Meddling in Mexico

Murder and Counterrevolution in Mexico: The eyewitness account of German Ambassador Paul von Hintze, 1912–1914
Edited by Friedrich E Schuler
2015, University of Nebraska Press
344 pages, plates, paperback

ORIGINAL and exciting new titles about the Mexican Revolution rarely come along these days, but Friedrich Schuler’s Murder and Counterrevolution is certainly one of them. This great volume traces the career while in Mexico of Paul von Hintze, the ambassador of imperial Germany, at a crucial moment in global history. Comprising diary entries, letters, telegrams and diplomatic cables, Schuler provides a fascinating empirical insight into the brief but nasty military dictatorship of Victoriano Huerta from February 1913 to July 1914 and its subsequent collapse. Huerta, remember, was the ambitious soldier of humble origins who led the conspiracy against the elected president Francisco Madero then deposed and assassinated this hapless titan of Latin American history. The so-called Ten Tragic Days in February 1913 in which Huerta – ostensibly acting in Madero’s interests – bombarded Mexico City, sparking a merciless civil conflict, then proceeded to topple the president himself, created the conditions for open foreign competition for a stake in the Mexican Revolution on the eve of the First World War. It exposed the great power rivalry that would be at the heart of all subsequent events – not least between Great Britain and imperial Germany, between Germany and the US and, what is often forgotten, between Great Britain and the US. Von Hintze, selected to be the eyes and ears of Wilhelm II, emerges as a somewhat sympathetic figure whose principles and underlying suspicions of Huerta were morally informed much like those of Woodrow Wilson, unlike the malicious British ambassador Lionel Carden, who all but took the Mexican dictator under his wing out of a resentful disdain for the Americans and a sense of superiority. At one level, Schuler’s fascinating account sheds light on the internal politics of Mexico and a key moment in its revolution. But at another, it exposes both the folly and the human cost of incessant foreign meddling in the country. The author alludes, for example, to circumstances that would set the scene for the infamous 1917 Zimmermann Telegram that precipitated the entry of the US into the war, and changed European history. This is an excellent book that confirms the enduring fascination of the Mexican Revolution to scholars. – EC