Bandido Chronicles: Los Plateados
Bandido Chronicles: Los Plateados
Men always come together when pursuing similar goals. This is how outlaw gangs came to be. No matter how rotten or cruel those people were, they would always find a way to set their differences apart and work in a group. This would be pretty awesome if it weren't for the fact that they got together to murder and pillage in raids. So that's no good.
As some of you may know, Mexico has a pretty violent history. During the 19th century, there was a conflict brewing amidst the foreign interventions, coups and rebellions. For decades, Liberals and Conservatives were waging political war to establish their political ideology. Hundreds of books have been written about the subject, but since I'm just trying to establish a bit of context, I won't go too much into detail. Basically, Liberals wanted to create a federalist government and to strip the power of the Catholic Church and the Mexican Army. Both of these institutions had always been very powerful and influential in government affairs. And by this I mean they would coup d'etat your ass if you didn't agree with them. The Conservatives on the other hand fought for the Church and Army.
Tradition vs. Progress
Open war broke out when the Liberals proclaimed the Constitution of 1857. It limited the power of the Church and Army, so in response, the Conservatives took over Mexico City and established a Conservative government. The President of the Supreme Court, Benito Juárez, was appointed as interim president of the legitimate Liberal government. The Reform War had started, and Mexico was the battlefield where the two opposing governments fought for the control of the country.
The Silver Thieves
Even though the war only lasted three years, it was enough to bankrupt the country. The victorious Liberals decided to license most of their irregular troops. They only kept a small, but professional, army to keep fighting some Conservative groups that still operated in the countryside. Most of the licensed soldiers returned to their villages and ranches to keep on working a midst all the chaos, but some had changed for the worse. They grew fond of the gun and machete, they acquired a fondness for the smell of blood and gunpowder, and the thrill of galloping and fighting. These unemployed and savage men with military training started forming gangs in the central states of Guerrero, Morelos and Puebla. Eventually, they all got together to form the gang known as "Los Plateados".
Los Plateados, literally meaning "The Silver Ones", were called this way because of their way of dressing. They would adorn their outfits with obscene quantities of silver: silver spurs, silver guns, silver machetes, silver saddles, silver embroidery,silver buttons, silver trinkets, silver, silver, silver. They were also fond of symbolism, since they would use crossed axes as their emblem, and they would enter battle yelling "¡Por el hacha y su santo filo!" (For the ax and its holy cutting edge!). The reason for this is unknown.
It's pretty hard to ask them why when there's a lance in your throat.
The bankrupt government couldn't do anything about it since they were still trying to kill off the last remains of the Conservative army and were trying to sort out some political issues, so the people were left at the mercy of the bandits. Now, why were they such a threat? What's so different and dangerous about them? Well, let's compare them with other famous outlaw gangs. The Dalton Gang had 8 members, Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch had 10 members and the James-Younger gang had around 15 members at its peak. Although the number isn't certain, it is estimated that the Plateados numbered around 500 bandits.
Just imagine these guys plus another 492 people
They operated in small groups of 10-20 people and would get together in larger groups when summoned by a superior. There were a bunch of local leaders, but it is believed that the main six bandits of the groups were: Salomé Plasencia, El Tigre, Félix Palo Seco, El Chintete, El Coyote Zacacoaxtle, and El Zarco. Little is known about these men, and because of this they're shrouded in legend and mystery.
But unlike other bandits that I've talked about, these guys didn't fight for an ideal or for the people. They were bandits in every sense of the word, they robbed and murdered to get money. That's why they weren't supported by the local population; they were cutthroat outlaws. And since the government didn't do anything, the people started to form small armed groups to defend their communities. But beating the bandits was no easy feat, as the Plateados had several hideouts in the mountains and forests of Morelos and Puebla. They even had a fortified hacienda and a hideout in the base of a freaking volcano.
Here, take this machete, go to the Plateado's hideout and take them out. It's somewhere in there, we'll catch up to you, eventually.
These guys could attack two haciendas and a town at the same time. They were basically a small bandit army. The people were terrified, the wealthy fled the countryside and the locals armed themselves. And if it weren't bad enough already, the French invaded Mexico. So the Plateados weren't really high on the government's priority list. The Plateados took advantage of this opportunity and went on to also rob the French invaders.
¡Bienvenidos a Mexico!
Los Justicieros and the Downfall
The situation was getting out of hand, so the locals decided to take care of the bandits once and for all. The people of Morelos formed a group of men called "Los Justicieros" (The Justice Makers). They were led by Martín Sánchez "Chagollán". His family had been killed by the Plateados in a raid to his ranch, so he swore vengeance against them. He felt he was already dead, so he had nothing to lose. And just to make clear they were going for the Plateados, the Justicieros dressed in a way that completely opposed the bandit's flashy clothes: black jacket and pants, black serape, yellow deer boots and a black hat with a small lace that said "Defensa Social" (Social Defense).
This doesn't get a movie, but Battleship does?
The Justicieros and the Plateados fought several skirmishes. This one time, Chagollan was trapped in a church's bell tower with his men. The Plateados surrounded the church waiting for him to starve to death. They started to boil lard in a huge pot, and threatened Chagollan, saying they would make pork rinds out of him (probably after making him squeal like a pig). Chagollan knew that was no hollow threat. So at night, he ordered his men to make a rope out of their horses' hair. They climbed down one by one and slipped into the darkness. But this wasn't good enough for Chagollan, so he and his men returned and fought off the Plateados that surrounded the church and occupied the town.
Presumably while looking like this
The Plateados were fatally beaten when their leader, Salomé Plasencia, was captured and hanged. After this, they slowly disbanded and died down. The Plateados became legend in the state of Morelos. Countless books, novels and movies have been made about them.
But these story need a movie of epic proportions, something that correctly portrays the bravery of the Justicieros and the ruthlessness of the Plateados, something that can convey the fear and awe they caused and the anguish the people felt when they heard the name. So a few years ago, a soap opera with the title "Los Plateados" was released. Could this be it? Could this be the start of a renaissance of the Mexican entertainment industry that actually uses our culture and history to make stories of epic proportions instead of recycling foreign shows and ideas?
Or maybe they just ripped-off a Chilean soap opera and slapped the Plateado's name on it. So...no relation whatsoever. Mexico is a land of legends and history; it's storyteller's gold mine. Maybe one day we can finally regain the love and pride for our culture and start making our own stories. But at least it has a kickass intro song.
ElCoyote can be found in the dusty frontiers of Mexico, robbing from the rich and...well that is about it. Got an article idea? Send it to Typical_Michael!
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