Extermination of the Apache people in northern Mexico

General Luis Terrazas

In the summer of 1880 – he was already 51 years old, more than half of his life – Mexican General Luis Terrazas closed the final chapter of the war against the North American Indians by ordering an extermination campaign against them, which was commanded by his cousin, Colonel Joaquin Terrazas , whom they call the scourge of the Apaches, who lived in large numbers in the mountainous regions of the northern state of Chihuahua.

Joaquín Terrazas was the commander in charge of the annihilation of Apache chiefs Victorio, Juh, and Gerónimo. Victorio was born on the Hacienda of Encinillas, where his parents, born in Chihuahua, worked. The Hacienda was owned by Pablo Martínez del Río, although it would be acquired by Luis Terrazas shortly after.

The boy was kidnapped (he was 6 years old: his mother was killed by the Apaches), and he lived and grew up with the tribe until he became one of its chiefs, the most fearsome in northern Mexico.

To combat him, Colonel Joaquín Terrazas received full support from the government of Chihuahua. “The government will pay 4 reales per child and 6 per adult Apache indians, Abd will pay for the hair of Indian warriors too, the government will pay 2 thousand pesos for Victorio ” read a sign.

Colonel Joaquín Terrazas was the most capable officer in the state of Chihuahua, according to historian Daniel Cosío Villegas. Aided by Tarahumara trackers, he defeated Apache Chief Victorio shortly after, who was shot dead while riding in front of his men in the battle of Tres Castillos.

It was October 15, 1880. 62 warriors and 16 women and children died. The survivors were turned into servants among the families of Chihuahua.

In early 1883 his successor, the Apache Indian Juh, died when he fell with his horse to a ravine in an accident that some say was caused by the state of drunkenness in which he was horseback riding, and others say it was caused by his subordinates to seek peace ( Juh had just burned Chihuahua Captain Juan Mata Ortiz alive.)

The last to fall was Gerónimo, Apache Chiricahua just as his predecessor Victorio, he was born on the Sonora – Arizona border, and he ended up surrendering his weapons to the United States Army in June 1886.

The Apaches who survived the defeat ended their days in the Texas and New Mexico Indian reservations.

In Chihuahua there were only a handful of Apaches left, after the war of extermination waged against them, extermination that the Mexicans do not know about, ignore or keep in secrecy, despite the fact that there are many history books on the subject and an Apache Gerónimo Indian Museum in the municipality of Fronteras, Sonora.

Chihuahua prospered after the elimination of the Apaches. Luis Terrazas became one of the richest men in Mexico. But his life did not have a happy ending. Terrazas suffered the ravages of the Mexican Revolution in his most frightening figure, that of one of the most feared men in Mexico, Doroteo Arango, better known as Pancho Villa.

Terrazas saw two of his sons die — Guillermo, killed in 1878, while he was still a teenager, and Federico, struck by disease in 1903 — In the early XX Century, Luis Terrazas was kidnapped together with his grandson Guillermo by Villa’s troops.

Old photographs show an old aged Terrazas totally defeated, disappointed and sad, although he was fortunate to return from exile to see Chihuahua’s sky once more. “Don Luis,” says his biographer, Héctor Chávez Barrón, “died in his bed, at home and in the city where he was born, the morning of June 15, 1923. Just months shy of his 100th birthday.”

Luis Terrazas will be always remembered as the man who exterminated the Apaches in northern Mexico.

The Mazatlan Post with information from Milenio article written in 2015 by historian Carlos Tello Diaz