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Felipe Carrillo Puerto, the Governor of Yucatán who loved the Mayans and inspired the song “Peregrina”

- January 20, 2021

Felipe Carrillo Puerto was one of the most popular governors of Yucatán. Feminist ally, promoter of cooperatives and enemy of alcoholism, his last words are: Do not abandon my Indians!

Felipe Carrillo Puerto was born in Yucatán on November 8, 1874, and was a journalist and politician in the context of the Mexican Revolution. He was the second son of Justiniano Carrillo and Adela Puerto Palma, who had fourteen children and emigrated to the north of the peninsula due to the Caste War.

During his youth, Felipe dedicated himself to helping his father in the grocery store on his property. Later he worked in the distribution of cattle and was a train conductor for the Eastern Railway. During his stays in Mérida, he met his wife Isabel Palma, with whom he married and had four children. He initially settled in Motul, where he devoted himself to transporting goods.

He started his public life when he incited the Maya to tear down a fence built by the landowners in Dzununcán to prevent his passage. Carrillo had been a Maya speaker since childhood, for which he maintained a close relationship with them.

Sometime later he ventured as a journalist in El Heraldo de Motul, a newspaper from which he criticized local authorities and businessmen. Thanks to this, he met Delio Moreno Cantón, a liberal intellectual who owns the Mérida Magazine, who became a candidate for governor of Yucatán in 1907. Felipe Carrillo Puerto supported this candidacy.

In 1909, Moreno Cantón again ran for state elections. On that occasion, Carrillo Puerto suffered an attack by Néstor Arjonilla, who threatened him with a pistol. Given this, Carrillo Puerto shot and murdered Arjonilla, which caused him to be imprisoned. During his conviction, Carrillo devoted himself to translating the Constitution of 1857, so that the indigenous people knew their rights.

Felipe Carrillo Puerto, the Apostle of the Mayans.

He was released in 1913 by the Venustiano Carranza movement. He immediately returned to his journalistic work at the Revista de Yucatán, but the outlet was censored and he was forced into exile in New Orleans. In 1914 he left for Morelos intending to join the Zapatista cause. By 1915 he was already part of the third Agrarian Commission of the Cuautla district.

Thanks to the help of General Salvador Alvarado of the government of Yucatán, Carrillo Puerto returned to his native state and founded an Agrarian Commission to begin the distribution of land. At this juncture, he converted to socialism and promoted the founding of the Union of the Workers of Railroads and the Socialist Workers Party of Yucatan in March 1917. Also, he became a defender of Mayan and the dissemination of rights in that language. He organized peasant chewing gum producers to eliminate intermediaries and demand better payment from foreign companies.

In 1917 Felipe Carrillo Puerto became president of the Socialist Workers Party of Yucatán and promoted the candidacy of the railroad leader Carlos Castro Morales, who became the first socialist Governor of the state.

By 1920, Felipe joined the Agua Prieta Plan and supported President Álvaro Obregón, for which he reorganized the Socialist Party and renamed it the Socialist Party of the Southeast. Two years later he became governor of Yucatán.

Alma Reed, Carrillo Puerto and the Peregrina song.

His first government speech was made in Maya. His tenure lasted twenty months, in which he sought to benefit the most disadvantaged sectors. Among his actions were declaring the henequen industry of public interest, the distribution of land and the socialization of the production of ejidos. Also, he established the minimum wage in the city of Mérida, promulgated laws on social security and work, as well as divorce, tenancy, expropriation and revocation of mandate. He created production and consumption cooperatives.

In social matters, Felipe Carrillo Puerto fought alcoholism and religious fanaticism was a feminist ally, and established free medical and legal services. He also promoted rationalist education and founded the Universidad Nacional del Sureste, today the Autonomous University of Yucatán.

His work with the Mayan culture was not left behind either, since he created the Academy of the Mayan Language, he supported the exploration of archaeological finds; He instituted Cultural Mondays and translated the 1917 Constitution into Mayan. He also promoted his ideas and the trova through the radio “La Voz del Gran Partido Socialista”.


In 1923 he met the American journalist Alma Reed, with whom he had an affair that inspired the song Peregrina, with lyrics by the poet Luis Rosado Vega and music by Ricardo Palmerín. Reed had gained notoriety in her home country for saving a Mexican teenager on death row. Thanks to her work, the death penalty for adolescents was abolished in the United States.

Alma Reed came to Mexico to cover the expedition of archaeologist Edward Thompson, whom she denounced as a looter of pre-Hispanic art. Alma and Felipe Carrillo Puerto met on the shores of a cenote and quickly began their romance. Reed came to admire the government of Felipe Carrillo Puerto and wrote about her achievements in education and gender parity.

Although the popularity of Carrillo Puerto was high among the peasants and popular bases, he soon gained the animosity of the landowners, who supported De la Huerta to carry out a revolution in 1923. After his resistance, Felipe tried to escape, but the The ship he was traveling was wrecked and he was arrested on December 21, 1923 in Holbox, Quintana Roo.

Although Adolfo De la Huerta himself advocated that the lives of the prisoners be respected, Colonel Juan Ricárdez opposed it. Felipe Carrillo Puerto was judged and sentenced to death. On his last night in his cell, he endured the mockery of musicians being brought to him to sing the Peregrina song in his cell. Reed, who was in the United States preparing for her wedding to Carrillo Puerto, could not say goodbye to her.

On January 3, 1924, Felipe Carrillo Puerto was shot along with three of his brothers and nine of his closest collaborators. His last words were: Do not abandon my Indians!

Source: mexicodesconocido.com.mx

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