World Stamps

After the Mexican Revolution: six revolutionary stamps of Yucatan

Aug 12, 2014, 2 AM

At the very end of the listings for Mexico in the Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers 1840-1940 are six Revolutionary issues of Yucatan.

The stamps are in three different designs with subjects relating to the Mayan civilization of Yucatan and the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza.

The 5-centavo stamp depicts Chalchihuitlicue, a Nahuatl water goddess; the 10c shows the Casa de Monjas; and the 50c portrays the Temple of the Tigers.

The stamps were produced both imperforate (Scott 1-3) and perforated gauge 12 (4-6).

The Scott catalog notes that all of the stamps were produced without gum, and the two 50c stamps (Scott 3 and 6) were not regularly issued.

A natural assumption might be that the stamps were produced during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). However, the date of issue is given as 1924.

So what is the story behind this enigmatic stamp issue?

The Mexican state of Yucatan is on the northern tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the southeastern part of the country.

Yucatan was featured on a Mexican 4.40-peso stamp issued in 1997 as part of the Tourism series (Scott 1974).

Many of the people of Yucatan are Mayans, still speaking the language of their imperial ancestors.

The 1981 1.60p Mestiza, Yucatan stamp from Mexico’s Costume series (Scott 1233) shows a woman wearing a colorful dress from the region.

Yucatan was long dominated by hacendados, owners and managers of large henequen (Agave fourcroydes) plantations.

In contrast to the Mayan population, the hacendados were of European or mixed European and Indian ancestry.

Domination and exploitation by the hacendados did not sit well with Mayan peasantry.

In 1847, the Caste War broke out between the hacendados and the Mayans. The war lasted until 1901 and was marked by bloody atrocities on both sides. An estimated 50,000 people died in the fighting.

The war finally ended when the Mexican Army intervened and occupied the capital of Yucatan.

In the Mexican Revolution, forces loyal to the revolution gained control of Yucatan in 1915.

In 1920, Gen. Alvaro Obregon overthrew his former revolutionary commander, President Venustiano Carranza, who was killed in the fighting, thus formally ending the Mexican Revolution.

Carranza was depicted on a pair of stamps with engraved designs in 1916: a 10c blue (Scott 574) and a 10c lilac brown (575).

Obregon appeared on a 1.60p airmail stamp issued in 1978 (Scott C573).

Smoldering resentment between the hacendados and Mayans was still a factor in Yucatan. In January 1922, Felipe Carrillo Puerto, leader of the Socialist Party of the Southeast, won a solid victory to be elected governor of Yucatan. His support came almost exclusively from the Mayan population of the state.

Despite being well over 6 feet tall and having green eyes, Carrillo Puerto claimed Mayan descent. His family were well-to-do middle class merchants who spoke Spanish in the home, but the young Carrillo Puerto identified strongly with the Mayans and learned their language. Taking office in February 1922, he gave his inaugural address in Mayan.

As governor, he carried out an extensive land reform program, confiscating the haciendas of the hacendados and distributing the land to the Mayan peasantry.

He also established 417 public schools, gave political rights to women, and started a program to safeguard and preserve Mayan archaeological sites. This earned him both the love and respect of the Mayans and the hatred of the hacendados.

Adolfo de la Huerta had been interim president of Mexico from June 1 to Nov. 30, 1920, following the revolt against Carranza and preceding the presidency of Obregon. De la Huerta stepped down from the office in favor of Obregon, with the tacit understanding that he would succeed Obregon as president. De la Huerta became secretary of finance in Obregon’s cabinet.

The Mexican constitution forbade serving consecutive terms as president, so in 1923 as the end of his term neared, Obregon endorsed Plutarco Elias Calles as his successor. De la Huerta felt betrayed, as did many of his former officers and soldiers in the army.

Calles was notoriously anticlerical, and devout Roman Catholics feared for their religious freedom if he came to power.

On Dec. 7, 1923, de la Huerta led these disaffected factions in revolt against Obregon. Obregon crushed the rebels in 1924 at the Battle of Ocotlan, in Jalisco state.

Obregon liquidated the leaders of the revolt, including every officer above the rank of major, but de la Huerta was able to escape to the United States.

In Yucatan state, the entire army garrison went over to the Huertista rebels under the leadership of Col. Juan Ricardez Broca, with the enthusiastic support of the hacendados.

Carrillo Puerto, who had been in office for 20 months, was forced to flee for his life. Aided by his Mayan supporters, he made his way to the island of Holbox in the adjoining state of Quintana Roo.

He planned to escape to New Orleans, La., where he hoped to raise funds and arms to fight the Huertistas. But along with 10 of his closest supporters, including three of his brothers, he was captured in December 1923 by the Huertistas and returned to Yucatan.

Jailed and later tried at the capital, Merida, he and his followers were sentenced to death. On Jan. 3, 1924, he and his 10 followers were lined up against the wall of the cemetery in Merida and executed by firing squad.

An 80c stamp honoring Felipe Carrillo Puerto on his birth centenary was issued in 1974 (Scott C435).

The Huertistas established a government in Yucatan Dec. 14, 1923, that remained in power until finally crushed by the forces of President Obregon in May 1924.

The six Yucatan Revolutionary issue stamps (Scott 1-6) were produced by the Huertista government of Yucatan.

Community Comments