Moisés Castro, implicated in crimes of Juan Butón
statement by captured bandit Moisés Castro
contains an intriguing mixture of fact
and fabrication. I call Castro a "bandit"
because the evidence shows that he was not a
Sandinista, but instead a member of the gang led
by the notorious Conservative gang leader,
rapist, and ex-Guardia Juan Heriberto Rodríguez,
a.k.a. "Colonel Juan Butón." As was true
of Dionisio Arteta (p.
46), "Colonel Butón" was a
criminal. After his incarceration in the
National Penitentiary in Managua on July 26,
1928, and serving less than seven months for
various vicious crimes, including rape and
murder, he was released on February 18, 1929 on
the condition he serve in the Guardia.
Then, after quitting or deserting from the
Guardia, he formed a band of his own,
terrorizing the inhabitants in the district east
of Estelí before being hunted down and killed at
Nance Dulce on August 6, 1930. (Photo
of Conservative troops at the end of the Civil
War; caption reads: "Colonel Rosa Forina
(center) and her two aides de camp. A Nicaraguan
Amazon who raised a company of fifty men and
women to fight Moncada's Liberal army. She was a
Conservative for President Díaz";
Moisés Castro's statement is followed by the
patrol report of Lt. George C. Smith, who led
the attack on Butón's gang at Nance Dulce and
captured Castro. It's a fascinating report, as
is the endorsement by Capt. McDonald. The
strongest evidence that these were not
Sandinistas are the descriptions of rape: as
noted previously, Sandino absolutely did not tolerate
rape. Another strong piece of evidence is that
none of his men had any documented affiliation
with Sandinista bands.
statement thus needs to be read with
great skepticism. Just about everything he
said about Sandino was probably fabricated
(e.g., Sandino was not wounded by airplane
shrapnel at Yucapuca, but rather, at Saraguasca;
he was injured but did not take ill; he had not
yet returned to Nicaragua in March 1930; et
cetera). In that sense, his tales suggest
what was popularly rumored amongst ordinary
Segovianos at the time: that Sandino had
been wounded; that he camped at Chipote; etc.
Castro's statement suggests how hard it could be
for the Marines & Guardia to disentangle truth
from lies in the statements of their captured
as the phenomenon of "Colonel Juan Butón" shows
how robbers, rapists, and murderers exploited
the political environment created by the US
invasion and occupation to commit their heinous
Department Commander, Department of Esteli.
The Jefe Director
The Area Commander, Northern Area, Ocotal
Subject: Statement of bandit
prisoner, Moises Castro.
1. Forwarded is statement of
subject named prisoner who was captured in
contact at Nance Dulce 6 August 1930.
have been a bandit for over two years and
captured fighting the Guardia with Colonel
Buton's army at Nance Dulce. We were only about
forty strong in this battle and the Guardia
badly defeated us, captured all our animals and
killed our Chiefs, Colonel Buton and Palmazon
and all our store of ammunition.
I was fighting by the side of General Sandino at
Yucapuca when we were attacked by six American
airplanes [report here] and about three hundred
Guardias. General Sandino was wounded twice in
this battle, once in the left leg and once in
the left shoulder. General Sandino is in ill
health and has all his men do his work for him.
He is armed with two forty-five pistols and has
a doctor who takes care of our wounded soldiers
whose name is Alejandro Herrera, who comes from
Suni, Honduras. After General Sandino was
wounded at Yucapuca, Doctor Alejandro Herrera of
San Rafael del Norte, Jinotega, treated the
wounds of our General and assisted in caring for
the wounded solders. General Sandino was wounded
by one of the airplanes. Sandino's whole left
leg is stiff and he walks with difficulty. After
the planes bombed our position and the Guardias
attacked us we changed our position during the
night as the planes knew our position too well.
With our General at Yucapuca were two ex-Marines
who stay continually with Sandino and are expert
machine-gunners. One of them as been with
General Altamirano for a long time and now is a
trusted jefe. He is tall and slim, has a few
freckles on his face, and has red hair. He used
to be the jefe doctor with General Pedron. The
other is tall and has dark hair but is white the
same as the red-headed ex-Marine. I do not know
their names, as we all call them by their rank
of lieutenant. Both of these ex-Marines arrived
with General Sandino from Honduras and are part
of his personal guard.
During the month of July, 1930, Sandino was
camped on the Rio Grande near Cua. After the
fight Sandino formed all the troops and Generals
and told us that we should not be discouraged by
our defeat, that there would be future
activities with victory. We only have seven
machine guns, and most of the soldiers are armed
with Drag rifles and a few Springfields, but we
have a lot of trouble getting enough ammunition.
Pedro Blandon was the jefe in the fight at Los
Brasiles. The other jefes were Lopez, Ortez,
Buton, and Vaquedano. After this fight General
Sandino sent us workd to re-assemble at Chipote.
Pedro Blandon is supplied with ammunition by
Antonio Altamirano who lives at Llano el
Chaguite. Antonio Cruz of Colon, a neighbor of
Antonio Altamirano provided us with food. Most
of our mounts were stolen from Ciriaco Gonzalez
and Simeon Gonzalez and others whose names I do
not know, on the Mesa of Moropotente. We take
the stolen animals to Honduras and sell them,
with this money we buy arms and ammunition.
I do not know where or whom the Generals bought
the arms from, as in our army the Generals
handle all the money. I fought against the
Guardia at Yucapuca, Los Brasiles, Saraguasca,
and Nance Dulce. I have only fought twice
actually with Sandino's army, once with Colonel
Blandon and once with Colonel "Juan Buton." I
had one hundred rounds of ammunition at the
battle of Nance Dulce and a Krag rifle. These
articles I threw away when I was captured by the
Esteli Guardia at the battle of Nance Dulce. At
Yucapuca we had a lot more than two hundred well
armed soldiers, and if it were not for the
airplanes, we could have captured Jinotega.
General Sandino does not pay us in cash for
wages, but furnishes his army with clothing,
arms and ammunition. During my services I
received two complete outfits of clothing, one
after the fight at Yucapuca and the other after
we returned to Chipote after the fight at Las
Brasiles. General Sandino has old camps at
Guapinol, and Pena Blanca, but his big main
camps are by the side of, and on, Chipote. The
machine guns which we have were brought to us at
Chipote by a group of Hondurans who returned to
Honduras after they had delivered the arms and
ammunition to General Sandino on 11 March 1930,
at Chipote on the Rio Negro. There were three
pack mules which carried six cases of ammunition
and four pack mules which brought in the seven
machine guns. I saw all this personally and
helped to unpack the mules. After the arrival of
these supplies, General Sandino issued one
machine gun to General Pedron, and one case of
ammunition. The other equipment was distributed
among Pedro Blandon, Colonel Peralta, Candelario
Altamirano, and the other chiefs (Thinks this
man son of Pedron.)
We have a lot of women at Chipote who do our
cooking. General Sandino did not bring his woman
with him to Nicaragua but left her in Honduras,
but after he was wounded he went back to get her
again. We use mainly the La Rica crossing of the
Rio Negro to Chipote and from Chipote there is
nothing to stop us from crossing into and from
Honduras at will. Our main supply of beef we
have to get around the edge of Jinotega and
Esteli border as it is very scarce further
north. Most of our men are well fed and do not
go hungry. When we go out on patrol to get
horses and cattle we carry our rations of
tortillas and dried meat in our sacks, as we
have strict orders not to waste time while
cooking meals in strange houses, and where we do
not know the people well. Every person north of
Esteli are our friends and help us when
necessary, but in Esteli almost every time we
try to get horses and cattle we have had to
fight, and run, and lose all of our animals. We
do not like to have to enter the Esteli area but
we have to, in order to supply the big main
armies at Chipote with food.
/s/ Moises Castro
/s/ D. McDonald
August 8, 1930. PC30.08.08.
Contact Report of Lt. G. C. Smith, Estelí,
with endorsement by Capt. McDonald.
GUARDIA NACIONAL DE NICARAGUA
OFFICE OF THE DEPARTMENT COMMANDER, ESTELI
8 August 1930.
From: 2ndo. Tnte. George
C. Smith, Jr., G.N.
To: The Jefe Director, G.N., Managua
Via: Official Channels.
Subject: Contact Report.
1. On the night of 4 August 1930
information was given me from refugees who arrived in
large numbers, that Pedro Blandon with four other jefes
and a group estimated at one hundred twenty-five bandits
had sacked all the fincas in the Carao area (48.4 -
24.3), on the previous night 3 August 1930.
2. I immediately ordered Lt. John M.
Cobb G.N. and seven enlisted with one sub-Thompson and
rifle with grenades from La Trinidad to Esteli, who
arrived Esteli at 2320 same night. Upon authorization
from the Area Commander, I cleared with a combat patrol
with Lt. Cobb and twenty-five enlisted all mounted, at
0500, 5 August 1930. We proceeded directly to Carao,
where information was gained that the bandit group had
split, Pedro Blandon heading north and Juan Boton
heading south. My informant stated that Boton was close,
as he had raided haciendas on night of 4 August, the
area southeast of Carao. We continued the march
southeast, across the Zapote mountains, arriving at dawn
6 August 1930 at finca of Epifanio Herrera, abut two
leagues east of Sacasti (11.4-H.3, 5th Regt Spl Map of
Nic), in the Department of Jinotega. Men and animals
rested here about three hours. We found this entire area
devastated, the women beaten and raped and the houses
3. We proceeded in the general
direction of Matagalpa from Herrera's finca, arriving at
the finca of Geronimo Rizo, about one half league from
Nance Dulce (12-H) at 1100. A boy of about fourteen
years of age was found here, who, after being threatened
with death, admitted knowing the position of the bandit
camp, and agreed to lead us to it. We approached the
bandit position which was located on the top of a small
rise almost impenetrable on account of heavy brush and
thorn bushes, from the West. About a mile from this
point I ordered the men to dismount and proceeded
forward on foot, leaving two men guarding the animals.
When abut five hundred yards from the enemies position,
I divided my force into three groups, giving Sgto.
Melendez the left flank Lt. Cobb the center and taking
the right flank myself. After covering about half the
distance, Lt. Cobb's party came in sight of the bandits
in their camp, and at once opened fire. The bandits,
although completely surprised, immediately returned our
fire, retreating to the east. I at once ordered a
general advance, the attack being covered by the Lewis
machine gun fire on the right flank, and rifle grenade
fire on the front and left flank. We pursued the fleeing
bandits for about a mile and a half to the east along a
three hundred yard front. The firing, which lasted
approximately two hours, finally ceased, and I ordered
the men to assemble on me, as all were completely
exhausted -- and hand, faces, and uniforms were badly
torn and scratched due to the heavy thorny brush on the
ground the engagement was fought over. I called the roll
and found none dead, wounded or missing. I then
instituted a search of the field. Six dead bandits and
one wounded were found. The wounded one gave his name as
Guillermo Meza and stated that the group numbered
forty-five, that General Juan Boton, Colonel Palmazon,
and Pedro Salgado were the jefes. He identified Boton
and Palmazon amongst the dead. The following articles
were captured from the dead bandits and from the site of
2 Krag Rifles #473878 & #179325 with ammunition belts.
43 Rounds, Ammunition Cal 30 Krag rifle.
2 Long barreled shot-guns, with pouches and large supply
of powder, caps and balls.
9 Mules, 6 horses with complete riding equipment and
blanket rolls with numerous articles of clothing.
6 Revolvers -- two Smith and Wesson, Two Colt, and Two
Spanish, each with ammunition belt and holster.
36 Rounds, in all, pistol ammunition.
1 Automatic Lugar, with attachable shoulder butt, and
3 Dynamite bombs -- 8 Red and Black Hat Bands.
9 Rain Coats, rubber -- 3 flash lights -- 8 Brass Hilted
Numerous articles of Guardia uniforms and equipment
marked with the number #1261.
4. Boton was killed during the first
few minutes of the combat, by a direct hit through the
heart, fired by Raso Pastor Rodriguez, #3220 at a range
of 250 yards. A careful search of the scene for dead and
wounded bandits was impracticable due to the exceedingly
heavy under-brush and thorns. However, Torencio Herrera,
a native living near Nance Dulce reported to me at
Esteli on 7 August 1930 that he had found bodies of six
dead bandits near the scene of the combat, badly eaten
by buzzards. It was estimated, at the time, that twelve
bandits had been wounded, taking into consideration the
numerous signs of blood and the evidence of the captured
5. We cleared the scene of the
contact, after the mounts had been brought up and six
dead bandits and loot had been packed on the captured
animals. Geronimo Rizo, known bandit and member of
Boton's group, was captured hiding in a corn field about
one mile West of Nance Dulce, and was brought prisoner
to Esteli. The patrol arrived Esteli at 2000, 6 August
1930. The dead bandits were put on exhibition in the
park for all to see, and the two captives securely
locked in the brig. Boton and Palmazon were recognized
many times by over two thousand people who viewed their
bodies, and who were very much elated over the death of
these two men. Some of the women who had been raped by
these same two men a few days previously were among the
onlookers. A committee of citizens from Esteli and the
surrounding countryside called in a body at the Cuartel
and offered congratulations to all Guardia. All loot
captured, except the arms and ammunition, has been
returned to the respective owners.
6. 2do Tnte. John M. Cobb, G.N., Sgto
Octavio Melendez #1190, Cabo Bernardo Molina #1203, Raso
Aquilino Lopez #1222, Raso Pastor Rodriguez #3220, and
Raso Pedro Rodriguez #1125, are worthy of special
citation, which I will cover in a separate letter.
7. The patrol was armed with one Lewis
Machine-gun, one sub-Thompson Machine-gun, two
Springfield rifles with grenades and dischargers, and
8. Total distance covered by patrol 63
/s/ George C. Smith, Jr.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
GUARDIA NACIONAL DE NICARAGUA
OFFICE OF THE DEPARTMENT COMMANDER, ESTELI
8 August 1930
From: The Department
Commander, Dept. of Esteli, Esteli, Nic.
The Jefe Director, G.N., Managua, Nic.
Area Commander, Northern Area, Ocotal, Nic.
2. It is recommended that Second Lieutenant
George C. Smith, G.N. be awarded the Navy Cross, for his
excellent leadership and skill which he demonstrated on
this occasion, which resulted in the killing of bandit
General Juan Heriberto Rodriguez and Colonel Palmazon.
The first named bandit leader, alias Juan Boton, has
committed many atrocious crimes, mostly against young
girls ranging from eight to ten years of age. On the day
prior to his death, he raped a small girl eight years of
age at Moropotente, Department of Esteli. His group
ransacked the surrounding countryside and was the cause
of many farmers abandoning their farms, and was
returning from an animal stealing excursion from
Matagalpa when he and his group were attacked by
Lieutenants Smith and Cobbs patrol. His death is a
serious blow to organized banditry and a great relief to
womanhood of this vicinity. Boton was identified by the
Jefe Politico, District Criminal Judge and many other
citizens of Esteli. Buton had a large machete scar on
the back of his neck, by which means he was positively
identified, and his family also stated that there was no
doubt that was the body of Juan Buton. Buton was an old
Guardia and an excellent Lewis machine gun man, and
prior to turning bandit resided in Esteli.
/s/ D. McDonald.
2. September 18, 1928. Description of Guardia
Prisoner C-1, Juan Heriberto Rodríguez,
aka "Juan Butón"
JUAN H. RODRIGUEZ, Number C-1.
Conscripted into Casual Company,Guardia
Nacional, 20th July, 1928 after the Civil Authorities at
Matagalpa had directed his release on bail for having
committed the following offense:
Beating (whipping) Mrs. Félix
a pregnant woman to death. Beating
resulted in death of child also.-- Place:
Other offenses committed by Rodríguez
as mentioned by the Civil Authorities when they
complained about his not being granted his liberty
Wounding Enrique Molina Wounding Estéban
Wounding Dionisio González
Wounding Felipe Hernández
Wounding Perfecto Hernández
GN-2. Comment:-- Rodríguez
is a Conservative and was associated with the Civil
Police Force of Matagalpa. He has a number of
influential Conservative friends and relatives in that
area, who will try to effect his release.
DIVISION DE PENITENCIARIA NACIONAL
GUARDIA NACIONAL DE NICARAGUA
13 February, 1929.
From: The Division Commander
Subject: Prisoners confined in this Penitentiary
on orders other than Judges. ...
... RODRIGUEZ, Juan H., C-1, conscripted 26 July, 1928.
[Handwritten note in margin:] Rel 2/18/29
ABOVE: Political prisoners in the National
Penitentiary, Managua, US National Archives.
There is no identifiable photograph of C-1, Juan Heriberto
in the dozen or so photos in the US National
Archives of prisoners in Managua's National
Penitentiary during these years. Those
identifiable in this photograph are: C-6,
Patricio Moreno (Conservative accused of
murder). C-8: Francisco Guadamuz
(Conservative criminal, Carazo Dept.).
C-11: Juan Alberto Briones (Conservative gang
leader, Estelí). S-5: Carmen Vilchez
(Conservative gang leader, La Trinidad).
Prisoner with white towel over right shoulder
looking into camera: C-9, Anastacio
Hernández, Conservative gang leader, Ocotal, and
the subject of my "Horse
Thieves" article (1996).
Source for names: National Penitentiary,
Managua, Records of Prisoners, Casefiles,
Special Orders, from 18 Sept. 1928 to Feb. 19,
1931, 38 pp., RG127/202/16/76.