Transformation of Liberalism in Late Nineteenth-Century Mexico (Princeton, 1989), 27. For the critique to the 1871 Penal Code as "metaphysical" see Jose Almaraz, Exposicion de motivos del Codigo Penal promulgado el 15 de diciembre de 1929 (Mexico City, 1931), 18, probably inspired by Enrico Fern, La Sociologie Criminelle (3rd. ed., Paris, 1893), 22.

(47.) Frevert, Man of Honour, 234; Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes, 186; McAleer, Dueling: The Cult of Honor, 4.

(48.) Lanzilli, Codigo del honor para America Latina, 54-55.

(49.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 233, and a similar encounter in 185. Only dueling pistols were used in the shooting range of San Felipe Neri, in Mexico City. Ibid., 241.

(50.) Codigo del duelo, 153, 158.

(51.) McAleer, Dueling; The Cult of Honor, 74-75.

(52.) Esteva, El duelo a espada y a pistola, 10-11. One US dollar was worth 1.08 Mexican pesos in 1878, Estadisticas historicas de Mexico (Mexico City, 1984), 810.

(53.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 241. See also Tovar, Codigo nacional, chap. 4, p. 31; Codigo del duelo, 152. On the Guatemalan use of revolvers see Lanzilli, Codigo del honor para America Latina, 54-55.

(54.) Archivo Historico de la Ciudad de Mexico, Gobernacion, 1115, 391.

(55.) Excelsior, 10 Nov. 1924, p. 3; ibid., 17 Nov. 1924, p. 7, 2nd. sec.

(56.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 226.

(57.) For example, ibid., 92, 93, 97.

(58.) Frevert, "The Taming of the Noble Ruffian," 41.

(59.) Hughes, "Men of Steel," 65.

(60.) Hale, The Transformation of Liberalism, 105; Friedrich Katz, "The Liberal Republic and the Porfiriato, 1867-1910," in Mexico since Independence, Leslie Bethell, ed., (New York, 1991), 104.

(61.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 238.

(62.) On the French and German influence on the reorganization of the Mexican army under Diaz see Kelley, "Professionalism in the Porfirian Army," 56, 62, 65.

(63.) Sostenes Rocha, Enquiridon para los sargentos y cabos del ejercito mexicano (Mexico City, 1887); McAleer, Dueling: The Cult of Honor, chp. 3.

(64.) Revista de Legislacion y Jurisprudencia publicada por Victor M. Castillo, vol. 7, (Jul.-Dec. 1894): 394. Escudero describes six duels (of a total of 78) between military men, including students of the Colegio Militar. Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, passim.

(65.) Rafael de Pina, Codigo penal para el Distrito y territorios federales. Texto al dia, concordancias, notas y jurisprudencia (5th. ed., Mexico City, 1960), 194-5.

(66.) The Reserva was abolished in 1902 for fear reservists would become political supporters of the Minister of Defense General Bernardo Reyes. Francis-Xavier Guerra, Mexico: Del Antiguo Regimen a la Revolucion (Mexico City, 1988), 2:80-81; on the role of the Landwehr see Frevert, Men of Honour, 72-71; ibid., "The Taming of the Noble Ruffian," 51.

(67.) Tovar, Codigo nacional, chap. 1, art. 1.

(68.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 102; for other journalists involved in duels, ibid., 130, 175.

(69.) Maria de los Angeles Sobrino F., "Jose Guadalupe Posada y Francisco Montes de Oca: La ilustracion al servicio del periodismo independiente, popular y comercial," in Posada y la prensa ilustrada: Signos de modernizacion y resistencias (Mexico City, 1996), 75.

(70.) Guerra, Mexico: Del Antiguo Regimen, 2:11-14; Hughes, "Men of Steel," 68.

(71.) Guerra, Mexico: Del Antiguo Regimen, 1:112.

(72.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 98. As in other cases, Escudero does not provide the exact date of this event.

(73.) Gabriel Chazaro, Salvador Diaz Miron no fue un asesino (Mexico City, 1954), 7; Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 191.

(74.) Diario de los debates de la camara de Diputados, XXV Legislature, 14 Dec. 1910, p. 1-37; Antonio Castro Leal, Diaz Miron: Su vida y su obra (Mexico City, 1970), 39; Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 205-208.

(75.) Diario de los debates de la Camara de Diputados, XXV Legislature, 14 Dec. 1910, p. 13, 8.

(76.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 207-208.

(77.) Castro Leal, Diaz Miron Su vida y su obra, 15; Chazaro, Salvador Diaz Miron, 15.

(78.) The 1871 penal code provided increased penalties against those who challenged "a public officer, for an act performed during the exercise of his official duty," CP 1871, art. 600, and considered as an atenuating circumstance a challenge received publicly, ibid., 607.

(79.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 192-199.

(80.) "La oracion del preso" in Salvador Diaz Miron, Poesias completas. ed. Antonio Castro Leal (Mexico City, 1952).

(81.) See Pablo Piccato, ed., El Poder Legislativo en las decadas revolucionarias, 1908-1934 (Mexico City, 1997).

(82.) Codigo Penal para el Distrito y Territorios Federales (Mexico City, 1929), arts. 1076, 1079, 1065, 1066, 1067.

(83.) Codigo penal para el Distrito y Territorios Federales y para toda la Republica en Materia de Fuero Federal [1931] (Mexico City, 1938), arts. 297, 308.

(84.) 22 Dec. 1921, Diario de los debares de la Camara de Diputados, XXIX Legislature, 3:69, p. 16 and Martinez de Escobar, 22 Dec. 1921, ibid., p. 26. Another case in Excelsior, 17 Dec. 1921, p. 4.

(85.) Excelsior, 11 Nov. 1924, p. 1; ibid., 14 Nov. 1924, p. 10. ibid., 13 Nov. 1924, p. 1, 4; ibid., 14 Nov. 1924, p. 8.

(86.) For a criticism of this situation, 7 Dec. 1917, Diana de los debates de la Camara de Diputados, XXVII Legislature, 2:78, p. 23.

(87.) Frevert, Men of Honour, 201.

(88.) El Universal, 5 Feb. 1917, p. 5; Francisco Ramirez Plancarte, La ciudad de Mexico durante la revolucion constitucionalista (Mexico City, 1941), 70. In a list of the belongings of drunkards arrested in the streets in 1917 there were revolvers and automatic pistols of different brands and calibers; Colt and Smith and Wesson revolvers, and calibers 45 to 38, were the most frequent. Archivo Historico de la Ciudad de Mexico, Fondo Gobernacion, 1110, 43, and ibid., 1110, 44.

(89.) Alfonso Taracena, La verdadera revolucion mexicana (Mexico City, 1960), 5:214. El Universal, 2 Oct. 1916, p. 1. Describing his first impression of Pancho Villa, Martin Guzman wrote: "Este hombre no existiria si no existiese la pistola ... La pistola no es solo su util de accion: es su instrumento fundamental, el centro de su obra y su juego ... " Martin Luis Guzman, El Aguila y la Serpiente, in Obras Completas (Mexico City, 1984), 1:325-326. For "fiesta de Las balas" see ibid., 1:300-307.

(90.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 90-91.

(91.) For the historical determinations of the construction of the public sphere, see Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society (Cambridge, MA, 1991); Geoff Eley, "Nations, Publics, and Political Cultures: Placing Habermas in the Nineteenth Century" in Culture/Power/History: A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory, Nicholas B. Dirks, Geoff Eley and Sherry B. Ortner, eds., (Princeton, 1994).

(92.) Luis Cabrera, Veinte anos despues, 3d. ed. (Mexico City, 1938), 95.

(93.) For the end of the porfirian period, this opinion is expressed in books like Moheno; Hacia donde vamos?; see also deputy Peralta, 7 Dec. 1917, Diario de los debates de la Camara de Diputados, XXVII Legislature, 2:78, p. 21; Rafael Martinez de Escobar, 9 Feb. 1921, Diario de los debates de La Camara de Diputados, XXIX Legislature, 2:4, p. 18; Enriquez, Dictadura, 103. Recent historiography stresses the weakness of public opinion in Mexican modern history. See Raul Trejo Delarbre, "La expresion publica" in Mexico a fines de siglo, J. Woldenberg and Jose Joaquin Blanco, eds. (Mexico City:, 1993), 190; Alan Knight, "Intellectuals in the Mexican Revolution" in Los intelectuales y el poder en Mexico. Intellectuals and Power in Mexico, Roderi A. Camp et al., eds. (Mexico City, 1991), 145; Daniel Cosio Villegas, "El intelectual mexicano y la politica" in Casio Villegas, Ensayos y notas (Mexico City, 1966), 2:151. For contrasting views on popular ideology and state building, see Gilbert Joseph and Daniel Nugent, eds., Everyday forms of state formation: Revolution and the negotiation of rule in modern Mexico (Durham, 1994); Hilda Sabato, "Citizenship, Political Participation and the Formation of the Public Sphere in Buenos Aires 1850s-1880s," Past and Present 136 (Aug. 1992): 139-163.

(94.) Rocha, El General Sostenes Rocha ante el jurado, 62. Valenzuela, Duelos, rieptos y desafios, 25-26; Rodriguez, El duelo, 25; Rocha, El General Sostenes Rocha, 59,62; Lanzilli, Codigo del honor para America Latina, 45-46.

(95.) For gossip and the public sphere, see Claudio Lomnitz, "Ritual, Rumor and Corruption in the Constitution of Polity in Modern Mexico," in Journal of Latin American Anthropology 1:1 (1995): 20-4.

(96.) Heriberto Frias, El ultimo duelo. Novela social de costumbres mexicanas (Mexico, 1896), 41. See also Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 152.

(97.) CP 1871, p. 55, 56. Loss of civil rights was a punishment of duelists in the 1870 Spanish criminal code. Valenzuela, Duelos, rieptos y desafios, 40-41.

(98.) Tovar, Codigo nacional, 5, 67. They were probably following the example of the "eighty individuals high in the army or society" subscribing to Chateauvillard's Essai sur le duel after its first edition in 1836. Kiernan, The Duel in European History, 262.

(99.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 231.

(100.) Tovar, Codigo nacional, vi-vii.

(101.) Piccato, ed., El congreso en Las decadas, particularly Jeffrey Weldon, "Las iniciativas presidenciales en la Camara de Diputados, 1917-1934"; Luis Javier Garrido, El partido de La revolucion institucionalizada (Medio siglo de poder politico en Mexico). La formacion del nuevo estado (1928-1945) (Mexico City, 1982).

(102.) Excelsior, 10 Nov. 1926, P. 5.

(103.) On the new, partisan uses of violence in post-revolutionary Mexico, see Gonzalo N. Santos, Memorias (Mexico City, 1984); Hughes, "Men of Steel," 75; Eve Rosenhaft, Beating The Fascists: The German Communists and Political Violence 1929-33 (Cambridge, 1983); Frevert, Men of Honour, 220, 225.

(104.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 36-37; Rodriguez, El duelo, 26; Codigo del duelo, 8.

(105.) Tovar, Codigo nacional, chap. II, art. 1; this requirement is not included in Cabrinana's code, Codigo del honor en Espana, chap. 13.

(106.) Escudero, El duelo en Mexico, 160.

(107.) Roderi Camp notes the role of violent conflicts in establishing links of solidarity among Mexican politicians of one generation, Roderi Ai Camp, Reclutamiento politico en Mexico (Mexico City, 1996), 91 and 81.

(108.) 7 Dec. 1917, Diario de los debates de la Camara de Diputados, XXVII Legislature, 2:78, p. 31, 33. See also Martinez de Escobar, 22 Dec. 1921, Diario de los debates de la Camara de Diputados, XXIX Legislature, 3:69, p. 22.

(109.) Ibid., p. 3.

(110.) Margarita Robles de Mendoza, La evolucion de la mujer en Mexico (Mexico City, 1931), 26. This explanation remains convincing for recent historians of the revolution, see Guerra, Mexico: Del Antiguo Regimen, 1:339, 342; Alan Knight, The Mexican Revolution (Lincoln, 1990), 2:207, 1:19. Women received the right to vote in 1953 and their participation in the highest levels of government has been limited in recent years. See Luz de Lourdes Silva, "Las mujeres en la elite politica de Mexico: 1954-1984" in Trabajo, poder y sexualidad, Orlandina de Oliveira, ed. (Mexico City, 1989); Mercedes Pedrero Nicto, Cinco dimensiones sobre la situacion de la mujer mexicana: legal, politica, bienestar, trabajo y fecundidad (Mexico City, 1992). On Germany, see Frevert, Men of Honour, 223; Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies, tr. Erica Carter and Chris Turner (Minneapolis, 1989).

(111.) McAleer, Dueling: The Cult of Honor, 3; see also Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes, 215; Nye, "Fencing, the Duel," 367.

(112.) Richard Graham, Patronage and politics in Nineteenth Century Brazil (Stanford, 1990); for Mexico see Gilbert Joseph and Allen Wells, Summer of Discontent, Seasons of Upheaval: Elite Politics and Rural Insurgency in Yucatan, 1876-1915 (Stanford, 1996), 24-25.
 Duels by year
Date Duels
1850-1859 1
1860-1869 8
1870-1879 2
1880-1889 10
1890-1899 20
1900-1909 0
1910-1919 1
1920-1929 3
No Date 29
Total 78

Source: Escudero, El Duelo en Mexico.

Note: Escudero listed duels celebrated in Mexico City (N =69), in other Mexican cities (6) and in France (3)--the latter being duels in which one Mexican had been involved.
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Author:Piccato, Pablo
Publication:Journal of Social History
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Dec 22, 1999

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