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Portrait of a General

5 September 2008
Manuel Hernández Galván, 1924. © Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

Edward Weston: Manuel Hernández Galván, 1924. © Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

I’m afraid I know nothing about General Hernández Galván’s career.

Tina Modetti may have had an affair with the General at some point (briefly mentioned in passing by Patricia Albers, Shadow, Fire, Snow: The Life of Tina Modetti,  University of California Press, 2002).  Tina had a long term affair with Weston.  I don’t know the extent of Weston and the General’s relationship, but this portrait was taken iIn 1924, during what Richard Nilson, in an Arizona Republic review of a recent Edward Weston show at the Phoenix Art Museum describes as an expedition against the “Huertistas.”

Huertistas would have been backers of Victoriano Huerta, the U.S. backed general who seized power from the democratic Madero government in 1913, setting off the Constitutionalist revolt of Villa, Obregon and Carrenza that was the heart of the military phase of the Mexican Revolution. Huerta died in 1916 (in U.S. custody, and was buried in El Paso’s Evergreen Cemetery). I think Nilson means “delaHurtistas”, backers of the 1924 revolt by former interim President Adolfo de la Huerta, who — after a stint as Obregon’s Secretary of the Treasury — was prevailed upon to lead a short-lived revolt in 1924. A minor detail, in an otherwise enlightening review.

Whomever they were, Weston was prepared for a shoot … of some kind.  Hernández Galván loaned the photographer a pistol — just in case — but obviously, Weston was a better shot with his camera.  Someone else shot the General in a Mexico City cantina a few years later.

I know quite a bit about the Mexican Revolution, but don’t pretend to be omnipotent.  Having spent the last six plus years writing a Mexican history, and having originally written my version of the Revolution four different ways (and revised I forget how many times), It’s easy to overlook even a most photgenic Generals, like Manuel Hernández Galván.

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