World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Guardia Rural
A detachment of Rurales in field uniform during the Diaz era.
Active 1861 - 1914 (first stage),
1920s-1950s (second stage),
1970s-present (modern)
Country  Mexico
Branch Mexican Army
Type Gendarmerie
Nickname(s) Rurales

Historic mounted police force:
Franco-Mexican War
Mexican Indian Wars
Skeleton Canyon Massacre
Guadalupe Canyon Massacre
Garza Revolution
Cananea strike
Mexican Revolution

Modern militia:
Cristero War
Mexican War on Drugs

Rurales (Spanish for "Rurals") is a Mexican term used to describe two different government forces:

  • The modern Cuerpo de Defensa Rural (Rural Defense Corps): members of a part-time voluntary militia, used to support federal forces, like the ones deployed in the State of Michoacan as Parapolice to fight against local drug cartels.


  • Rural Guard 1
    • Origins 1.1
    • French Intervention 1.2
    • Under Porfirio Diaz 1.3
    • Under Francisco Madero and Victoriano Huerta 1.4
  • Rural Defense Corps 2
    • Origins 2.1
    • Modern Rurales 2.2
    • As Anti-organised crime strategy 2.3
  • The Rurales in fiction 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Rural Guard

The Guardia Rural was established as a federal constabulary by the Liberal regime of Benito Juárez in 1861. This mounted rural police force became best known during the long rule of President Porfirio Díaz (1877–1911).


As originally constituted under Juárez the Rurales lacked the numbers and organisation to effectively control the Guardia Civil"). Established in 1844 the Spanish Guardia had quickly won a reputation as an effective but often oppressive force.

French Intervention

The existing Corps of Rurales was absorbed into the Republican Army and irregular forces opposing the French intervention of 1862–1867. However the Imperial regime of Archduke Maximilian (1862–1867) created a parallel force known as the Resguardo, which by October 1865 numbered 12,263;[1] indicating that the concept of a rural mounted police force had become well established. Following the Republican victory, Los Cuerpos Rurales were re-established.

Under Porfirio Diaz

President Porfirio Díaz had expanded the Rurales from a few hundred men to nearly 2,000 by 1889 as part of his programme of modernization and (eventually) repression. Initially some captured bandits were forcibly inducted into the Rurales, as had been the case under Juárez. The system of recruitment however subsequently became a more conventional one of volunteer enlistment. Officers were usually seconded from the Federal Army. The Rurales were heavily armed, carrying sabers, carbines, lassos and pistols. They were divided into ten corps, each comprising three companies of about 76 men.

The Porfirian regime deliberately fostered the image of the Rurales as a ruthless and efficient organization which – under the notorious ley fuga ("law of flight") – seldom took prisoners and which inevitably got its man. However, research by Professor Paul J. Vanderwood during the 1970s involving detailed examination of the records of the corps indicated that the Rurales were neither as effective nor as brutal as regime publicists had suggested. The daily pay of 1.30 pesos was not high and up to 25% of recruits deserted before completing their four-year enlistments.[2]

Never numbering more than about 4,000 men and located in small detachments, the Rurales were too thinly spread to ever completely eliminate unrest in the Mexican countryside. They did however impose a superficial order, especially in the central regions around

  • Library of Congress Country Study on Mexico Rurales article

External links

  • John W. Kitchens, "Some Considerations on the "Rurales" of Porfirian Mexico," Journal of Inter-American Studies," (1967) 9#3 pp 441–455 in JSTOR
  • Paul J. Vanderwood. Disorder and Progress: Bandits, Police, and Mexican Development (1992) online
  • Paul Vanderwood, "Genesis of the Rurales: Mexico's Early Struggle for Public Security," Hispanic American Historical Review (1970) 50#2 pp. 323–344 in JSTOR

Further reading

  1. ^ Rene Chartrand, page 23 "The Mexican Adventure 1861-67", ISBN 1-85532-430-X
  2. ^ Paul J.Vanderwood, page 101 "Disorder and Progress - Bandits, Police, and Mexican Development", ISBN 0-8420-2438-7
  3. ^ Page 120, "Disorder and Progress - Bandits, Police and Mexican Development", Paul J. Vanderwood, ISBN 978-0-8420-2439-6
  4. ^ Pages 29-30, "The Mexican Revolution 1910-20", P. Jowett & A de Quesada, ISBN 0-8420-2439-5
  5. ^ page 56, "The Mexican Revolution 1910-20", P. Jowett & A de Quesada, ISBN 0-8420-2439-5
  6. ^ Page 162, "Disorder and Progress - Bandits, Police and Mexican Development", Paul J. Vanderwood ISBN 0-8420-2439-5
  7. ^ The Mexican Revolution 1910-20, P. Jowett & A. de Quesada ISBN 1-84176-989-4
  8. ^
  9. ^

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies.


See also

"Rurales? They're a sort of country police; but don't draw any mental crayon portraits of the worthy constable with a tin star and a gray goatee. The rurales---well, if we'd mount our Supreme Court on broncos, arm 'em with Winchesters, and start 'em out after John Doe et al. we'd have about the same thing."

The Rurales make an appearance in O. Henry's short story, "Hostages to Momus". O. Henry, writing through the first-person narration of the character Tecumseh Pickens, gives a colorful sketch of the Rurales:

The Rurales in fiction

The modern Rurales are used to support federal forces as part of the Mexican war on Drugs. This is the case of the state of Michocan, where the Government attempts to prevent violence and acts of civilian vigilantism (like the creation of unregulated armed security groups) by deploying Rurales to fight against local drug cartels.[8][9]

As Anti-organised crime strategy

The basic unit is the platoon (pelotón) of eleven members under immediate control of the ejido. Use of the unit outside the ejidos is by order of the military zone commander. One asset of the corps is the capacity of its members to gather intelligence about activities within the ejidos and in remote rural areas seldom patrolled by military zone detachments. Corps members also act as guides for military patrols, participate in civic-action projects, and assist in destroying marijuana crops and preventing the transport of narcotics through their areas.

The Rural Defense Force numbered some 120,000 in 1970, but was being phased out in the 1990s. The IISS's The Military Balance listed the corps as having only 14,000 members in 1996. The volunteers, aged eighteen to fifty, enlist for a three-year period. Members do not wear uniforms or receive pay for their service but are eligible for limited benefits. They are armed with outmoded rifles, which may be the chief inducement to enlist. Rudimentary training is provided by troops assigned to military zone detachments.

Modern Rurales

Originally formed as village self-defence groups during the agrarian disturbances of the 1920s. They do not have any functions that parallel those of the paramilitary mounted police force of the 1861–1914 era. This corps was formally organized under army jurisdiction according to the Organic Law of 1926. Its origins, however, date back to the period when the revolutionary agrarian reform program was first implemented in 1915. In efforts to protect themselves against the collective farms (ejidos). After 1955 participation in the Rural Defense Force was expanded to include small farmers and laborers. All defense units, however, were attached to ejidos, possibly as a means to guarantee control.


Today's Rurales are a part-time militia called the Cuerpo de Defensa Rural (Rural Defense Corps).

Rural Defense Corps

After the overthrow of Díaz in 1911, the Rurales continued in existence under Presidents Francisco I. Madero (1911–1913) and Victoriano Huerta (1913–1914). Madero left the force essentially unchanged, although introducing legislation intended to prevent corpsmen, other than senior officers, from carrying out summary executions without due trial process.[6] In practice the induction of large numbers of Maderista fighters on a temporary basis while awaiting discharge simply diluted such efficiency as the corps had retained. Huerta saw a more central role for the Rurales and directed officers of the Corps to murder Madero after the "Ten Tragic Days" of 1913. He then proposed to expand the existing units into a field force of over ten thousand men serving alongside the regular Federal troops. Recruiting and desertion problems prevented this ever becoming a realistic project. The remains of the Guardia Rural were finally disarmed and disbanded during July-August 1914, along with the old Federal Army, when Huerta fled into exile.[7]

During the early stages of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, detachments of Rurales served alongside Federal troops against the rebel forces. While retaining an elite image (one revolutionary fighter commented to a US writer that Rurales never surrendered "because they are police"), the force was too weak in numbers and dispersed in deployment to play a decisive role.

Under Francisco Madero and Victoriano Huerta

A graphical timeline is available at

This dress, their frequent involvement in ceremonial parades and their general reputation, invariably drew the attention of foreign visitors to Mexico during the Porfiriato. They were variously described as "the world's most picturesque policemen" and "mostly bandits". The former may have true but the latter was a distorted memory of the rough-and-ready early days of the corps. Some of the Mexican states maintained their own rural mounted police forces and an efficient city police operated in Mexico City, but none matched the Federal Rurales in notoriety or glamour.

The Rurales achieved a high profile internationally, rather like that of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Texas Rangers, whose roles they paralleled. They wore a distinctive grey uniform braided in silver, which was modelled on the national charro dress and included a wide sombrero and red or black necktie. Senior officers wore elaborate rank insignia which cost hundreds of pesos. The corps number appeared in silver on both the headdress and a leather carbine cross-belt.[5]


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.