The Mexican Revolution and the Destruction
of the Mexican Cattle Industry
MANUEL A. MACHADO, JR.*
R EVOLUTIONARY UPHEAVAL IN MEXICO, BEGINNING IN 1910 AND PRO-
gressing inexorably into the I92os, destroyed the flourishing beef cattle
industry of that country's northern states. Enmeshed in the massive pillaging
of extensive cattle haciendas could be seen a microcosm of some of the
impulsive factors of the Mexican Revolution-a quest for land, nationalism
bordering on xenophobia, foraging by revolutionary factions, and the
destruction of the large haciendas and the attendant system of peonage.
Also evident in the situation of the Mexican cattle industry during this
tumultuous decade were conflicts which exacerbated still further the already
strained relations between Mexico and the United States.
Northern Mexico's cattle industry had achieved a high place in the
national economy by 1900oo. Large haciendas, developed over a span of
nearly four centuries, annually produced hundreds of thousands of head of
cattle that enriched northern hacendados (large ranchers) and filled ranges
both in Mexico and the United States. In the agricultural census of 1902,
the Mexican states of Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Nuevo Le6n, and
Sonora contained over i,ooo,ooo head of cattle valued at approximately
12,000,000 pesos.' This industry aimed primarily at an export market in
the United States; as a result, attempts were made to upgrade the quality
of livestock in order to improve its market value north of the Rio Grande.
Impetus for the improvement of Mexico's criollo, or native, stock came
from both Mexican and foreign cattlemen. The importation of Hereford
bulls by such stockraisers as theCorralitos Land and Cattle Company, an
American based firm later owned by British interests, and Luis Terrazas,
Mexico's largest landholder and former governor of Chihuahua, produced
a meatier, more valuable animal on Mexican ranges by 191o.2 Continual
*Mr. Machado, professor of history at the University of Montana, has written exten-
sively on various aspects of the Mexican cattle industry. Funding for this project resulted
from a grant from the Social Science Research Council in I971-1972.
'Direcci6n General de Estadistica, Estadistica ganadera de la Repiblica (Mexico City,
1902), 9, 41, 45, 49, 51. The peso prior to 191o was valued at two to the dollar.
2D. E. Salmon, Mexico as a Market for Purebred Beef Cattle from the United States
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101203/. Accessed April 27, 2015.