THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION 5
TheMexican Revolution was a multisided civil unrest that was initiatedto overthrow Porfirio Diaz – an autocratic leader who had ruledMexico for 35 years. At the heart of the revolutions were calls forland redistribution and constitutional reforms to centralize power.Calls for revolution began with the Mexican Liberal Party publishingits first manifesto in 1906 calling for significant social reforms.“The manifesto outlined its most important demands key among themthe proposal to reform the constitution in an effort to ban thereelection of a president, vice president, or a state governors”(Womack, 1969, p. 52). They also demanded a secular school system,minimum daily wage, standard eight hours workday, the annulment ofpeasant debts, and the protection of indigenous rights. This wouldultimately form the basis for revolt in 1910 when Diaz was declaredpresident on a rigged election.
Beforethe revolution, Diaz’s presidency had reserved decades of politicaland economic chaos that had made Mexico vulnerable to foreigninvasion and territorial loss. Skillful use of violence,centralization of authority at the expense of local autonomy, andelectoral fraud allowed Diaz to achieve political supremacy andstability. Moreover, Mexico had experienced significant economicdevelopment resulting from government programs that facilitatedmassive infusions of foreign capital, improvements in internaltransportation networks, and exploitation of extensive naturalresources. General Diaz had also gained political capital through hisrole in the heroic struggle against the French imperialist from 1862to 1867. Diaz had served in the army of the legendary liberal leaderBenito Juarez, who drove the French from the motherland and executedtheir lackey, the Emperor Maximilian. The liberal’s victory assuredthem control over Mexican politics and vanquished the conservativeswho had openly sided with invaders.
Theinsatiable appetitive for power by Diaz saw numerous changes in theMexican Constitution allowing him to run for the presidency severaltimes. Diaz had been previously quoted saying that Mexico was not yetready for democracy. In a 1908 interview with Creelman James – anAmerican journalist-, Diaz announced that he would not be running forreelection but by the fall of 1909, he had already changed his mindand ran for reelection against Francisco Madero. Tired of Diaz’sdictatorial rule, the Mexican population voted unanimously for Maderobut Diaz ultimately declared himself the winner and had Maderojailed. While in Jail, Madero issued a letter calling for popularrevolt promising the people that a revolt was the only way to securethe desired agrarian reforms. In may 1911, Diaz and his allies weredefeated and Madero was elected as the president. However, he provedto be unpopular among the people and most of his promises were neverhonored. “Madero was overthrown through a coup in 1913 by GeneralVictoriano Huerta. Not contented with Madero’s exist out of power,various opposition groups united against Huerta wedging a devastatingwar against his soldiers” (Williamson, 1994). Huerta was overthrownin 1914.
Themain winners of the battle were the Constitutionalists, a group ofyoung and middle-aged political thinkers who emphasized on economicmodernization and State centralization. The movement was majorlybacked by the States of Sonora and Coahuila, which were known fortheir economic power. However, as the movement ideas were spreadthroughout Mexico, it garnered support from the middle class,industrial bigwigs, urban political classes, and later the approvalof the U.S government. From this movement, the InstitutionalizedRevolutionary Party was born which has dominated Mexican politics forthe biggest part of the 20th century.
Unfortunately,not everybody was contended with the constitutionalist movement. Somepockets of the rural areas felt that the movement did not meet theirland demands. The most significant were the Pancho Villa rebelliousmovement in northern Mexico and Emiliano Zapata in central Mexico.The two leaders inspired the Mexican agrarian society to revoltagainst the constitutionalists. Of the two, the most vocal was Zapatawhose reform agendas were summarized by slogans such as“Tierra y Libertad”and “LaTierra es para el Que la Trabajo.”The Constitutionalists wedged a significant battle against PanchoVilla and his allies, and by 1915, Villa and his allies had beenreduced into a guerrilla group concentrated at his home base ofChihuahua. The Zapatistas wedge a significant fight, which lastedthrough the 1920s and late 1930s.
TheMexican revolution was a fight for economic equality. The peasant andbourgeois classes of the Mexican society were concerned by theincreasing concentration of wealth by the proletarians. Therevolution came to an end after Mexico ratified a new constitutionwhich approved the distribution of land to populations that lackedaccess to adequate land. The State was also granted the authority toseize large tracts of land owned by the Catholic Church. Under thenew constitution, the constitutionalist movement unified the pocketsdissident voices forming a government that dominated most of the 20thcentury Mexico.
Williamson,J. (1994). Mexico: Revolution and Stability. InThe Political Economy of Policy Reform New York: Peterson Institute.
Womack,J. (1969). President Diaz Elects a governor. inZapata and the Mexican Revolution Chicago: Vintage Publishers.