The Historical Text Archive: Electronic History Resources, online since 1990 Bringing you digitized history, primary and secondary sources
HTA Home Page | Articles | Mexico/The Porfiriato | Creel Cuilty, Enrique C.

Email to a friend
Printer friendly

Creel Cuilty, Enrique C.


Stafford Youkey

The extent of Enrique Creel's accomplishments is hard to envision. Starting with his birth in Chihuahua, Mexico to his death in Mexico City, Enrique's seventy-seven year life was spent as a student, businessman, economist, banker, governor, ambassador, husband, and father. Creel was born on August 30, 1854 to a wealthy American consul, Rubén W. Creel, and his wife, Paz Cuilty. He spent his youth studying under Professor Adolfo Virad . He had the chance to visit Russia and other European countries on various study trips. At age fourteen, he started working in his father's business. When he was at home, he was expected to help his mother and younger brothers take care of the household duties. He eventually received an honorary law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

His intelligence and strength in business quickly separated him from the others that grew up with similar lifestyles. His marriage to Angela Terrazas, the daughter of the wealthy landowner, Don Luis Terrazas, probably helped a little also. Angela was actually his first cousin because Don Terrazas was married to Paz Cuilty's sister, Carolina. Together, Creel and Terrazas owned over 8.7 million acres of land and owned textile mills, railroads, haciendas, and ranches. The extent of their wealth is not fully known to many but in the thirty years prior to the Mexican Revolution the value of rural land in Chihuahua rose from $.30/acre to $9.88/acre. Just in rural landholdings alone, their wealth could have been calculated to more than $69 million before the revolution. They founded the Terrazas-Creel clan in Chihuahua and through 66 terms in the state legislature and 22 terms in the national legislature, their powerhouse continued through the members of the Terrazas-Creel extended family. The Terrazas-Creel clan and the state of Chihuahua are prime examples of how the hacienda system can bring great wealth and prestige to a family and a region.

Creel's life extended through a very important time in Mexico's history. Railroads were being built to export commercial goods, land was being expanded to increase production in order to buy expensive new machinery, and thus social classes were being formed. One of the main goals of Porfirio Díaz was to make the wealthy, elite landowners, most of whom were his friends, even richer than they already were. Enrique and his father-in-law enjoyed great wealth during Díaz's reign and owned many haciendas, railroads, banks, granaries, telephone companies, and several mines.

Dynamite and explosives were in great demand in Mexico due to the booming mining industry and the constant need for ammunition by the Mexican Army. Díaz placed his son, Porfirio Díaz, Jr.; the treasury minister's son, Julio Limantour; and Creel as the board of directors of the National Mexican Company of Dynamite and Explosives. They were able to gain a huge competitive edge over the competition by imposing an 80% import tariff on dynamite and a steep tax on consumption. Enrique Creel served as Secretary of Foreign Relations after the death of Ignacio Mariscal and flourished in wealth and responsibility during the reign of Porfirio Díaz. His duties as Foreign Relations Secretary (May 4, 1910 - March 26, 1911) included confronting problems such as the controversial strip of terrain called El Chamizal, which was temporarily leased to the White House in order to combine maneuvers of their Pacific and Atlantic fleets. He also coordinated invitations to all the governments throughout the world that Mexico had friendly relations with to celebrate the centennial ceremony of Mexico's independence. He worked with the Mexican ambassador in Washington to organize necessary forces to avoid the importation of groups of armed forces that wanted to overthrow and demolish Díaz. In 1878, he was elected regime leader of Chihuahua, and was a delegate of many federal and local elections.

Perhaps if Creel's achievements could be divided into the two most important ones, the most important would be his role as the founder and president of the first ever Chamber of Commerce in Chihuahua. Established on January 30, 1887, it facilitated the age of business and industry in the city. Through Creel's vision the guild is able to handle multiple activities of commerce in order to take care of common interests. Secondly, he extended Albert Kinsey Owen's vision of nationalizing the railway and in 1914 completed the line from Kansas City to La Junta, Chihuahua. Creel and Owen and other entrepreneurs of their time helped contribute to the massive expansion of the railway systems in the late 1800's. Increasing from 750 miles of track in the 1860's to over 12,000 miles by 1900, the railways allowed for domestic markets to greatly expand, raw materials to be easily transported, and the integration of people and workers among the Mexico-US border.

In 1904, Creel followed Terrazas into the governor's mansion of Chihuahua, Mexico. He immediately started making laws that permitted the sale of underutilized community land to outsiders. This led to an increase of land transfers and demoted many Chihuahua residents to landless laborers. Furthermore, the economic depression of 1907 and 1908 caused Chihuahua to be a center of revolutionary activity because many Mexicans could not find temporary work on either side of the border. Creel did establish annual vacation plans for employees and the construction of government funding for low-wage workers.

Creel was the head of countless corporations and agencies. He was the president of the Monetary Commission and the Central American Railway; collaborator of the Committee of Peace of Latin America; president of the Mexican Society of Geography and Statistics; the founder of the Mexican Astronomy Society; president of the Bankers Association of Mexico, the Casino of Chihuahua, and the Telephone Company of Chihuahua and Durango; founding stockholder and manager of the Mining Bank of Chihuahua; as well as vice-president of the Chihuahua-Pacific Railroad and the Kansas City railroad in 1902. He also served as the interpreter between President Taft and Díaz during their meeting in 1909. Whether these opportunities fell into his lap because of his position in Chihuahua or he was just incredibly motivated in his entrepreneurial behaviors, he was involved in over thirty important organizations that shaped the development of Mexico's economy and government.

The Terrazas-Creel clan represented the epitome of power and glory in the early twentieth century mind's eye and therefore was the envy and root of vengeance for many local revolutionaries. During Pancho Villa's sweep of the nation in 1913, he expropriated much of the Terrazas-Creel family's land holdings, banks, and mines while many of their other assets were lost through forced loans and confiscations. During the naval stage of the Mexican Revolution, Creel left the country to live somewhere in exile. Throughout the next twenty years Luis Terrazas and his family were able to recover most of their land holdings and about 1.2 million acres of prime land. Creel eventually returned from exile to recover the family's banking business and to be an important advisor of President Obregón.

At the time of his death on August 18,1931, Enrique Creel was survived by his two sons, Alberto and Juan, and a daughter, Adela, who later married another Chihuahua governor, Joaquín Cortazar. His sons were left large holdings of their own and the city of Creel, Mexico was named for their father. Creel is the commercial center of the Tarahumara region, which Enrique had always planned to improve. This region is now important for its timber and tourist industry. Creel is a settlement situated in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range in northern Mexico and the city of Chihuahua. Due to the vast Tarahumara Indian culture and Copper Canyon, which displays a plaque of Creel's lifetime accomplishments, this region has become a big tourist town and a lasting dedication to Enrique Creel.