Cananea – The Spark That Ignited A Revolution (1977 – Marcela Fernandez Violante)

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Title: Cananea - The Spark That Ignited A Revolution
Year: 1977
Runtime: 2 hrs. 3 mins
Director: Marcela Fernández Violante
Writer: Marcela Fernández Violante, Pedro F. Miret
Actors: Yolanda Ciani, Carlos Bracho, Milton Rodríguez |
Plot: On June 1, 1906, copper miners in Cananea, Sonora, a few miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border, struck against the US companies that dominated the mines and Porfirian Mexico. It is considered one of the most important events that led to the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910. The Cananea strike is also one of the most important events in Mexican labour history. In the early twentieth century, the U.S.-Mexico border was quite fluid for both workers and capital. Mining companies like Phelps-Dodge had major investments on both sides of the border. The government of Porfirio Díaz committed itself to bringing in foreign capital as part of its modernisation plans that included reshaping everything about Mexico to look as European as possible. In the north, this meant granting enormous economic concessions to American mineral and cattle companies. On the U.S. side of the border, mining operations required Mexican labor. The Southwest was lightly populated and while some Italian and Greek immigrants made it all the way to Arizona and Colorado to work in the mines, for the most part, the mine operators recruited Mexican labor. On both sides of the border, the mines operated with American capital and Mexican workers. As was typical of mine labor throughout the United States and especially non-white mine labor, pay and conditions for Mexican workers were very bad. Mexican miners engaged in a tough 1903 strike against Phelps-Dodge at the Clifton-Morenci mines in southern Arizona, a strike that was well known throughout the region, helping create an atmosphere of general resistance to the racist treatment by the mining companies. After 1900, overall resistance to the Diaz regime grew. Many dissidents moved to the United States, usually just over the border allowing them to influence the border workers. The most influential group was the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM) headed by the anarchist brothers Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón. The Magóns, who had served time in Díaz’s prisons moved to San Antonio and then St. Louis, where they sent followers back to the border. Clifton and nearby Douglas was the center of this agitation and the PLM began to influence workers on both sides of the border. This was certainly true in Cananea, about 25 miles south of the border. The town and everything for ten square miles around was owned by “Colonel” William Greene and his Cananea Consolidated Copper Company. There was a lot of racial tension on the border early that year, with significant anti-American sentiment and a race riot at a baseball game where four Mexicans were killed. Greene had received enormous concessions from Diaz, including 350,000 acres of timber, 37,000 acres of mineral lands, and thirty miles of railroad. The Cananea Mine employed 5360 Mexicans and 2300 foreigners, primarily American managers and executives. On May 31, two foremen at one mine informed their workers they would henceforth be employed on a piecework basis rather than salary. Next morning, June 1, 1906, the Cananea miners walked off the job demanding the 8-hour day, a minimum wage of five pesos per day, a merit system to eliminate hiring discrimination, and the promotion of Mexicans into some management positions. Green armed his American workers. The strikers marched to the copper mine’s lumberyard where two Americans fired on them enraging the workers who burned the lumberyard and killed both their attackers and another American. The governor of Sonora then invited the U.S. Army to come into Sonora. The Mexican army arrived around the same time, arresting about 100 miners, and sending dozens to prison. The strike was suppressed within two days. Although the workers lost the strike it had long-standing reverberations. It was the first time a widespread rebellion against American domination of the region had taken place and it showed that workers were ready to take direct action against the American corporate interests that dominated their lives. The PLM had hoped this strike would be the first step in a revolutionary movement against Díaz and while it wasn’t quite that, it was important. The PLM and other radicals built on this event and the workers themselves clearly moved to the left, which may have had something to do with the rise of the Industrial Workers of the World, which was always active in mining and had relative success organising workers on the border. The use of U.S. troops also rankled in Mexico. The Flores Magón brothers began working with the IWW and introduced the organization’s syndicalist ideology to Mexican workers. Over the next four years, repeated actions along the border, with Mexican workers increasingly involved in both labor and revolutionary groups and angry over the systematic racism and despoliation of their nation by Americans, which by no means improved after 1906, laid the groundwork for the Mexican Revolution. The Mexican and American governments worked together on both sides of the border to repress these movements, with American agents harassing Mexican political refugees when the Diaz government brought them to American attention. By by 1910, the Mexican workers of the north were ready to play an important role in what would become the Mexican Revolution. Cananea strike leaders Manuel Dieguez and Esteban Baca Calderón became revolutionary leaders as well. Ricardo Flores Magón never returned to Mexico. He was arrested in the US in 1918 on charges of sedition and sentenced to twenty years for “obstructing the war effort”. He died in Leavenworth prison in 1922. Enrique Flores Magón returned to Mexico in 1923 where he died in 1954.

IMDB Rating: 6.00
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