Mexican history is marked with extended period when the gap between the poor and the rich was significantly big to the extent of triggering a revolution. The majority of citizens were poor, whereas the few wealthy cronies of the leadership owned almost everything. For a significant period of its history, Mexico was controlled by few first-class citizens who grasped the lion’s share of the country’s resource, leaving most of the citizens in a state of abject poverty. Under the administration of General Porfirio Díaz, the differences between the wealthy and the poor reached an unbridgeable level of social and economic inequalities. It is this unequal treatment of the citizens that led to the collaboration of those who felt the oppression was immense and sought to bring change through a revolution. This research paper focuses on the period before, during and after the revolution with the aim of identifying the causes, the impact, and the post-revolution benefits that the country experienced.
The salons and the proximity of Mexico in relation to the United States were two things that contributed to the commencement of the revolution. The salons were essential since they gave the general population a place to talk and deliberate on ideas related to their freedom. At these salons, in the time of the Peninsular War, individuals started to talk about independence and other Enlightenment ideas. These discussions would take into account the need to bring the ordinary citizens on board before starting the revolution which led to the support of the revolution by a huge number of Mexicans. Moreover, due to Mexico’s closeness to the United States, these Enlightenment thoughts were shared easily between the two nations. Likewise, Mexican people were able to see the achievement of the American Revolution from a closer perspective, thereby motivating them to pursue freedom of their nation. Therefore, it is undoubtedly clear that the salons and the proximity of the United States to Mexico played a fundamental role in motivating Mexicans to seek freedom through a revolution.
Mexico was under oligarchy regime until 1911. The leader at the time Porfirio Diaz had overthrown the previous government in a coup. On taking the realms of power, Diaz ruled Mexico with the help of his cronies by suppressing the rights of the citizens in the guise of economic development and foreign investment. For Diaz, economic development was the key to the alleviation of the problems faced by Mexicans. He believed that his political stability ensured the much needed economic development took place.
Diaz enforced the bread or the club principle and implemented policies, where he would share the root with all his political opponents, mainly those who had significant influence, regardless of their political inclination. Consequently, this led to the massive looting of the country’s resources and wealth by the upper class and a few people in the middle class. In the process, the poor were neglected, while the country’s resources were shared among a few individuals.
During this era, rulers were appointed to suppress riots and workers strikes. besides chasing repeat bandits. Opponents who disagreed with Diaz’s bribes received the club part of his principles, where they were arrested, beaten or even murdered. By subduing his opposition through all means, Diaz ensured that there was no opposition to his regime. However, his imagination of a better economy was not realised under his rule since the cost of government increased by over 900 per cent. Also, the number of high-ranking officers in the army increased to 300 in each of the troops.
Interestingly, the Catholic Church was used to further the political domination by Diaz. The church ignored the plight of the masses and preached total submission to the authorities. In return, Diaz abolished all laws that were biased to the church. As a result, the monasteries and church schools were restored, and wealth grew in the hands of the church once again.
Furthermore, the agricultural sector in Mexico comprised primarily villages. Diaz was faced with the dilemma of how to move Mexico to a modern capitalist economy, while retaining the communities and Hacienda system. Despite the political success, Diaz had to handle several antagonistic economies.
The hacienda system ensured that landownership was left in the hands of a few individuals. As a result, a few families owned about half of Mexico. Moreover, foreigners controlled the mining, industrial and oil wealth. Despite the opposition, it was only through such increase in foreign capital that some economic growth was recorded. The volume of international trade increased, thereby leading to the introduction of a modern banking system. The railway network coverage increased and was a key factor in the Mexican revolution since it connected the northern parts of Mexico City to the United States border. This connection ensured that the elite landowners could produce goods and easily transport them to the ready market. Thus, the above unfair treatment of the poor by the rich led to the accumulation of dissatisfaction with the government, promoting the majority to take power by overthrowing the government.
Unlike in the United States, the Mexican War was not ready to gain the momentum immediately after it was started. In fact, this is a direct result of the extreme class divide that existed in Mexico before the revolution. This class divide made it more challenging for the revolutionists to progress because a significant number of members of the upper class and Spanish Royalists still stayed faithful to Spain and subsequently declined to join the revolutionists. As a result, the revolution continued for several years, with quite a bit of it being battled by the workers and low-class subjects. Additionally, due to this class divisions, the revolution had two unique pioneers when it initially started, namely Father Hidalgo who led his parishioners from the town of Dolores and Ignacio de Allende. After Hidalgo’s demise, the charge of the armed force was taken by Jose Morelos. Owing to the fact that the nation remained separated along the lines of upper and lower class, the Mexican authorities could be easily defeated, which made the revolution long and drawn-out. Furthermore, this constant change of the commander made it difficult to bridge the class divide and unite the country.
Diaz never solved Mexico’s greatest problems. Instead, he created more problems, while trying to control his political influence among Mexicans. The uneven distribution of wealth among the citizens might not have been the cause of the revolution, but the rising cost of living and the declining wages at the beginning of the twentieth century may have favoured revolutionary thinking. Anyone who would rise against his regime would have full support of Mexicans. Moreover, the economic instability in some regions left the top percentage of some areas displeased with Diaz. Also, the lack of political influence on the elites in the areas was also a factor for consideration that could have fuelled the desires for a revolution.
Furthermore, Diaz failed to choose a favourable successor, leading to the revolt. First, he had announced that he would not be running for office in the 1910 presidential elections. The announcement came as a failure on his part, regardless of whether he intended to keep his word or not. Afterwards, Diaz orchestrated his re-election and opposition arouse immediately, igniting the momentum for a revolution.
Francisco Madero, the heir to fifth richest family in Mexico, led the revolution from the state of Coahuila. Madero opposed Diaz for political reasons since he did not provide any alternative to the current social or economic conditions. He was nominated for president by the anti-Diaz re-election party, but Diaz had him and over 6000 supporters arrested. Madero escaped to the USA after jumping bail and declared the 1910 elections unconstitutional. He claimed that he was the real president of Mexico and requested armed resistance against Diaz from the 20th of November.
The rebellion began in the state of Chihuahua, with the oppressive rule mainly fuelling the revolution due to the oligarchy form of human management. This oppression ignited democratic ideologies and discussion, with the majority of those involved in the engagement considering the United States as the ideal kind of governance that Mexicans needed. For the people of Chihuahua, violence had become a way of life due to the recurrent raids from the government. Furthermore, the military and political factors were favourable to the rebels. They fought for deep values and great ideology, with their general Pancho Villa envisioning himself as the military hero of the revolution, despite being number two in the army hierarchy behind Pascual Orozco. As the revolutionists progressed in their quest for more inclusive governance, Villa increased his popularity and power base.
Madero returned from the US on the 14th of February, 1911 with only 130 men. The revolutionaries perceived Madero to be more radical than he really was as a result of the propaganda spread by Diaz. The army took this seriously and detested him due to his lack of sympathy for the revolutionaries of Chihuahua. Since he could not control them, he was dependent on their loyalty. He was, however, pleased by Villa’s courage and dedication, praising him as a hero.
The success of the rebellion led to the increase in the number of groups rising to address their local problems. Emiliano Zapata led the revolution in the state of Morelos. Talking about Zapata, he was a village chief who was keen to solve the conflict between the owners of big sugar cane plantations and small farmer villagers. At this time, the US tariffs designed to protect American sugar producers had led to the reduction in production of sugar, causing most workers to become jobless.
In April 1911, Madero appointed Zapata as his principle representative in Morelos. In May, Zapata defected from Diaz at Cuautla, earning him national fame which also led to Diaz admission of defeat in both Morelos and Chihuahua. Days before the victory, Villa and Orozco captured Ciudad Juarez, and Diaz realised that his only option was to go to exile. The 21st of May, 1911 marked the day the Treaty of Ciudad Juarez was signed. Diaz agreed to go into exile, and the election was to be held in autumn.
Later, the Mexican constitutionalist party won the election and formed the government, with Madero assuming the presidency. At that moment, people had very high hopes for the leadership and were optimistic about the future of the country. He vowed to bring change to the land allocation issues and promised to return the pieces of land taken from the peasants. Unfortunately, that did not happen, and it led to people feeling disappointed at the failure of the leaders they believed would implement much needed change.
Apparently, this meant that Madero’s rule was preparing people for another revolution. Madero lost the support from the rebels that left him vulnerable and depended on the federal army alone which was not well-organised. The decision to demobilise the revolutionary armies of the north left him in the hands of the regular army. His conservative nature did not play well with Zapata who demanded land reforms. In response, Madero indicated that the issues related to agrarian reform would be addressed later as Zapata armies had been dismantled. Madero broke ties with Zapata and sent the federal army to Morelos to eliminate the Zapatista movement. The resultant fierce fighting that erupted led to Zapata declaring his plan of Ayala by which he would defend for eight years. It contained detailed plans for land reforms, making it evident that Madero’s revolution ended with his election.
However, Madero’s rule was filled with impossible problems inherited from the previous regime. He denounced land reforms since they did not agree with the prevailing social order. Despite the change in the top leadership, voices that were common during Diaz rule thrived during Madero’s reign. He introduced compulsory military service and press-gangs since people were not interested in joining the army.
On the other hand, Zapata was on the verge of exhausting supplies. He lacked resources to overthrow the government. By May 1912, his stock on the ordinance was running low. The rebellion led to surprising attacks kind of warfare and restocking on stolen ammunition. Zapata decided to make the haciendas pay for the cost of his campaigns. He burned cane fields owned by defaulters. The collaboration of the revolutionists increased their strength and made them able to unseat Huerta in 1914. However, the joined forces did not last for long owing to disagreements on who was going to assume the presidency. In the Battle of Celaya that followed, Obregon emerged victorious in April 1915. Sporadic fighting persisted until 1920, and less coordinated attacks were witness in the post-1920 period. By burning the cane fields, he gained a massive following, and recruits with the unemployed joined his army.
The overthrow of Díaz dictatorship government was the primary objective of the revolution, but the movement developed into something bigger that shaped the political, social and economic direction that the nation took moving forward (Hart). It is in the process of revolution that the Mexican people developed their identity and the majority found a purpose to demand the right kind of governance. As a result, numerous changes were achieved, with the experiences of the revolution forming the foundation of the country whose vision and purpose had been rejuvenated.
With the central and southern Mexico under the control of the Constitutionalist Party, Carranza established congress to evaluate the possibilities of revisiting the laws that governed the country by amending the 1857 constitution. Since fighting was still continuing, the social and economic demands of the radical forerunners had become typical phases as every group acquired support for what they thought was of priority to the nation. The amended constitution fulfilled the needs of the majority of the groups that had participated in the revolution. While Zapata’s group campaigned for legislation on agrarian change, others in the established Congress were eager to see workers protected from exploitation by their rich employers. A few groups advocated for the widening of educational institutions to accommodate more pupils to obtain primary school education. As a result, more Mexican children got the opportunity to join the few learning institutions that existed at that time.
The amended constitution addressed issues relating to civil rights, a structured democratic form of governance, and antimonopoly and anticlerical clauses. The amended constitution made it clear that the national government had an obligatory role in advancing the cultural and socioeconomic status of Mexicans. Article 3 outlined a comprehensive plan for all forms of education, while Article 14 reaffirmed the right to own private property and contracts. Moreover, Article 27 emphasised the importance of social utility of all assets to prevent a recurrence of what led to the revolution where only a few people owned everything in the country. Articles 27 and 123 enshrined the most important ideas relating to agrarian transformation and other land reforms. Areas related to social welfare were also addressed after the revolution, with the employees enjoying minimum wage and their right to protest and strike being protected under the revised constitution. Moreover, labour obtained its social status and ceased being a commodity that is bought at the lowest price to maximise profit for the wealthy. Social security, public health, and foreigners’ limitations from interfering with the countries internal affairs were other issues addressed in the post-revolution reforms.
Obregon started to actualise the goals suggested in the constitution. Land reforms were realised, with the people who were formerly landless being given some land through communal ownership. The government also became committed to supporting labour movements and actualised the proposed implementation for rural education. Moreover, the cultural programs started being sponsored by the government which brought the Mexican culture to the global front. In commemoration of the achievement made through the revolution, it became common practice to displace revolution era images and messages on the city buildings. In what reflected the culmination of the realisation of the Mexico Revolution, Obregon peacefully abandoned the presidency, which was the commencement of peaceful transfer of power after years of fighting and coups. Calles followed the footsteps of his predecessor by accelerating land redistribution and launching irrigation programs. By 1925, the focus was on petroleum companies and how they could exchange for leases titles issued during failed Diaz government. However, Calles ignited a confrontation with the churches after enacting anticlerical measures that caused rebellion from religious organisations. The controversy between church and state was skilfully handled through diplomatic means which illustrated the changes that extended revolution period had brought to the nation. Having experienced a period characterised by wars and complete disagreement, both sides were open to seeking diplomatic resolutions by searching for common ground.
In 1928, the length of the presidential term was extended to six years and the success clause modified, allowing for former presidents to run for office but not consecutively. With the new principle in place, Obregon vied for the office of presidency but did not stay for long after winning as a religious fanatic assassinated him. A coalition was later formed between, church, military, peasant and labour leaders. However, the Catholic Church was barred from the alignment together with other elements that were perceived to be reactionary and a threat to the benefits of the revolution. Thereafter, the country was ruled in the name of revolution. However, the zeal to implement the reform mandates enshrined in the constitution slackened between 1928 and 1934 due to the unpredictability of the Great Depression. Also, Calles’ confrontation with the church continued, but his term in office saw the beginning of road building and irrigation programs.
Despite a history of few upper-class representatives’ control of the Mexican government before the Revolution, the event leading to the rebellion of Diaz government and other administrations that followed was a learning ground for the Mexican people. The oppression of the poor by the government that was supposed to protect and provide a serene environment where its citizens could thrive caused the uprising that led Mexico into a series of coups and war. Proximity to the United States was also a motivating factor, with the rebellion leaders seeking to attain similar positive results as the once recorded after the United States revolution.
Fortunately, after years of infighting, the desired fruits of the revolution were achieved. Former landless people became the owners of their properties, while the rural children obtained access to primary education. Moreover, democratic system of government was established as a result of the lessons learnt during the revolution. Finally, on the basis of the above analysis, the revolution had both positive and negative impacts on the country, but the gains far outweigh the pain that the people who lived during that era had to endure.