Header image
Top 100  •  DOC 2
charles butters on sandino's return to san albino mine in june 1927

 
T O P     1 0 0     D O C S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50
51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75
76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100

Charles Butters on Sandino's return to San Albino Mine in June 1927

     In mid-1926 Sandino returned from exile in Mexico and journeyed from the city of León up to the San Albino Mine in the northeastern Segovias, owned by US citizen Charles Butters, where he got a job as a pay clerk.  In retrospect, his decision to seek employment among politically oppressed and economically exploited wage workers in a mining enclave dominated by US capital could not have been more shrewd. 

     As the civil war between Liberals and Conservatives heated up in the summer and fall of 1926, Sandino organized the nucleus of what later became his Defending Army — which appears to have been his plan all along.  In late October 1926, Sandino and the mine workers rose up in rebellion against the Conservative regime dominated by Emiliano Chamorro and Adolfo Díaz and their local Segovian cronies.  In early November, Sandino's Liberal rebels attacked the Conservative garrison at El Jícaro. Over the next seven months, as civil war ravaged the country, Sandino emerged as one of the top Liberal generals, at one point commanding upwards of 1,000 troops.
 
     After 4 May 1927, the day that Liberal Commanding General José María Moncada (at the behest of ousted Liberal President Juan Bautista Sacasa) signed the Espino Negro Accord (or Treaty of Tipitapa), Sandino became the only Liberal general to refuse to disarm.  Instead he and a handful of followers headed back up to San Albino Mine to begin their rebellion against the vendepatria (country-seller) Moncada and the US Marine intervention. 

     Thus Sandino's rebellion against the US government's "trampling underfoot" of Nicaraguan national sovereignty began in the same US-owned mining enclave where his uprising against the Conservative Díaz & Chamorro regime began eight months earlier.  Only now, the civil war between Liberals & Conservatives was formally over, and the fight against the Marines and Guardia Nacional was about to begin.
 
     Charles Butters' narrative offers a remarkable description of Sandino's return to San Albino and portrait of his organizing efforts among the mine workers.  One factual error concerns the date of Sandino's return to the region — in fact it was probably closer to June 19, as seen in the next page.  Read "against the grain" of its condescending and denunciatory tone, Butters' account offers not only a concrete narrative of events but valuable insights into the discourse used by Sandino to mobilize followers, the nature of his nationalist message and vision, and how that message and vision resonated among Segovianos.  (Left:  Sketch of Charles Butters kind courtesy of Dan Plazak, engineer and intrepid mine explorer, from his website here)

 

San Albino Gold Mines.

June 21, 1927.
 
General Sandino, a young man of about 30, appeared at my office at San Albino about a year ago, seeking a position in a clerical capacity, stating that he had just come down from Guatemala where he had been employed in the office of a mining company. I gave him employment as a file clerk in the store at $25 per month. He was neither brilliant nor apt at the work. He spoke considerable English.
 
During an interval of probably three months, he busied himself by recruiting miners and other employees of the company into a skeleton force of revolutionaries. All this was unbeknown to me, till one fine morning he disappeared with a small group of my men and took to the woods, where he was rapidly joined by others of the Liberal party, and in some manner he was shortly afterwards supplied with sufficient arms to enable him to attack the government troops at Jicaro, where both sides claimed the victory.

Shortly thereafter the government troops were gradually withdrawn from [the] Jicaro district, since which time they have never returned and he became known as the Sacasa representative in Segovia. Some months later, he claimed to have made a trip to Puerto Cabezas and brought up supplies of arms and ammunition, via the Coco River, which were freely distributed through the district, after which the whole district was completely under his dominion and later under Moncada's orders he marched to Jinotega. He remained in the active service of Moncada for some months.
 
Not being willing to lay down his arms, he returned to the district, well supplied with money, the best of arms and ammunition, well dressed and well mounted, and declared himself enemy of the Americans and of Moncada as well.
 
On arrival at San Albino, about the end of May, he appeared with a troop of about 50 men, stating that he had come for powder and to kill Americans. He demanded from me, upon pain of death, the delivery to him of 500 lbs. of dynamite, 1500 caps and 200 feet of fuse, with the repeatedly expressed object of killing Americans. I was obliged to furnish these articles. He thoroughly frightened our entire white staff.

This statement of killing the Americans was in line with all his private statements, which I later ascertained he had made continually while in my employ. That all the Americans should be killed or driven out of the country. This statement seemed to have emanated from Mexico, where he claims he was an officer in revolutionary force for 11 years, and constantly preached the doctrine of Boshevikism always carrying with him the black and red flag with skull and cross bones which he declares to be the emblem of bolshevekism.
 
He is a socialist and a fanatic. He [is] constantly preaching the brotherhood of man and claiming that there are no officers in his army, but all comrades, and continually repeating and emphasizing the friendship that they should have for Mexico, because of the contribution of arms and ammunitions which he claims was a free gift of that country to enable them to fight off the Americans influence always patting their rifles as he handed it to the man who volunteered, as a gift from Mexico to the Nicaraguan soldiers to enable him to gain his freedom from imperialistic Americans. "Mexico our friend, America our enemy, always."

When calmly talked to, he would state that he didn't intend to kill unoffending Americans but only American soldiers, but this is a distinction which his men cannot be expected to draw. He has with him Mexican officers. One of his bugler was rather well educated. He states I came from Mexico to prepare this district to take part in the revolution. As soon as my mission is over, I shall return. Of course he had full knowledge of the impending revolution aided by Mexico and has taken an active part.
 
/s/ Charles Butters.

NA127/198/GN-2 File 1928

Below:  Aerial view of San Albino Mine looking north, late 1927.

US National Archives, Record Group 127, Entry 38, Box 29.

 

Ancillary Documents and Photographs

 

 

on San Albino Mine

The following documents can be accessed as JPEG files:

 

1.  Charles Butters, San Francisco CA to General Augustino Sandino [sic] via Pedro Jose Zepeda, Mexico City, 21 June 1930, USNA127/38/30.

 (p. 2)

2.  Charles Butters, Berkeley CA to Gen. Calvin B. Matthews, Managua, 16 Nov. 1931.

 (p. 2).

3.  Charles Butters to Gen. Calvin B. Matthews, 18 Nov. 1931.

4.  Present Condition of Mine Property at San Albino, GN District Commander John Hamas to Jefe Director GN, 22 Dec. 1931.

(p. 2).

5.  Charles Butters to Gen. C. B. Matthews, 16 Feb. 1932.

 

 


 

 

The following photographs of the ruins of San Albino Mine, taken in early 2007, were kindly provided by Mr. Dan Plazak, a geologist, engineer, and author of a fascinating history of mining scandals in the US mining industry, A Hole in the Ground with a Liar at the Top, University of Utah Press, 2006.  His account of finding the San Albino Mine can be found in an MSWord file here.  Thanks Dan!

 

 

 

T O P     1 0 0     D O C S      •      H O M E P A G E     L I S T 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

41

42

43

44

45

46

47

48

49

50

51

52

53

54

55

56

57

58

59

60

61

62

63

64

65

66

67

68

69

70

71

72

73

74

75

76

77

78

79

80

81

82

83

84

85

86

87

88

89

90

91

92

93

94

95

96

97

98

99

100

top of page