Antonio Barona Rojas

Antonio Barona Rojas
General Antonio Barona Rojas

Antonio Barona was born in Ahuatepec, Morelos, on April 30, 1886;  as the son of Ricardo Barona and Soledad Rojas, who were sharecroppers. Barona grew up in a country that was in turmoil under the reign of the dictatorship of the then-president, Porfirio Díaz who had held office for 10-years prior to Barona’s birth. However, the young man would join the Mexican Revolution, opposing the dictatorship of Díaz, and rise to become a General in the Mexican Army.

Porfirio Díaz

Under Porfirio Díaz, the Mexican social and economic system was essentially a feudal system, with large estates controlling much of the land and squeezing out the independent communities of the people who were subsequently forced into debt slavery on the haciendas. Díaz ran local elections to pacify the people; however, his close confidants and associates were given offices in districts throughout Mexico. These officials became enforcers of “land reforms” that drove the haciendas into the hands of progressively fewer and wealthier landowners.

Due to the economic conditions, Barona was only allowed to study until second grade to help with farm work given the extreme poverty of his family. He worked with his parents as sharecroppers until the age of 25.  It was hard work and the family often went hungry after returning from the fields after dark.

Francisco I. Madero

As Barona grew, he became increasingly dedicated to the plight of Mexico’s peasants and became an ardent follower of Francisco I. Madero, a Mexican statesman, writer, and an advocate for social justice and democracy, whose 1908 book entitled The Presidential Succession in 1910, called on voters to prevent the sixth reelection of Porfirio Díaz, which Madero considered anti-democratic. Madero’s vision would lay the foundation for a democratic, 20th-century Mexico but without polarizing the social classes. To that effect, he bankrolled the Anti-Reelectionist Party (later the Progressive Constitutional Party) and urged the Mexicans to rise up against Díaz, which ignited the Mexican Revolution in 1910.

Madero’s candidacy against Díaz garnered widespread support in Mexico, since he was someone of independent financial means, ideological determination, and bravery to oppose Díaz when it was dangerous to do so. Madero was arrested by Díaz shortly after Madero was declared a Presidential candidate by the Anti-Reelectionist Party, however he escaped from prison and went to the United States, where he launched the Plan of San Luis Potosí. This officially began the Mexican Revolution.

So it was that in April 1911, at age 25, Barona and several other young men from Ahuatepec, traveled to Tlaltizapán and joined the Madero movement under General Próculo Capistrán to oppose the Díaz dictorship. The Revolution was a success and on May 25, 1911 after the signing of the Treaty of Ciudad Juárez, and Madero was set to become the highest political leader of the country.

After the triumph of Francisco I. Madero, Barona was granted leave from the military and returned to his homeland to continue his daily life, but destiny is relentless.

Emiliano Zapata Salazar

After the election, Madero made two very big mistakes; first, he decided to install a Díaz supporter, Francisco León de la Barra as Interim President of Mexico. Second, he left the largely handpicked Díaz Congress in place, until he officially took office at the end of November 1911.

However, Madero did call for the disbanding of all revolutionary forces, arguing that the revolutionaries should henceforth proceed solely by peaceful means. In Morelos, the revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata Salazar was skeptical about disbanding his troops, especially since the Federal Army from the Diaz era remained essentially intact. Madero traveled south to meet with Zapata at Cuernavaca and Cuautla, Morelos. Madero assured Zapata that the land redistribution promised in the Plan of San Luis Potosí would be carried out when Madero became president. Zapata was reluctant to believe in Madera, and during the interim presidency of Francisco León de la Barra he mounted a sustained and effective opposition to Madero’s reform program. Zapata denounced Madero for being overly reconciliatory with the Porfirians and with not moving aggressively forward with reforms: thus, on 25 November 1911, Emiliano Zapata issued his Plan of Ayala, denouncing Madero for being uninterested in pursuing land reform.

Several of the wealthy landowners from Zapata’s state of Morelos had appealed to President de la Barra and the Congress to restore their lands which had been seized by Zapata in the name of the former farmers whose land had been taken from them. The landowners spread exaggerated stories of atrocities committed by Zapata’s irregulars, calling Zapata the “Attila of the South.” De la Barra and the Congress therefore decided to send troops with orders to exterminate Zapata’s revolutionaries.

In July of 1914, Barona was once again called upon to serve his country and was sent to Texcal near Tejalpa. It was there that Barona rose to the rank of Major General by rigorous roster, due to his courage and bravery, in which he showed great audacity and temerity.

Barona and his men were sent to occupy the city of Cuernavaca against the Zapatistas. They met with Zapata in Tres Marias. The Zapatistas backed down and soon Huerta and his men had taken Cuernavaca in what became known as the Siege of Cuernavaca.

During the siege, under cover of darkness, General Barona and a small, hand-picked group of men armed only with knives, entered and took the Cerro de la Herradura. There bounty was a large cache of weapons, including a gun he personally removed from their leader Emiliano Zapata. The Zapatista’s General Antonio Silva and General Genovevo followed Barona and his men to the Zocolo, where General Silva was killed by the very weapons that Barona had taken from the Zapatistas earlier.

Death

Barona continued fighting the revolutionaries in the states of Tlaxcala, Puebla, Mexico and Hidalgo. In December of 1915, Barona was in Cuernavaca at the quiet market, enjoying a bowl of pozole at Restaurant Sanchez with several members of his staff. He was suddenly approached from behind by Zapatistas Leonardo Montes and Florentino Campeano, who began firing upon him. General Barona was shot in the back by Campeano, and was then dragged into Degollado Street where he died at the age of 29 years old. Not to be content with killing Barona, the men took Barona’s body to the Pantheon of La Leona and hung him in the tree at the entrance. Barona was buried in his hometown of Ahuatepec, Morelos with full military honors.

Honored

In his memory a colony was founded in the city of Cuernavaca, Morelos in the 1950s by immigrants from the state of Guererro. Today the colony has several basic education centers, among them Elementary School: “Land and Freedom”, “Ceballos Miguel Duran / Ignacio Manuel Altamirano”. And also it has a cemetery which was also named after the same. The colony Antonio Barona is a site of great commercial influx and the proof is the “Market September 18” which was built in 1984, and more recently the opening of several shopping centers, which have been widely accepted among the settlers.

About G. William Hood

G. William Hood is a writer, fine arts painter, educator and world traveler. He lives in Cuernavaca with his pet cockatiel, Pepe.
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