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Post An Encounter with the Madero Family, 1948
Created by John Eipper on 09/05/18 3:31 AM

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An Encounter with the Madero Family, 1948 (Richard Hancock, USA, 09/05/18 3:31 am)

I was very interested in an article in Volume 29 of the Journal of Big Bend Studies, "The Secret Book by Francisco I. Madero, Leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution."  I am well informed on the Revolution of 1910, but knew nothing of Madero's secret book. I was not aware that he was a spiritist.

I met some of the Madero family as a student at New Mexico State who went to summer school in Saltillo in 1948. We attended the "Fiesta of the Grape" in Parras, Coahuila. The fiesta was disappointing to us; it was mostly for the peasant class and involved climbing greased poles for prizes at the top, horse races, and a market for the sale of cheap artifacts. We went to a good restaurant and, after eating, asked the manager if there was anything interesting to do besides the fair. He told us that there was a wonderful swimming pool that he had access to and that we could go swimming there.

The swimming pool was truly a marvel; it was a crystal-clear stream that had been directed through a locked enclosure where an ample-sized swimming pool had been constructed. We were enjoying swimming when some young people came in who introduced themselves as a members of the Madero family. We struck up a friendship and they invited us to the Madero family celebration of the Festival of the Grape. We first went to a country-club dance and later to a garden party held at Ernesto Madero's gracious mansion. There we were entertained by top-flight musical groups from Mexico City, while we had unlimited access to food and drink of great variety. Although this event occurred 70 years ago, I remember it as a momentous event.

I was interested in all of the other seven articles in the Journal of Big Bend Studies. I would love to attend the Big Bend meetings, but it is an exceedingly long trip (13-hour drive) from Norman to Alpine for a 92-year-old man. We could fly to Midland where we could rent a car and drive 165 miles to Alpine. I do, however, attend the West-Texas Historical meetings, since they are held at sites far less distant than Alpine. However, Alpine is "Jerusalem" for me and my sister Mary in Farmington, New Mexico. Our mother Mary was born in Marfa and our dad Lee in Alpine. Even though they moved to New Mexico in 1920, my mother had all of her children in Alpine at the home of my grandmother, Mrs. F. E. Gillett. My sister and I are the only survivors of Lee and Mary's six family members. The last time I visited the Alpine cemetery, I found 8 Hancock graves, the grave of my Aunt Maude Baines and, finally, the grave of Henry Harrison Powe, my paternal great-grandfather, whose death in a pistol duel resulted in the famous episode of the "Murder Steer." I am sure that my uncles on my mother's side, Edwin, John and Richard Gillett, are all buried there.

We did have a family reunion in the Big Bend National Park in 1997. I wonder when the Big Bend Park will combine with lands across the border in the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila. This combination would make park bigger than any other in the US. This territory was known by the Spaniards as "El Despoblado" (unpopulated place).

JE comments:  Another jewel of a story--or stories--from Richard Hancock.  I found two Ernesto Maderos, an uncle and a first cousin of the martyred president.  Richard, I presume you met the cousin in 1948, although the uncle lived to a very advanced age, dying in 1958.

And you must tell us more about the tragic demise of your Great-Grandfather Henry...

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  • My Encounter with the Madero Family (Patrick Mears, Germany 09/06/18 3:41 AM)
    The recent post by Richard Hancock brought back some very nice memories of the Madero family that I think are worth sharing here with WAISers.

    A few years before I retired from the active practice of law, I became very interested in Mexican history, particularly the events of the Second Mexican Revolution and the role payed by Francisco I. Madero in that upheaval. At the time, I attempted to find an English-language biography of him, but the only book that I could unearth at the time was one entitled Francisco I. Madero: Apostle of Mexican Democracy, authored by Assistant Professor Stanley R. Ross of The University of Nebraska and published by Columbia University Press in 1955. Ross had studied under Professor Frank Tannenbaum at Columbia and Tannenbaum had suggested the topic of Madero, which morphed into this biography. Interestingly, Ross was able to interview not only Francisco's brothers, Raúl and Carlos, and also Francisco's widow, the late Sra. Sara Pérez de Madero. . . [who] left a memorable impression in the interview she granted in her home in Colonia Roma." Ross also obtained "valuable data in conversations" with many other contemporaries of Francisco, including José Vasconcelos. Picking up on Richard's comments of September 5th, this biography does contain quite a bit of discussion concerning Francisco's belief in spirits.

    About a year prior to my retirement, I received a call from a lawyer whom I knew in Mexico City, who said that he had an auto-supplier client based just outside of the metropolis and he would like to interview me concerning a possible representation of the firm. I was invited to Mexico City to interview with this company's in-house counsel and my friend at a very, very nice restaurant in Polanco. After a wonderful dinner and many tequilas, we discussed the issues involved in the matter and then called it a night. Shortly after I returned home, I received a call from my friend, who said that the client would like to retain my firm and would we please meet with the Chairman and the CEO just outside of Detroit in three weeks. I was flattered and happy that the interview turned out so well, notwithstanding what I may have said when I was in my cups in Polanco. Nonetheless, I and an associate in my firm traveled to the meeting place and awaited the arrival of the Chairman and the CEO. It should be noted that at no time did my friend tell me the names of these two individuals. The only thing I remember him saying in Polanco was that the Chairman was a wonderful older gentleman with very courtly manners and that I would greatly enjoy meeting him.

    Our guests from Mexico City arrived and the Chairman was precisely what had been described to me--a very gracious person in his 70s, who was accompanied by his son, then the CEO-designate. During the course of the conversation, the Chairman was addressed by his in-house counsel as "Señor Madero," at which point my ears perked up and I asked him if he was a relative of Francisco. He said, yes indeed, that his name was Don Antonio Madero Bracho and that he descended from Don Evaristo Madero of Parras, who was the subject of a biography of José Vasconcelos and published in 1958, just a year before Vasconcelos' death. Because of our strong common interest in Mexican history and culture, we began to exchange letters and books on this topic. Don Antonio had financed the republication of Vasconcelos' biography of Ernesto in 1997; the book bears the title Don Evaristo Madero: Biografia de un Patricio and in 2013, Don Antonio sent to me an autographed version of this work, which contains many photographs of the family and an introduction by the acclaimed Mexican historian Enrique Krauze.

    Some information about Don Antonio's background can be obtained online. He is still the Chairman of the firm, Rassini S.A.B. de C.V., although his son is now CEO. He has a degree in mining from UNAM and an MBA from Harvard. We still keep in touch now and then. Last Christmas, the firm's in-house counsel and his wife visited Heidelberg and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner together. Just being acquainted with these fine individuals has been an uplifting, inspiring and educational experience.

    JE comments:  The WAIS Effect is alive and well!  To come
    full circle, we should note that Prof. Hilton had several meetings with
    the dean of Mexican intellectuals of the first half of the 20th century,
    José Vasconcelos, including a four-part interview RH conducted for his
    radio program, Universidad del Aire.  Prof. H met seemingly everyone of importance in Latin America, but he was a tad too young to have known Francisco I. himself:  the president was assassinated in 1913, when RH was in far-off Torquay and only two.

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  • Francisco I Madero: Milquetoast Romantic? From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 09/06/18 5:15 PM)

    Gary Moore writes:

    Patrick Mears's valuable insight (Sept 5) into the Madero family
    of Mexican Revolution fame, added to Richard Hancock's earlier reflections, raises a
    central question about Francisco I. Madero, the Mexican icon who
    opened the Revolution in 1910 but was soon betrayed and assassinated.

    History's glimpses of Madero foster suspicions that he was a milquetoast
    parlor romantic: the belief in the spirit world, the handing out of chocolates
    to crowds of children, the ignominious end when more pragmatic men got rough.
    But with all this there remains the other suspicion, that the rough guys were
    distorting the image of something elusive: the best face of noblesse oblige aristocracy.
    Pat's behind-the-scenes look at a gracious and disciplined family gives weight to
    the latter exoneration. Mexico could use some real, rather than fake heroes,
    and it would be nice to think that there was more to Madero than dopey seances.

    JE comments:  The Mexican Revolution may ring esoteric to some ears, but all the elements are there:  class warfare, modernization vs tradition, democracy vs authoritarianism, and no small amount of US interference.  Madero was overthrown and assassinated by the beastly Victoriano Huerta with the approval of US Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson.  No one could express the events more clearly and succinctly than Prof. Hilton himself (in 2001): 


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  • The "Murder Steer" and a Great-Grandfather's Violent Demise (Richard Hancock, USA 09/07/18 4:33 AM)
    To answer John E's question of September 5th, I really have no idea how the Ernesto Madero I encountered in 1948 was related to the assassinated president.

    The following is the story of the death of my great-grandfather, Henry Harrison Powe.

    The killing of Henry Harrison Powe occurred in a dispute about the ownership of a brindle bull at a neighborhood roundup on January 28, 1890, at Leoncito in northern Brewster County. Finus Gilliland, representing the cattle ranchers Dubois and Wentworth, shot Powe to death. Powe was a one-armed Confederate veteran who tried to hold his horse and aim his pistol with his one good arm. He was an expert shot with a pistol, but his lunging horse spoiled his aim and cost him his life.

    The roundup cowboys, stunned by this killing and uncertain as to who owned the bull, castrated him and branded him with "murder" on one side and "Jan. 28, 90" on the other and turned him loose. The "Murder Steer" reportedly appeared thereafter at scenes of violence throughout the area for years afterword. A few days after the roundup, a Texas ranger killed Finus Gilliland when he met him in a pass through the Glass mountains.

    Such were the good old days in Trans-Pecos, Texas.

    JE comments: Richard, I can never get enough of your Old West tales.  Finus Gilliland vs the One-Armed Confederate:  you cannot make this stuff up.  And how much Texas has changed.  The only constant since 1890:  guns.

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    • The UN, Human Rights, and the Marshmallow Man; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 09/08/18 3:16 PM)

      Gary Moore writes:

      A) In response to Richard Hancock (7 September), I want to hear many more details about the Finus Gilliland Murder Steer, especially as told
      in Richard's brisk style.

      B) Hank Levin's urging that we push the UN to do something
      on key issues, notably the "self-immolation of countries" like Argentina, not to mention the
      poster favorites Nicaragua and Venezuela: Here, I'm sure the urgency resonates with all in WAIS,
      and I like the idea of reposting and publicizing, though it seems one of the strengths of WAIS
      is that it's a free-form exchange of thoughts for the sake of the thoughts, and not necessarily
      for their effects.

      Moreover, I worked for the UN over a period of two years, first at the big glass
      building in New York, and then, after a break in Mexico, for a year in the Balkans. And let me
      be quick to second the many colleagues who would agree that the idea of pushing the UN
      to do anything would be like prodding the big marshmallow man in Ghost Busters. You would
      just get your arm covered with marshmallow glue, and then come out on the other side.
      Many do try. While I was in New York there were demonstrations many days in front of the building
      by Falun Gong, the puzzling Chinese exercise sect that Beijing has seemed to target, torture and
      crush in fears that it's the next Boxer Rebellion. I'm not aware that Falun Gong ever got anything
      out of trying to pressure the UN this way, but they did try.

      Also, I've waited for years to tell the story,
      from inside the big glass building, of the special human rights room. It's a large one, originally
      designed for long-table conferences, but by the time I was there it had been taken over for a special
      purpose. Its walls had been lined with shelves, and these shelves, like siege battlements, were
      bulging all around with boxes, filled with old correspondence, sent to the UN by people around
      the world who were crying out for remedy of their human rights. It was not just that the UN
      couldn't do anything about most of these petitions, but, more dismally, the accumulation showed
      that the whole idea of human rights provided a magnificently effective magnet for the clinically
      insane--or perhaps more accurately, for the not-quite-worst of the schizophrenia spectrum--because, rather than angrily blaming the usual lightning rods (the CIA, the Pope, the Masons),
      these particular petitioners, thousands or tens of thousands of them, at least took the more
      positive step of seeking out a force for good, and, rather than blaming, they simply demanded.

      An impressively intelligent UN staffer was assigned to devote most or all of her time to this room,
      on the policy idea that you couldn't just throw this stuff away, even if it was crazy, because who
      was to judge? A genuinely promising intellect was thus entirely absorbed into the black hole
      of keeping people thinking the UN could do something.

      JE comments:  Gary, I'm sure you have some thoughts on how to improve the UN.  How about eliminating the automatic veto of the Security Council permanent members?  Most of the permanent members, however, would veto the idea.

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      • Can You "Push" the UN to Action? And What Can WAIS Do? (Henry Levin, USA 09/13/18 8:10 AM)
        I agree with Gary Moore (September 8th) that simply "pushing" the UN to do its job is naïve and unlikely to provide any meaningful response. My suggestion is for WAIS to analyze how it might be possible to set out a strategy that gets the UN to function effectively or even at the margin in these situations.

        Moreover, there are other agencies that if they act in concert, might put pressure on these malfunctioning countries. We have little power beyond our potentially effective ideas for change. At this moment it is not clear that WAIS can even agree upon these or promising directions to search for these.

        JE comments: Yes, WAIS has "informed, healthy disagreement" built into its DNA. Does this paralyze us?

        I have been thinking a lot about Hank Levin's appeals for WAIS to take a more robust role in addressing world problems. Two nations in turmoil come to mind, precisely because we have outspoken and very brave colleagues in each: Venezuela, with José Ignacio Soler, and Turkey, with our tireless correspondent Yusuf Kanli. Yusuf and Nacho both put a human face on nations in crisis. Like all families, WAISers are prone to bicker, but we stick together and look out for our own.  Nacho and Yusuf, we are with you.

        [WAISworld was suffering from memory overload all morning, hence the delay.  My thanks to IT Director Roman Zhovtulya for coming to the rescue.]

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    • Finus Gilliland and the Murder Steer, Revisited (Richard Hancock, USA 09/11/18 1:50 PM)
      Gary Moore (7 September) asked for more information on the killing of Henry Harrison Powe that occurred in a dispute about the ownership of a brindle bull at a neighborhood roundup on January 28, 1890, at Leoncito in northern Brewster County, Texas.

      Finus Gilliland, representing the cattle ranchers Dubois and Wentworth, shot Powe to death. Powe was a one-armed Confederate veteran who tried to hold his horse and aim his pistol with his one good arm. He was an expert shot with a pistol, but his lunging horse spoiled his aim and cost him his life. The roundup cowboys, stunned by this killing and uncertain as to who owned the bull, castrated him and branded him with Murder on one side and Jan. 28, 90 on the other and turned him loose. The Murder Steer reportedly appeared thereafter at scenes of violence throughout the area for years afterward.

      Ranger Thalis Cook and another ranger, James Putnam, encountered Finus Gilliland a few days later in a pass thorough the Glass mountains. Because Gilliland had grown a beard, the rangers failed to recognize him. As he passed, Gilliland fired at Cook, killing his horse. Cook was able to kill Gilliland's horse. Putnam's mount stampeded, leaving Cook and Gilliland to shoot it out from behind the bodies of their respective mounts. Cook was able to hit Gilliland between the eyes when he raised his head to fire.

      As a postscript to this affair, my father told of an armed encounter between his father W. B. and a relative of Finus Gilliland who had allegedly threatened Grandfather Hancock because, as the son-in-law of the deceased Powe, he was the lone remaining adult male representative of the Powe family. The sheriff of Brewster County at the time was J.B. Gillett, who later wrote Six Years with the Texas Rangers. J. B. Gillett warned my grandfather that he had to release this man from jail and give him back his pistol, but told W. B. that he should accost him as soon as he left the jail. When he did this, this Gilliland elected to avoid a pistol duel with W. B. by leaving town on a train that happened to be passing through town at that moment, never to be seen in Alpine again.

      The Texas folklorist, J. Frank Dobie in his book, The Longhorns, also wrote about the Murder Steer which was said to have wandered on the range for years. He told how the cowboys in the bunkhouse at the Dubois and Westworth ranch one night saw the bull's head through an open window looking for that brand of horror traced on his own side. This story has been repeated in many Western magazines and has also appeared on TV several times.

      JE comments:  Want more?  Of course you do!  Back in 2010, Richard Hancock also discussed his ancestors' history in Alpine, with references to Dobie's book and the Murder Steer.  It is worth a re-read:


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  • Ernesto Madero and Francisco I. Madero (Patrick Mears, Germany 09/09/18 11:11 AM)
    After reading Richard Hancock's short answer to John E's question about the relationship between Francisco I. Madero and the Ernesto Madero that he met in 1948, I did some checking of sources, including the book that Don Antonio sent to me.

    On the basis of that quick review, it seems likely that Richard's Ernesto Madero was Ernesto Madero Farías, who was an uncle of the assassinated President. Ernesto was born in 1872 and passed away in 1958 and was also the Secretario de Hacienda y Crédito Público in his nephew's short-lived cabinet. Here is a link to his Wiki entry, in Spanish: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernesto_Madero_Far%C3%ADas . The English translation is merely a Stub.

    Here is a link to his photo: https://www.google.com/search?q=Ernesto+Madero+Farias&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjNw-CK8ajdAhUqw4sKHU8HD-AQsAR6BAgAEAE&biw=1185&bih=746#imgrc=sIHDt5MamfZ42M

    I hope that this helps solve the mystery.

    JE comments:  Thank you, Pat!  Don Ernesto had nine children, too.  Phenomenal, but not unusual in Mexico for that time and social class.  There must be many descendants.

    If I understand the chronology correctly, Uncle Ernie was just one year older than his nephew.

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