Heraclio Bernal

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Heraclio Bernal

Heraclio Bernal dead.jpg

Bernal's body
Born 1855
Died 1888
Other names "Thunderbolt of Sinaloa"
Occupation bandit, revolutionary
Criminal charge Banditry

Heraclio Bernal (1855-1888) was a bandit from the Sinaloa region of Mexico. He is widely known as the "Thunderbolt of Sinaloa." [1] [2] [3] [4]

Outlaw person, that is declared as outside the protection of the law

In historical legal systems, an outlaw is declared as outside the protection of the law. In pre-modern societies, the criminal is withdrawn all legal protection, so that anyone is legally empowered to persecute or kill them. Outlawry was thus one of the harshest penalties in the legal system. In early Germanic law, the death penalty is conspicuously absent, and outlawing is the most extreme punishment, presumably amounting to a death sentence in practice. The concept is known from Roman law, as the status of homo sacer, and persisted throughout the Middle Ages.

Sinaloa State of Mexico

Sinaloa, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Sinaloa, is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, compose the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided into 18 municipalities and its capital city is Culiacán Rosales.

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.


Bandit years

Bernal led a group of pistoleros, who operated along the mining zones of the Sierra Madre Occidental, dominating parts of Sinaloa and Durango. [4] The band was believed to have reached up to 100 men strong, often participating in illegal acts such as; robbing stagecoaches, attacking armories, raiding mines for silver which was later sold, and stealing from the rich residents of towns he raided. During Bernal's ten year stint as a bandit and as a political rebel, he managed to evade capture repeatedly due to his established good relations with the lower class and important people of the region he operated within. It is also believed police and soldiers would sell Bernal, and other bandits, weapons and ammunition. [1] [3]

Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range

The Sierra Madre Occidental is a major mountain range system of the North American Cordillera, that runs northwest–southeast through northwestern and western Mexico, and along the Gulf of California. The Sierra Madre is part of the American Cordillera, a chain of mountain ranges (cordillera) that consists of an almost continuous sequence of mountain ranges that form the western 'backbone' of North America, Central America, South America and West Antarctica.

Durango State of Mexico

Durango, officially Free and Sovereign State of Durango, is a state in northwest Mexico. With a population of 1,632,934, Durango has Mexico's second-lowest population density, after Baja California Sur. The city of Victoria de Durango is the state's capital, named after the first president of Mexico, Guadalupe Victoria.

Throughout Bernal's career he was heavily pursued by the local governor Francisco Cañedo, often challenging and mocking him. Stories exist of Bernal challenging Cañedo and President Porfirio Díaz. When Diaz held a dinner for local dignitaries, Bernal is said to have countered with an even more lavish dinner in a neighboring town. While the stories are in doubt, they led to Bernal being viewed as a hero by the people of the surrounding villages. [1]

Porfirio Díaz President of Mexico

José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori was a Mexican general and politician who served seven terms as President of Mexico, a total of 31 years, from February 17, 1877 to December 1, 1880 and from December 1, 1884 to May 25, 1911. A veteran of the War of the Reform (1858–60) and the French intervention in Mexico (1862–67), Díaz rose to the rank of General, leading republican troops against the French-imposed rule of Emperor Maximilian. Seizing power in a coup in 1876, Díaz and his allies, a group of technocrats known as "Científicos", ruled Mexico for the next thirty-five years, a period known as the Porfiriato.

At some point, probably in 1883, Bernal's group was joined by five of the Parra brothers, including Ignacio Parra whose gang would absorb many of Bernal's members following his death. [3]

In 1885 Bernal attempted to enter government service and sent word to president Díaz of an offer. In exchange for service as an officer, Bernal wanted 30,000 pesos to finance himself and his security. He also demanded the release of any of his captured gang members, including his imprisoned brother. Díaz refused the offer, though it is believed Bernal could have received a pardon had he not requested such a high payment. [1]

Politics and death

In 1887 Bernal entered the role of a political rebel, creating a platform which called for a return to the 1857 Constitution of Mexico, which had barred repeated re-elections of the same candidate. The move to enact such a policy was past its time, as many of those who would have backed Bernal now preferred to have Díaz repeatedly re-elected to maintain control. [1]

In time the government would move soldiers into the Mazatlán region and form anti-guerrilla forces to track down Bernal. A ransom of 10,000 pesos was placed on the capture of Bernal, and he was soon after set up in an ambush by two of his gang members. Bernal died on January 5, 1888.


Over thirty corridos or folk ballads exist placing Bernal in the role of a hero and promoting his exploits. One of the more popular involves changing of the colors of the horse Bernal is riding on and the features of description: [5]

Que rechulo era Bernal,
en su caballo retinto,
con su pistola en la mano
peleando con treinta y cinco


How beautiful was Bernal,
On his black horse,
With his pistol in his hand,
Fighting against thirty-five.

Aspects of Bernal's life may have evolved into the folk-saint Jesús Malverde. [6]

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