Corrido Prerevolucionario

Heraclio Bernal, Precursor to the
Mexican Revolution

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Heraclio Bernal

Precursor to the Mexican Revolution

The Pre-Revolutionary genre of the Mexican corrido has been a subject of study for many years now. This genre includes the corridos that were produced between the years of 1870-1910. It was during this time that Porfirio Díaz came to power as his heavy hand oppressed the people of Mexico. Under the "long years of Porfirian peace" the pueblo generally was not greatly concerned with government, nor did it focus much on purely political figures, so the corridistas turned to a variety of different themes. These themes overlap on various points, but generally reflect different types of corridos. Some of these themes include violence, catastrophes, bullfights, and bandits and cuadillos. The bandits and cuadillos, or military leaders, in their own right served as a much more interesting thematic line as their imposing personalities and calm in the face of danger produced many exciting stories which the corridistas quickly put to music. These bandits and caudillos, if they were to survive, often had close ties to the people. They either scared the people to a point of universal terror, or were seen as friends to the common man by their generosity in giving back to the people what they stole from the rich (Simmons 43). The latter is the case for the social bandit to be further discussed, Heraclio Bernal.

The "social bandit" is a figure found in many times and countries. The pre-revolutionary period was notable for a number of heros who were favored by the community at large while defying the Díaz regime. As described by E. J. Hopsbawm, the essential characteristics that surround this heroic figure are as follows:

"(1) A man becomes a bandit because he does something which is not regarded as criminalby his local conventions, but is so regarded by the State or local authorities, (2) The population hardly ever helps the authorities catch the 'peasants' bandit, but on the contrary protects him, (3) ...his standard end-for if he makes too much of a nuisance of himself almost every bandit will be defeated, though banditry may remain endemic-is by betrayal, and (4) ...the peasants in turn add invulnerability to the bandit's many other legendary and heroic qualities"(Hernández 19).

In the context as a precursor to the Mexican Revolution, Heraclio Bernal and his band of followers presented many characteristics similar to those of other later Revolutionary guerrilla fighters. Bernal began his career of banditry at the age of 20. Within a short period of time his banditry had turned to a political plan. He participated in the antipofirista rebellion of 1879 with Jesus Ramírez Terrón and occupied large parts of Sinaloa. It was during these times when his power increased. The next major political step he participated in was in 1885. At this time Bernal signed and a political proclamation, denouncing both the authorities of Sinaloa and Porfirio Díaz. But his political participation was to be his demise. As his power and notoriety grew so too did the Mexican government's displeasure with him. In 1887 a reward of 10,000 pesos was offered and within a year he was gunned down (Giron 12). The political presence that Bernal brought along with his countless raids on mines or local authorities stirred both the thoughts and hearts of the people to whom Bernal represented much more than just a ladron vulgar, as the authorities were so fond of calling him.

Another important characteristic that associates Bernal with the idea of him being a precursor is that he was more or less a "local" bandit (Giron,p.38). Like Pancho Villa, who mainly fought and focused his duties in the northern half of Mexico, Bernal's actions were mainly all carried out in his home state of Sinaloa and the immediate surrounding areas. Also like Villa, the enemies of Bernal were not far away in another country, but they were the local authorities whose legal power came from the government. This concept of a local bandit also created close ties between Bernal and the pueblo. In the state of Sinaloa, Bernal did not worry too much about the possibility of betrayal, but as is the case in so many other corridos, treachery was to be the end of him.

Lastly, and probably the most important aspect that symbolizes Bernal as a precursor of the Mexican Revolution is the attitude and resistance that Bernal and his followers presented against the government of Díaz. It is this attitude and resistance that represented a symbolic popular unrest in the pueblo. Their support for Bernal, as well as their support for various other bandit-heroes of the time, shows their dissatisfaction which manifested itself in a mass fixation upon outlaws as the only figures who were actively challenging the regime of Díz (Simmons 63). Ideologically, the presence of Heraclio Bernal personified much more to the public mind than a ladron vulgar, he was a representation of what years later would blossom into the Mexican Revolution.


1. Simmons, Merle Edwin. The Mexican Corrido as a Source for Interpretive Study of Modern Mexico, 1870-1950. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1957.

2. Giron, Nicole. Heraclio Bernal: bandolero, cacique o precursor de la revolución? México: Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, 1976.

3. Hernández, Guillermo. "Outlaws and Revolutionaries." The Mexican Revolution: Corridos About the Heros and Events (1910-1920 and Beyond). Pamphlet accompanying Arhoolie/Folklyric CDs 7041-44. El Cerrito, CA: Arhoolie/Folklyric, 1995. 19-20. 

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