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The Mexican Revolution, commonly referred to as Revolution Mexicana, in Spanish, was an armed struggle, from 1910 to 1920, resulting from the people of Mexico rising against Porfirio Diaz, a long-time serving dictatorial president. (Davies) Mexican from all classes were completely dissatisfied with Diaz’s rule, who concentrated power and wealth to a select few, leaving the lower and working class with no power to express themselves. The Revolution started as an uprising led by Francisco Madero, a graduate of California University at Berkeley, and a successive cotton farmer, becoming one of the major 20th century revolutions. (Texas Consul).
To have a better understanding of the Mexican revolution, it is important to go back to the period before 1910. Out of the total population of Mexico, three-fifth were Indians. In the period prior to the uprising, and during Porfirio Diaz’s presidency, Indians were losing their traditional land to whites. In a very short time, a huge part of Mexico’s land was in the hand of few white elites, each owning thousands of acres of land. This left a huge population, over 90%, with no land. The situation in places like Yucatan Peninsula was like that of a slave camp, people were highly indebted. In the cotton plantations, the living conditions were poor, the wages were low, and the housing system was inferior, with failed social services. It was evident that the government favored foreign businessmen, and everyone from every class was angry with this kind of governance. (McLynn)The discontent could not be solved by the ballot because President Diaz had become a monster, who could not be opposed by anyone. The people had to fight, men, women, and children for justice, freedom, and equality, in a revolution characterized by Liberals, socialists, and populists.
But who was Porfirio Diaz? When he ascended to power, Diaz had great plans and intentions for Mexico. He worked hard to create a stable government, the crime level went low, and the general quality of life for people improved. Diaz was able to strengthen the government by creating a governor’s office in various parts of Mexico, bringing government service closer to the people. In the country’s army, professionals were hired, making the defense force stronger. Laws were readily enforced by the police force, and Diaz was surrounded by learned advisors. (Smitha) It was during this period that Mexico witnessed increased economical and structural growth. Many foreign companies investing in Mexico, providing the Diaz government with funds to build and develop railroads, telegram lines, highways, oil fields, and the mining industry. (Davies).
Although these initiatives under Diaz helped in the development of Mexico, they also contributed highly to the revolution and the eventual destruction of Diaz’s legacy. As those in power became wealthy and greedy, the general public became impoverished. The hope of the new generations of ambitious Mexican almost died, until Francisco Madero started the revolution. (Smitha) Again we ask the question, who was Francisco Madero, and what Influence did he have on the Mexican revolution? Having studied Agriculture in France, and later at the University of California, Madero used advanced agricultural skills to run a cotton plantation. He also built the cotton processing industry in his home area of Coahuila, the part of Mexico that borders the State of Texas. With the worsening situation in Mexico, Madero was very sympathetic to the plight of the common people. He paid better wages to his workers and provided better working and living conditions, including medical services. (Texas Consul )He was very critical of President Diaz’s government, calling for Diaz to step down and not seek re-election. He would later join forces with other reformers to form the Anti-re-elections party. He traveled throughout Mexico, advocating for his ideas of democratic government to the people. With such a campaign, Madero became an enemy of the state, leading to his apprehension and imprisonment in San Luis Potosi. He would later flee to exile in the United States, after Diaz’s re-election as president. From the US, Madero was able to issue a manifesto known as Plan of San Luis, declaring that the re-election of Diaz was fraudulent and that nobody should recognize him as the legitimate president.
In the days following the issuance of the manifesto calling for an uprising, a rebellion started in various parts of Mexico. In Chihuahua miners, laborers, bandits led by Pascal Orozco and Francisco Villa attacked federal troops, defeating them and taking over strategic towns. In the sugar cane belt of Morelos and Emiliano Zapata led an armed uprising against the rich elites in that area. This became the case in the larger Mexico, with important leaders like Ciudad Juarez being captured. This led President Diaz to flee, leaving a large army in the command of Victoriano Huerta. Soon after, Emiliano Zapata met with Madero in Mexico City, leading to the declaration of Madero the President. (McLynn).
As a president, Madero wanted to please everyone, turning against his close allies like Zapata. Orozco and Villa no longer gave him their support. On the other end, the United States felt that Madero was close to southern revolutionaries and therefore did not support him. A plan was hatched by U.S ambassador, Huerta, and Diaz’s cousin to overthrow President Madero. The success of the plan led to Huerta being installed as president, and immediately Madero vice president Suarez and the army general were arrested. Later on, on February 22, 1913, Suarez and Madero were killed. (Smitha).
Huerta’s presidency was met by an explosion of violence. In 1914, Leaders like Villa, Carranza, and Alvaro led revolutionary forces against Huerta, who on realizing the magnitude of the problem fled away. Immediately after, Carranza got a chance to declare himself the president of Mexico. (McLynn)Soon Villa will start fighting Carranza, building forces in the south to push him out of the presidency. Carranza was able to fight back, taking control of the city of Mexico. What followed were series of events that led to Villa, Obregon, and Zapata coming together to find a lasting solution. They decided to put Eulalio as the president, this worked for a short while, and soon fighting began again, leading to Carranza reclaiming the presidency again in 1915. Zapata continued to fight Carranza, and soon a trap was set by one of Carranza’s generals, leading to the shooting of Zapata in 1919. (McLynn).
Zapata had a lot of supporters across Mexico, and news of his death was not taken lightly by the people, who eventually turned against Carranza. Sensing danger, Carranza decided to flee, although his fate was already sealed. He was killed just as he was living in the City of Mexico. A man by the name of Adolfo Huerta was installed as the president to oversee the elections. Obregon won the election, leading to the end of revolutionary violence and uprisings. (Smitha) It is important to note that many people were already tired of fighting and wanted to put their life back together.
The Mexican Revolution affected every Mexican. People had become tired of President Porfirio Diaz’s dictatorial presidency, leading to an uprising led by Francisco Madero and other revolutionaries. Prior to the start of the uprising, the majority of Mexican was going through economical hardship. During the uprising, many businesses, factories, and agricultural farms were closed, there was widespread social disorganization. Important Infrastructure like road and rail were destroyed during the ten years of fighting. Many Mexican used the opportunity to flee to the United States, for safety and to look for work.
Davies, Lynn. “The Mexican Revolution.” History Journal (1990): 26-35.
McLynn, Frank. Villa and Zapata: A history of the Mexican Revolution. New York: Carroll & Graf Publisher, 2002.
Smitha, Frank. “The Mexican Revolution.” 2004. Macro History and World Report.
Texas Consul. “Mexican Revolution.” 1996. Mexican Connect. 2008. Web.