Cananea strike

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Cananea strike
Cananea tienda de raya.jpg
Striking workers in Cananea confront American possemen protecting the company store.
ObjectiveObtain better working conditions for Mexican employees at the Cananea mines.
DateJune 1, 1906
Casualties23 killed
22 wounded

The Cananea strike, also known as the Cananea riot, [1] or the Cananea massacre, [2] took place in the Mexican mining town of Cananea, Sonora, in June 1906. Although the workers were forced to return to their positions with no demand being met, the action was a key event in the general unrest that emerged during the final years of the regime of President Porfirio Díaz and that prefigured the Mexican Revolution of 1910. In the incident twenty-three people died, on both sides, twenty-two were injured, and more than fifty were arrested.

Mexico country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Cananea City in Sonora, Mexico

Cananea is a city in the northern Mexican state of Sonora, Northwestern Mexico. It is the seat of the Municipality of Cananea, on the U.S−Mexico border.

Sonora State of Mexico

Sonora, officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Sonora, is one of 31 states that, with Mexico City, comprise the 32 federal entities of United Mexican States. It is divided into 72 municipalities; the capital city is Hermosillo. Sonora is bordered by the states of Chihuahua to the east, Baja California to the northwest and Sinaloa to the south. To the north, it shares the U.S.–Mexico border with the states of Arizona and New Mexico, and on the west has a significant share of the coastline of the Gulf of California.



In 1906 Cananea was a company town with a population totaling 23,000. Of these 21,000 were Mexican and the remainder American. Order was kept by a private police force maintained by the Cananea Consolidated Copper Company. The only source of foodstuffs and other commodities was a company store, which reportedly sold its goods at high prices. [3]


Colonel William C. Greene addressing the striking miners. Col. Greene, Cananea 1906.jpg
Colonel William C. Greene addressing the striking miners.
The company store in Cananea. Cananea Stores.jpg
The company store in Cananea.
The Cananea Riot of 1906, note the burning buildings in the background. Cananea.jpg
The Cananea Riot of 1906, note the burning buildings in the background.

By 1906, the Nogales-based Cananea Consolidated Copper Company had some 5,360 Mexican workers employed at its Cananea copper mines, earning three and a half pesos per day while the 2,200 American workers there were earning five pesos for the same job. Conditions in which the Mexican employees worked were deplorable. During the celebrations of Cinco de Mayo, the Mexican employees made public their complaints while the local authority applied martial law to avoid further conflicts.

Nogales, Sonora City in Sonora, Mexico

Heroica Nogales, more commonly known as Nogales, is a city and the county seat of the Municipality of Nogales. It is located on the northern border of the Mexican state of Sonora. The city is abutted on its north by the city of Nogales, Arizona, across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Copper Chemical element with atomic number 29

Copper is a chemical element with symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. A freshly exposed surface of pure copper has a pinkish-orange color. Copper is used as a conductor of heat and electricity, as a building material, and as a constituent of various metal alloys, such as sterling silver used in jewelry, cupronickel used to make marine hardware and coins, and constantan used in strain gauges and thermocouples for temperature measurement.

Mining The extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth

Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, usually from an ore body, lode, vein, seam, reef or placer deposit. These deposits form a mineralized package that is of economic interest to the miner.

On June 1, most of the Mexican miners went on strike. Led by Juan José Ríos, Manuel Macario Diéguez and Esteban Baca Calderón, their demands were the removal of one foreman named Luis, the pay of five pesos for eight hours' work, the employment quotas ensuring seventy-five percent of the jobs for Mexicans and twenty-five percent for foreigners, the deployment of responsible and respectful men to operate the cages and that all Mexican workers to be entitled to promotions, in accordance with their skills.

The company executives rejected all of the petitions and the workers decided to march and gather people from other towns in the municipality. The population supported the workers and the crowd numbered more than 3,000 people. While they were marching in front of the wood shop of the company, the American employees in charge of that department, the Metcalf brothers, threw water at them and then fired shots, killing three people. The angry mob detained the brothers and lynched them by setting them on fire. When they approached the government building of the municipal president they were received by a 275-man American posse led by Arizona Rangers. Other workers were killed while the strike leaders were sent to prison. Contemporary news reports in The New York Times on June 3, 1906 reported that on June 1, strikers destroyed a lumber mill and killed two brothers who were defending the mine. Eleven casualties were reported among the Mexican "rioters".

Lynching is a premeditated extrajudicial killing by a group. It is most often used to characterize informal public executions by a mob in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate a group. It is an extreme form of informal group social control such as charivari, riding the rail, and tarring and feathering, and often conducted with the display of a public spectacle for maximum intimidation. It is to be considered an act of terrorism and punishable by law. Instances of lynchings and similar mob violence can be found in every society.

A presidente municipal is the chief of government of municipios in Mexico. This title was also used in the Philippines under the Spanish and American colonization; it is comparable to a mayor of the town or city. The position is comparable to the county executive of a county in the United States or to the mayor of a city in the United States, although the jurisdiction of a presidente municipal includes not only a city but the municipality surrounding it. Nationally, this position is also equivalent to that of Head of Government of the Federal District and that is why these positions are sometimes referred to as "mayors" in English-language publications.

Arizona Rangers law enforcement agency

The Arizona Rangers are an Arizona unpaid, non-commissioned civilian auxiliary nonprofit that is available to assist and support law enforcement modeled on the Texas Rangers. The Arizona Rangers were created by the Arizona Territorial Legislature in 1901, disbanded in 1909, and subsequently reformed in 1957 as a nonprofit organization. They were originally created to deal with the infestations of outlaws in the sparsely populated Arizona Territory, especially along the Mexican border. The original rangers were an elite, well-trained, and originally a secretive agency mounted on quality horses and well equipped with modern weapons at the state's expense. The rangers were very effective in apprehending members of outlaw bands. The modern day Arizona Ranger organization is a private nonprofit organization with no governmental authority.

About half of the company police avoided involvement in the disturbance. Responding to a telegraphed plea from Colonel William Cornell Greene of the Greene Consolidated Copper Company, a posse of 275 volunteers from Bisbee, Douglas and Naco, Arizona, commanded by Captain Thomas H. Rynning of the Arizona Rangers, entered Mexico against the orders of Joseph Henry Kibbey, Governor of Arizona Territory. At the order of Rafael Izabal Governor of Sonora, forty Rurales (mounted police) were despatched from Hermosillo to reinforce a detachment under Colonel Emilio Kosterlitsky already present. Mexican Federal troops were also sent to Cananea. [4] Four troops of the 5th Cavalry en route from Fort Huachuca were held at Naco, Arizona, on the border on the orders of President William Howard Taft.

Colonel is a senior military officer rank below the brigadier and general officer ranks. However, in some small military forces, such as those of Monaco or the Vatican, colonel is the highest rank. It is also used in some police forces and paramilitary organizations.

William Cornell Greene American businessman

Colonel William Cornell Greene was an American businessman who was famous for discovering rich copper reserves in Cananea, Mexico, and for founding the Greene Consolidated Copper Company in 1899. By 1905, Greene was one of the wealthiest businessmen in the world.

Bisbee, Arizona City in Arizona, United States

Bisbee is a U.S. city in Cochise County, Arizona, 92 miles (148 km) southeast of Tucson. According to the 2010 census, the population of the city was 5,575. The city is the county seat of Cochise County.

A tense confrontation between striking miners and approximately 200 Americans ensued. Many participants were armed and shots were exchanged. At Colonel Kosterlitsky's orders the American interventionists left the town by rail, to return across the border. Mexican Rurales and Federal soldiers then disarmed the strikers and made arrests. [5]


According to Colonel Green the "trouble was incited by a Socialistic organization that has been formed by malcontents opposed to the Díaz government." [6] [7] [8] [9] Shortly before the strike, a political party called the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM) had been established with wide support. The PLM quickly became involved in aggressively pressing for industrial and rural reform. At both the French-controlled Rio Blanco textile factory and the American-owned Cananea Copper Company mine, PLM literature was subsequently to be found distributed through the workers' settlements. [10]

Although the government forces present had behaved with relative restraint, the entry of armed foreigners into national territory caused Mexican outrage against the Diaz administration. Diaz had sent orders to Governor Izabal not to accept any American involvement in restoring order in Cananea but the telegram had arrived after the trainload of Arizona Rangers and civilian supporters had crossed the border. [11]

The incident became linked with the Río Blanco strike of January 1907 as two symbols of the Porfirio Díaz administration's corruption, subservience to foreign interests and civil repression. They became "household words for hundreds of thousands of Mexicans". [12]

A corrido titled " Cananea jail " written in 1917 commemorates the incident.

The Cananea municipal jail, built in 1903 and located in downtown Cananea, is currently a museum Workers' Struggle Museum and also houses exhibitions of photographs and instruments used in mining.

The mine in Cananea currently continues to be worked for copper. After the original 1906 strike the Cananea mine has remained the scene of frequent labor disputes, with the most recent incident being a miners strike of 2007-2008. [13]

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  3. Paul J. Vanderwood, page 144 "Disorder and Progress - Bandits, Police, and Mexican Development", ISBN   0-8420-2438-7
  4. Paul J. Vanderwood, page 144 "Disorder and Progress - Bandits, Police, and Mexican Development", ISBN   0-8420-2438-7
  5. Paul J. Vanderwood, page 144 "Disorder and Progress - Bandits, Police, and Mexican Development", ISBN   0-8420-2438-7
  6. "ARMED AMERICANS AT GREENE'S MINE; Rushed Into Mexico from Arizona Against Gov. Kibbey's Orders. TAFT HOLDS UP U.S. TROOPS Cavalry from Huachuca Stopped at the Frontier — Only Two Americans Killed in Riots" The New York Times June 3, 1906, Greene Consolidated Copper Company, Cananea, Mexico
  7. The New York Times report from Mexico City giving the viewpoint of the Mexican government, June 2, 1906]
  8. "WENT AGAINST ORDERS; Governor of Arizona Warned Capt. Rynning and Other Americans" The New York Times, June 3, 1906
  9. "MEXICANS RESENT INVASION.; Charges Against Gov. Yzabel, Who Let in Arizona Rangers" The New York Times October 12, 1906
  10. Michael C. Meyer and William H. Beezley, page 437 "The Oxford History of Mexico", ISBN   0-19-511228-8
  11. Paul J. Vanderwood, page 145 "Disorder and Progress - Bandits, Police, and Mexican Development", ISBN   0-8420-2438-7
  12. The Cambridge History of Latin America, by Leslie Bethell, Cambridge University Press, 1986, page 66
  13. "Miners call nationwide strike over Cananea" Guardian Unlimited January 14, 2008