3 May 2023

What is the Cristero War? – Learn about the history, causes and consequences of the Cristero War

By Donald

Throughout the history of Christianity, there have been various conflicts between the church and the state, which have led to revenge, great revolutions and wars. One of these notable conflicts is the Cristero War, which took place in Mexico. This is of great importance for both Mexicans and Catholics. In this historical context, various aspects related to what was the Cristero War are explored. Including its causes, consequences, characteristics and other relevant details.

Definition and meaning of the Cristero War

The Cristero War was an armed conflict that took place in Mexico between 1926 and 1929, although some confrontations continued until 1934. This conflict originated as a result of the promulgation of the Streets Law, a series of laws that sought to limit the influence of the Catholic Church in the political and social life of Mexico.

Mexican Catholics opposed these laws and took up arms against the government, forming a movement known as the Cristeros. The Cristeros were mainly peasants and Catholic workers who fought for the defense of their religious rights and freedom of worship. Finally, the Cristero War ended in 1929, after an agreement was reached between the government and the Cristeros, in which religious freedom was guaranteed and some of the most controversial anti-religious laws were repealed.

The Cristero War is an episode significant in the history of Mexico, since it revealed the tension between the Catholic Church and the Mexican State, as well as the fight for religious rights and freedoms. It also had important political and social implications, and its consequences were felt in the political and religious life of Mexico for decades.

What is the Cristero War in Mexico?

The Cristero War, also known as the Cristiada, was the third armed conflict in Mexico. It is considered a war between the civilians and the participants of the church, against the government of the country, during the presidency of Plutarco Elías Calles. The conflict arose from a law on freedom of worship proposed by the government, which was rejected by the Catholic Church.

During the Calles government, important reforms were carried out in various aspects. Although the disagreement with the Catholic Church intensified at the beginning of 1926. This is because the government expelled priests from other countriesclosed convents and Catholic schools, and promulgated the Law of Calles on June 14, 1926. This law prohibited churches from owning property, did not recognize their legal personality and limited the number of priests and Catholic schools.

These actions provoked a reaction from the Holy See, which urged parishioners not to comply with the law. In response, Catholics started popular movements to defend freedom of belief. The Religious Defense League was formed, an association that opposed state mandates and groups that broke away from the Roman Church.

The Cristero rebellion originated in the states of Jalisco, Aguascalientes, Michoacán, Colima, Nayarit, Michoacán and Zacatecas, as a response to the Constitution of 1917 in articles 3, 5, 24, 27 and 130. The peasants made up the majority of the Cristero battalions, although any defender of the Catholic religion could join the gangs regardless of their gender, age or social class.

The promulgation of the law and the attempted attack on the Basilica of Guadalupe, where an attempt was made to break the image of the Virgin Guadalupana, but without success, the protests increased. This event was considered a miracle and served to further intensify the demonstrations. The motto of the Cristeros was ‘Long live Christ, King and Our Lady of Guadalupe’.

What was the cause for which the Cristero War began?

The main causes of this civil war are:

  • The decree of the Streets Lawwhere they prevented the church from participating in political and educational aspects, that priests from other countries will use the habits in public places, for those who violated the law they were assigned high fines.
  • The disregard of Plutarco’s government to the protests promoted by Catholics, who They collected signatures for the repeal of the law.
  • The church encourages the people to that taxes will not be paidthat they do not buy lottery tickets, and that they avoid buying federal government products, which caused a drop in the economy.
  • The differences of several gangs to the Sonoran group (anticleristas). They named it that way since the presidents Plutarco Elías Calles, Álvaro Obregón and Adolfo de la Huerta They were from Sonora, a state of Mexico.
  • Another cause of this conflict was that in the presidency of Porfirio Díaz The Catholic Church was granted certain benefits.

What are the characteristics of the Cristero War?

The main Characteristics of the Cristero War were:

  • It was generated from the deprivation to the church of the juridical personality.
  • The confrontation was between the cristeros and the army of Plutarco Elías Calles.
  • It was a bloody civil war in Mexico, between deaths and sexual abuse of women.
  • With the modification of the Penal Code correspondent of the 1917 constitution started this war.
  • Those who were active in the struggle were mostly peasants, since they were not happy with the supposed truceThey started the Second Cristiada.

How long did the Cristero War last?

The Cristero War began in August of the year 1926 and lasted three years. Even so, acts of violence were recorded after the end of the war. Among the battles that originated we have: Cerro de Capulín, Villa de Guadalupe, Toma de Valparaíso, San Julián, Compostela, Tepatitlán, among others.

Mexico City witnessed some demonstrations and acts related to the conflict. Like the procession of the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1926, in which the discontent of Catholics with the Calles Law was manifested. Furthermore, the city was scene of some arrests and imprisonments of religious leaders and cristeros. Like the case of the Archbishop of Mexico, José Mora y del Río, who arrested him in 1927.

When did the Cristero War end?

The war ended on June 21, 1929. Agreements were decreed that were drawn up by the US ambassador to Mexico, named Dwight W. Morrow. Among the people who signed were the apostolic delegate and the Archbishop of Michoacán, Leopoldo Ruiz y Flores, President Emilio Portes Gil, and Tabasco, Pascual Díaz, the Bishop of Tabasco.

Even so, the peace agreement was not official, since the church did not have legal personality, this was of a conciliatory will. Therefore, the only condition was that the revolutionaries who supported the rebellion leave the country. Among those who were the Archbishop of Guadalajara, Francisco Orozco y Jiménez, whom they attributed to being the leader of the Cristeros, although he remained hidden throughout the war.

Also the Archbishop of Durango, José María González y Valencia, Bishop of Huejutla-Hidalgo, named José de Jesús Manríquez y Zárate. By accepting this, amnesty was offered to all the Cristeros who laid down their arms, which were around 14,000 of the 50,000, and returned to the state the houses and temples that were not under government administration.

The possible agreement between the church and the government was a “modus vivendi” as a form of coexistence and tolerance. Therefore, the end of the war did not originate because the Cristeros surrendered, but rather due to a peace negotiation process. In this agreement, the church accepted the authority of the state over the territory and promised not to intervene in aspects related to the country’s politics, that is, they were excluded from the elections and any decision that the government will take. However, after ten years there were several demonstrations by Catholic groups against the Mexican government.

What are the consequences of the Cristero War?

Inside of the consequences of this war were:

  • It was a bloody war with more than 250,000 dead Mexicansbetween Catholics and armies.
  • increase in migratory exodus to the United States as a consequence of the war, economic and financial situation.
  • In 1937, the nationalist catholic movement was founded called synarchism. He participated in political life, merging with the National Action Party.
  • It starts to perform religious services outside the churcheven with the promulgation of the Calles law, with the consent of the new government.
  • The government army relied on the United States, in the case of Catholics was the Holy See of the Vatican and the Knights of Columbus.

What books talk about the Cristero War?

The Cristero War It has been a subject widely studied by historians., and there are numerous books that address this issue from different perspectives. Some of them are mentioned below:

  • ‘La Cristiada: The Mexican Government’s Persecution of Catholics in the 1920s’ by Jean Meyer: This book in English approaches the Cristero War from a historical perspective, analyzing the causes, development and consequences of this conflict.
  • ‘The Cristero War’ by Enrique Krauze: This book by the Mexican historian Enrique Krauze is one of the best known on the Cristero War. It focuses on the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Mexican State, and addresses the political, social, and religious aspects of the war.
  • ‘Cristeros: men and women in defense of their faith’ by Antonio Prida: This book compiles testimonies from people who lived through the Cristero War firsthand, and who participated in it in different ways. It is a work that gives voice to the protagonists of this conflict.
  • ‘Viva Cristo Rey!: The Cristero Rebellion and the Church-State Conflict in Mexico’ by David C. Bailey: This book in English also addresses the Cristero War from a historical perspective, but focuses in particular on the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Mexican government.
  • ‘La Cristiada: History of the Cristero War in Mexico’ by José Sánchez Jiménez: This book offers an overview of the Cristero War, from its background to its outcome. It includes an analysis of the main figures involved in the conflict.

Despite the need to keep the facts related to the Cristero War hidden, many writers dared to narrate their experiences and investigations, and tell stories that would allow us to know the context of this conflict. These narratives show the problems of the war from multiple perspectives: battles, the disintegration of families, political opinions and faith.

They also reflect the fundamental role of women, who supported and were part of the rebellions and were victims of violence and violations of their rights. As in all wars, the Cristero War had a significant impact in the development of Mexico. Although it generated violence and a lot of suffering in the country, the Cristiada is still seen by some as a heroic and glorious war.