The Mayan Revolutionary War was a five-year conflict incited by the Mayan Revolution. It resulted in the defeat of the United States of America, led by Governor del Sur Theodore Roosevelt, and the establishment of the Zapatan Republic, among other territorial changes.
The longtime American occupation of Mexico had incited deep and long-lasting hatred among Mexicans, but most especially among the Mayan and Zapotecan communities of the South. As former slaveholders were given most of the best land in return for their slaves, they gained increasing political dominance, turning the native farmers into, essentially, a serf class. Moreover, they were forced to grow cotton to replace the slave-driven textile industry, which had been abandoned following manumission as no one was willing to pick cotton any longer. This cotton was then sold at extremely low prices on the international market, resulting in considerable profit for textile mills which manufactured it but none for those who grew it. Initial Mayan unrest had been crushed by American troops, notably in the Dia de Muertos, where 40 political leaders of the native community were summarily executed. However, the advent of Socialism had given the Mayans an ideology and the tensions between Japan and the U.S. had given them an international backer. Meanwhile, Emiliano Zapata, a fiery young political leader, stirred up increasing unrest in the central highlands of Oaxaca and the Yucatan, always lightly garrisoned. Most Mexican landowners were also disgruntled, having been stripped of much of their land, and threw their support behind the movement as well. The groups formed the Zapotecan Peasants' Alliance and the Mayan Revolutionary Council to forcibly protect their sovereignty.
The War Begins
In 1900, tensions came to a head as the price of cotton plummeted. Many American textile mills halved the prices at which they bought cotton, impoverishing peasants and landowners alike. Riots in Veracruz and Tampico were brutally put down by American garrison troops, leaving twelve dead. Arriving in Tampico on the 5th of May, Emiliano Zapata gave a fiery speech to a group of cotton workers exhorting them to rise up and overthrow the American occupiers."It is better" he told them "to die on your feet than live on your knees. Let us take our liberty by force!" Then he began tossing Japanese-made rifles to the crowd. American troops tried to seize him, but the crowd opened fire, killing them, then stormed the army base nearby. Joined by thousands of townspeople, they marched on the governor's palace and f=killed him by forcing him through a cotton gin, before burning numerous warehouses of cotton and smashing the machinery to process them.
Armed mobs seized army bases, seats of government and post offices across the Governorate del Sur in the time-hounoured schedule of violent revolution. The two revolutionary groups formed a joint council to coordinate their actions. Mustering an irregular army of 100,000, Zapata made international overtures for arms and troops, then marched on Merida, where an American garrison of 4000 had held out against the mobs.
The American Reaction
President Mark Hanna was nervous, but more concerned with winning the 1900 election. Accordingly, rumours of unrest were brushed off and the only reinforcements sent were a battalion of Marines, who landed in Merida on the 12th. Meanwhile, General Theodore Roosevelt, an officer rumoured to have great skill in counterinsurgency work for his skill in crushing the Katipunan in the Philippine Governorate, was appointed Governor del Sur and granted a further 50,000 men to suppress the rebellion.
In Merida, Zapata understood the urgency of maintaining revolutionary momentum. Detaching 25,00 men under Francisco Madero against American troops in Oaxaca, he planned to storm Merida with his surviving men on the 20th. The poorly dug trenches circling the city were no defence against siege mining, and Zapata set about digging three huge mines. On the 21st, a day late, these were blown and 25,000 men attacked at each breach. The American troops were insufficient to defend the perimeter, and fell back, only to be cut to pieces in the streets by Mayan cavalry. The city fell.
With the defeat of American troops in Oaxaca de Juarez, Zapata held most of Southern Mexico. He set about recruiting more troops, securing horses and guns for those he had, and awaiting the American response. On July 4th, Roosevelt made a foray against Acapulco with 10,000 men. He underestimated the mobility of the Mayan cavalry and the hatred afforded his troops by virtually the entire population. As he later reflected "Every withered hedgerow and ragged field of corn suddenly sprouted a half-a-dozen peasants brandishing rifles." His troops lost 4000 men, before coming up against a roadblock manned by 15,000 Zapotecan militia. His troops stormed this, expelling them and killing 2000. However, he was unable to secure supplies, and two supply trains were seized by irregulars on the Acapulco road; running short of gunpowder, Roosevelt pulled back. A detachment of 1000 men was cut off a mere ten miles from the city and overwhelmed.
President Hanna resolved to quickly crush the rebels before they could threaten his chances of reelection. As the war settled down into a back0-and-forth guerrilla war, 200,000 American troops mustered in Baja California and at Miami, Florida, alongside 300 transports, 27 cruisers and four battleships. These troops descended on Oaxaca and Merida, landing large forces against both cities. Zapata marched desperately for Merida, but the city was stormed by 50,000 Marines on the 12th of December. Zapata moved to defend San Francisco de Campeche, even as Veracruz fell to another American force. His troops dug in along the shoreline quickly, emplacing two howitzers, their only artillery, above. Zapata had 25,000 men.
An American force of 30,000 arrived the next day. First, the USS Maine and a number of cruisers systematically bombarded the shore for three hours, doing considerable damage. As the transports moved in, the howitzers opened fire, only to be quickly silenced. The American troops swarmed up the shore, taking heavy casualties, but much of Zapata's force had fled under the bombardment. His remaining 10,000 fought hard, only to be largely surrounded and overwhelmed. As Zapata rallied his troops, he was shot in the shoulder and seized by Marine troops. As his troops fled, he was dragged back to the Maine and interrogated. He disappeared some time in the next week. Most historians believe he was killed during the interrogation and his body was dumped overboard, while some believe he leapt overboard himself. Whatever the mechanism, his death was the outcome. And with it, it seemed, would come the death of his revolution.
The Isthmian Empire had viewed the war with increasing interest for the past years. It had always been hostile to American domination of the hemisphere, and viewed the transformation of the constant American "liberation" rhetoric into justification for a new revolution with satisfaction. Protected by a British-trained military of 100,000 and an navy of modern ironclads, it had little to fear from American aggression itself. But the idea of an independent, native Central American-based state was much more amenable to it than that of a triumphant America.
The pretext for intervention came when the United States began using the Panama Canal to transfer ships from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This violated the treaty permitting American control over the Panama Canal Zone, which stipulated its demilitarization. The Isthmian government sent the U.S. a stern letter, then launched an immediate naval attack on the Port of Veracruz, on the basis that actions speak louder than words. The unprepared American ships were caught in port as the Miskitu ironclads attacked. Five cruisers and the sole remaining battleship in the Atlantic were holed and sunk. The Isthmian ships spent the rest of the day systematically scuttling the transports.
Meanwhile, the Isthmian Army deployed 75,000 troops into the central Yucatan, where they linked up with the Mayan and Zapotecan remnants, numbering about 100,000. Simultaneously, 25,000 Isthmian launched a southward assault into Northern Panama. Unprepared American garrison troops were overwhelmed, and by the 5th of January these troops had reached the Panama Canal, which they set about destroying. Two American cruisers trying to return to the Atlantic were blown up after hitting Isthmian mines.
As 175,000 troops attacked north, the overextended American troops were caught largely by surprise. Two divisions were badly mauled near Cancun, and most of the Yucatan Expeditionary Force pulled back into Merida. However, the Miskitu now shifted the axis of their assault westwards, seizing Villahermosa and leaving 100,000 American troops yet again cut off in Merida.
The War Ends
With the vast majority of the American fleet either destroyed or essentially trapped in the Pacific, the remnants of the American military in the Yucatan was unable to escape. Theodore Roosevelt determined to break into the Merida pocket by land. Advancing south with 110,000 men, he met the Mayan/Isthmian force a little north of Villahermosa at Paraiso. The resultant battle raged for a day and a half, with repeated attacks by both sides repelled by overwhelming artillery concentration. Finally, Francisco Madero, having gathered 25,000 Mayan irregular cavalry, descended on the American army's rear, precipitating a rout. The Mayan troops pursued them as far as Veracruz, into which the American force withdrew, while the Isthmians seized Oaxaca.
Following the battle of Paraiso, the American government entered into negotiation with the Mayans and Isthmians, hoping to buy time for its fleet to round Cape Horn and support a new counterattack. But with the rest of Occupied Mexico in ferment and a fresh offensive on the horizon, the American negotiators agreed to a "provisional ceasefire" in which American troops would withdraw from Oaxaca in return for a Mayan withdrawal from Veracruz. This ceasefire was renewed the next year, though, as Mark Hanna, busy facing Congressional challenges, had no wish to return to the war.
With most of Southern Mexico devastated and the legend of Emiliano Zapata in place as a martyr, the stage was set for the formation of the socialist Zapatista Republic in the area. First, though, came the formation of the Provisional Republic of South Mexico. This nation came to an end six months later after the Zapatista Party won the elections, instituting a socialist regime. In practice, this simply consisted of redistributing ex-slaveholder-held land to the peasants.
Isthmia remained in occupation of North Panama, giving it a border on the destroyed Panama Canal. It also resulted in the signing of the Pact of Paraiso, which created an offensive-defensive alliance between Isthmia and the Zapatista Republic. This, in turn, set the stage for the later Great American War and the later ideological struggles which would characterize global politics for next century.