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This revolution is brought to you by…

16 November 2009


New York Times (15-Nov-2009)

A federal judge in Texas has issued final approval for Grupo Mexico’s plan to regain control of a copper mining company, Asarco, ending a lengthy takeover battle with a rival suitor.

Grupo Mexico said Sunday that Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court in Brownsville, Tex., on Friday confirmed Grupo Mexico’s plan to pay $2.2 billion to Asarco’s creditors. The deal was recommended by United States Bankruptcy Court Judge Richard Schmidt.

The Asarco smelter — subject to lawsuits for the last decade or two over both its emissions and, when the U.S. owner took the typical U.S. out of declaring bankruptcy, over it’s disposition — played a forgotten role in the Mexican Revolution.

The plant sits directly on the border, and — in 1910 — had a shed in back on the Mexican site. Which, on 20 November 1910 became, briefly, Mexico’s capital.

Francisco Madero was in many ways an impractical dreamer (he dabbled in half-baked Hinduism and his belief in ghosts was essential to his revolutionary thinking — having spent long hours conversing with Benito Juarez on the “other side”) but the Maderos were raised to be hard-headed businessmen, who watched his investments and wasn’t one to sit back and just listen to his broker.

Among the many Madero investments were substantial holdings in American Smelting and Refining (today’s Asarco), which — happy to oblige a major investor — would loan that shed to give the Revolution a presence on Mexican soil. Madero had announced (and even advertised) the start of the Revolution for 20 November.

On the appointed day, Madero, who, with his wife, had spent a busy week attending parties in El Paso while arranging press coverage for the Revolution and telephone service for his “Provisional Capital…, crossed the border and posed for the cameras. He’s managed to talk the Bell Telephone Company into running a line across the border in return for hanging up a sing on the “Provisional Capital” thast advertised the phone company and would be seen in the news photos. Madero was by no means the first revolutionary to seek corporate sponsors but as probably the first to trade off advertising for technical support.

(Gods, Gachupines and Gringos © 2009, Richard Grabman)

Today is “officially” Revolution Day, in honor of the day Madero took over an Asarco shed… I haven’t been able to locate an on-line photo of the Provisional Capital (and its Bell Telephone sign), but located one in David Dorado Roma’s wonderful pictorial history of El Paso and Juarez during the Revolution, “Ringside Seat to a Revolution: An underground cultural history of El Paso and Juárez, 1893- 1923” which I will try scanning in by the “actual” Revolution Day.

It’s a holiday, so I’m outta here.

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