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The Human Cost of War

More than a million people died during the years of ongoing civil strife. The decena trágica or ten tragic days in February of 1913, when President Madero was overthrown and killed, was one of the bloodiest incidents. The British press reported as many as 2,000 dead, mostly civilians.

The numerous popular corridos told of heroic battles at Ciudad Juarez, Zacatecas, or Celaya, but overlooked the human toll. At the 1915 Battle of Celaya alone, Pancho Villa lost 4,000 of his troops. General Alvaro Obregon, on the “winning side” of that famous battle lost his right arm.

Some of this war carnage was documented with macabre postcards sold to soldiers and the general public on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. Even the valiant pose of an amputee soldier fitted with a wooden leg cannot hide the human cost of war.

[Soldier with wooden leg, n.d.] Mexican Revolution: Photographs, ca. 1910–1920 Stanford Manuscripts Collection: MSS Photo 205

Photograph of a revolutionary man with a wooden leg and holding a rifle.

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