RICARDO FLORES MAGÓN, POLITICAL ACTIVIST
Ricardo Flores Magón holds a unique status in the history of Mexican Americans in the United States. Although he was one of the precursors of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 (his remains are entombed in the Rotunda of Illustrious Men in Mexico City), he spent much of his adult life living in the United States organizing for the ouster of dictator Porfirio Díaz. He was eventually convicted of breaking U.S. Espionage laws and died in the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.
Magón began his activism as a student protesting the reelection of Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz. On May 14, 1892 an eighteen-year-old Magón was arrested, along with other student activists, by Federal police in Mexico City because of their demonstrations against the Díaz tyranny. On August 7, 1900 Ricardo joined his older brother Jesús Flores Magón, in the publication of an anti-Díaz newspaper, Regeneración (Regeneration), a publication that soon became identified with Ricardo and his fiery rhetoric calling for a revolution in Mexico.
Jesús and Ricardo were soon arrested and imprisoned in Mexico’s infamous
Belén prison for a year. By 1904, Ricardo and his other brother, Enrique were hunted by the Díaz regime for their anti-government writings and were forced to move to the United States. They settled in San Antonio, Texas and on October 1, 1904, began publication of Regeneración again. Agents of the Diaz regime hunted the two brothers and attempted an assassination of Ricardo forcing them to move to St. Louis, Missouri where they continued publication of Regeneración. At the same time the brothers, along with Librado Rivera, Manual Sarabia, Antonio Villarreal and others created the Mexican Liberal Party, an opposition party to the Mexican dictatorship.
On July 1, 1906, they published the Manifesto of the Mexican Liberal Party calling for the end to the Diaz dictatorship. Members of the Mexican Liberal Party were successful in inciting a miners’ strike at the copper mines in the city of Cananea, Sonora, that was eventually squelched by Mexican forces abetted by the Arizona Rangers from the United States. On September 23, 1906, an abortive uprising of by members of the Mexican Liberal Party resulted in the death of many and the arrest and imprisonment of others. Ricardo escaped to Los Angeles where, once again, he began publishing Regeneración. Ricardo’s activities soon had him arrested by U.S. authorities and he was sentenced to the federal prison in Yuma, Arizona.
On his release in 1910, Magón returned to Los Angeles where he organized an army under the banner of “Land and
Liberty” which successfully took the towns of Mexicali, Ensenada and Tijuana, in Baja California, under the leadership of Generals José María Leyva and Simon Berthold. With the Revolution raging in Mexico, Magón continued to organize in the United States with the help of Librado Rivera, Regeneración’s editor and María Brousse, Magón’s compaZera. But on March 6, 1918, he was arrested by the U.S. government for violating newly passed “Espionage Act” for his publications against the Mexican regime of General Carranza. Magón was sentenced to a 21-year prison sentence which he served at the Federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.
On November 21, 1922, Magón was found dead in his cell. The prison authorities cited the death due to a “heart attack,” but a broken tooth and bruise marks on Magón’s throat, and an on-going enmity with the captain of the guards, A.H. Leonard, known to the inmates as “John Bull,” suggest that Magón may have been strangled. Further supporting this suspicion was the attack on A.H. Leonard, the next day by a close Magón friend, José Martinez who was convinced that Leonard had murdered Magón. Martinez’s attack on A.H. Leonard with a knife resulted in Leonard’s death.
In 1968, Chicana activist Francisca Flores revived publication of Regeneración in Los Angeles, California. The new publication addressed the social, political and cultural issues of the Chicano movement.