On this day in 1811 – (205 years ago) – Father Miguel Hidalgo, leader of the first great struggle for Mexican independence, was executed in Chihuahua, Mexico, by a Spanish firing squad. According to some accounts, his body was then decapitated for good measure. While Hidalgo had violated his Catholic priestly vows by fathering at least two children, and had made serious tactical blunders as an inexperienced military leader, he was nonetheless widely admired for his courage, political leadership, and dedication to the freedom and economic security of Mexico’s poorest people. With his partner Ignacio Allende, Hidalgo raised a peasant’s army that tormented the colonial rulers in several Mexican cities before he was finally captured by a traitor and turned over to the Spanish.
On this day in 1865 – (151 years ago) – The paddle steamboat Brother Jonathan, en route from San Francisco to Portland with 244 passengers and crew and a large shipment of gold, was several miles off the coast of northern California when it got caught in a violent storm and hit a rock that tore a big gash in its hull. As the ship began sinking, the crew tried to deploy lifeboats, but most of them capsized in the heavy waves, rain, and wind. Only one lifeboat, carrying nineteen survivors, made it safely to land. The other 225 people aboard the Brother Jonathan died as the steamboat sank in 275 feet of water just a few miles from shore. Before it hit bottom, the boat was apparently carried several miles by underwater currents, so that the wreck was not located until 1993. It contains a hoard of gold coins and bars now valued at an estimated fifty million dollars, most of which still lies on the sea floor.
On this day in 1975 – (41 years ago) – Jimmy Hoffa, former president of the powerful and corrupt Teamsters union, had an appointment to meet with two Mafia caporegimes outside a suburban Detroit restaurant. Several witnesses saw him waiting in the parking lot, and then leaving in a car with three other men. Hoffa was never seen or heard from again. He had recently been sprung from prison by President Richard Nixon, who had commuted his sentence for a conviction on bribery, fraud, and jury tampering. It’s now believed that Hoffa was trying to regain his former job as Teamsters president, but that the mob had other ideas. After he disappeared, federal investigators searched for his remains on a farm in Wixom, Michigan, owned by a Teamsters official. Later, Hoffa’s former driver claimed that Hoffa was buried in wet cement in the foundation of Detroit’s huge Renaissance Center, which was under construction when he disappeared, and which is now the corporate headquarters of General Motors. More recently, Hoffa was rumored to have been shot to death in Michigan, and his remains run through a cardboard shredding machine, packed inside a fifty-five- gallon oil drum, driven to New Jersey, and buried in a landfill there. But in spite of repeated investigations and testimony from diverse witnesses, a grand jury in Detroit never found enough evidence for an indictment. Investigators now say that the mystery of Hoffa’s disappearance will probably never be solved.
Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi