Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Don Luis Terrazas Mexican Cattle Kings

By S. Glen Andrus

Don Luis Terrazas
King of all cattle kings of the world, the largest single land owner on the American continent, and the most modest, simple hearted millionaire in Christendom."

This is what one of the best known bankers in the Republic of Mexico said to me when I asked him to present me to Don Luis Terrazas, of the city of Chihuahua. The statement, I learned later, came very near being literally true. A man who owns in fee simple 8,000,000 acres of the finest grazing land in Mexico and whose brand marks more than 1,000, 000 head of cattle, half as many sheep and several hundred thousand horses, can be called the king of cattle kings without stretching a point. When this same man can read his title clear to be­tween 20,000,000 and 30,000,000 acres of land all told, his right to the distinction of being the largest individual land owner on the American continent is not in danger of being seriously questioned. Furthermore, when he resides in a home so severely plain and unassuming that the passerby would not dignify it by a second glance, and shuns society and pomp and show and notoriety as eagerly as many American millionaires seek them, you will agree that he is possibly the most modest and simple hearted millionaire in all Christendom.

Facts and accurate figures regarding Don Luis Terrazas and his interests are difficult to obtain. It has been the policy of the Terrazas family for generations not to talk of their affairs with a view to publicity. A still more cogent reason is to be found in the taxes imposed by the Mexican government upon the products of land. On all his vast land holdings this cattle king does not pay one penny of revenue to the government. Upon every product of his land he pays hearty tribute. The tax upon cattle is two per cent of their valuation. Add to this thirty per cent of the two per cent which is imposed for revenue stamps, and the burden falls somewhat heavily. As a rule, Mexicans think it no offense against morals or good breeding to conceal facts from the tax gatherers, and in this they are no whit better nor worse than the American tax dodger. Accordingly, it is an impossible task in Mexico to obtain anything like exact figures regarding the possessions of men of wealth. This ac­counts for the widely diverging stories which have been told about the wealth of the Terrazas family. One member of the family assured me that the entire land holding amounted to no more than 1,000 stitios or about 15,000 acres and evi­dently believed that I believed it. Good authorities assured me that the amount was fully 28,000.000 acres, while the best informed said: "No one outside the Terrazas family knows."

Quinta Carolina, summer home of Don Luis Terrazas
There is one fact, however, that is patent and gives some idea of the almost limitless extent of the Terrazas land holdings. The traveler has no more than left a Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific car at El Paso, on the border, and taken a seat in a Mexican Central train, before he is on the estate of Don Louis Terrazas, and the largest cattle ranch in the world. All day he rides at express speed and still it is Terrazas' lands which meet his gaze from the Pullman car window and Terrazas' cattle and sheep and horses that are fattening on the rich para grass. No one has taken the trouble to ascertain the exact area of this the largest single ranch in the world. You ride through it on the train for a distance of 150 miles, and it varies from 100 to 200 miles east and west. Esti­mates of its size vary from 2,000,000 to 8,000,000 acres, and I am inclined to be­lieve that the first figure is the nearer correct. The vastness of Terrazas' land holdings inspires the average man with awe. It is almost incomprehensible.

In various parts of the state of Chihuahua, Terrazas has ten mammoth ranches upon which are constantly em­ployed fully 10,000 men. These ranches cover large portions of the districts of Iturbide, Galeana, Bravos and Guerreo. Fully 100,000 acres of his estate are under cultivation.

Every twelve months there is marketed from these ranches between 100,000 and 150,000 head of cattle, which average in price between $20 and $40 per head, and fully half as many sheep and horses.

Entrance to Quinta Carolina
The value of the Terrazas estate is esti­mated all the way between $200,000,000 and $300,000,000. Mexican money: Don Luis is undoubtedly the richest man in the state of Chihuahua and among the richest of the republic. One would think that such interests as these would be sufficient to absorb the atten­tion of one man. Not so, for his ranches, his cattle, his sheep and his horses are but a part of the great finan­cial interests which Don Luis Terrazas possesses. He is the heaviest stock holder in the Banco Minero of Chihua­hua; in the Agricultural and Mortgage Bank, City of Mexico; in the Banco Central Mexicano, the Anglo-Mexican Banking Company of the same city and of the Mercantile Bank of Monterey. He holds a controlling interest in the Chihuahua woolen mills, flour factory, clothing factor, street car system and brewery and is one of the largest owners of the Chihuahua & Pacific Railway, which is the best built railroad in the republic.

In short, Don Luis Terrazas is one of the most influential men in Mexico, a close friend of President Diaz and a power financially and politically. To an American it is almost inconceivable that such a man is very little known even in his own country. Outside of the state of Chihuahua, Don Luis Terrazas has comparatively small renown, despite the fact that he has been a history maker for his nation and was in the thick of public affairs for more than a quarter of a cen­tury when no man of prominence in Mexico knew whether his head would rest on his shoulders the following day.

Millionaires in Mexico have a vastly different existence than in the United States, when it comes to the matter of publicity. There are many men in the republic whose wealth passes the $50,000,000 mark and still they are almost unknown outside the state where they reside. This is largely ac­counted for by the fact that the press of Mexico does not chronicle the doings of million­aires as they are chronicled in the press of the United States. When a man becomes the possessor of many millions his name is not made a by-word from end to end of the country. If one-tenth of what is written about the prominent millionaires of this country were to be written of the millionaires of Mexico, the prisons would be filled with newspaper and magazine editors and publishers. Libel laws in the southern republic are not things to be trifled with; and it is the easiest country in the world in which to break into jail and one of the hardest in which to get out. Once in jail in Mexi­co and the victim must prove that he ought to be out. His accuser is not expected to prove that he ought to be in.

Patio in Terrazas' home
In all Mexico there are about 50,000,000 acres of rich grazing land. Not more than one-fifth of it is in use. Ten years ago very little of it was in use and five years ago not more than one-twen­tieth had herds roaming over it. Ten years from now, with the present per­centage of increase in the cattle indus­try, every acre of it will be teeming with fattening herds and grazing land will be at a premium. This may appear some­what optimistic, but the industry is increasing at the rate of between twenty and twenty-five per cent yearly and such powerful advocates as Don Luis Terrazas are showing the government and the people what Mexico's grazing lands mean to Mexico. Cattle men of our southwest see in Mexico a serious menace to their industry. At present about seven per cent of the Mexican cattle are sent to the United States, and exporta­tion is being greatly facilitated through the efforts of the officials of the Rock Island and Mexican Central railroads, which are making extremely favorable rates. The percentage of cattle exports is rapidly increasing.

No man in the republic has done so much as Senor Terrazas to foster and promote the cattle industry. He in­duced the government to remove the tax on blooded cattle and has since been importing blooded bulls from the states by the car load. In this way the grade of his stock has been steadily im­proving until his ranches are filled with as fine cattle as any ranch in the great southwest of our own country. Another dream which Don Luis expects to real­ize is to teach Mexico the value of dressed meats. Mexicans are the greatest meat eaters on earth, but they kill their beef one hour and eat it the next. Don Louis has begun his campaign by erecting in Chihuahua a large modern packing house, the first and only one in the republic. Soon he will have another in the city of Mexico.

The Chihuahua packing house has a capacity of 1,000 cattle, sheep and hogs daily; it is conducted by American fore­man and American workmen and has all the conveniences of a modern institution of the kind in the United States. Canned goods are manufactured there and put in cans made in the establishment. From the packing in­dustry Don Luis ex­pects much in the next decade.

Terrazas' Packing House, the only one in Mexico
Not far from the site of the packing house and but eight miles from the city of Chihuahua stands Quinta Carolina, the summer home of the Terrazas family and, next to Chapultepec, the most famous cas­tle in the republic. It cost nearly $2,000,000 and is built of exquisitely beautiful marble brought from far off Italy. Inside and out, the castle, which is of Swiss architecture, is of marble. The inside presents richness and beauty rarely met with even in homes of millionaires. Workmen from Europe were brought over to decorate the walls and ceilings, and the marts of Europe were ransacked to provide the furnishings. The garden upon which the castle fronts is one of the most beautiful in the republic, which is a republic of flowers and flower gardens. The castle was built by Don Luis for the son who will succeed him as the head of the family and, although he goes there to live at the beginning of the rainy season, the home is not so dear to him as his modest city dwelling.

Don Luis Terrazas is essentially a home man. His time is spent either with his family or on his ranches. This sturdy man of millions is seventy-three years of age, but he still retains and, more than this, countless thousands of acres of land which are not now avail­able for grazing purposes will be redeemed.

In his habits Terrazas is as simple as most millionaires are the reverse. He has few joys apart from his own family. He rarely goes out to entertainments, is fond of books, especially fond of history and is a consummate horseman. He is charitable, has built several churches and is the idol of the poor in the state of Chihuahua. His family consists of twelve-children, eight of whom are men. Luis Terrazas will be his successor and is now in nominal charge of the ranch entire general supervision of his vast interests. The day after 1 reached Chihuahua he started on a trip of personal inspection which was to cover every mile of his vast landed possessions. He has an amazing capacity for detail and knows to a penny what is expended monthly upon every ranch and what revenue each brings. Just now he is intent upon problems of irrigation. Recently he has constructed four reser­voirs at a cost of nearly $300,000 and expects to equip his entire lands with them where they are needed. In dry seasons thousands upon thousands of Don Luis' cattle and sheep die of starvation. Soon this will be impossible; interests. Frederico Terrazas, another son, lives with him and has charge of his banking interests. The family is truly a remarkable one. Early in the present year there was a family reunion and there sat at the table or were carried in arms exactly one hundred children and grand­children of Don Luis and Senora Terrazas. Before the dinner was over Don Luis received word that another grand-child had been presented to him. This remarkable millionaire believes in Americanism and in the beneficial effects of the "American invasion" of Mexico. It is one of his keenest regrets that he does not speak English, and he has taken care that his sons shall not feel the same regret. Every one of the Terrazas boys and some of the girls received their education in the United States. Some attended Notre Dame, others a college in St. Louis.

In the future of the Mexican republic Don Luis has implicit faith. With a government of wisdom and broad mindedness such as the Mexicans have had for a quarter of a century, he assured me, the republic is destined to take her place among the world powers.

View of ranch from top of Packing House

from The National Magazine, October 1902.


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