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The Mexican Revolution

The Mexican Revolution was brought on by, among other factors, tremendous
disagreement among the Mexican people over the dictatorship of President
Porfirio Diaz , who, all told, stayed in office for thirty one years. During that
span, power was concentrated in the hands of a select few; the people had no
power to express their opinions or select their public officials. Wealth was
likewise concentrated in the hands of the few, and injustice was everywhere, in
the cities and the countryside alike.

Early in the 20th Century, a new generation of young leaders arose who wanted
to participate in the political life of their country, but they were denied the
opportunity by the officials who were already entrenched in power and who
were not about to give it up. This group of young leaders believed that they
could assume their proper role in Mexican politics once President Diaz
announced publicly that Mexico was ready for democracy. Although the
Mexican Constitution called for public election and other institutions of
democracy, Diaz and his supporters used their political and economic resources
to stay in power indefinitely.

Francisco I. Madero was one of the strongest believers that President Diaz
should renounce his power and not seek re-election. Together with other young
reformers, Madero created the ''Anti-reeleccionista'' Party, which he
represented in subsequent presidential elections. Between elections, Madero
travelled throughout the country, campaigning for his ideas.

Francisco I. Madero was a firm supporter of democracy and of making


government subject to the strict limits of the law, and the success of Madero's
movement made him a threat in the eyes of President Diaz. Shortly before the
elections of 1910, Madero was apprehended in Monterrey and imprisoned in
San Luis Potosi. Learning of Diaz's re-election, Madero fled to the United
States in October of 1910. In exile, he issued the ''Plan of San Luis,'' a
manifesto which declared that the elections had been a fraud and that he would
not recognize Porfirio Diaz as the legitimate President of the Republic.

Instead, Madero make the daring move of declaring himself President Pro-
Temp until new elections could be held. Madero promised to return all land
which had been confiscated from the peasants, and he called for universal
voting rights and for a limit of one term for the president. Madero's call for an
uprising on November 20th, 1910, marked the beginning of the Mexican
Revolution.

On November 14th, in Cuchillo Parado in the state of Chihuahua, Toribio


Ortega and a small group of followers took up arms. On the 18th in Puebla,
Diaz's authorities uncovered preparations for an uprising in the home of the
brothers Maximo and Aquiles Serdan, who where made to pay with their lives.
Back in Chihuahua, Madero was able to persuade Pascual Orozco and
Francisco Villa to join the revolution. Though they had no military experience,
Orozco and Villa proved to be excellent strategists, and they earned the
allegiance of the people of northern Mexico, who were particularly unhappy
about the abusive ranchers and landlords who ran the North.

In March of 1911, Emiliano Zapata led the uprising of the peasants of Morelos
to claim their rights over local land and water. At the same time, armed revolt
began in many other parts of the country. The "Maderista" troops, and the
national anger which inspired them, defeated the army of Diaz within six
months. The decisive victory of the Mexican Revolution was the capture of
Ciudad Juarez, just across the river from El Paso, by Orozco and Villa. Porfirio
Diaz then resigned as President and fled to exile in France, where he died in
1915.

With the collapse of the Diaz regime, the Mexican Congress elected Francisco
Leon De La Barra as President Pro-Temp and called for national popular
elections, which resulted in the victory of Francisco I. Madero as President and
Jose Maria Pino Suarez as Vice-President.

For most of Mexico's developing history, a small minority of the people were in
control of most of the country's power and wealth, while the majority of the
population worked in poverty. As the rift between the poor and rich grew under
the leadership of General Díaz, the political voice of the lower classes was also
declining. Opposition of Díaz did surface, when Francisco I. Madero, educated in
Europe and at the University of California, led a series of strikes throughout the
country.
Díaz was pressured into holding an election in 1910, in which Madero was able
to gather a significant number of the votes. Although Díaz was at one time a
strong supporter of the one-term limit, he seemed to have changed his mind and
had Madero imprisoned, feeling that the people of Mexico just weren't ready for
democracy.

Once Madero was released from prison, he continued his battle against Díaz in
an attempt to have him overthrown. During this time, several other Mexican folk
heros began to emerge, including the well known Pancho Villa in the north, and
the peasant Emiliano Zapata in the south, who were able to harass the Mexican
army and wrest control of their respective regions. Díaz was unable to control the
spread of the insurgence and resigned in May, 1911, with the signing of the
Treaty of Ciudad Juárez, after which he fled to France.

Madero was elected president, but received opposition from Emiliano Zapata
who didn't wish to wait for the orderly implementation of Madero's desired land
reforms. In November of the same year Zapata denounced Madero as president
and took the position for himself. He controlled the state of Morelos, where he
chased out the estate owners and divided their lands to the peasants. Later, in
1919, Zapata was assassinated by Jesus Guajardo acting under orders from
General Pablo Gonzalez.

It was during this time that the country broke into


many different factions, and guerilla units roamed
across the country destroying and burning down many
large haciendas and ranchos. Madero was later taken
prisoner and executed and the entire country existed
in a state of disorder for several years, while Pancho
Villa rampaged through the north, and different
factions fought for presidential control.

Eventually, Venustiano Carranza rose to the


presidency, and organized an important convention
whose outcome was the Constitution of 1917, which is
still in effect today. Carranza made land reform an
important part of that constitution. This resulted in the
ejido, or farm cooperative program that redistributed much of the country's land
from the wealthy land holders to the peasants. The ejidos are still in place today
and comprise nearly half of all the farmland in Mexico.
Carranza was followed by others who would fight for political control, and who
would eventually continue with the reforms, both in education and land
distribution. During this period the PRI political party was established, which was
the dominant political power for 71 years until Vicente Fox of the conservative
PAN party was elected. The holiday itself commemorates the day, November
20th of 1910, when Madero denounced President Díaz, declared himself
president of Mexico and called for a national insurrection.