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Mexican Army

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Title: Mexican Army  
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Mexican Army

Mexican Army
Ejército Mexicano
Mexican infantry
Active 1810 – present
Country  Mexico
Branch Army/air force
Size Active: 267,506 Reserve: 76,100 (2011 est.)[1]
Part of Secretariat of National Defense
Mexican Armed Forces
Motto Su batalla es por la patria y por la paz
Mascot Golden eagle

February 19, Day of the Army.[2]

September 13, Día de los Niños Héroes.[3]
Equipment See: Equipment

War of Independence
Spanish attempts to reconquer Mexico
Texas Revolution
Pastry War
Capture of Monterey
Mexican–American War
Caste War of Yucatán
Reform War
French Intervention
Mexican Revolution
Border War
Cristero War
World War II
Dirty War
Zapatista Uprising

Mexican Drug War

The Mexican Army (Spanish: Ejército Mexicano) is the combined land and air branch and largest of the Mexican Armed Forces; it is also known as the National Defense Army.

It was the first army to adopt (1908) and use (1910) a self-loading rifle, the Mondragón rifle. The Mexican Army has an active duty force of 267,506 (2014 est.).

Mexico has no major foreign nation-state adversaries. It officially repudiates the use of force to settle disputes and rejects interference by one nation in the affairs of another. Although it has not suffered a major international terrorist incident in recent decades, Mexican government decided to consider to the country as a potential target for international terrorism.[4]


  • History 1
    • Antecedents 1.1
      • Pre-Columbian era: native warriors 1.1.1
      • Military in the Spanish Colonial Era 1.1.2
    • Independence 1.2
    • Pastry War 1.3
    • U.S. invasion 1.4
    • French Intervention 1.5
      • Mexican Republican forces 1.5.1
    • Díaz era 1.6
    • Mexican Revolution 1910–1920 1.7
    • Contemporary era 1.8
      • Post-revolutionary period 1.8.1
      • Mexican Drug War 1.8.2
  • Military Organization in the Modern Era 2
    • Regional command 2.1
    • Tactical units 2.2
    • Special Forces Corps 2.3
      • Special Operations Forces 2.3.1
    • Estado Mayor Presidencial 2.4
    • Paratrooper Corps 2.5
  • Ranks 3
  • Military Industry 4
  • Modern equipment of the Mexican Army 5
    • Vehicles 5.1
    • Individual weapons and equipment 5.2
    • Artillery 5.3
    • Anti-armor weapons 5.4
  • Future 6
  • See also 7
  • Further reading 8
    • Colonial era 8.1
    • Post-Independence 8.2
  • References 9
  • External links 10



Pre-Columbian era: native warriors

Aztec warriors as shown in the 16th century Florentine Codex. Note that each warrior is brandishing a Maquahuitl.
This page from the Codex Mendoza shows the gradual improvements to equipment and tlahuiztli as a warrior progresses through the ranks from commoner to porter to warrior to captor, and later as a noble progressing in the warrior societies from the noble warrior to "Eagle warrior" to "Jaguar Warrior" to "Otomitl" to "Shorn One" and finally as "Tlacateccatl".
Tepoztōpīlli from the Armeria Real collection in Madrid

In the prehispanic era, there were many indigenous tribes and highly developed city-states in what is now known as central Mexico. The most advanced and powerful kingdoms were those of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan, which comprised populations of the same ethnic origin and were politically linked by an alliance known as the Triple Alliance; colloquially these three states are known as the Aztec. They had a center for higher education called the Calmecac in Nahuatl, this was where the children of the Aztec priesthood and nobility receive rigorous religious and military training and conveyed the highest knowledge such as: doctrines, divine songs, the science of interpreting codices, calendar skills, memorization of texts, etc. In Aztec society, it was compulsory for all young males, nobles as well as commoners, to join part of the armed forces at the age of 15.

Valley of Mexico. This was the Mexica ruler who organized the alliance with the lordships of Texcoco and Tlacopan to form the Triple Alliance.

The Aztec established the

  • Photos of the Mexican Army, National Marine and Air Force
  • Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional – Fabrica de armas y equipos
  • Inventario 2006
  • Mexican Army Photos
  • Latin American Light Weapons National Inventories
  • Military Territorial Division
  • Mexican Army Oshkosh Sandcat

External links

  1. ^ "Government Report 2011" (PDF). 
  2. ^ 19 de febrero.- Día del Ejército Mexicano. (Spanish)
  3. ^ Sola, Bertha. "Día de los Niños Héroes (Spanish).
  4. ^ "Country Profile: Mexico" (PDF).   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ "Los Origenes" (in Spanish). Secretaria De La Defensa Nacional. 
  6. ^ Michele Cunningham, Mexico and the Foreign Policy of Napoleon III (2001)
  7. ^ Rene Chartrand, page 9, "The Mexican Adventure 1861–67, ISBN 1 85532 430 X
  8. ^ Rene Chartrand, page 11, "The Mexican Adventure 1861–67, ISBN 1 85532 430 X
  9. ^ John Keegan, pages 470–471, "World Armies", ISBN 0-333-17236-1
  10. ^ P. Jowett & A. de Quesada, pages 27–28 ""The Mexican Revolution 1910–20, ISBN 1 84176 989 4
  11. ^ John Keegan, page 471 "World Armies", ISBN 0-333-17236-1
  12. ^ "Mexican government sends 6,500 to state scarred by drug violence". International Herald Tribune. 2002-12-11. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Mexico" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  15. ^ "Estado Mayor Presidencial". Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  16. ^ "México – Presidencia de la República | Estado Mayor Presidencial". Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  17. ^ Espínola, Lorenza. "Los Niños Héroes, un símbolo" (in Spanish). Comisión Organizadora de la Conmemoración del Bicentenario del inicio del movimiento de Independencia Nacional y del Centenario del inicio de la Revolución Mexicana. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  18. ^ La Jornada. "Equipo y materiales del Ejército, obsoletos, advierte el general Galván". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  19. ^ "Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional". Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  20. ^ "Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional". Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  21. ^ "Alistan compra de 4 Black Hawk para PF – El Universal – México". El Universal. 2009-07-18. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  22. ^ a b Mexico orders Oshkosh SandCats – Jane's Defence Weekly
  23. ^ Foro Modelismo :: Ver tema – Novedades en el Ejercito Mexicano. Pase de Revista 2012
  24. ^ Cambia Ejército uniformes – El Mañana – Nacional
  25. ^ Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional |
  26. ^ [2]
  27. ^ Nuevos Vehiculos Oshkosh Sandcat TPV para el Ejercito – Página 3
  28. ^ Mexico's security and defense trends
  29. ^
  30. ^ Mexico starts production of first 100 indigenous 4x4 armoured vehicles DN-XI –, December 19, 2012
  31. ^ Mexico; Army funds increase of indigenous MRAP production line –, 9 September 2013
  32. ^ "grupo reforma". 2010-04-06. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  33. ^ "Aumentan Vigilancia Durante Desfile Militar" (in Spanish). El Siglo de Torreón. October 17, 2008. Retrieved July 28, 2010. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Mexico – M1152 High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) – The Official Home of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  36. ^ "Mexico – UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters – The Official Home of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 


  • Camp, Roderic Ai. Generals in the Palacio: The Military in Modern Mexico. New York: Oxford University Press 1992.
  • Díaz Díaz, Fernando. Caudillos y caciques: Antonio López de Santa Anna y Juan Alvarez. Mexico City: El Colegio de México 1972.
  • Fowler, Will. Military Political Identity and Reformism in Independent Mexico: An Analysis of the Memorias de Guerra (1821–1855). London: Institute of Latin American Studies 1996.
  • Lieuwen, Edwin. Mexican Militarism: The Political Rise and Fall of the Revolutionary Army. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press 1968.
  • Ronfeldt, David, editor. The Modern Mexican Military: A Reassessment. La Jolla: Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, University of California San Diego 1984.
  • Serrano, Mónica. "The Armed Branch of the State: Civil-Military Relations in Mexico," Journal of Latin American Studies 27 (1995)
  • Vanderwood, Paul. Disorder and Progress: Bandits, Police, and Mexican Development. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press 1981.
  • Wager, J. Stephen. The Mexican Military: Approaches to the 21st Century: Coping with a New World Order. Carlisle PA: Strategic Studies Institute: U.S. Army War College 1994.


  • Archer, Christon I. The Army in Bourbon Mexico, 1760–1810. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press 1977.
  • Archer, Christon I. "The Officer Corps in New Spain: the Martial Career, 1759–1821." Jahrbuch für Geschicte von Staat, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft Lateinamerikas 19 (1982).
  • McAlister, Lyle. The "Fuero Militar" in New Spain, 1764–1800. Gainesville: University of Florida Press 1957.

Colonial era

Further reading

See also

On May 16, 2014. The Mexican government sent a request to the The U.S. State Department for the purchase of 3,335 M1152 HMMWVs.[35] The Mexican government also sent a purchase request to the U.S. in late June for the sale of 18 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters.[36]


Name Type Versions Origin
Light anti-tank weapons
Carl Gustav recoilless rifle multi-role recoilless rifle 84mm  Sweden
RL-83 Blindicide light anti-tank rocket 83mm  Belgium
SMAW anti-tank rocket 105mm  United States
RPG-29[34] anti-tank rocket 105mm  Russia
Anti-armor Recoilless rifles
M40 106 mm recoilless rifle anti-tank gun 106mm  United States
Anti-tank guided missiles
BGM-71 TOW Anti-tank guided missile  United States
RPG-29 Rocket propelled grenade

Anti-armor weapons

Name Type Versions Origin
Self-propelled artillery
SDN Humvee Self-propelled artillery 106mm  Mexico
Towed artillery
M101 Towed howitzer 105mm  United States
OTO Melara Mod 56 Towed howitzer 105mm  Italy
M90 Norinco Towed howitzer 105mm  China
MO-120 Heavy mortar 120mm  France
M29 Medium mortar 81mm  United States
Brandt 60 mm LR Gun-mortar Light mortar 60mm  France
Mortero Light mortar 60mm  Mexico
Oerlikon 35 mm twin cannon Towed anti-aircraft artillery 35mm   Switzerland
M-114 Howitzer 155mm  United States


Name Caliber Type Origin
Heckler & Koch G3 7.62×51mm NATO Battle rifle. Made under license from Heckler & Koch  Germany
FX-05 Xiuhcoatl 5.56×45mm NATO Assault rifle  Mexico
Heckler & Koch HK33 5.56×45mm NATO Assault rifle. Made under license from Heckler & Koch / Germany
M4 5.56×45mm NATO Assault rifle  United States
MP5 9×19mm Parabellum Submachine gun. Made under license from Heckler & Koch / Germany
FN P90 5.7×28mm Submachine gun[33]  Belgium
HK P7 9x19mm Parabellum Pistol / Germany
Beretta 92FS 9×19mm Parabellum Pistol  Italy
FN Five-seveN 5.7×28mm Pistol  Belgium
HK PSG1 Morelos Bicentenario 7.62×51mm NATO Sniper rifle. Made under license from Heckler & Koch  Germany
Barrett M82 .50 BMG Sniper rifle  United States
FN Minimi 5.56×45mm NATO Machine gun  Belgium
HK21 7.62×51mm NATO Machine gun. Made under license from Heckler & Koch  Germany
M2 Browning machine gun .50 BMG Machine gun  United States
M-134 minigun 7.62×51mm NATO Gatling-type machine gun  United States
Mk 19 40×53mm Grenade machine gun  United States
Milkor MGL 40×46mm Grenade launcher  South Africa
M203 grenade launcher 40×46mm Grenade launcher  United States
Heckler & Koch AG-C/GLM 40×46mm Grenade launcher  Germany
Mondragón F-08 7×57mm Mauser automatic rifle used for ceremonial occasions  Mexico
Winchester Model 54 7.62×51mm Bolt-action rifle  United States
CornerShot Weapon accessory  Israel/ United States
Remington 870 12 gauge gauge pump action shotgun  United States
M1014 12 gauge semi automatic shotgun  Italy
Five-seveN USG pistol
FN P90 submachine gun
G3 battle rifle
FX-05 Xiuhcoatl (Fire Serpent) assault rifle

Individual weapons and equipment

Mexican Army Vehicle Inventory
Vehicle/System Type Versions Origin
Armoured Fighting Vehicles
Armoured Vehicles
Panhard ERC 90 Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle ERC 90 F1 Lynx  France
Panhard VCR[26] Armored Personnel Carrier VCR-TT  France
Véhicule Blindé Léger Armored all-terrain vehicle VBL MILAN  France
Oshkosh Sand Cat[22][27][28] Armored Personnel Vehicle Sand Cat – 245 Sandcats were delivered and have Type IV level Armored protection[29] / Israel/ United States
DN-XI Armored Personnel Vehicle The DN-XI is a Mexican modified & designed version of the Oshkosh Sandcat. 100 on order.[30] 1,000 to be acquired by 2018.[31]  Mexico
Tracked Armored Vehicles
Sedena-Henschel HWK-11 Infantry fighting vehicle HWK-11  Mexico/ Germany
AMX-VCI Armoured Personnel Carrier DNC-1: upgraded by SEDENA  France
Infantry Transport Vehicles
Humvee[32] Light Utility Vehicle HMMWV  United States
Chevrolet Silverado Light Utility Vehicle GMT900  United States
Ford F-Series Light Utility Vehicle F-150  United States
Dodge Ram Light Utility Vehicle Variants of 4x4 and 6x6  United States
Yamaha Rhino Light Utility Vehicle Rhino  Japan
Chevrolet Cheyenne Light Utility Vehicle Cheyenne  United States
M520 Goer Utility Vehicle M520  United States
Freightliner Trucks Utility Vehicle M2  United States
M35 2-1/2 ton cargo truck Utility Vehicle M35  United States
DINA S.A. Utility Vehicle S-Series / D-Series  Mexico
Mercedes Benz Utility Vehicle L-Series  Germany
Chevrolet Utility Vehicle Kodiak  United States
Freightliner Trucks satellite communications intelligence  United States
Mexican army
VCR-TT 6X6 APC on Madero Street in downtown Mexico City after Independence Day celebrations
Mexican Army ERC 90 F1 Lynx during the Independence day Parade.


New Mexican army uniform

Modern equipment of the Mexican Army

  • Dirección General de Industria Militar (D.G.I.M.) – In charge of the designing, manufacturing and maintenance of vehicles and weapons, such as the assembly of the FX-05 assault rifle and the DN series armored vehicles. On July 19, 2009, SEDENA spent 488 million pesos ($37 million U.S.) to transfer technology to manufacture the G36V German made rifle. Although it is not known if this will be manufactured as a cheaper alternative to the FX-05 meant for the army or if it is to be manufactured for Military police and other law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Police. The FX-05 is planned to become the new standard rifle for the armed forces replacing the Heckler & Koch G3, so it is not yet clear what the G-36 rifles will be used for.[21] As of 2011, D.G.I.M. is in charge of assembling the Oshkosh SandCat, the modified Mexican Army version of the Sandcat is named as the DN-XI and will be presented in the Mexican Independence Day parade on September 2012.[22][23]
  • Dirección General de Fábricas de Vestuario y Equipo (D.G.FA.V.E.) (General Directorate of Clothing and Equipment Manufacturing) – Since its creation, the department has grown from a simple clothing factory to an Industrial complex in charge of the supply and design of the Army/Air Force's uniform, shoes/boots, combat helmet and ballistic vest. Until the mid-2000s, the Mexican army's standard combat uniform color was olive green. The army then switched to all woodland camouflage and Desert Camouflage Uniform. In July 2008, the D.G.FA.V.E. announced plans for creating the country's first digital uniforms, which would consist of Woodland/jungle and Desert camouflage; these uniforms entered service in 2009.[24]
  • Granjas Militares (Military farms) – In charge of Agriculture; crop cultivation is a necessity to maintain the health and economy of the Army/Air Force. The Mexican Army has four established SEDENA farms:[25]

The Mexican Military counts on three of the following departments to fulfill the general tasks of the Army and Air Force:[20]

Since the start of the 21st century, the Army has been steadily modernising to become competitive with the armies of other American countries[18] and have also taken certain steps to decrease spending and dependency on foreign equipment in order to become more autonomous such as the domestic production of the FX-05 rifle designed in Mexico and the commitment to researching, designing and manufacturing domestic military systems such as military electronics and body armor.[19]

Mexican army Humvee on September 16, 2007 parade
A Mexican Army Mi-26 heavy transport helicopter.
Mexican Army band playing.

Military Industry

  • Gold: Generals
  • Light Brown:
    • General Staff
    • Presidential Guard
  • Scarlet: Infantry
  • Burgundy: Artillery
  • Red-Brown: Quartermaster and Materiel ("Materiales de Guerra")
  • Light Orange-Brown: Transportation ("Transportes")
  • Green:
    • "Justicia"
    • Military Police
  • Blue:
    • Engineers
    • Signals and Communications ("Transmisiones")
  • Light Blue: Cavalry
  • Light Gray-Blue: Cartography
  • Purple:
    • Army Aviation
    • Parachutists
  • Gray: Musicians
  • Light Gray: Armor
  • Very light Gray: Intelligence
  • Brownish Gray: Administration and Army Intendancy ("Administracion e Intendencia")
  • Yellow:
    • Medical
    • Veterinary
A Mexican army UH-60 Blackhawk landing in the Zocalo, Mexico City.
Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at the Heroic Cadets Memorial in Chapultepec Park, Mexico City. The monument was designed by architect Enrique Aragón and sculpted by Ernesto Tamaríz at the entrance to Chapultepec Park in 1952.[17]

Rank badges have a band of colour indicating branch:

Generales Jefes Oficiales
Grado Secretario de la Defensa Nacional General de División General de Brigada General Brigadier Coronel (Infantry) Teniente Coronel (Infantry) Mayor(Infantry) Capitán Primero (Infantry) Capitán Segundo (Infantry) Teniente (Infantry) Subteniente (Infantry)


  • Brigada de Fusileros Paracaidistas (Parachute Rifle Brigade) is a three-battalion paratrooper unit created in 1969 within the Mexican Army but utilizing aircraft from the Air Force. Its headquarters is in Mexico City and its training takes place in the Centro de Adiestramiento de Paracaidismo (Airborne Training Center). A battalion can be deployed rapidly to any part of the country.

Paratrooper Corps

[16][15] The

Seal of the Estado Mayor Presidencial.

Estado Mayor Presidencial

Name Headquarters Structure and purpose
Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales (Special Forces Airmobile Group) Classified
Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales del Alto Mando (High Command Airmobil Group Special Forces) Classified
Grupos Anfibios de Fuerzas Especiales (Amphibious Special Forces Group) Classified The Amphibious Special Forces Groups allow the army to extend their operations of ground troops in the coastal and inland waters, in close coordination with the Mexican Navy.

Special Operations Forces

The Amphibious Special Forces Groups are trained in amphibious warfare, they give the army extended force to the coastal lines.

The High Command GAFE is a group with no more than 100 members and is specially trained in counter-terrorist tactics. They receive orders directly from the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto.

The Special Forces Brigades consist of nine SF battalions. The 1st Brigade has the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions; the 2nd Brigade has the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions; and the 3rd Brigade has the 4th and 9th Battalions and a Rapid Intervention Force group.

The Army has a Special Forces Corps unified command with 3 Special Forces Brigades, a High Command GAFE group, a GAFE group assigned to the Airborne Brigade and several Amphibious Special Forces Groups.

Mexican Special Forces with .50 caliber Barrett M82 sniper rifles.

Special Forces Corps

Distinct from the brigade formations are independent regiments (all regiments are battalion sized) and battalions assigned to zonal garrisons. These independent units consist of one armored cavalry regiment, nineteen motorized cavalry regiments, one mechanized infantry regiment, seven artillery regiments, and three artillery and eighteen infantry battalions. Infantry battalions are small, each of approximately 300 troops, and are generally deployed in each zone. Certain zones are also assigned a motorized cavalry regiment or one of the seven artillery regiments. Smaller detachments are often detailed to patrol more inaccessible areas of the countryside, helping to maintain order and resolve disputes.

The Brigades, all based in and around the regiments and one of mechanized infantry. Each of the two infantry brigades consists of three infantry battalions and an artillery battalion. The motorized infantry brigade is composed of three motorized infantry regiments. The airborne brigade consists of two army and one air force battalion. The elite Presidential Guard Brigade reports directly to the Office of the President and is responsible for providing military security for the president and for visiting dignitaries. The Presidential Guard consists of three infantry battalions, one special force battalion, and one artillery battalion.

The primary units of the Mexican army are six brigades and a number of independent regiments and infantry battalions.

Mexican Paratroopers.

Tactical units

Military Zones
Military Region Headquarter city States in Region
I México, D.F. Distrito Federal, Hidalgo, Estado de México, Morelos
II Mexicali, Baja California Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora
III Mazatlán, Sinaloa Sinaloa, Durango
IV Monterrey, Nuevo León Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas
V Guadalajara, Jalisco Aguascalientes, Colima, Jalisco, Nayarit, Zacatecas
VI Veracruz, Veracruz Puebla, Tlaxcala, central and northern Veracruz
VII Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas Chiapas, Tabasco
VIII Ixcotel, Oaxaca Oaxaca, southern Veracruz
IX Cumbres de Llano Largo, Guerrero Guerrero
X Mérida, Yucatán Campeche, Quintana Roo, Yucatán
XI Torreón, Coahuila Chihuahua, Coahuila
XII Irapuato, Guanajuato Guanajuato, Michoacán, Querétaro

Usually on the secretary of defence's recommendation, the senior zone commander is also the commander of the military region containing the military zone. A military zone commander has jurisdiction over every unit operating in his territory, including the Rurales (Rural Defense Force) that occasionally have been a Federal political counterweight to the power of state governors. Zone commanders provide the national defence secretary with socio-political conditions intelligence about rural areas. Moreover, they traditionally have acted in co-ordination with the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) on planning and resources deployment.

México is divided into twelve Military Regions composed of forty-four subordinate Military Zones [the 2007 ed. of the IISS lists 12 regions, 45 zones]. Operational needs determine how many zones are in each region, with corresponding increases and decreases in troop strength.

Every afternoon, a Mexican Army platoon lowers the monumental flag in Constitution Square or Zocalo
Cadets of the Heroic Military Academy (Mexico) with a golden eagle (September 2004).

Regional command

The principal units of the Mexican army are nine infantry brigades and a number of independent regiments and infantry battalions. The main maneuver elements of the army are organized in three corps, each consisting of three infantry brigades, all based in and around the Federal District. Distinct from the brigade formations, independent regiments and battalions are assigned to zonal garrisons (45 in total) in each of the country's 12 military regions. Infantry battalions, composed of approximately 300 troops, generally are deployed in each zone, and certain zones are assigned an additional motorized cavalry regiment or an artillery regiment.[14]

The Army is under the authority of the National Defense Secretariat or SEDENA. It has three components: a national headquarters, territorial commands, and independent units. The Minister of Defense commands the Army via a centralized command system and many general officers. The Army uses a modified continental staff system in its headquarters. The Mexican Air Force is a branch of the Mexican Army. Recruitment of personnel happens from ages 18 through 21 if secondary education was finished, 22 if High school was completed. Recruitment after age 22 is impossible in the regular army; only auxiliary posts are available. As of 2009, starting salary for Mexican army recruits was $6,000 Mexican pesos, or about $500 US dollars per month, with an additional lifetime $10,000 peso monthly pension.[13]

Mexican air force cadets march during the Mexican Independence day military parade in Mexico City on 27 July 2012.

Military Organization in the Modern Era

In recent times, the Mexican military has largely participated in efforts against drug trafficking. The Operaciones contra el narcotrafico (Operations against drug trafficking), for example, describes its purpose in regards to "the performance of the Mexican Army and Air Force in the permanent campaign against the drug trafficking is sustained properly in the duties that the Executive of the Nation grants to the armed forces", for according to Article 89, Section VI of the Constitution of the Mexican United States, it is the duty of the President of the Republic of the United Mexican States, as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, to ensure that the Mexican Armed Forces perform its mandate of national security within and outside the state borders.

Although violence between drug cartels has been occurring long before the war began, the government held a generally passive stance regarding cartel violence during the 1990s and the early years of the 21st century. That changed on December 11, 2006, when newly elected President Felipe Calderón sent 6,500 federal troops to the state of Michoacán to end drug violence there. This action is regarded as the first major retaliation made against the cartel violence, and is generally viewed as the starting point of the war between the government and the drug cartels.[12] As time progressed, Calderón continued to escalate his anti-drug campaign, in which there are now about 45,000 troops involved along with state and federal police forces.

Mexican Drug War

The ending of the Diaz regime saw a resurgence of numerous local forces led by revolutionary generals. In 1920, more than 80,000 Mexicans were under arms, with only a minority forming part of regular forces obedient to a central authority. During the 1920s, the new government demobilized the revolutionary bands, reopened the Colegio Militar (Military Academy), established the Escuela Superior de Guerra (Staff College), and raised the salaries and improved the conditions of service of the rank and file of the regular army. In spite of an abortive general's revolt in 1927, the result was a professional army obedient to the central government. During the 1930s, the political role of the officer corps was reduced by the governing Revolutionary Party and a workers' militia was established, outnumbering the regular army by two to one. By the end of World War II, the Mexican Army had become a strictly professional force focused on national defense rather than political involvement.[11]

Mexican soldiers on parade in Mexico's independence day parade in 2009, Mexico DF, carrying Mexican FX-05 Xiuhcoatl (Fire Serpent) assault rifles.

Post-revolutionary period

General Lázaro Cárdenas, who as president of Mexico 1934–1940 brought the Mexican military under civilian control

Contemporary era

The ouster of General and President Porfirio Díaz saw a member of a rich landowning family, Institutional Revolutionary Party no longer had a separate sector for the army. No military man has been president of Mexico after 1946.

Revolutionary General Alvaro Obregón, later president of Mexico
General Victoriano Huerta, who overthrew civilian President Francisco I. Madero in 1913

Mexican Revolution 1910–1920

Following the French withdrawal and the overthrow of the Imperial regime of Maximilian, the Mexican Republic was re-established in 1867. In 1872, Porfirio Diaz, a leading general of the anti-Maximilianist forces, became president. He was to retain power until 1910, with only one short break. During this period of extended rule, Diaz relied essentially on military power to remain in office. He accordingly undertook a series of reforms intended to modernize the Mexican Army, while at the same time terminating the historic pattern of local commanders attempting to seize power using irregulars or provincial forces.[9] Generals of the Federal Army were frequently transferred, the large officer corps was kept loyal through opportunities for graft, an efficient mounted police force of rurales took over responsibility for public order, and the army itself was reduced in size. By 1910, the army numbered about 25,000 men, largely conscripts of Indian origin officered by 4,000 white middle-class officers. While generally well equipped, the Federal Army under Diaz was too small in numbers to offer effective opposition to the revolutionary forces led by Francisco Madero.[10]

Díaz era

While opposed by substantial forces of French regular troops plus Mexican Imperial forces and contingents of foreign volunteers, the Republican Army remained in being as an effective force after the fall of Mexico City in 1863. By 1865 Liberal opposition was being led by a core of 50,000 regular Mexican troops and state National Guards, augmented by approximately 10,000 guerrillas.[8]

General and President Porfirio Díaz, another hero of the Battle of Puebla and president of Mexico in the late nineteenth century until the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution

In 1861, the Mexican Republican Army consisted of ten regular line battalions each of eight companies, and six line cavalry regiments, each of two squadrons. With six batteries of field artillery plus engineers, train and garrison units, the regular army numbered about 12,000 men. Auxiliary forces, comprising state militias and National Guards, provided a further 25 infantry battalions and 25 cavalry squadrons plus some garrison and artillery units. The National Guard of the Federal District of Mexico City amounted to six infantry battalions plus one each of cavalry and artillery. The newly raised corps of Rurales, created on 5 May 1861 as a mounted gendarmerie, numbered 2,200 and served as dispersed units of light cavalry against the French.[7]

Mexican Republican forces

The subsequent French invasion resulted in the Second Mexican Empire, which was supported by the Roman Catholic clergy, many conservative elements of the upper class, and some indigenous communities. The presidential terms of Benito Juárez (1858–71) were interrupted by the rule of the Habsburg monarchy in Mexico (1864–67). Conservatives, and many in the Mexican nobility, tried to revive the monarchical form of government (see: First Mexican Empire) when they helped to bring to Mexico an archduke from the Royal House of Austria, Maximilian Ferdinand, or Maximilian I of Mexico (who married Charlotte of Belgium, also known as Carlota of Mexico), with the military support of France. France had various interests in this Mexican affair, such as seeking reconciliation with Austria, which had been defeated during the Franco-Austrian War, counterbalancing the growing U.S. power by developing a powerful Catholic neighbouring empire, and exploiting the rich mines in the north-west of the country.

The three powers signed the Treaty of London on October 31, to unite their efforts to receive payments from Mexico. On December 8, the Spanish fleet and troops from Spanish-controlled Cuba arrived at Mexico's main Gulf port, Veracruz. When the British and Spanish discovered that the French planned to invade Mexico, they withdrew.

Monument to General Ignacio Zaragoza, hero of the Battle of Puebla, Cinco de Mayo 1862.

Napoleon III of France was the instigator: His foreign policy was based on a commitment to free trade. For him, a friendly government in Mexico provided an opportunity to expand free trade by ensuring European access to important markets, and preventing monopoly by the United States. Napoleon also needed the silver that could be mined in Mexico to finance his empire. Napoleon built a coalition with Spain and Britain at a time the U.S. was engaged in a full-scale civil war. The U.S. protested, but could not intervene directly until its civil war was over in 1865.[6]

The French intervention was an invasion by an expeditionary force sent by the Second French Empire, supported in the beginning by the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Spain. It followed President Benito Juárez's suspension of interest payments to foreign countries on July 17, 1861, which angered Mexico's major creditors: Spain, France and Britain.

The Battle of Puebla, Cinco de Mayo 1862, an important victory for Mexican forces against the French

French Intervention

After putting up a fierce defense against the U.S. invasion, the Mexican positions along the state of Chihuahua began to fall. These forces had been organized by general José Antonio de Heredia and governor Ángel Trías Álvarez. The cavalry of the latter made several desperate charges against the U.S. that nearly achieved victory, but his inexperience in fighting was evident and, in the end, all the positions gained were lost.

American commodore Matthew C. Perry, who had already captured the town of Frontera, in Tabasco, tried to seize San Juan Bautista (modern Villahermosa), but he was repelled three times by a Mexican garrison of just under three hundred men. U.S. troops were also sent to the California territories with the intention of seizing it. After squads of U.S. troops occupied the City of Los Angeles, Mexican authorities were forced to move to Sonora; but, by the end of September 1846, commander José María Flores was able to gather 500 Mexicans and managed to defeat the U.S. garrison at Los Angeles and then sent detachments to Santa Barbara and San Diego.

On September 20, 1846, the Americans launched an attack on Monterrey, which fell after 5 days. After this U.S. victory, hostilities were suspended for 7 weeks, allowing Mexican troops to leave the city with their flags displayed in full honors as U.S. soldiers regrouped and regained their losses. In August 1846, Commodore David Conner and his squadron of ships were in Veracruzian waters; he tried, unsuccessfully, to seize the Fort of Alvarado, which was defended by the Mexican Navy. The Americans were forced to relocate to Antón Lizardo. In confronting resistance and fortifications at the port of Veracruz, the U.S. Army and Marines implemented an intense bombardment of the city from March 22–26, 1847, causing about five hundred civilian deaths and significant damage to homes, buildings, and merchandise. General Winfield Scott and Commodore Matthew C. Perry capitalized on this civilian suffering: by refusing to allow the consulates of Spain and France to assist in civilian evacuation, they pressed Mexican Gen. Juan Morales to negotiate surrender.

U.S. territorial expansion under Manifest Destiny in the 19th century had reached the banks of the Rio Grande, which prompted Mexican president José Joaquín de Herrera to form an army of 6,000 men to defend the Mexican northern frontier from the expansion of the neighboring country. In 1845, Texas, a former Mexican territory that had broken away from Mexico by rebellion, was annexed into the United States. In response to this, the minister of Mexico in the U.S., Juan N. Almonte called for his Letters of Recognition and returned to Mexico; hostilities promptly ensued. On April 25, 1846, a Mexican force under colonel Anastasio Torrejon surprised and defeated an American squadron at the Rancho de Carricitos in Matamoros in an event that would latter be known as the Thornton Skirmish; this was the pretext that U.S. president James K. Polk used to persuade the U.S. congress into declaring a state of war against Mexico on May 13, 1846. U.S. Army captain John C. Frémont, with about sixty well-armed men, had entered the California territory in December 1845 before the war had been official and was marching slowly to Oregon when he received word that war between Mexico and the U.S. was imminent; thus began a chapter of the war known as the Bear Flag Revolt.

General and President Antonio López de Santa Anna in 1852
The American occupation of Mexico City

U.S. invasion

With trade cut off, the Mexicans began smuggling imports into Corpus Christi, Texas, and then into Mexico. Fearing that France would blockade Texan ports as well, a battalion of men of the Republic of Texas force began patrolling Corpus Christi Bay to stop Mexican smugglers. One smuggling party abandoned their cargo of about a hundred barrels of flour on the beach at the mouth of the bay, thus giving Flour Bluff its name. The United States, ever watchful of its relations with Mexico, sent the schooner Woodbury to help the French in their blockade. Talks between the French Kingdom and the Texan nation occurred and France agreed not to offend the soil or waters of the Republic of Texas. With the diplomatic intervention of the United Kingdom, eventually President Bustamante promised to pay the 600,000 pesos and the French forces withdrew on 9 March 1839.

In 1838, a French pastry cook, Monsieur Remontel, claimed that his shop in the Tacubaya district of Mexico City had been ruined in 1828 by looting Mexican officers. He appealed to France's King Louis-Philippe (1773–1850). Coming to its citizen's aid, France demanded 600,000 pesos in damages. This amount was extremely high when compared to an average workman's daily pay, which was about one peso. In addition to this amount, Mexico had defaulted on millions of dollars worth of loans from France. Diplomat Baron Deffaudis gave Mexico an ultimatum to pay, or the French would demand satisfaction. When the payment was not forthcoming from president Anastasio Bustamante (1780–1853), the king sent a fleet under Rear Admiral Charles Baudin to declare a blockade of all Mexican ports from Yucatán to the Rio Grande, to bombard the Mexican fortress of San Juan de Ulúa, and to seize the port of Veracruz. Virtually the entire Mexican Navy was captured at Veracruz by December 1838. Mexico declared war on France.

The Pastry War was the first French intervention in Mexico. Following the widespread civil disorder that plagued the early years of the Mexican republic, fighting in the streets destroyed a great deal of personal property. Foreigners whose property was damaged or destroyed by rioters or bandits were usually unable to obtain compensation from the government, and began to appeal to their own governments for help.

French blockade in 1838

Pastry War

It was not until late 1820, when Agustín de Iturbide, one of the most bloodthirsty enemies of the insurgents, established relations with Vicente Guerrero and Guadalupe Victoria, two of the rebel leaders. Guerrero and Victoria supported Iturbide's plan for Mexican independence, El Plan de Iguala and Iturbide was appointed commander of the Ejército Trigarante, or The Army of the Three Guarantees. With this new alliance, they were able to enter Mexico City on September 27, 1821, which concluded the Mexican War for Independence.

Morelos conducted several campaigns in the south, managing to conquer much of the region as he gave orders to the insurgents to promote the writing of the first constitution for the new Mexican nation: the Constitution of Apatzingan, which was drafted in 1814. In 1815, Morelos was apprehended and executed by firing squad. His death concluded the second phase of the Mexican War for Independence. From 1815 to 1820, the independence movement became sluggish; it was briefly reinvigorated by Francisco Javier Mina and Pedro Moreno, who were both quickly apprehended and executed.

The next major rebel leader was the priest José María Morelos y Pavón, who had formerly led the insurgent movement alongside Hidalgo. Morelos fortified the port of Acapulco and took the city of Chilpancingo. Along the way, Morelos, was joined by Leonardo Bravo, his son Nicholas and his brothers Max, Victor and Miguel Bravo.

At the Wells of Baján (Norias de Baján) near Monclova, Coahuila, a former royalist named Ignacio Elizondo, who had joined the insurgent cause, betrayed them and seized Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama, José Mariano Jiménez and the rest of the entourage. They were brought to the city of Chihuahua where they were tried by a military court and executed by firing squad on July 30, 1811. Hidalgo's death resulted in a political vacuum for the insurgents until 1812. Meanwhile, the royalist military commander, General Félix María Calleja, continued to pursue rebel troops. The fighting evolved into guerrilla warfare.

Army of the Three Guarantees enters Mexico city on September 27, 1821.
Constitutional decree for the freedom of the Mexican America

At Calderon Bridge (Puente de Calderón) near the city of Guadalajara Jalisco, insurgents held a hard-fought battle with the royalists. During the fierce fighting, one of the insurgents' ammunition wagons exploded, which led to their defeat. The insurgents lost all their artillery, much of their equipment and the lives of many men.

In Aculco, the Royal Spanish forces under the command of Felix Maria Calleja, Count of Calderón, and Don Manuel de Flon (and comprising 200 infantrymen, 500 cavalry and 12 cannons) defeated the insurgents, who lost many men as well as the artillery they had obtained at Battle of Monte de las Cruces. On November 29, 1810, Hidalgo entered Guadalajara, the capital of Nueva Galicia, where he organized his government and the Insurgent Army; he also issued a decree abolishing slavery.

The Spaniards saw that it was important to defend the Alhóndiga de Granaditas public granary in Guanajuato, which maintained the flow of water, weapons, food and ammunition to the Spanish Royal Army. The insurgents entered Guanajuato and proceeded to lay siege to the Alhóndiga. The insurgents suffered heavy casualties until Juan Jose de los Reyes, the Pípila, fitted a slab of rock on his back to protect himself from enemy fire and crawled to the large wooden door of the Alhóndiga with a torch in hand to set it on fire. With this stunt, the insurgents managed to bring down the door and enter the building and overrun it. Hidalgo headed to Valladolid (now Morelia), which was captured with little opposition. While the Insurgent Army was, by then, over 60,000 strong, it was mostly formed of poorly armed men with arrows, sticks and tillage tools – it had a few guns, which had been taken from Spanish stocks.

Guanajuato. At center: the Alhóndiga de Granaditas

In the early morning of September 16, 1810, the Army of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla initiated the independence movement. Hidalgo was followed by his loyal companions, among them Mariano Abasolo, and a small army equipped with swords, spears, slingshots and sticks. Captain General Ignacio Allende was the military brains of the insurgent army in the first phase of the War of Independence and secured several victories over the Spanish Royal Army. Their troops were about 5,000 strong and were latter joined by squadrons of the Queen's Regiment where its members in turn contributed infantry battalions and cavalry squadrons to the insurrection cause.


Military in the Spanish Colonial Era


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