Emilio Kosterlitzky

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Emilio Kosterlitzky (1853–1928) was a Russian-born polyglot linguist and soldier of fortune who eventually became a spy for the United States. He also oversaw the deportation of Yaqui under the Porfiriato, an event that lead to the deaths of over 20,000 Yaquis (over 2/3s of their population.)[1][2]

Emilio Kosterlitzky
Nickname(s)Eagle of Sonora
Mexican Cossack
BornNovember 16, 1853
Moscow, Russia
DiedMarch 2, 1928 (74 years old)
Los Angeles, California
Allegiance Mexico
Service/branchMexico Mexican Army
Years of service1871 - 1914
Battles/warsMexican Apache Wars

Yaqui Wars
Mexican Revolution

Other workSpy


Emil Kosterlitzky was born on November 16, 1853 in Moscow, to a German mother and Russian Cossack father. He was noted for his language ability; he spoke English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Italian, Polish, Danish and Swedish.

In his teens, Emil joined the Russian Navy as a midshipman. By 1871, at the age of 18, he deserted his ship in Venezuela. Kosterlitzky then traveled to the Mexican state of Sonora, where he changed his name to Emilio and joined the Mexican Army. During the 1880s he fought in the Mexican Apache Wars. He also assisted American troops pursuing Apaches across the border under the 1882 United States–Mexico reciprocal border crossing treaty. Kosterlitzky became known to the American troops, who called him the "Mexican Cossack". In 1885, Kosterlitzky was appointed commander of the Gendarmería Fiscal, the customs guard for the Mexican government, by President Porfirio Díaz.[3]

In 1913, Kosterlitzky was captured in Nogales, Sonora, by revolutionaries during the Mexican Revolution. He was jailed until 1914, when he, his wife, Francesca, and two daughters moved to Los Angeles, California, in the United States, where he became a translator for the U.S. Postal Service. During World War I, he pretended to be a German physician. He returned to Mexico in 1927, to investigate a plot against the government of the state of Baja California.

Kosterlitzky died in Los Angeles on March 2, 1928, and is buried in Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Paco Ignacio Taibo II, documenta el brutal genocidio yaqui en nuestro país http://www.tukari.udg.mx/noticia/paco-ignacio-taibo-ii-documenta-el-brutal-genocidio-yaqui-en-nuestro-pais
  2. ^ Paco Ignacio Taibo II narra genocidio de yaquis en México 14 Oct 2013 https://www.vanguardia.com.mx/pacoignaciotaiboiinarragenocidiodeyaquisenmexico-1852657.html
  3. ^ Vanderwood, P. J. (1972). Review: Emilio Kosterlitzky: Eagle of Sonora and the Southwest Border. by Cornelius C. Smith, Jr. The Hispanic American Historical Review, 52(2), pp. 304-306.
  • Samuel Truett, "Transnational Warrior: Emilio Kosterlitzky and the Transformation of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands", in Continental Crossroads: Remapping U.S.-Mexico Borderlands History, ed. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004, p. 241-70.
  • Cornelius Smith, Jr., Emilio Kosterlitzky, Eagle of Sonora (1970)

External linksEdit