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The Red Shirts (Spanish language:Camisas Rojas ) were a paramilitary organization, existing in the 1930s, founded by the virulently anti-Catholic, atheist and anticlerical Governor of Tabasco, Mexico, Tomás Garrido Canabal during his second term.[1] As part of their attempt to destroy the Church, they systematically destroyed church buildings.[2] The group, created to carry out the governor's orders, takes its name from its uniform of red shirts, black pants, and black and red military caps and it consisted of men aged 15 to 30.[1]

Apart from religion, the Red Shirts also attacked other things they considered to be detrimental to progress, most notably alcohol. They have been described as "fascist",[3] however, the anthem of the Red Shirts was the Internationale, widely considered to be the socialist anthem, and Garrido named one of his sons after Vladimir Lenin, a Marxist and anti-fascist[1] and also considered himself a Marxist Bolshevik.[4][5][6][7][8] Some scholars have argued that Garrido's authoritarian policies were more akin to European right-wing dictatorships,[9] though he wished to turn the traditionally conservative state of Tabasco into a socialist model and fought for socialist causes.[10][11][12] Tabasco has been called a "socialist tyranny" by Martin C. Needler, Dean of the School of International Studies at the University of the Pacific in California.[13] Garrido also invited the First Congress of Socialist Students to meet in the state of Tabasco and created a form of socialist education which he termed "Rationalist".[14][15] The Red Shirts have been described as "shock troops of indoctrination for the intense campaign against 'God and religion.'"[16] The Red Shirts were also used against the Cristeros revolt, an uprising against the persecution of Catholics by the government of Plutarco Calles.[17] The Red Shirts practice socialist marriages, and two Red Shirt members, José Correa and Victoria Ley, pronounced their own vows:

Before society, before Comrade Tomas Garrido Canabal, and all present, we declare that we have united in matrimony by our express will[18]

And another two members sent out invitations:

J. Felix Gutierrez and Amalia Gonzalez have the honor to invite you to the civil and socialist matrimonial act, to take place at 21 o' clock the 17th of this month at 305 Gomez Farias Street. Please honor us...[18]

The Red Shirts celebrated the death of Christ on Good Friday 1935[18] and the connected League against Religious Fanaticism had their own radio show call "Anti-Fanatic Hour", which was made up of 12 parts, including the "Hymn To The Socialist School", the song "Anti-Alcoholic Protest" and six speeches (including one on "The Class Struggle").[18] In 1934 Garrido was named secretary of Agriculture by the new president Lázaro Cárdenas, hoping to contain the Red Shirts that way. However, Garrido took the Red Shirts with him to Mexico City at the National Autonomous University of Mexico to intervene in student politics.[1] On December 30, 1934, the Red Shirts opened fired on Catholic exiles who were seeking to return to Tabasco as they were leaving Mass at the Immaculate Conception Church in Coyoacán, killing five and wounding many others.[18] Garrido sent the murderers a case of Champagne in jail and declared that they were under his protection.[18] In 1935, after he ordered his Red Shirts to kill Catholic activists in Mexico City who were seeking to return to Tabasco, Canabal was forced to step down and into exile in Costa Rica.[16] His paramilitary groups, including the Camisas Rojas, were subsequently disbanded.

The Red Shirt regime in Tabasco is the setting for Graham Greene's 1940 novel The Power and the Glory.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Mabry, Donald J. Tomas Garrido Canabal Historical Text Archive (2001)
  2. Kirshner, Alan M., A Setback to Tomas Garrido Canabal's Desire to Eliminate the Church in Mexico J. of Church and State (1971) 13 (3): 479-492.
  3. Stan Ridgeway, "Monoculture, Monopoly, and the Mexican Revolution" Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos 17.1 (Winter, 2001): 147.
  4. World vision magazine, Volumes 10-11
  5. National republic, Volumes 22-23
  6. Buchenau, Jürgen. The Last Caudillo: Alvaro Obregn and the Mexican Revolution, Volume 12 of Viewpoints/Puntos de Vista: Themes and Interpretations in Latin American History. John Wiley & Sons, 2011. ISBN 1405199032, 9781405199032. Length 232 pages
  7. Bennett, Charles. Tinder in Tabasco: a study of church growth in tropical Mexico.Eerdmans, 1968 (Original from University of Texas). Length 213 pages.
  8. Ard, Michael J. "An eternal struggle: how the National Action Party transformed Mexican politics". Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. ISBN 0-275-97831-1, ISBN 978-0-275-97831-0. Length 228 pages.
  9. Austin, Ron. "Peregrino: A Pilgrim Journey Into Catholic Mexico". Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2010. ISBN 0-8028-6584-4, ISBN 978-0-8028-6584-7. Length 219 pages.
  10. Baird, David. Cristensen, Shane. Delsol, Christine. Hepp, Joy. Frommer's Mexico 2011, Volume 826 of Frommer's Complete, Edition 5, illustrated. John Wiley & Sons, 2010. ISBN 0470614331, 9780470614334. Length 800 pages
  11. Beezley, William H. Meyer, Michael C. The Oxford History of Mexico. Oxford University Press, 2010. ISBN 0199731985, 9780199731985. Length 675 pages
  12. Walker, Ronald G. Infernal Paradise: Mexico and the Modern English Novel. University of California Press, 1978. ISBN 0520031970, 9780520031975. Length 391 pages.
  13. Needler, Martin C. Mexican Politics: The Containment of Conflict. Edition 3, illustrated. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995. ISBN 0275952517, 9780275952518 Length 144 pages.
  14. Brown, Lyle C. Copper, William F. Religion in Latin American life and literature. Markham Press Fund, 1980. University of Texas ISBN 0918954231, 9780918954237 Length 426 pages. Page 113, "Tomas Garrido, always proud of the success his atheist teachers had achieved and desirous of winning student support for his political ambitions, invited the First Congress of Socialist Students to meet in Tabasco.", " Tomas Garrido termed this education "Rationalist," which in reality was a forerunner of the socialist education amended into Article III of the Constitution in 1934."
  15. Gonzalez, Michael J. The Mexican Revolution, 1910-1940, Dialogos Series, 12. UNM (University of New Mexico) Press, 2002. ISBN 082632780X, 9780826327802. Length 307 pages.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Krauze, Enrique THE TROUBLING ROOTS OF MEXICO'S LÓPEZ OBRADOR: Tropical Messiah The New Republic June 19, 2006
  17. The Calles Presidency, 1924-28 Country Studies, Mexico, U.S. Library of Congress
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 Parsons, Wilfrid Mexican Martyrdom, p. 238, 239, 241, 243. 2003 Kessinger Publishing

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