HISTORICAL SUMMARY OF MEXICO'S NAVAL FORCES
By Carlos Cuellar
(Written from information attained on the Internet and the excellent Mexican Navy's website: www.semar.gob.mx )
Prior to 1517 the Mexican territory was populated by numerous and distinct peoples, both politically and culturally. One of the predominant societies, the Mexica, was situated in the high plains, far from the coastlines. The River People, less developed, knew how to navigate and employed their skills in fishing and commerce. There are no references anywhere that imply that their river crafts could be employed for military adventures. This lack of awareness caused the downfall of the Aztecs at the hands of the Spanish Conquistadores.
After the conquest, the Spaniards embarked upon a naval escapade of immense magnitude. Along the Pacific Ocean they constructed ports from Huatulco to San Blas. These harbors were in contact with other Spanish conquests along the Pacific coast, such as Peru. From Barra de Navidad, the Spaniards discovered the route to the Phillipines. Then they established outposts in Guam and the Sandwich Islands and proceeded to conquer the Phillipine Islands.
These deeds were in fact immense, and the name of Lopez de Legazpi, who set sail for the Philippines on the 21st of November 1564, stands out, along with Hernan Cortes. Even though Nueva España (New Spain) was rapidly becoming the prime provider of gold and silver for the Spanish throne, the control of the colonies was waning due to the hijinks at sea by the English, French and Dutch pirates. The Spanish kings fought back the attacks of these corsairs by forming an armada. La Real Armada de Barlovento, based in Vera Cruz in 1578 had as it main objective the abolition of piracy in high seas.
ORIGIN AND EVOLUTION:
After three centuries of Spanish dominance, the Mexican nation is born, along with its political institutions. (See the feature article on Independence Day, celebrated on September 16, proclaimed by the "grito" of Father Hidalgo.) From the time of Hidalgo's cry for independence, and the signing of the Treaty of Córdoba on September 27, 1821, 11 years had passed, and many lives were lost. Along with independence, came a huge territory, extending south all the way to Costa Rica. The flag shown was the flag used in the parade on September 27, 1821. The 3 diagonal stripes denote: (white), symbolize the purity of the Catholic religion, (green), the Independence, and (red) representing the union of Spanish and Mexican people.
Due to the internal conflicts at that time, a maritime force was not a priority. The primary debate was between the inland people from the high plains and those from the coastal regions.
The Mexican Navy can trace its origin to the First Secretary of War & Navy, Antonio de Medina, who so stated in front of Congress that the formation of a navy was necessary and should be a priority. However, the instability of the government and the lack of a naval mentality in the central regions of the country caused the downfall of the Navy throughout the XIX Century. Between 1816 and 1820 there was no major military activity, but in 1820 the struggle of “the insurgents”, under the order of Vicente Guerrero, began. Guerrero used a flag that imitated the French tricolour. Under Iturbide the Treaty of Iguala was signed with Spanish troops and the flag was abolished shortly after
It was during that time that Mexico suffered a number of foreign interventions that demonstrated the need of an armed naval presence. Spain, France and the United States all set foot on Mexican soil during military excursions.
THE FALL OF THE CASTLE OF SAN JUAN DE ULUA (1821-1825):
The Spanish General Davila takes the castle and does not relinquish until November 23, 1825. Mexico had very few naval craft with which to repel any invasion.
THE INVASION OF CABO ROJO (1829):
Another attempt to reconquer by the Spaniards. This one was quickly put down by the Mexican Navy.
FIRST FRENCH INTERVENTION (1838):
Also known as the "War of the Cakes", this incursion has its origins in 1827 when some French landowners were separated from their property, others suffered grave damage, and the French government was responding in part to these aggravations.
FIRST INVASION BY THE UNITED STATES (1846-48):
The most dramatic and by far the most costly of all the foreign interventions, is, without a doubt, this one by the United States, whose most important consequences were the loss of over half of the Mexican territories as stipulated in the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo February 2, 1848.
SECOND FRENCH INTERVENTION (1862-1867):
President Benito Juarez declared in July of 1861 a moratorium on external debt. This caused France, Spain and England a great deal of concern, and they formed an alliance to force Mexico to meet its obligations. The alliance dissolved and France took action on its own (Cinco de Mayo). Maximilian, a relative of Napoleon, led the expeditionary forces until September 1866 when France ordered her troops home.
SECOND INVASION BY THE UNITED STATES (1914):
This is the conflict in which the Cadets of the Naval Academy (Ninos Heroes) distinguished themselves by their heroism. (By the way, all you Marines out there, this is where we get the line "From the Halls of Montezuma" in our hymn.)
MEXICAN REVOLUTION AND BATTLE OF TOPOLOBAMPO:
It is said that the Revolution rode on horseback and the intervention by the Navy is little known. On April 5, 1914 Lt. Rodriguez Malpica, aboard the gunship, Tampico was being attacked by two other fighting ships: the Morelos and the Guerrero. At this time, a biplane with Gustavo Salinas in the cockpit commenced firing upon the two ships, thus becoming the first Naval-Air battle in history.
ARTICLE 32 OF THE MAGNA CARTA OF 1917:
On the June 1 of 1917 this document went into effect. This article states that no matter how important an individual's contribution could be to the Navy, if he's not born in Mexico, he can't serve in the Navy. The government was trying to ensure loyalty and patriotism through bloodlines.
It was a few years later that President Manuel Avila Camacho declared the 1st of June as the Day of the National Navy.
On the 30th of December, 1939 General Lazaro Cardenas, who was president at the time, reorganizes his cabinet and forms the Department of the Navy, but just a year later, on December 31, 1940, it converts to its present status as Secretary of the Navy.
Note: We highly recommend visiting the
Armada de Mexico's web site: www.semar.gob.mx
Be sure you have installed Flash and have sound.
For more information and history on Manzanillo and the state of Colima, go to: www.gomanzanillo.com/guidebook/index.htm