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Seeing double: March madness as two men became state governor at the same time

April 1, 2013

March 2013 was a historic month, as it marked the beginning of the first Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) government in Jalisco after 18 years of National Action Party (PAN) rule.

Yet this pales in comparison to the events of March 1921, when, for the first and only time in the state’s history, Jalisco was briefly governed by two men from opposing parties.

The historic pair were Salvador Escudero, a poet from Guadalajara who represented the Jalisco National Party, and Basilio Vadillo, a teacher and veteran of the Mexican Revolution from Zapotlan, who represented the Liberal Constitutionalist Party. Both had served in the federal Congress from 1918 to 1920, before competing for the state governorship, along with Carlos Cuervo of the Independent Liberal Party.

The election was marked by irregularities and beset by violence, with both Escudero and Vadillo claiming victory. The former would take up office in Guadalajara in early 1921 while the latter did the same in Chapala.

On December 31, 1920, Escudero had sent President Alvaro Obregon a report documenting his electoral victory and a long list of infringements committed by Vadillo and his party, but Obregon eventually ruled in favor of Vadillo, out of gratitude for his loyal support and the complimentary coverage he had received in “El Monitor Republicano,” a newspaper Vadillo founded in 1919.

Escudero was forced to step down and eventually retired to Lagos de Moreno where his political career came to an end. Yet it was not plain sailing for Vadillo, who would fail to see out his term in office, despite introducing measures against gambling and street fights that earned him the support of broad sectors of society, including the Guadalajara clergy.

Vadillo’s problems began when he fell out with the influential Guadalupe Zuno group, to whom he largely owed his rise to power. Not only did Vadillo exclude the Zuno circle form his cabinet, he also dismissed one of them, Alfredo Romo, from his position as Mayor of Guadalajara.

This led to a conflict with the state Congress, where the Zunistas held a majority and set out to undermine the Vadillo administration and block any legislation he tried to pass. When Congress decided to cut taxes in Jalisco by 10 percent, Vadillo protested, saying that the local deputies cost much and did little. They replied that he did almost nothing and spent too much.

The conflict between Vadillo and the Zunistas came to a head when local politicians affiliated with the Zunistas held a secret meeting with the intention of removing Guadalajara Mayor and Vadillo supporter Jose Suarez. Two of Vadillo’s agents infiltrated the meeting, leading to a shootout which was subsequently blamed on the governor.

Vadillo tried claim immunity to the charges brought against him but a judge ruled in favor of Congress and Vadillo was impeached on March 17, 1922.

In a vain attempt to retain power, Vadillo and his supporters moved to Chapala, in the hope that Obregon would reinstate him. But the president approved Vadillo’s impeachment and sent him into political exile, working for Mexico’s foreign ministry in Norway and later in Denmark.

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