Ramón Arnaud

Captain Ramón Arnaud Vignon (1877––1916) was an officer in the Mexican Army and the last Mexican governor of Clipperton Island.

Early years and military enlistment

Ramón Arnaud was born in Orizaba, Veracruz, in 1877, to Ángel Arnaud and Carlota Vignon, Mexicans of French origin who had settled in Veracruz in the aftermath of the 1862-1867 French Intervention. He completed his primary education in Orizaba and, influenced by a friend of his, the son of General Bernardo Reyes, decided to enlist in the Army. He was unable to secure entry to the Military Academy in Mexico City but, assisted by the influence of General Reyes, enrolled as a sargeant in the 7th Cavalry Regiment. Shortly after enlisting, however, he deserted; he was promptly tracked down, arrested, sent to the military prison in Tlatelolco for 5 1/2 months, and demoted to a private in the 23rd Infantry Battalion. In the space of three short years, however, he had regained his earlier rank after fighting against Maya insurgents in the Caste War of Yucatán. Shortly after that, he was posted to Japan in the company of Col. Abelardo Ávalos.

Governor of Clipperton

Upon his return from the Orient, the government of President Porfirio Díaz placed him in charge of the military garrison on Clipperton Island: an atoll in the Pacific subject to a sovereinty dispute between Mexico and France. At first he was reluctant, believing that his amounted to an exile from Mexico, but Col. Ávalos convinced him by telling him that President Díaz had personnally chosen him to protect Mexico's interests in the international conflict with France, and that the fact that he spoke English, French, and Spanish would assist him in protecting Mexico's sovereignty over the territory.He consequently accepted and arrived on Clipperton as governor in 1906.

By 1914, the situation on the island had turned difficult: with the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution and the overthrow of Victoriano Huerta, the supply ship that sailed between Clipperton and Acapulco had stopped coming. That same year, a ship of the U.S. Navy arrived and left some provisions. The U.S. visitors also informed Capt. Arnaud of recent developments in the world – the U.S. assault on Veracruz, and the outbreak of the First World War – and advised him to abandon the island. However, he and his resolved to stay true to their duty, even though their homeland had appeared to have forgotten them.

Final days

In 1915, an outbreak of scurvy claimed many of the colonists' lives and in 1916, by now desperate and at the head of a colony that had no food, Arnaud set sail with three men in a canoe in pursuit of a passing ship they had spied. They were unable to reach the ship, however, and the canoe sank while returning, with which all four of its occupants drowned.

References

*Restrepo, Laura. "La Isla de la Pasión" México, Alfaguara, 2005
*Sangri Namur, Enrique. "Isla Clairón: Territorio desconocido" 2005


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