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Did the Apaches Cause the Mexican Revolution?

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

Photograph of Geronimo and Apache Warriors
Geronimo and Apache Warriors

Of course, not directly. By the time the Revolution erupted, the Apaches had spent twenty-five years confined to reservations in the United States, but the tribe did play a big role in shaping the history of northern Mexico.

The Aztecs had no use for the sparsely populated region that became the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Far removed from their center of power and with a forbidding terrain, the Spanish didn’t either, until they discovered rich silver deposits and mined them. Then Apache raiders appeared, forced south by the more powerful Comanches. The few Spanish soldiers were ineffective against them, and the settlers and miners fled.

What did Spain do to keep from losing their hold on the region? They offered vast tracts of communal land to anyone willing to settle there and fight the Apaches. These free villagers—independent, proud, and self-reliant—became an effective fighting force and handed those qualities on to their children.

Time passed. New Spain became Mexico. The Apaches remained a problem until the capture of Geronimo and his band in 1886.

Photograph of Geronimo holding a rifle

Then everything changed. No longer threatened by Indian raids, the powers-that-be in Chihuahua and Mexico City turned their backs on the free villagers and enacted laws taking away their land. A huge mistake. When the Mexican Revolution erupted, the free villagers were some of the first to take up arms.

In fact, historians have suggested that the Mexican Revolution might have sputtered to an end without toppling President Porfirio Diaz from power if not for the fighting spirit of Chihuahuan men. They developed that courage and determination by fighting the Apaches for generations.

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