One of the thorns in the revolutionaries’ side from the time Porfirio Diaz left Mexico City was the power and money of General Luis Terrazas, the largest landholder in Chihuahua and one of the richest men in the history of Mexico. Terrazas had financed the Orozco uprising, allegedly assisted in the plan to assassinate Governor Abraham Gonzalez, and fed the interventionists in the U.S. Senate under Senator Fall all the misinformation they could handle. Huerta also was rumored to be a recipient of Terrazas’ financial goodwill. No one in the Constitutionalist movement irked Luis Terrazas more than Pancho Villa. While other rebels confiscated cattle and hacienda stores, Villa converted the destruction of Terrazas’ wealth into an art form. He publicly looted banks, and drove tens of thousands of Terrazas’ cattle into the U.S. for sale. The relationship between Terrazas and Villa was not just disdain, disrespect, and outright hatred: It was war! The following events, that occurred 100 years ago in December 1913, proved for the first time that Villa was winning this war, hands down.

Luis Terrazas, the cattle king of Mexico

Luis Terrazas, the cattle king of Mexico

When Villa took Chihuahua City, Luis Terrazas with the majority of his clan had to flee to safety in the U.S.  One of Villa’s first moves was to clear the Banco Minero of its deposits. When the Villistas came to rob the Terrazas bank they made a remarkable discovery. Luis Terrazas Junior, the hacendado’s son, had remained behind to safeguard the remaining family including his mother and the bank of which he was a director. For reasons of insanity or overconfidence, the young Terrazas thought that Villa would not touch him. Shortly before the Villistas could nab him, he took refuge in the British Consulate. Whether or not Villa was aware of international law, which designated diplomatic missions immune, or whether he simply did not care less about British sympathies, he ordered the billionaire’s son arrested. The British Consul protested vehemently but the Villistas removed Terrazas by force. Villa had learned from a director of the Banco Minero, that a large stash of gold had been removed from the vault and hidden. After a few hours of light torture and a mock execution Terrazas revealed that the gold was hidden in a column inside the bank. He did not know which. Raul Madero, by now a Villista general and Luis Aguirre Benavides, Villa’s secretary found the hoard: 600,000 Pesos in gold ($6.3 Million in today’s value). For a second time in the history of the revolution, the Banco Minero in Chihuahua City had taken center stage. Where the gold ended up remained Villa’s secret. Treasure hunters, including Soldier-of-Fortune Emil Holmdahl, would spend decades after the revolution searching for the famed gold to no avail.

The Banco Minero in Chihuahua City in 1909

The Banco Minero in Chihuahua City in 1909

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