Probably nothing in education is original, every teacher is, consciously or not, repeating something he heard from one of his own teachers. If our students do this, we call it plagiarism. When we professors do it, we call it academia. Usually, the system works just fine; I honestly believe that most of my lectures are my own creation. Still, occasionally, even as I speak the words, I can hear in my mind a professor from thirty years ago saying the same thing.
A great example of this is the story of Victoriano Huerta, one of the many, many presidents of Mexico. This was a man who was without a doubt, a whirling son-of-a-bitch—that is, a man who is a son-of-a-bitch no matter how you turn him.
Mexico suffered through a very long dictatorship under Porfirio Diaz, a man that ruled Mexico for so long that the peasants of Mexico began referring to him as Don Perpetuo. Only after he was 80 years old did he finally start to lose his grip on the country, and the man who pushed him out of power was Francisco Madero, a genuinely good man. Madero was not your typical Mexican hero: he was a vegetarian, believed in mysticism, and even stranger, he was elected in a free and fair election.
In a lot of ways, poor Francisco Madero was the Mexican equivalent of John F. Kennedy. Relatively young, he represented a dramatic change in the character of the office of the President, and sadly was assassinated before he could accomplish much while in office. Madero was murdered by Huerta, who seized power and made himself the President of Mexico. For our story, we needn’t bother with all the terrible things he did while in office, but the violence of what eventually became known as the Mexican Revolution was staggering. Without a doubt, President Victoriano Huerta was evil incarnate. Hell, look at the best two pictures we have of the man. No one would have bought a used car from this guy.
After Huerta was run out of power (and Mexico) he eventually came to the United States. He traveled by train to Texas, intending to sneak back into Mexico and restart the violent and bloody revolution, but was arrested and placed under house arrest on Fort Bliss, in El Paso. Eventually, he died of liver disease. (Did I mention that he was also a fall down drunk?)
Huerta was buried in Alameda cemetery in El Paso. There was absolutely no way that the new Mexican government wanted the body back: it would have been like the United States asking for the return of the body of Benedict Arnold--not likely to ever happen. So the former President of Mexico is buried in El Paso, Texas, where he is likely to stay until hell freezes over.
“If you want to visit the grave…,” said Professor Charles Harris to his class many years ago. “…it is customary to take him a beer. Be sure to run it through your system first,” I said to my classes many times over the years.
Obviously, I did as Professor Harris told me, and actually went to Huerta’s grave and appropriately warmed up the beer before I left it on his grave. And I told all my students. And one of my students now teaches high school in El Paso, and he told his students.
And ten of those students were arrested last week for urinating on the grave of Victoriano Huerta. Guys, if you are reading this, you should blame Professor Harris.
Oh, don’t bother looking for the grave of Benedict Arnold. He was buried at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Battersea, London, England. Coincidentally, his body was “accidentally” moved to an unmarked grave. Probably saves them cleaning up a hell of a mess.