Murder & Counterrevolution in Mexico: The Eyewitness Account of German Ambassador Paul Von Hintze, 1912–1914 ed. by Friedrich E. Schuler
Scholars have paid little attention to Germany’s interests in Latin America before the eruption of World War I. Schuler’s book of primary source material is hopefully one of many that will fill this gap. It focuses on Admiral Paul von Hintze, whom Kaiser Wilhelm II appointed as ambassador to Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. Schuler translated three major sources: diplomatic daily reports, Hintze’s diary focusing on the coup against President Francisco Madero, and a second diary concerning Victoriano Huerta’s last months in office. One of the strengths of Hintze’s account [End Page 206] is that he offers an unobstructed view into the interests of the world’s powers like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom as well as the United States and Japan to maneuver within Mexican domestic politics in an effort to extract the most value from Mexico’s resources.
While Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata were fighting for agrarian reform in the peripheries, Hintze’s reports and diary entries paint a tumultuous picture of how the Revolution was fought in Mexico City. Hintze discusses the chaos in Mexico and the various interests at stake: US intervention; foreign interest in Mexican mines, ports, oil, and the Panama Canal; the resignation and subsequent assassination of President Madero; and the rise of Victoriano Huerta. He also captures the interests of German citizens living in Mexico. Contrary to Hintze’s personal opinion, Germans living in Mexico, including the local German press such as the Deutsche Zeitung von Mexico and Der Wanderer, were in favor of US intervention (12). In effect, Hintze, who had served the German Empire in Asia and Russia, appears perplexed by the US-oriented German community whom he was supposed to aid and protect as Ambassador. For example, he notes in his diary entry of May 11, 1914 from Mexico City that most members of the German community do not want to flee Mexico despite conditions of war. “Master at home,” their mostly Mexican wives were not willing to go abroad where “customs and habits are uncomfortable for them” (128).
Hintze details the day-to-day chaos within the diplomatic community as various powers encourage Victoriano Huerta to resign. Yet Hintze’s racist attitudes toward Latin Americans are also on display. As Hintze states, Huerta, a “megalomaniac,” was “protected against the madness of the alcoholic; Indians rarely succumb to this disease because of their heavy misuse; instead they fall mostly to becoming fools” (81). Mexicans were not the only ones prone to becoming too Latin, however. One such man was Sir Lionel Carden, the English Ambassador with whom Hintze often disagreed. “After almost forty years in South America,” Hintze wrote in his diary on May 8, 1914 that Carden “has become a Latino American” (120), and he is “far more Latino American [sic] than British in his way of being, thinking, and appearance” (123). Carden “acts with a healthy native Mexican recklessness” in pursuit of his own interests (173). This anti-Latin stereotype becomes increasingly anti-Indian. For example, on May 24, 1914, Hintze wrote about Carden’s outlook for Mexico; according to Carden the aristocratic classes and the rich would be massacred as “they demonstrated themselves as unworthy of the name of México” (153). Hintze incredulously reflects on how stupid Carden is to expect that the future of the Mexican nation should come from the Indians (153). Hintze concludes about Carden: “With enjoyment he prefers to say that a Native American of Zacatecas is governing Mexico” (153). Despite this anti-Latin rhetoric, Hintze seems surprised by the advantages of the Latin race over the Teutonic in regards to negotiation, “in skills of maneuver, in bending, in the use of the spoken word, planning and suggestion,” and tells Huerta so (166). [End Page 207]
As Huerta’s conversations with Hintze reveal, the Mexicans recognized that the superpowers were scrambling for Mexico’s resources. President Wilson and US imperial policies were heavily criticized. Hintze remarked that the US primarily wanted to annex the country (148) and, despite occupation, refused to call their presence in Mexico an act of war, as the US preferred its foreign policy to appear “moral” (128). Huerta, previously a tool of US Ambassador Wilson and later discarded by the US (149), emerges in these pages both as a tyrannical president unwilling to step down, as well as an observer of Europe at the brink of war. In one conversation between Hintze and Huerta, Huerta states: “Germany is suffocating in its borders; it must consume Austria and Denmark; Germany’s most natural enemies are Great Britain and Russia. Germany wants to be a colonial [power] and needs oil” (165). Here, Huerta was hoping to negotiate with imperial Germany to support him in exchange for 150,000 km of land and Tampico’s oil fields (165).
Historians, scholars of colonial and postcolonial studies, Americanists, Germanists, and Latin Americanists will all find a treasure of information regarding diplomatic procedure, a detailed day-by-day account of the parties involved in the Mexican Revolution, and archival photographs of the many figures involved. Prospective readers may wish to look at other volumes on the Mexican Revolution suggested by Schuler (273) for a more general account, however. All in all, it provides great source material for those interested in imperial Germany’s US and Latin American interests at the beginning of the twentieth century.