Tragic Ways

Tragic Ways

Mapping, Remembering, & Exploring la Decena Trágica

Overview

Prior to February 9, 1913, the violence of the Mexican Revolution had hardly touched the country’s capital. [1] The city’s veneer of invincibility was shattered, however, when Félix Díaz, Bernardo Reyes, and over 1,500 rebel troops led an armed revolt against Francisco I. Madero’s presidency. [2] Just ten days later, significant portions of Mexico City were in ruins; several hundred civilians, rebels, and federal soldiers lay dead in the streets; and President Madero sat in prison while his former right hand man, Victoriano Huerta, settled into la silla presidencial. [3] This brief yet chaotic period of bloodshed in the capital is now referred to as “la Decena Trágica,” or the Ten Tragic Days.

Apart from its clear significance in altering the course of the Mexican Revolution, la Decena Trágica has remained prominent in public and academic histories of the revolution for its abrupt intrusion into the daily lives of Mexico City residents. As historian Alan Knight explains in his seminal history of the revolution, “so far, the capital had been spared the afflictions of the provinces: it had lived the good life … [Now] shells were lobbied across the city centre … [and] rubble and corpses strewed the streets” [4].

Taking inspiration from Dennis R. Hidalgo’s analysis of how the British Press presented the events of la Decena Trágica to its English readership, [5] this project represents an attempt to overcome, or at least minimize, vast separations of time and location in learning about this historical event. To that end, I have “mis-georeferenced” a 1907 map of Mexico City atop a current map of Davidson College and placed eleven markers representing important events of la Decena Trágica atop the georeferenced maps. By visiting these pins’ on-campus locations and exploring the attached primary sources and photographs, viewers may learn about this period of violence in Mexico City while contemplating the differences from our own situation and location. In accordance with art historian Julia Banwell’s assertion that “photography of this episode of the Revolution shows the effects of war on ordinary people, displacing both the glorifying tradition of look at dead heroes and leaders,” [6] I have chosen to include several photographs of the carnage in the streets; I should thus caution that some viewers may find these images disturbing. Nonetheless, I hope that in contrasting the destruction and death that dominates this chapter of Mexican History with the pristine calm that typically pervades Davidson College campus, viewers might reach a more nuanced understanding of both eras and locations.

[1] Alan Knight, The Mexican Revolution, Volume 2: Counter-revolution and Reconstruction (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986) 483-484.
[2] Knight 483.
[3] Dennis R. Hidalgo, “The Evolution of History and the Informal Empire: La Decena Trágica in the British Press.” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 23.2 (2007): 322.
[4] Knight 483-484.
[5] Hidalgo.
[6] Julia Banwell, “Death and Disruption in the Photography of the Decena Trágica,” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 30.1 (2014): 113.

Setup

Follow these steps to get started.
The screenshots below are from Android, but the process should be identical on iOS devices.

Step 1

Download the "Avenza PDF Maps" app and open it. You do NOT need to sign up for an account when prompted.
Android link.
iPhone link.

Step 2

Tap the "+" sign at the top of the screen. Before going any further, please make sure you are connected to Wi-Fi!

Step 3

Tap "enter URL" and type in: "bit.ly/1WQyvXI" (case-sensitive). The download will take a few minutes.

Step 4

Once it's done, tap the map to open it. Now, tap the icon of a pin with three lines.

Step 5

Almost there! Tap the downward arrow icon. If you're on iOS, you'll need to choose "import from KMZ." Next, tap "enter URL" like before. This time, though, type in: "bit.ly/1NovWdF" (case-sensitive). This download won't take long.

Step 6

You're ready to start! Make sure your GPS is turned on so that the app can track your location. You can either visit each pin in order, or construct your own path to avoid back-tracking.

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