Robert Ryal Miller

Chapter 9
Mexico: A History
ISBN: 0806121785


The Age of Porfirio Díaz
THE COUP D' ETAT that brought Porfirio Díaz to the presidency in 1876 ended a long period of governmental instability and ushered ill a generation of political peace. During the nation's first fifty-five years of independence, Mexican governments had lasted less than a year on the average, and only two administrations completed their full term. Díaz not only concluded his first presidential period, but after a lapse of four years he served six additional terms, giving him a total of more than thirty years in the highest office. Such a remarkable record suggests that it was achieved by an exceptional individual- an astute and tenacious man.
Porfirio Díaz Mory was forty-six years old when he took control of Mexico in 1876. Born in the city of Oaxaca, to a family of modest means, he was of mixed Spanish and Mixtec ancestry. Like his older acquaintance Benito Juárez he began studies for the priesthood but left the seminary to pursue a law career. Díaz did not finish law school, and during the War of Reform he found his true vocation, the army; while aiding the liberals in their struggle he rose from the rank of captain to colonel. Promoted to general during the French intervention, he was one of the heroes of the Cinco de Mayo battle. He was twice captured by the invaders, but escaped and led troops that liberated Oaxaca (October 1866), Puebla (April 1867), and Mexico City (June 1867) from the imperialist armies. Soon after the cod of that war he retired fron1 the army and moved to, I.a Noria an hacienda given him by supporters in the state of Oaxaca.
By 1870, Díaz had become involved in national politics. First as a member of Congress representation his district of Oaxaca. In 1872, as a liberal, he opposed the re-election of
President Juárez and led an unsuccessful rebellion; later that year, after the sudden death of the popular Indian president, Díaz was defeated in his electoral bid for the presidency. Four years later, against Lerdo de Tejada he raised the cry: "effective suffrage and no re-election," and by the military revolt of Tuxtepec forced President Lerdo to abandon his office and the country
After seizing power, Díaz called for a special election in May, 1877, that resulted in his being chosen as president for a four-year term. At that time the general was popular; for more than twenty years he had backed liberal principles, he was a military hero, and his mestizo background earned him considerable support, as did his image as a macho (virile, masculine) leader.
Beginning with his first presidential period, Díaz consolidated his personal power and worked to extend his tenure. He carefully masked his maneuvers and appeared to operate in conformity with the Constitution and other laws. Although he had been an advocate of "no re-election," Díaz wanted more than one term, so he subtly promoted modification of the electoral laws. In 1878 a constitutional amendment was enacted that prohibited immediate re-election but permitted it after a lapse, and in 1880 the wily politician stepped aside while General Manuel González, his friend and client, assumed the presidency for one term. González's administration was marred by financial arrangements that almost bankrupted the country and by scandals involving his friends and cabinet members, so in 1884 the "indispensable" Díaz was returned to the presidency. Three years later he sponsored a law that permitted one immediate re-election, and in 1890 a constitutional amendment abolished all limits on presidential terms.
Finally, in 1904, the chief executive's term was extended to six years. Thus, Díaz's ambition to remain in power was paralleled by removal of legal barriers.
As president of the nation, Díaz worked to establish internal stability and stimulate economic growth. He and his advisors proclaimed that order and progress were inseparable, and they maintained that unifying and modernizing their country would have the additional benefit of fortifying it against encroachment by the powerful neighbor to the north. Díaz is reported to have said, "Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States!" To put an end to civil discord, Díaz became the national cacique who reconciled by force the disparate elements; if they would not accommodate they were extinguished or expelled from the country. Thus he became a dictator whose apologists justified the authoritarianism by pointing to the nation's past history of anarchy and regional caciques; they said that "Mexico was not ready for democracy."
During the years of his presidency, called the Porfiriato by Mexicans, Díaz cleverly created a "constitutional dictatorship"-a despotic regime that functioned behind a facade of legality. Using his power of appointment, control of the political party apparatus, his affiliations within the career army officer corps, the police and rurales, and the cacique structure of provincial Mexico, he was able to impose his will on the Congress, the state governors, and the judiciary. Civil service rolls were expanded by 900 percent from 1876 to 1910, while government employees and other citizens became dependent on the executive for their jobs and even for their freedom.
Díaz's policy of "pan o palo", (bread or the stick) rewarded those who conformed to the regime and punished those w-ho opposed it. A number of critics lost their positions, some were imprisoned or exiled, and not a few suffered fatal "accidents.' The ley fuga (fugitive law) also claimed its victims, persons who were reported as "shot while trying to escape." Other nonconformists were conscripted involuntarily into the army or forced into labor gangs that worked on huge plantations. Treatment of the press during the era illustrates the cooperate or else" policy. Editors who praised the chief and defended his policies were subsidized. One example was Rafael Reyes Spindola, director of the important daily newspaper El Impartial, who received about fifty thousand pesos annually. Newspapers that opposed the regime were suppressed; among them were El Universal, El Monitor Republicano, La Humanidad, El Debate, and Diario del Hogar.
As in most dictatorships, control of the military forces was a crucial element. Díaz favored a small, disciplined and professional army that would depend exclusively on the central government and whose forces would be scattered throughout the country. By 1910, army numbers had been reduced to thirty thousand. While insuring the loyalty of the officers through generous pay, pensions, and other benefits, he controlled appointments to key positions and frequently shifted regional commanders to prevent their building a local power base. Some potential rivals were assigned duties as attaches or diplomats at overseas capitals where they no longer were a threat.
As a counterweight to the army, Díaz expanded and strengthened the corps of federal rural police, the rurales. The mission of this unit was to maintain order in the countryside, where most of the population lived, and it became an enforcement tool of executive policy. An American who spent a few years on a coffee finca (farm) near Jalapa had the following to say about order and security during the Porfiriato:
"Besides the small but businesslike policemen with large, visible revolvers who seem to be on every corner and who materialize in swarms at the slightest infringement of the code, the highways are patrolled by that picturesque body of men known as rurales, of whom there are between four and five thousand.... Under President Díaz they have attained a high degree of efficiency, and while their practically limitless powers in isolated and inaccessible parts of the country are no doubt sometimes abused, their reputation for fearlessness, supplemented by a revolver, a carbine, and a saber, has a most chastening influence."
The same author also commented that "The frequency of the policemen is equaled (or exceeded, one sometimes feels) only by the frequency of the churches."
The Catholic Church was another element upon which Díaz depended for support. In return for a conciliatory state policy, the hierarchy, priests, and religious newspapers were expected to favor the regime. Liberal legislation of La Reforma remained the law of the land, but those laws that were antagonistic to the Church were not enforced, and the anticlerical spirit of government officials diminished. Some writers have credited Díaz's pious second wife, Carmen Romero Rubio, with influencing her husband to seek a Church-state reconciliation. Whatever the cause, during the Díaz era, the Church enjoyed a comeback.
Statistics for the period between 1876 and 1910 indicate that the national population increased by 62 percent (9,500,000 to 15,200,000) while the growth of Church personnel and real estate holdings was much greater. During those years the priesthood went from 1,700 to 4,405; the hierarchy grew from 4 to 36. Five new archbishoprics and eight new dioceses were created; Church properties doubled in number and value; the number of buildings used for worship tripled; and the number of Catholic schools increased by six times. Some convents and monasteries were reactivated to serve as schools, orphanages, or charitable institutions, and two new religious orders were established, the Guadalupan Sisters, and Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This quantitative resurgence was paralleled by an expansion of clerical prestige and influence. Symbolically, whenever Díaz dedicated a government project, a robed priest stood beside him to add his blessing.
New churches, government buildings, and monuments erected in the Díaz era reflected current European fashions- artistically there was a "Europeanization" movement visible throughout the republic. Mansard roofs, Italianate details, Victorian Gothic, and the new use of iron and steel replaced Spanish and Mexican motifs and techniques. Lacy, cast-iron uprights and lintels graced new kiosks in the plazas of dozens of cities, and iron and steel beams spanned large openings in railroad stations and factories. Foreign architects designed three important buildings in Mexico City: the Post Office, built in Italian Renaissance style; the neoclassical Legislative
Palace (its unfinished dome later converted to the Monument to the Revolution); and the National Theater, now called the Palace of Fine Arts. Marble for the latter structure was imported from Italy even thought Mexico has great quantities of marble; the twenty-two-ton glass curtain for the stage was designed and made in the United States by Tiffany; and structural steel members wore imported, as were mechanical devices such as passenger elevators. The Diaz regime's downgrading of things Mexican and widespread adoption of foreign values permeated the fine arts and even the clothes and manners of the elite.
Painting, sculpture, and music during the Porfiriato imitated patterns from across the Atlantic. Except for costumbrista (genre) canvases, most Mexican paintings resembled those done in France or Italy; one painter, Germán Gedovius, even did a self-portrait in the clothing and manner of Rembrandt. The numerous busts and statues commissioned to commemorate national or cultural heroes followed the European fashion. Two notable examples were statues of Benito Juárez-one in the Alameda park in Mexico City, and the other a large marble figure in Oaxaca that was sculpted by an Italian who never knew Juárez or visited Mexico. Foreign music and dances also were copied. An Otomí Indian, Juventino Rosas, in 1891 composed the famous set of waltzes "Sobre Las Olas" (Over the Waves), and other Mexicans wrote lyrics and music for operas that were sung in Italian and portrayed Classical themes.
Most of the literature produced during the Porfiriato turned its back on native traditions-indeed, writers like Francisco Bulnes (1847-1924) scorned Indians and ridiculed Mexico's national heroes. The most important literary development was a new movement called Modernismo; eventually embraced throughout Latin America and Spain, it was exotic, artificial, and based on French models. Identified d with Modernism were three of Mexico's best poets: Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera (1859-95) who used more than twenty pseudonyms and founded the literary journal Revista Azul; Enrique Gonzáles Martinez. (1871-1952), who attained renown through employing the poetic symbols of the swan and owl and Amado Nervo (1870-1919), an early editor of Revista Moderna, who entered the diplomatic service in 1906 and subsequently published most of his poetry abroad.
Justo Sierra (1848-1912) was a leading journalist-historian educator of the era. He was sub-secretary of Public Instruction in 1901 and four years later became head of that depart ment, where one of his great accomplishments was refounding the National University, which had been dormant for forty years. Although Sierra urged his disciples to study French literature, he himself wrote a great synthesis of Mexican history that emphasized the role of the mestizos. Printed in Mexico in 1910, it was later translated into English and published as The Political Evolution of the Mexican People. Sierra was the only member of Díaz's cabinet who openly questioned the positivist orientation of the dictator's chief advisors.
Positivism, the system of philosophy developed by Auguste Comte, permeated intellectual and ruling circles in the Díaz era. Its theme of "Order and Progress" neatly dovetailed with the goals of Díaz and his cohorts, and it provided justification for the dictatorship. Members of an influential group of positivist adherents, some of whom were cabinet members became known as científicos (scientists), because they emphasized using science, statistics, and sociology to attain positive knowledge, achieve material progress, and solve problems, even social problems. An important leader of this group was José I. Limantour, a financial genius who served as secretary of treasury after 1893. He subscribed to the theory that "liberty constituted a privilege of the select; the weak would have to yield to the superior men." Along with other Mexican positivists he was influenced by the Social Darwinism popularized by Herbert Spencer.
Cientificos justified the regime's hostile policy toward Indians by citing "Survival of the Fittest" doctrines. Not only were the Indians downgraded racially, but their lands were taken by mestizo and criollo hacendados. When the Ley Lerdo; was enforced against remaining communal tribunal lands the former ejido farmers were reduced to peonage. In the north-west state of Sonora dozens of bands and settlements of Yaqui and Mayo Indians resisted white encroachment on their tribal lands, but army campaigns between 1885 and 1909 forced many of them to submit; others were killed in battle, and thousands were transported forcibly to Yucatán, where they were sold as laborers on henequen plantations that supplied twine to the world. Similar military actions reduced groups of un-integrated Maya Indians in the Yucatán peninsula. Mexico's government leaders saw this as progress.
Those who consider the Porfiriato a highly successful period are impressed by the economic and financial statistics. When Díaz first took office, the nation was virtually bankrupt (some historians accuse his predecessor, Lerdo, of looting the treasury); by 1895 there was a surplus of $2 million, which increased to $62 million by 1910. In the same period the value of exports and imports increased fivefold to $500 million pesos. Moreover, the government paid off its past foreign debts, established a banking system, simplified and modernized tax collection, and created a sound international credit reputation.
The combination of internal security, government concessions and subsidies, cheap and docile labor, and the natural resources of the country attracted many North American and European capitalists to Mexico. By 1910, foreign investments amounted to about $2 billion, half from the United States. This outside capital and its concomitant technology spawned significant development and material progress in Mexico, and of course it also generated vast profits for the foreign investors. Under Díaz, foreigners were assured of definite and generous returns; they also enjoyed tax exemptions and were given protection in the courts. Same critics remarked that "Mexico had become a mother to aliens and stepmother to her own citizens." In an effort to keep American capitalists from gaining supremacy, concessions also were granted to promoters from various European powers. Industrial development was encouraged by the Científicos who wanted to impose modern capitalism on semi-feudal Mexico While accomplishing their program, many of them became extremely wealthy through graft or by working closely with the fore capitalists.
A major achievement of the Díaz era was the construction of an extensive railroad network-from 617 kilometers, rails in 1876 the system expanded to almost 25,000 by 1910. All but six of the state capitals and five of the principal seaports were connected by rail with the national capital. The following major lines were built during the Porfiriato:
l. The Mexican Central (Mexico City to Ciudad Juárez, with branches to Guadalajara, Colima, and Tampico) The Mexican National (Mexico City to Nuevo Laredo, with branch to Uruapan, Michoacán)
3. The Isthmus (Coatzacoalcos on the Gulf of Mexico to Salina Cruz on the Pacific)
4. The Pan American (Ixtepec, Oaxaca, to Tapachula, Chiapas)
5. The Interoceanic (Veracruz to Mexico City via Jalapa, and projected to Acapulco)
6. The Mexican Southern (Pueblo to Oaxaca)
7. The Mexican International (Piedras Negras, Coahuila, south to Durango)
8. The Southern Pacific of Mexico (Nogales, Sonora, down the West Coast to Tepic, Nayarit)
Built with government subsidies, most of the railroads were foreign owned (chiefly by United States banks and holding companies) until 1908, when the Díaz government acquired ownership of more than half of the lines and merged them into the National Railways of Mexico. By comparing Mexico's development with other Latin American countries one sees the importance of the railroad system-it revitalized vast regions of the country, made it possible to market surplus farm goods, and connected the sources of raw material with refineries, ports, and smelters.
Mexico's mining industry was expanded and modernized by an infusion of foreign capital and technology. Besides generous tax exemptions, the extractive concerns benefited from a change in the mining law authorized by Diaz in 1884 According to this new code, all subsoil deposits belonged to the owner of the surface; before that date the government (the crown in colonial times) had held title to underground resources and received royalties from their exploitation. Silver production quadrupled during the Porfiriato, and Mexico became the world's second largest copper producer, supplying metal for the booming electric industry. By 1910 more than 3,000 silver, copper, lead, zinc, and iron mines were in full production; new smelters used the cyanide process to separate metals from ore; and more than 100,000 Mexicans here employed in mining. Of the 1,030 mining companies that operated in Mexico in 1910, 840 were North American, 148 Mexican, and the rest British or French.
Three North American companies dominated the mine and smelters of northern Mexico. In 1890, when Daniel Guggenheim secured a concession to build a silver-lead smelter in Monterrey, the city granted "exemption from all municipal and state taxes to the company or companies he may organize, on the capital he may invest in this city." His family's American Smelting and Refining Company soon had mines and smelters in the states of Chihuahua, Durango, Aguas Calientes, and San Luis Potosí. The Montezuma Copper Company, which operated in northern Sonora, was a subsidiary of the vast Phelps Dodge Company, and nearby in Cananea was William C. Greene's Consolidated Copper Company, which in 1906 employed fifty-five hundred men. A few years later Greene´s company merged with a larger American mining concern, the Anaconda Copper Company.
Petroleum was another sub-surface mineral that interested foreigners. Exploration began in the 1860s, and for the next forty years more than a hundred prospectors-Mexican and foreign-unsuccessfully drilled wells and attempted to refine oil from the bituminous outcroppings along the Gulf Coast Finally, in 1901, Edward Doheny, an American who had made a fortune in California oil, acting on the advice of Mexican geologist Ezequiel Ordóñez, struck oil at El Ebano about forty miles west of Tampico. Doheny spent $3 million in the next three years drilling other wells and building a refinery. He also sold asphalt to several Mexican cities for street paving, and he got a contract to supply oil for locomotives of the Mexican Central Railroad. By 1916 his Mexican wells were producing more than a million dollars worth of oil each week. Doheny eventually sold his interests to the Standard Oil Company.
Doheny's petroleum bonanza was soon matched by Weetman Pearson (later knighted as Lord Cowdray), who was head of a British firm that renovated and operated the Isthmus of Tehuantepec Railroad, dredged Veracruz harbor and built new docks there, and constructed the drainage canal that freed Mexico City from flooding. Convinced that he could find oil, and aided by the Petroleum Law of 1901, which authorized tax-free entry of machinery, Pearson drilled more than a hundred dry wells before striking oil in 1906 near Tuxpan. A series of gushers made his Aguila (Eagle) Petroleum Company the second largest oil producer. By 1910, Mexico's crude oil output averaged ten thousand barrels a day.
Industrial development during the Porfiriato accelerated rapidly as thousands of new factories were established. Furthermore, more than two-thirds of the total new investment came from Mexican capital. The new plants included mills for processing sugar, flour, paper, textiles, and chemicals as well as breweries, glass works, potteries, shoe factories, and cement plants. Although there were iron foundries in Mexico before the Díaz era, the first integrated steel mill in any part of Latin America, Fundidora de Fierro y Acero, was established in Monterrey in 1900, and it began producing three years later. By 1910 the company's annual production was fifty-five thousand tons. This steel mill reflected Mexico's modernization, as did the construction of electrical generating plants and installation of electric lights, streetcars in several cities, and telephones that linked Mexicans with each other and to the world. But this urban and industrial progress scarcely touched the majority of the people- the rural population.
The policies of the Díaz regime impacted negatively on the campesinos, or rural folk, who comprised three-fourths of the nation's population. Many small farmers and Indians lost their lands through renewed application of the Ley Lerdo or the aggressive policies of hacendados or land developers, who, taking advantage of any irregularity of titles, dispossessed the occupants and forced them into peonage. When those who lost land protested, the rurales rushed in to restore order." Unequal distribution of land had been a primary social evil for years, but land ownership became even more concentrated during the Porfiriato. Latifundia increased in number and size-the Terrazas family holdings in Chihuahua totaled over 405,000 hectares (1,000,000 acres), and great haciendas developed with the assistance of new land laws enacted between 1883 and 1894.
A land law of 1888 authorized formation of companies to survey terrenos baldíos, unclaimed and vacant lands in the national domain. As compensation the companies received one-third of the area surveyed; the remainder was usually sold by the government at ridiculously low prices to the land companies or to favored individuals. In nine years nearly 40,000,000 hectares (98,840,000 acres) were surveyed and most of the land transferred to a few companies or to private persons. Aliens purchased huge tracts and generally hired foremen to manage the properties in a way to produce maximum profits; this system contributed to anti-foreignism in Mexico.
Statistics on landholding in the Díaz era are astonishing. Between 1883 and 1894, one-fifth of the entire area of the republic was conceded by the administration to a few companies and individuals. By 1910 about eight hundred hacendados owned more than 90 percent of the rural land; fewer than 10 percent of the Indian communities had any land; and less than 3 percent of the agricultural population owned any land whatever. The 1910 census revealed that of Mexico's total population of 15,160,000, there were 834 hacendados and between 9 and 10 million landless peasants (3,143,271 peones and vaqueros plus their families). Clearly, the hacienda became the principal form of land tenure; at the same time it was also a social system.
Peons who resided on haciendas (peones acasillados) had various arrangements with the owners. Some mainly worked the owner's lands, receiving wages and a dwelling or permission to build a dwelling, and in their spare time could tend small garden plots allotted to them, from which they derived their basic subsistence. A second kind were primarily tenants or sharecroppers, but they also were required to work the owner's portion during part of the year. Cowboys and shepherds were a third type of hacienda peon. Peasants who lived in neighboring villages frequently worked part-time on haciendas, particularly at planting and harvest seasons.
In 1901 an Englishwoman, Ethel Tweedie, visited the hacienda of San Gabriel in the southern part of the state of Morelos. The historic estate was then owned by the Amor family, whose four sons had been educated in England and who maintained a fine stable of thoroughbred race horses. Besides describing the luxurious mansion where "there is always one and sometimes there are two servants allotted to each member of the family," the visitor wrote about the peasants:
"The village, containing nearly three thousand souls, belongs to the hacienda. The people pay no rent, and the owners of the hacienda hold the right to turn them out. The peasants are lent the ground on which they build their own houses-such as they are- merely bamboo walls roofed with a palm leaf sort of thatch. They are all obliged to work for the hacienda, in truly feudal style, whenever called upon to do so. Each man as a rule has an allotted number of days on which he is bound to render service. Generally about one thousand people-or one-third of the entire population of the village are constantly employed; but the women in Mexico never work away from their homes, though in busy seasons children, and even old men, are pressed into service to cut the sugar-cane....
As a rule all the employees on the hacienda are paid in cash each Saturday night, and a little on account every Wednesday.... A man and his family live on six or eight cents [centavos] a day (a cent is about a farthing), and men earn fifty cents per week on an average.... Everyone is paid by the day, and the books are most intricate. An hacienda of this kind is quite a colony, and requires a clever head to manage.
In the evening about sundown all the hands come up from the fields and pass before the book-keeper, who sits behind a large table on the balcony at the bottom of the house stairs, and as he calls out the names each man answers in turn. It naturally takes some time to register one thousand or more names.."
Conditions of labor on the haciendas varied from one region to another-they were far worse in Yucatán than on the central plateau-yet everywhere there were low wages, a minimum standard of living, and the system of debt peonage. Custom and tradition, rather than law, fixed the obligation hacendado and peon. From time to time the government examined rural working conditions and published reports The following typical report is from the Department of Pichucalco in the state of Chiapas
Here the workers are divided into two classes: free laborers and those bound by debt. The first receive 25 centavos daily in addition to subsistence, or 38 to 50 centavos without it. The laborers bound by debt are those who receive a sum in advance to cover a debt to their former employer, which debt frequently amounts to 500 or more pesos.
The monthly compensation of these laborers is:
Free laborers Laborers bound by debt
cash 7.50 cash 4.00
500 ears of corn 3.31 500 ears of corn 3.31
20 pounds of beans .62 20 pounds of beans .62
salt .07 salt .07
2 percent interest on
half the debt 4.00
To this amount should be added the value of the following
house rent 1.00 house rent 1.00
medicines given 1.00 medicines given 1.00
garden plots .33 garden plots .33
2 bottles alcohol .25 2 bottles alcohol .25
Total pesos $14.08 Total pesos $14.58
The hacienda system had many inherent evils. Because that mere ownership of land gave prestige, power, and borrowing ability to the hacendado, he felt no obligation to utilize all the property. Thus great tracts of arable land lay fallow year after year. Few hacendados or their overseers kept abreast of developments in agriculture or ranching; their archaic methods maintained production at a stable level even when population and demand increased. Marketing techniques were little understood by owners or managers. If they had a superabundant harvest one year, the surplus often remained unsold and unutilized. Many hacendados were absentee landlords who lived abroad or in provincial capitals, therefore they were unaware of, or insensitive to, the miserable living and working conditions on their property. Wages for peons were the same as they had been for a century, while princes of staple foods and necessities had doubled or tripled. Peons were compelled to buy at the company store where they received credit and typically were in debt. Since they could not leave while owing their employer money, this debt peonage amounted to a kind of serfdom, tying the people to the land. Schools were virtually non-existent on the haciendas thus the peons and their children were condemned to perpetual illiteracy.
Opportunities for education during the Porfiriato barely kept pace with the population growth. In 1878 there were about five thousand primary schools in the entire nation with an enrollment of about fifty thousand pupils; by 1910 there were twelve thousand schools with a million students However, the census of 1910 showed that only one in three children aged six to twelve was enrolled in school, and their attendance record was erratic. This was certainly an inadequate base upon which to build a literate society-in 1910 the illiteracy rate was almost 80 percent. It was much higher in, the rural areas than in the cities.
Human degradation and social injustice were common in urban areas as well as in the countryside. Factory workers received more pay than peasants-six to eight pesos a week- but they were obliged to labor twelve to fifteen hours a day, and at times of full production many were not given a day of rest. There were no protective rules for women and children; there was no extra compensation or insurance for hazardous work, job-related accidents, or industrial illnesses. Payroll deductions were made for religious services; workers were obliged to trade at the company store; and many had to live in housing provided at the work site with no space for a garden, chickens, or a cow. Some foreign company compounds had their own police and court system, where Mexican law was secondary to foreign law or company rules.
In spite of harassment and legal obstacles erected by the dictatorship, labor organizers finally succeeded in forming unions and organizing protests against working conditions. Not all labor leaders were affiliated with radical political movements, but some called themselves socialists and others were anarchists who advocated collective ownership of factories and farms. A strong current of anarchism and syndicalism came from Spanish immigrants, whose numbers increased dramatically during the Porfiriato. Between 1880 and 1900 there were seventy-five strikes in the textile industry, sixty in the railroad sector, and thirty-five among tobacco workers. Industria1 and agricultural labor strife continued in the first decade of the twentieth century, when it was also influenced by members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), whose aim was "to unite skilled and unskilled workers for the purpose of overthrowing capitalism and rebuilding society on a socialist basis." Mexican government sources attributed the labor unrest to political enemies of Diaz, Marxists, and agitators in the United States.
Foremost among the radical opponents of Diaz were the Flores Magón brothers, Ricardo, Enrique, and Jesús. In 1892, Ricardo Flores Magón was jailed following a student demonstration against the regime; in 1900 he was one of the founders of Regeneración, an opposition newspaper that was suppressed by the government; and two years later he edited El Hijo de Ahuizote, a periodical that caricatured and ridiculed leading members of the government. The Flores Magón brothers and Camilo Arriaga established Liberal Clubs- eventually there were more than fifty-and were prime movers in the Liberal Party (which was more radical than liberal). Naturally, Diaz moved against these antagonists, imprisoning them several times until in 1903, they sought refuge in the United States. From San Antonio, St. Louis, and later Los Angeles they published Regeneración and smuggled thousands of copies into Mexico, where that radical newspaper contributed to the growing anti-Diaz movement.
In July, 1906, the Liberal Party junta in St. Louis issued its Plan, or Manifiesto. Abandoning hope of a peaceful electoral change, the group now advocated revolution. Their Plan espoused typical labor demands of that era: an eight-hour workday, a minimum wage, and prohibition of child labor. Provisions to aid the peasants were more radical: creation of an agricultural bank to make low-interest loans to small farmers; cancellation of all debts owed by workers to their employers, the state to confiscate all lands not in production and give them to anyone who applied for them, and "on the triumph of the revolution, confiscation of property acquire by government employees during the dictatorship." Other, provisions included abolition of the death penalty, excel for treason, and a requirement that foreigners who acquire' property in Mexico become citizens. Clearly, some of the demands were in the interest of social justice, but other reflected the radical ideas of the exiled leaders.
After Mexico's ambassador to the United States requested that the Flores Magón coterie be apprehended, the leader Ricardo, and others were arrested in August, 1907, and imprisoned in Arizona for three years. About the same time dozens of suspected Mexican revolutionaries in the United States were accused of violation of the neutrality laws and deported across the border. Meanwhile, the impact of Regeneración and the work of opponents of the regime led to an escalation of labor unrest and a few abortive uprisings in Mexico.
In the late spring of 1906, agitators at Cananea, Sonora, forty miles south of the Arizona border, distributed copies of Regeneración and helped organize a strike at the American-owned copper company. Mexican workers there, paid in pesos rather than dollars as were their American co-workers, saw their real earnings crushed by the 1905 currency devaluation-especially since commodities were imported from Arizona. Two other complaints were that Mexicans were paid less than Americans for doing the same job, and that technical and managerial posts were all filled by aliens even though qualified Mexicans were available and on the payroll in menial positions. On June 1, when unarmed strikers forced their way into locked company property, they were fired on by soldiers; in the melee twenty-three miners and two American managers lost their lives. The strike was broken, the ringleaders were dealt with by the rurales, and the miners returned to work.
In January, 1907, the toll was even higher when an army unit opened fire on strikers and their families at the European-owned Río Blanco Textile Mills near Orizaba. Because 0f press censorship the exact number of victims is unknown- estimates range from one hundred to double that figure. The regime's violent repression of labor protests created further I ~' hostility toward Díaz and contributed to his eventual fall.
In many ways Díaz himself paved the way for the collapse of the dictatorship by maintaining a "geriarchy" where the key positions were held by old men. It appeared that Don Porfirio intended to govern for life, but as he grew older, the question of succession caused uneasiness. In 1906, when he picked Ramón Corral, the unpopular former governor of Sonora, as his vice-president, it disappointed the Científicos, even though Corral was allied with them, because they wanted their leader, Limantour, to be the heir apparent. The choice also thwarted the hopes of General Bernardo Reyes, the stern governor of Nuevo León and farmer secretary of war. Then in February, 1908, the seventy-eight-year-old president granted an interview to James Creelman, an American reporter, in which Díaz stated that since Mexico was now ready for democracy, he would retire in 1910. He also said that he would welcome an opposition party.
The Creelman interview became a political embarrassment for Díaz, who had no intention of retiring His remarks had been intended for foreign consumption, but when republished in a Mexico City newspaper, they caused a sensation. Hopes for reform were rekindled, there was renewed political activity, opposition forces restructured their plans, and ambitious individuals began to groom themselves for the executive office, or at least for the vice-presidency. The National Democratic Party supported the re-election of Díaz but wanted General Reyes as vice-president (until he was banished in 1909 on a mission to Europe). The Reelectionist Party favored the incumbents for yet another term. From exile the Liberal Party junta rejected elections and made plans for armed attacks, and the Anti-Reelectionist Party, founded by Francisco Madero and his friends, called for an end to continuismo by permitting only one term for the president and state governors.
Soon after the Creelman interview, Francisco Madero (1873-1913), a rich cotton planter from the state of Coahuila who had become interested in politics, began to write a book entitled La sucesión presidencial en 1910 (The Presidential Succession in 1910). Distributed early in 1909, the book had a profound influence in Mexico; its ideas even filtered down to the illiterate masses, where it contributed to their rising discontent. Although full of praise for much that Díaz had done, Mádero's book criticized his unconstitutional methods and urged that at least the vice-presidency and governorships should be filled by the choice of voters. Ignoring the proletariat's working conditions the peasants' hunger for land, Madero's panacea was political freedom. In carefully chosen words he suggested that the president should retire:
General Díaz knows perfectly well that his retirement from the presidency would be a benefit to the country. But there are powerful forces that retain him: his inveterate custom of commanding, his habit of directing the nation according to his will, and also the pressure that is brought to boar on him by a great many who call themselves his friends and who are the beneficiaries of all the concessions, of all the lucrative contracts, of all the public posts where they can satisfy their vanity and their covetousness, and who fear that a change in the government will deprive them of the favors which they enjoy and so ably exploit....
If the nation will become aroused in the next electoral campaign, if the partisans of democracy unite firmly and form a powerful party, it is possible that a change may yet be made in the purpose of General Díaz, for the rude accent of an agitated country may move the hero of the Intervention and perhaps cause pure patriotism to dominate him so that he will follow its guidance and put to one side the trifles, the meannesses, that might prevent him from rendering his country the greatest service he can ever render: that of leaving it free to form a new government in accordance with its aspirations and its needs..
By challenging the dictator, Madero became a popular hero and in 1910 was chosen as presidential candidate of the Anti-Reelectionist Party. His running mate was Francisco Vásquez Gómez, a physician who taught in the medical school of the University. For two months Madero campaigned extensively, using the railroads to visit twenty-two of the states His speeches were well attended-often from ten to twenty thousand people gathered to hear this mild-mannered, bearded man who became known as "the apostle of democracy".
Madero's popularity was a threat to the incumbents, so in June he was arrested and imprisoned, accused of fomenting a rebellion and insulting authorities including the president. By election day at least five thousand of Madero's supporters were in jail. After the election Madero was released on bail under the condition that he remain in the city of San Luis Potosí. Claiming that the elections had been fraudulent, he and leaders of his party petitioned the Chamber of Deputies to declare them invalid, but that appeal was rejected. Early in October it was officially announced that Díaz and Corral had been elected for another six years and that Madero had received only 196 votes. Madero said that he had more relatives than that who had voted for him'
Meanwhile, great fiestas were scheduled for the entire month of September, which had been designated as a national holiday to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Mexico's independence. Coincidentally, the national centennial was also the eightieth birthday of Porfirio Díaz. Distinguished guests from all over the world came to Mexico City bearing gifts for the nation and praise for Don Porfirio, who had presided over the great advances made in Mexico. There were parades, pageants, fireworks displays, banquets, and balls. The lavish entertainment cost twenty million pesos, an amount that was more than the country's annual appropriation for education. But while the elite lifted their glasses of French champagne to toast Mexico's prosperity and stability, the smouldering discontent of the poor masses was being fanned into the fire of rebellion. Within a few months tile regime of Porfirio Díaz would be toppled in a revolution that ultimately transformed the whole fabric of Mexican society
The Great Revolution
OF THE MANY REVOLUTIONS in their national history, Mexicans spell only one with a capital "R"-the Revolution that began n 1910. It was the bloodiest civil war in Mexico's history. During the military phase, 1910-20, about a million people out of a total population of fifteen million lost their lives; there were battles in almost every major city; a number of rebel chieftains were assassinated; and there was a tremendous amount of economic and social dislocation. Although it started simply as a political movement to overthrow the dictator, once the fighting began it became a complex social upheaval as men and women expressed serious grievances and popular leaders championed specific reforms. Some revolutionaries called for land redistribution, while others wanted protective labor laws, or massive expansion of public education, nationalization of utilities, restrictions on foreign businesses, limitation of Church power, and other changes. Eventually many of these ideas were incorporated into the new Constitution of 1917, and during the subsequent two decades Mexico's government was concerned with implementing the goals that had emerged in the ferment of rebellion.
During the military phase of the Great Revolution a large number of Mexicans supported the revolutionaries, and a wide cross section of people participated actively as rebels. There were peasant villagers who fought to regain lost ancestral lands; hacienda peons who hoped to improve their conditions; dissatisfied factory workers and miners; unemployed ranch' farm, and town workers; middle class representatives- teachers, students, newspapermen, intellectuals, small entrepreneurs, professionals-who opposed the politico-economic control exercised by national and local caudillos; aggrieved
Indians such as remnants of the Yaqui in Sonora; anarchists and radicals who had their own goals; soldiers who defected from the Mexican army; a few American soldiers of fortune. and there were even some wealthy northern hacendados who pledged their lives and fortunes to the Revolution. Although members of all these groups opposed the oligarchy and its federal army, that does not mean that they always worked together; indeed, sometimes they fought against each other Thus the Revolution was a confusing series of civil wars conspiracies, and changing coalitions of rebel leaders whose goals, methods, and programs differed.
For many noncombatants, particularly the great number of illiterate inhabitants of villages and cities, the Revolution was bewildering and sometimes calamitous. They could not even tell one faction from another, for the revolutionaries often wore parts of uniforms seized from the federates. One day a guerrilla band or a full regiment would arrive in town, seize supplies, compel able-bodied men to join them, and force women to give them "favors." A few days later a similar force from an opposing group or the federal army would appear and repeat the procedure, inflicting additional punishment for those who so recently had "cooperated with the enemy." Financial and monetary chaos added to the confusion as various state governments, revolutionary groups, and industrial concerns issued their own paper money, the I value of which fluctuated wildly, especially in foreign exchange.
Several major foreign governments were involved in the Mexican Revolution through munitions sales, actual or projected military intervention, diplomatic maneuvering, and economic or financial pressure. Representatives of Great Britain and Germany tried to protect the lives and investments of their countrymen in Mexico while countering moves of American diplomats and business interests. Uniformed troops of the United States moved into Mexico twice, in 1914 and again in 1916. As the Revolution progressed and became more nationalistic, many foreign residents-Chinese and Spaniards as well as Yankees, Germans, and English
men-were harassed by revolutionaries. A few were killed Outright Others were obliged to give protection bribes, and many left the country. Records show that foreign companies paid high taxes, tribute, or forced loans to one faction or another in order to keep operating or to avoid confiscation. Territory north of the Rio Grande served as a sanctuary for many revolutionary leaders, and it was a source of financial aid and military equipment as well as a market for confiscated cattle, cotton, or other products.
The Great Revolution began in the fall of 1910, when the civilian spearhead Francisco I. Madero called for a national uprising to oust Porfirio Díaz. Born in 1873, Madero was from a wealthy family whose properties in the northern border state of Coahuila included haciendas, cotton plantations, distilleries, and smelters. As a young man he studied in Paris for five years, then spent a year at the University of California before returning home in 1893 to become administrator of one of the family's cotton plantations. During the next fifteen years he devoted himself to agriculture. He introduced mechanization, hybrid seeds, and, along with his wife, Sara Pérez de Madero, tried to improve living conditions of the peones. In many ways Madero was an eccentric person, especially for an hacendado-he was a vegetarian, an avid spiritualist, and he studied homeopathic medicine. With a high-pitched voice, diminutive stature, and mild manners, he seemed an unlikely political leader. Yet, when he challenged Díaz for the presidency in 1910, he attracted thousands of followers. Jailed in San Luis Potosí, precluded from winning the election, then released on bail, Madero fled north to Texas, where he hoped to stage a comeback.
In San Antonio, Texas, Madero conferred with other Mexican exiles and published his call to arms, the Plan of San Luis Potosí, which was dated October 5, 1910, the last day he had been in that city. This manifesto declared the recent elections null; it announced that Madero had assumed the provisional presidency of Mexico "until the people should choose its government according to law;" and it called for a national uprising to begin on Sunday, November 20. Nowhere in Madero's Plan were there any provisions to improve proletarian labor conditions, and the only reference to agrarian problems was a proposal to return lands to owners who had lost them through abuse of Díaz's land laws. There was no mention of expropriation or confiscation of property, nor recognition of popular opposition to the political influence wielded by the Catholic Church and by foreign capital. Madero's solution was purely political-remove the dictator and have free elections. Yet the Plan did become a rallying point for disaffected Mexicans; perhaps they anticipated or hoped that widespread reforms would be enacted by a new government.
Madero's agents smuggled copies of the Plan into Mexico along with arms, money, and instructions to trusted individuals. A number of Madero's relatives joined him in San Antonio, but his younger brother Gustavo was arrested in Mexico City in October and imprisoned on charges of trying to subvert military officers. His release came when the government of France protested the action; it seems that he was connected with a number of companies in which the majority of stockholders were French. Significantly, the dictator's trusted advisor, José Limantour, was then in Paris trying to negotiate a loan for Mexico. Following his release, Gustavo worked hard for the revolutionary cause and became its financial agent.
In the first part of November the Díaz government intercepted correspondence that revealed Francisco Madero's tactics and compromised his network of local rebel leaders. Subsequently, hundreds of suspects were charged with sedition and jailed in six states and the capital. On November 18, when police visited the house of Aquiles Serdán, one of the conspirators in Puebla who had armed five hundred persons throughout the city, Serdán opened fire, and the resultant engagement leit him and fifteen supporters dead- the first martyrs for the cause. Two days later, the date set for the general uprising, there were a few armed movements in various states, but they were soon suppressed. And Francisco Madero, who had moved to the Rio Grande, was forced to abandon his plan to cross the river and seize the t of Porfirio Díaz (later renamed Piedras Negras) because I anticipated Mexican force failed to materialize on the right bank . It appeared that the revolutionary fire had sputter out, whereupon Madero went to New Orleans to contemplate future. The spark of revolution was slow to ignite, but it soon caught fire in the northern border state of Chihuahua. Th one of the rebel chieftains was Pascual Orozco, Jr, a twenty eight-year-old muleteer who had several grievances against the state government, especially its policy of awarding transport concessions only to friends of Luis Terrazas, the regional caudillo and largest landowner. In Chihuahua City, Orozco Joined the Anti-Reelectionist movement headed by Abraham Gonzalez, who had been educated at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Another member of that political group was Silvestre Terrazas, a renegade member of the powerful Terrazas-Creel clan, who published the state's only opposition newspaper, El Correo de Chihuahua, and who had been Jailed twice because of his anti-establishment editorials. Persuaded by these men to heed Madero's call, Orozco raised an armed band of peasants, miners, and unemployed workers at attacked government forces in Ciudad Guerrero, Cerro Prieto, and other settlements. Madero later conferred the rank of general on Orozco, the first revolutionary to be so honored.
Francisco "Pancho" Villa was another insurgent leader recruited and tutored by Abraham González. Myth and mystery surround Villa's early life; some say he was born in Durango in 1878, that his real name was Doroteo Arango and that after he shot an hacendado who had raped his sister, he fled to the mountains where he changed his name and Joined a gang of (bandits. Later, in Chihuahua, Francisco Villa had various occupations: miner, peddler, construction worker, and cattle rustler. When he decided to join the Madero revolt, he recruited an armed following of cowboys an roustabouts, plus a few ranch foremen. By the end of 1910 guerrilla bands under Villa and Orozco had attacked federal forces, cut railroad connections, and captured towns and territory in Chihuahua.
Heartened by the progress of events in Chihuahua, Madero slipped across the border in February, 1911, and joined the rebels. Meanwhile, he had sent his brother Gustavo to New York to secure financial assistance, while his 1910 vice presidential candidate, Dr. Vásquez Gómez, was in Washington as a "confidential agent." In March these two representatives and Madero's father met in New York with the Mexican ambassador and José Limantour, who had been recalled by Díaz from his financial mission to Europe. The conference, resulted in the following proposals for negotiation: announcement of peace talks; suspension of hostilities; amnesty for the revolutionaries; resignation of Vice-president Corral; retirement of four cabinet ministers and ten governors to be replaced by Anti-Reelectionists; and establishment of the principle of no re-election. When he learned of the terms, Madero said that he was willing to compromise, but that any agreement would have to include the resignation of Diaz.
During the spring of 1911, revolts erupted in scattered parts of the country from Baja California to Morelos, the old sugar plantation region south of Mexico's capital. The chief revolutionary leader in Morelos was Emiliano Zapata, a thirty-one-year-old horse trader, small farmer, and elected municipal official. He headed a group of armed peasant villagers, mostly of Indian descent, who took over ancestral lands, destroyed sugar haciendas, and pounced on several towns. Zapata's guerrilla forces captured the cities of Cuautla and Cuernavaca in May, the same month that Villa and Orozco took the important northern border city of Juárez. When uprisings continued and the federal army proved unable to establish order, President Díaz capitulated. On May 21, Madero and a representative of Díaz signed the Treaty of Ciudad Juárez, which provided for removal of the president and vice-president and called for new elections. It also left intact most elements of the old regime, including the federal army, yet it called for disbanding the revolutionary armies. At the end of the month Díaz departed for exile in France. Before leaving he said, "Madero has unleashed a tiger, now let us see if he can control it."
When Díaz resigned, his minister of foreign relations, Francisco León de la Barra, became provisional president and held that office for five and a half months. With the exception of three revolutionaries, all the cabinet posts were held by Díaz holdovers. After receiving a triumphal welcome in Mexico City in June, Madero devoted himself to organizing his campaign to be elected president. Dropping his former running-mate, he chose José Pino Suárez, a journalist from Yucatán, as his vice-presidential candidate. Together they campaigned, were elected, and took office the first week in November, 1911. It then appeared that the Revolution was over, but it was just beginning.
Madero, whom one writer termed "a dove fluttering in a sky filled with hawks," soon had his hands full. The utopian president ruled in accordance with the law, maintained freedom of speech and the press, left many Porfiristas entrenched in the cabinet and in government positions, and did little in the way of reform. His conciliatory attitudes permitted enemies to undermine him. As an atheist, he did not enjoy clerical support; his nepotism and dependence on family members-three were appointed to cabinet posts-offended many supporters; he could not count on the loyalty of high-ranking federal army officers; nor could he secure the cooperation of many politicians. Madero did not recognize that the country needed and wanted substantial economic and social changes, and he tried to stop the illegal seizures of land. Almost immediately he was beset by conspiracies and open opposition; even those who had fought for him turned against him.
Emiliano Zapata, who had supported Madero because his Plan of San Luis had promised return of land to the villages, soon broke with "the apostle." Zapata and thousands like him expected immediate action, but the interim government and that of Madero proceeded in a slow, orderly way by appointing committees "to study the agrarian situation." Zapata then re-formed his peasant army, and on November 25,1911, proclaimed his own agrarian program, the plan of Ayala, which disavowed Madero as president and called for his overthrow. It also contained the following key points
Villages or citizens unjustly deprived of lands to which they had held title should immediately reoccupy those lands and defend them to the utmost with arms.... Since the great majority of Mexico can villages and citizens do not own land and are powerless t improve their social condition or engage in industry or agriculture because the lands, woods, and waters are monopolized in few hands, one-third of these monopolies of the powerful property, owners will be expropriated, with indemnity Hacendados, cientificos, or caciques who directly or indirectly oppose this Plan will have their property nationalized and two-thirds of it will be se aside for war indemnity and pensions for widows and orphans o the victims who die fighting for this Plan..
Zapata, the peasant messiah whose slogan became "Tierra y Libertad!" (Land and Liberty!), brought to light one of the deepest and most enduring aspects of the Great Revolution: land hunger. That central issue, which appealed to millions of peons, small farmers, and ranchers, as well as to communal agriculturalists, gave unity of purpose to spontaneous uprisings throughout the country. Zapata's movement spread from Morelos to the neighboring states of Guerrero, Puebla, Tlaxcala, and Mexico, where peasants burned haciendas and seized land. They fought in bands of thirty to three hundred, obtained guns from the enemy, and counted soldadas (women soldiers) among their leaders. Unarmed women who cooked for the soldiers, shared their beds, and nursed the wounded and ill were called soldaderas (camp followers). They formed part of most guerrilla bands and part of the regular Mexican army as well.
In addition to the depredations of Zapatistas, Madero's government was faced with rebellions in the north. From the state of Coahuila in December, 1911, General Bernardo Reyes, who had returned from Europe and campaigned against Madero's election, issued a pronunciamiento against the president. However, when his call to arms was only feebly answered, he surrendered and was sent to the military prison in Mexico City. In Chihuahua the Vásquez Gómez clan, angry about being snubbed by the president, disavowed Madero and formed a revolutionary junta in Ciudad Juárez. And in March, 1912, Pascual Orozco, one of Madero's earliest backers, turned against him.
Orozco was disgusted with Madero, who had refused to support his candidacy for governor of Chihuahua and whose regime he considered far too conservative. Issuing the inevitable "plan," his socially advanced program called for improved industrial working conditions (ten hour maximum work day, etc.), nationalization of all railroads, distribution of government land, and expropriation of all land not regularly cultivated. Orozco's ragtag army initially achieved success in defeating regular government troops-after one engagement the humiliated federal general committed suicide. Finally, Madero sent an army north under General Victoriano Huerta, a professional soldier with a reputation for ruthlessness and a craving for brandy. Huerta got Pancho Villa, who had rounded up his followers again, to join him, and in a series of battles they dispersed the Orozquistas and forced their leader into exile in the United States. By June, 1912, the Orozco rebellion was ended.
During the northern campaign there was a dispute between Huerta and Villa, whereupon the guerrilla leader was arrested and sent under guard to the military prison in Mexico City. Villa soon escaped and made his way back to the northern border. In September when Huerta returned to the capital, he was removed from his command by Madero, who had reasons to doubt his loyalty. Not only had he disobeyed orders earlier while pursuing Zapata, but he had arrested Villa and also had tried to oust Madero's governor of Chihuahua, the prominent revolutionary Abraham González.
Madero was opposed not only by radicals such as Zapata, Orozco, and the renovadores (reformers) within his own party, but also by reactionaries who wanted to regain the power they had lost. Several conspiracies were hatched by ranking army officers who hoped to overthrow what they considered to be "a liberal and ineffectual government." In October, 1912, the Veracruz garrison rebelled, led by General Félix Díaz, a nephew of the deposed dictator. Other army officers failed to support Díaz, probably because they could not predict success for his poorly-planned movement. Díaz was captured and condemned to death, but the soft-hearted president commuted his sentence to imprisonment in the penitentiary. And nearby in the military prison was his longtime friend, General Reyes.
From their cells the jailed generals, Díaz and Reyes, planned a new coup d´etat and suborned a number of army officers in the federal district. On the morning of February 9, 1913, the two conspirators were released from prison by military accomplices; Reyes then took command of a unit that moved to the zócalo expecting the army guards to open the National Palace. But a recently-appointed commander who was loyal to Madero ordered the guards to fire, thereby killing several attackers, including Reyes. In the exchange of gunfire the commander of the palace guards was seriously wounded, and there wore civilian casualties as well. Under Félix Díaz the rebel soldiers retreated to a military fort called the Cindadela (Citadel) about fifteen blocks away. Madero, having been advised of the insurrection and needing an experienced officer to head those troops still loyal, recalled General Huerta to take supreme command. It was a fateful step.
There followed a period known as the Tragic Ten Days (la Decena Trágica), during which troops from the palace and soldiers from the Ciudadela bombarded each other. Considerable damage was done in the main business section between the two positions, and hundreds of civilians were killed or injured. In spite of orders "to observe the strictest impartiality," United States Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson for some time had opposed Madero's presidency and brazenly meddled in Mexico's internal problems, justifying his actions by claiming to protect foreign business interests. During this crisis he met with Huerta, Díaz, and Madero, as well as with other ambassadors At his urging a group of foreign diplomats suggested to Madero that he and the vice-president should resign' but Madero indignantly rejected the suggestion, along with a similar one signed by twenty-five Mexican senators Meanwhile, the traitorous Huerta secretly negotiated with the military rebels, indicating that he would join with them at the proper moment.
The denouement came on February 18 when General Huerta ordered the arrest of President Madero and the vice-president. That evening the American ambassador invited Huerta and Díaz to his office to negotiate an end to hostilities. Under the aegis of Wilson the two Mexican generals signed the Pact of the Embassy, which provided that Madero Would no longer be recognized as chief executive, Huerta Would become provisional president, and Félix Díaz would be the principal candidate for the highest office as soon as elections could be scheduled.
Madero's administration ended swiftly and tragically. First, he and the vice-president were "induced" to resign, whereupon the presidency fell to the minister of foreign relations, Pedro Lascuráin, who immediately appointed Huerta as his foreign minister. Then Lascuráin resigned, making Huerta legally president. This exercise in constitutional form during a military coup d'etat seemed comic, but it became tragic when Madero and Pino Suárez were fatally shot. The official report said that "while they were being transported to the penitentiary, an armed force attempted to rescue them, and in the confusion they were killed accidentally." Although "the apostle" was dead the Revolution was destined to continue.
As provisional president, General Victoriano Huerta relied on force "to restore order." Son of a Huichol Indian mother and a mestizo father, he had been in the army since his teens. In his long military career he had fought Indians in Sonora and Yucatán, opposed Zapatistas in Morelos, arrested Villa in Durango, bested Orozco in Chihuahua, and stunned the nation with his seizure of the presidency from Madero.
After cowing the bewildered and frightened Congress into approving his takeover, he proceeded to rule despotically and silence his opponents. Gustavo Madero was assassinated, presumably on orders from Huerta; a like fate befell Abraham González, the governor of Chihuahua. A senator from Chiapas who referred to the chief executive as "Madero's assassin" was found murdered; when other congressmen protested the murder, Huerta sent eighty-four legislators to the penitentiary and dissolved Congress.
Huerta also filled government posts with military cronies, sent Félix Díaz on a mission to Japan to keep him from claiming the presidency, and quintupled the size of the federal army. When the number of enlistees lagged, the government relied on the leva (forced conscription), under which indigents were picked off the streets, men leaving a bullfight or a bar were often pressed into service, and petty criminals were transferred from jails into the army. As a result the quality of the army declined sharply, and the federates were loathed and feared by the general public.
A broadly-based movement to avenge the murder of Madero and oust General Huerta arose in three northern Mexican states. The leader was a bewhiskered civilian hacendado named Venustiano Caranza who had been a senator in the Díaz era and Madero's governor of Coahuila. He announced his Plan of Guadalupe on March 26, 1913. A purely political program, it proclaimed a national uprising against Huerta and demanded reestablishment of the Constitution of 1857. Calling himself First Chief and his forces the Constitutionalist Army, Carranza had the support of three principal generals: Pablo González in the northeast; Francisco Villa, who had escaped from prison, for the north central region; and in the northwest, Alvaro Obregón, a rancher from the state of Sonora whose troops included many fierce Yaqui and Mayo Indians. While these irregular forces harassed federal troops and gradually pushed south toward Mexico City, Zapata, who distrusted both Carranza and Huerta, led his peasants on the warpath in the south.
Pancho Villa's success against Huerta's federates was partly because of the intense loyalty and bravery of his men and partly because of his innovative military tactics. Considering soldaderas to be an encumbrance to his highly mobile cavalry units, Villa expelled a great number of them. He also favored night attacks, lightning raids on military bases, and the use of railroad trains to move troops, horses, and supplies. An American correspondent who accompanied Villa during his attack on Torreón in 1914 described the unique field hospital:
It consisted of forty box-cars enameled inside, fitted with operating tables and all the latest appliances of surgery, and manned by more than sixty doctors and nurses. Every day during the battle shuttle trains full of the desperately wounded ran from the front to the base hospitals at Parral, Jimenez and Chihuahua. He took care of the Federal wounded as carefully as of his own men.
Villa's charisma and early military victories made him an idol of the masses. His deeds, shrouded in myth, were perpetuated by corridos, those popular ballads sung by the common people to commemorate events or glorify individuals. The following verses are from a ballad about Villa:
Fly; fly away little dove
Fly all over the mesas,
And say that Villa has come
To chase them off their bases.
Get ready now, federates,
Be prepared for very hard rides
For Villa and his soldiers
Will soon take off your hides!
Impelled by his primitive concept of justice, Villa frequently set up "people's courts," where cruelties or injustices were denounced and the accused perpetrators summarily dealt with on the spot. Perhaps just as often he displayed the qualities of vengeance and violence-for example, ordering his men to shoot prisoners or pillage towns. A Mexican saying of the time sums up his popularity: "Villa was hated by thousands, but beloved by millions."
Besides mobilizing army units to fight Villa and other revolutionaries' President Huerta waged a diplomatic campaign for American recognition of his government. By early summer, Great Britain and forty-nine other nations had extended recognition, but the new occupant of the White House, Woodrow Wilson, remained opposed-he disliked the way the regime had come to power. In the summer of 1913, Wilson recalled the American ambassador and sent John Lind as a special commissioner with the promise of recognition and financial assistance to Mexico if Huerta would declare an armistice, hold free elections, and not present himself as a candidate. Spurning the offer, Huerta then arranged for his own election in the fall. About the same time, the United States imposed an arms embargo that cut off munitions shipments to Huerta's forces. Then in April, 1914, a seemingly small event in Tampico led to American armed intervention in Mexico.
One historian aptly termed the Tampico incident and its sequel "An Affair of Honor." It began when some American sailors, who had inadvertently entered a restricted wharf area, were arrested briefly then released with an apology. But their Yankee admiral demanded that the Mexican authorities hoist the Stars and Stripes and give it a twenty-one gun salute. When that was not done, and, further, when President Wilson received news that the German ship Ypiranga was scheduled to arrive in Veracruz with an arms shipment for Huerta, Wilson ordered the seizure of that primary port. Unfortunately, the American bombardment of Veracruz resulted in hundreds of Mexican casualties. It also generated violent anti-American demonstrations in several cities, the seven-month occupation did not prevent Huerta from getting the arms, and the United States never received the controversial flag salute.
Even had there been no trouble with the United States, Huerta's regime was doomed because of the victories gained by insurgent forces against his federal troops. After Villa took Zacatecas in June, 1914, and Obregón entered Guadalajara early in July, Huerta resigned and fled to Spain. Later he went to Texas, where a plot for his return to Mexico was cut short by his arrest and subsequent death from natural causes. Meanwhile, Obregón's army occupied Mexico City, paving the way for Carranza to assume the presidency in August, 1914. Carranza, like Madero, was a wealthy landowner from Coahuila, and like him, he favored a deliberate, legal approach to Mexico's problems.
The chaotic period following Huerta's overthrow has been called "near anarchy"-it was highlighted by armed struggles between former Constitutionalists allies. Villa, who had expropriated large estates, quarreled with the cautious Carranza over this issue and finally withdrew his support of the First Chief. Then Zapata and twenty-seven of his generals issued a manifesto which opposed "putting authority into the hands of a traditional Señor of the old regime" (Carranza) and called for immediate confiscation and division of land. In October, 1914, a convention at Aguascalientes attended by representatives of the revolutionary factions resulted in further splits. The Conventionalists disavowed Carranza and chose a new provisional president, Eulalio Gutiérrez, who, aided by Villa s army, moved into Mexico's capital, while Carranza's Constitutionalists, championed by Obregón, transferred their headquarters to Veracruz.
Once again Mexico had two governments at war with each other, a situation that divided families and devastated much of the country. Although Gutiérrez was nominally in control of Mexico City for a few months, actually the capital was held and terrorized by the undisciplined troops of Villa or Zapata, sometimes acting together, sometimes separately. Despite their military prowess and the support of rural countrymen, neither leader could maintain a stable government or cooperate to complete a reform program. The Revolution seemed to be disintegrating. Finally, Gutiérrez and some of his associates, unable to tolerate the excesses, fled to San Luis Potosí and ultimately to the United States.
The Constitutionalists eventually triumphed because of the military victories of General Obregón. First he contained Zapata in his homeland of Morelos; then, using artillery, machine guns, and barbed-wire barricades, he defeated Villa's cavalry in two fierce battles near Celaya in April, 1915. Obregón had eleven thousand men in that engagement and Villa commanded perhaps double that number. The victors later claimed that they had killed or wounded nine thousand Villistas and taken six thousand as prisoners. By the end of the year Villa was back in Chihuahua with a much reduced army that resorted to guerrilla tactics.
Villa's actions in 1916 are puzzling-only he knew the reasons for them. In January his men stopped a train in Chihuahua and murdered fifteen American mining engineers. Apparently this was a reprisal against the United States for having recognized Carranza's government and for stopping arms shipments to Villa and other anti-Carranza revolutionaries. Or was it an attempt to draw the American army into the Mexican Revolution? Two months later about 360 Villistas crossed the border and shot up the town of Columbus, New Mexico, killing seventeen Americans. Their immediate goal was to secure arms from an adjacent military base. The United States then sent to Mexico a punitive military expedition of about six thousand troops led by General John J. Pershing, but the clever Villa eluded his pursuers, and Carranza ordered the Americans to withdraw. The ten-month invasion stirred up further anti-Yankee sentiment in Mexico.
Meanwhile, in 1915 Carranza reestablished his government in Mexico City and ruled from there for the next five years. His administration soon received diplomatic recognition by the United States and other governments. One of the First Chief's priorities was to suppress the continuing rebellions in several states, notably Chihuahua, Morelos, and Yucatán. Armies sent to those areas eventually quelled the uprisings. He also had to deal with runaway inflation, black markets, high unemployment, and a series of labor strikes orchestrated by the Casa del Obrero Mundial (Workers' Hall), an anarchosyindicalist organization that was opposed to capitalism. A1though thousands of trade union workers, organized into six
Red Battalions, enlisted in 1915 to fight for the Constitutionalists against Villistas and Zapatistas, Carranza disbanded them nine months later. Then he moved to crush the radical labor movement. After two general strikes called by the Casa in mid-1916, government agents raided the movement's offices throughout the country, arrested its leaders, and outlawed the organization.
Carranza is a controversial figure in Mexican history-was he a revolutionary or a conservative? He did not favor expropriation of large estates, and on this issue he was opposed by Zapata, Villa, and others. Zapata, whose primary focus was on land redistribution, carried out extensive direct restoration of land to peasant villages-there were no delaying or expensive court proceedings. Pancho Villa confiscated some large haciendas in Chihuahua and Durango, but he did not divide them among resident peons or peasant villagers; instead, he transferred them to state ownership or gave them to his revolutionary cronies. Carranza, a wealthy hacendado, wanted to restore the confiscated estates to their pre-revolutionary owners. His major concession to agrarian reform was a decree that set up a centralized national bureau to oversee the return to villages of lands that had been taken illegally. Eventually forty-four thousand communal farmers (a very small percentage of the total) benefited from this decree. Carranza also issued decrees that legalized divorce and abolished debt peonage, reforms later incorporated into the fundamental law of the land.
Convinced by his advisors that he should institutionalize some of the revolutionary actions and decrees, Carranza re1uctantly convoked a congress that would meet in Querétaro to draft a new constitution. Election of delegates was strictly controlled-all who had aided with arms or served public office under factions hostile to the Constitutionalists (Huertistas, Villistas, Zapatistas) were excluded. Completed in six weeks, the new Constitution of 1917 (which with later amendments is still in force) was promulgated in February as the supreme law of the land. Influenced by Obregón and General Francisco Mújica, as well as by Andrés Molina Enríquez, a promoter of agrarian reform who was not a delegate, the drafters came up with a revolutionary document that did not please Carranza. He generally ignored the new charter, interpreting it as a statement of ideals and goals yet to be achieved Although the new Constitution preserved many features of the old one of 1857, it also contained some innovative and controversial sections, especially those dealing with land labor, and religion.
Article 27 of the new Constitution addressed the ancient problem of land. It stated that all property was subject to the public welfare; it affirmed that all water and subsoil riches belonged to the nation, which could grant concessions for their exploitation ¡ and it declared that ejidos were inalienable. Foreigners were not permitted to own land or to obtain concessions unless they agreed to be considered Mexicans and not invoke the protection of their government; and foreigners were prohibited from acquiring direct ownership of land within one hundred kilometers (sixty-two miles) of the frontiers or fifty kilometers (thirty-one miles) from the seacoast. The article directed Congress and the state legislatures to enact laws dividing the large estates and establishing a maximum area that individuals or corporations could own.
Perhaps the most startling provision of Article 27 was the prohibition of religious institutions from owning, acquiring, or administering real property-the article clearly stated that "places of public worship are the property of the nation." Legal justification for assuming title to all Church property was found in the peace treaty between Spain and Mexico wherein the former mother country ceded all royal property to the newly independent nation. Mexican lawyers maintained that the Spanish state, not the Roman Catholic Church, had financed construction of the religious buildings in Mexico; thus they were government buildings.
Not only did the Catholic Church lose title to all of its real estate, without compensation, but in addition other constitutional provisions severely curtailed its activities. Article 3, which made all elementary education free, compulsory, and secular, prohibited churches or ministers of any creed from establishing or directing schools of primary instruction. Article 5 outlawed monastic orders, and Article 130 restricted priests and ministers: they were required to register with the government; each state was authorized to limit the number within its borders; foreign priests were to be expelled; no minister was to criticize the fundamental laws of the country, the authorities in particular, or the government in general; and priests were ineligible for public office and denied the vote. The Constitution attacked the clergy and the great landowners, as had the document of 1857, but the new one also targeted foreign investors and employers of labor.
The new constitutional provisions for the benefit of organized labor marked Mexico as an advanced nation in this field. Article 123 gave workers the right to organize, to bargain collectively, and to strike; it set a maximum eight-hour work day, required one day of rest each week, ordained a minimum wage, and required double pay for overtime "which in no case shall exceed three hours nor continue for more than three days." Women were entitled to receive the same compensation as men for doing the same job, they were precluded from unhealthy or dangerous occupations, and they were to be given one month's leave with pay after bearing a child. Employers were made liable for on-the-job accidents or occupational diseases; and agricultural, mining, or industrial employers were to provide schools, dispensaries, and "comfortable and sanitary housing at a monthly rental not exceeding one-half of one percent of the assessed value of the property." The article also called for establishment of government insurance plans to cover unemployment, sickness, old age, and death. Liberal as it seems, this article was seen by its Constitutionalist framers as a way to circumvent more radical labor demands by members of the recently disbanded Casa del Obrero Mundial.
Although he was elected president in 1917 and served the next three years, Carranza was either unwilling or unable to enforce the constitutional reforms. He had distractions stemming from World War I and Germany's bid for Mexican support against American belligerency (the Zimmerman Telegram of February 1917), but most of all he had domestic problems. The country was suffering from years of civil war uprisings continued to disrupt the peace, and Carranza resorted to suppression and martial law to maintain his waning power. Opposition by organized labor and continued strikes led to the arrest of Luis Morones, the principal labor organizer, who had founded the nation's first large labor association, the Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers, known by its acronym, CROM. In 1919 the labor secretary, Plutarco Elías Calles, resigned to protest the government's hostility toward organized labor.
Carranza also had problems with several heroes of the Revolution. Zapata still demanded that one-third of hacienda land be redistributed among landless peons, but the president was not in favor of confiscation. When agrarian protesters criticized the president and took matters into their own hands, Carranza sent an army unit after them. Finally, Zapata was treacherously assassinated in April, 1919, and his head was displayed at Cuautla for some time to convince his followers that their messiah was dead and to dissuade them from continuing their illegal seizures of land.
Most serious of all was the threat from Obregón, who had returned to Sonora where his loyalty cooled while his presidential ambition warmed. In April, 1920, when it became apparent that Carranza intended to control the election so that a puppet would succeed him, armed uprisings occurred. Obregón "pronounced" against the government; the governor of Sonora, Adolfo de la Huerta, declared his state an independent republic; and General Calles gathered an army of Obregonistas who marched toward Mexico City, picking up adherents along the way. On May 5, Carranza packed his bags (some say with five million pesos from the treasury) and boarded a train for Veracruz, hoping to take a ship to exile. The First Chief only made it partway to the coast-his train was attacked, and while fleeing his pursuers, he was murdered. Mexico's government was taken over by de la Huerta, who served as provisional president until the end of November, 1920, when Obregón took over as the duly-elected president. Thus ended the first decade of the Revolution, the military phase; the next period would be one of postwar reconstruction.
As president of Mexico for the first four years of the 1920s Alvaro Obregón enforced domestic peace on the war-wracked country, resumed payments of the foreign debt, and gradually began implementation of the revolutionary goals. This one-armed man from the Northwest-he had lost his right arm in a battle against Villa-was a moderate whose practical nature permitted him to compromise on issues. To aid reconstruction he proclaimed an amnesty, invited exiled enemies of the Revolution to return home, and brought Villistas and Zapatistas into government. Peace was made with Villa, who was awarded the hacienda of Canutillo in Durango, where he lived quietly with some of his soldiers until his mysterious assassination in 1923. One of his self-proclaimed assassins stated that "it was a belated act of justice for Villa's countless unpunished crimes."
Aware of continuing discontent among peasants and proletarians, Obregón began to fulfill revolutionary promises made to them. To assuage land hunger he established a special agrarian commission that did not inaugurate a general confiscation or division of haciendas. Instead, it methodically granted titles to Indian communities that had regained their land by force or that showed proof of prior ownership of property that had been taken from them illegally. During Obregón's presidency almost a million hectares of land were redistributed in that way. The president also supported labor legislation, encouraged the formation of trade unions, and favored Luis Morones, whose confederation of workers (CROM) increased its membership from 50,000 to 1,200,000. Besides consolidating the working sectors, Obregón was sympathetic to the revolutionary demand for an expansion of educational opportunities.
José Vasconcelos, a philosopher and lawyer who served as minister of education between 1921 and 1924, abandoned the elitist policies of the cientificos and initiated a vast effort to combat illiteracy and awaken the common people. Under this great man, who inspired young men and women to devote their lives to teaching even at very low salaries, the federal government pursued active role. More than a thousand rural schools were constructed; teacher training facilities were expanded; 671 public libraries were established; the Classics and other books were printed by the government in inexpensive editions and distributed nationwide; and "cultural missions"-mobile units composed of teachers, public health workers, and agricultural specialists-were sent to rural areas. In some remote places Spanish was introduced for the first time, and everywhere teachers spread the new gospel of nationalism.
Vasconcelos also supported folk or popular arts, and he encouraged Manuel Ponce, Carlos Chávez, and other composers to write ballet and symphonic music based on indigenous themes and rhythms. A nativist musical movement had begun during the Revolution when Mexican songs like "Adelita," "La Cucaracha," and "Estrellita" were written and became popular throughout the nation.
Out of this period also came a great renaissance of Mexican art, stimulated by government commissions for artists to decorate public buildings. Following the pre-Columbian and Spanish colonial traditions of fresco paintings on walls, dozens of artists created magnificent murals in post offices, city halls, schools, hospitals, and other government buildings. These frescoes and mosaics became "textbooks" for the illiterate, because they portrayed Mexico's past, the goals of the Revolution, and showed heroes and villains of national history, often in caricature. Glorifying Indians and mestizos, the nationalistic artists at the same time denigrated foreigners-from thegochutin Hernán Cortés, depicted as whipping Indian slaves, to the yanqui John D. Rockefeller, whose Standard Oil Company was accused of profiteering from Mexico's "black gold." Three moralists who achieved international fame were José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Siqueiros. Because the last two were Marxists, their paintings often included a red star, hammer and sickle, or a clenched fist.
The Revolution also inspired a nationalistic literary flowering. Vasconcelos himself wrote The Cosmic Race (1925), in which he exalted Mexicans (and Latin Americans) and predicted a brilliant destiny for them because of their multicultural heritage stemming from a blend of blood and traditions from the New World, Europe, and Africa. Dozens of novels about the Great Revolution were published, beginning in 1916 with Mariano Azuela's Los de abajo (The Underdogs). Azuela, who had been a physician with Pancho Villa's army, revealed the haphazardness and violence of the civil war. One of his characters remarked that the Revolution was like a volcano in eruption; another observed, "it is like a hurricane which carries you along as if you were a dead leaf." Martín Luis Guzmán, a journalist and one-time secretary to Villa, titled his revolutionary-era novel The Eagle and the Serpent; he also compiled documents and reminiscences into an account called Memoirs of Pancho Villa. For a generation, Mexican writers focused almost exclusively on the Revolution. Perhaps that was natural, since the upheaval had touched virtually every family, and during three decades government leaders constantly referred to the Revolution as they tried to implement the program that had evolved between 1910 and 1920.
Obregón's reform measures were overshadowed by fiscal and political problems. Mexico's economy and transportation had been severely disrupted. The worldwide recession following World War I caused a slump in silver and copper prices, and the United States government refused to recognize Obregón's government-partly because of pressure from American mining and petroleum companies whose officers feared nationalization of subsoil riches. Finally, in August, 1923, a compromise was reached in the Bucareli Agreement. Mexico conceded that Article 27 would not be retroactive-lands acquired before 1917 would not be affected-whereupon the United States opened its embassy again. That support came at an opportune time, because Obregón was being challenged in the domestic political arena.
When Obregón proposed General Calles as his presidential successor, it touched off a revolt led by his former treaSury secretary, Adolfo de la Huerta, who enlisted the support of ultra-conservatives as well as military commanders in Jalisco, Oaxaca, and Veracruz. Beginning in December 1923, the fighting continued for three months, but the rebels were defeated. De la Huerta escaped to California, his military champions were executed, and Calles tock Office
Plutarco Elías Calles proved to be a ruthless and fearle9s president who was determined to carry out the aims of the Revolution and to enforce the Constitution Although he served only one four-year term, he Continued behind the scenes to manage puppets in the executive office for another six years; thus, he "ruled" Mexico for a decade. Calles was a self-made man who had been a teacher, newspaperman and hotel manager before he organized a brigade to aid Carranza in the Revolution. His military service brought him the governorship of Sonora and subsequently the tabinet post of minister of interior (gobernación) under Obregon, from which he rose to the presidency.
As chief executive Calles launched an ambitious program of social improvement. His administration initiated a public health campaign against infectious diseases; began 1arge irrigation and highway projects; continued the expansion of educational opportunities; established agricultura1 schools; and redistributed more than 3,000,000 hectares (7 413 000 acres) of land, triple the amount under Obregón He also supported trade unions and named union boss Luis Morones as his minister of industry, commerce, and 1abor Faced with a bare treasury and a huge government debt of $54 million pesos, Calles adopted a rigid fiscal policy that balanced the budget and consolidated the debt, and in addition he established a national bank and an agricultural credit bank He also must be given credit for attempting to reform the army by subjecting it to civilian control, reducing its share of the national budget to 25 percent, modernizing the military college curriculum, and establishing Schools in the barracks to raise the level of literacy among common Soldiers
Unfortunately, the Jefe Máximo (Supreme Chief) a title Calles preferred, became less reform-minded and more dictatorial as the years passed. Hundreds of his enemies were jailed, others were dispatched by the army, and a large number were reported to have "committed suicide." Moreover, he and his close associates became corrupted by power and were transformed into millionaires. Their lavish estates in the Lomas district of the capital and their weekend houses in Cuernavaca were referred to as "palaces of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves."
Calles is often remembered for his controversy with the Catholic Church. In 1926, when Archbishop José Mora y del Río publicly reaffirmed the hierarchy's opposition to the anticlerical articles of the Constitution, the president moved to enforce those provisions. His administration ordered all priests to register with the government, deported about two hundred alien priests and nuns, secularized all primary education, and closed seventy-three monasteries and convents. Church leaders countered with nationwide protests and then with a papal-approved interdiction under which they closed all Catholic churches and the clergy abstained from administering the sacraments-even baptism and marriage. Although this church lockout and clerical strike lasted for three years, it failed to achieve a change in official policy. Indeed, the government took a harder line by taking possession of all religious buildings and Church property. Later the government converted many church edifices to libraries, schools, museums, health clinics, or other public functions.
The Cristero rebellion, which caused at least fifty thousand deaths, flamed up during those years; its name was derived from the rebels' rallying cry, Viva Cristo Rey! (Long Live Christ the King!) This armed movement by fanatic Catholics occurred primarily in the northern and western states of Jalisco, Colima, Guanajuato, Durango, Zacatecas and Michoacán. There the guerrilla forces destroyed schools and other government property, murdered teachers, dynamited a train, killing a hundred innocent passengers, and committed other hostile acts. In suppressing the rebellion federal soldiers murdered priests and took brutal revenge on suspected Cristeros or their families. Government agents harassed prominent Catholic laymen and deported the archbishop and five other prelates accused of aiding the Cristeros. Calles refused to soften his anticlerical position despite the pressure of rising public opinion at home and abroad.
Strained relations with the United States resulted from the determination of Calles to enforce the Constitution-the religious articles as well as those dealing with land. When he ordered owners of petroleum properties to exchange their titles for fifty-year leases dating from the time of acquisition, his decree was denounced by foreign powers as a violation of the earlier Bucareli Agreement. Finally, in 1928, a Mexican Supreme Court decision pointing to non-confiscatory interpretation of the legislation, and mediation by Dwight Morrow, the newly-appointed American ambassador, temporarily settled the oil controversy. Morrow, an able diplomat who loved Mexico and its culture, met secretly with Calles and several Catholic representatives in an attempt to reach a compromise on the Church-state issue. These talks ultimately led to reopening the churches in June, 1929, and the Cristero revolt died out, but the outcome was a victory for the government because its laws regulating the Church were not rescinded. (They still are in effect, though not totally enforced.)
While Calles was embroiled in the Church controversy, the question of presidential succession arose. The former president, Obregón, sought the position and became eligible alter Congress amended the Constitution to permit one non-immediate re-election. (This violation of the no-reelection principle was later annulled.) At the same time Congress lengthened the presidential term to six years. Clearly Obregón would win the election, but two "anti-reelectionist" candidates, Generals Francisco Serrano and Arnulfo R. Gómez, were executed "for plotting a revolt." Then in mid-July, 1928, two weeks after Obregón's election but before his inauguration, he was assassinated by an artist who had been painting his portrait in an outdoor restaurant. The murder stunned the nation and exacerbated the Church problem, because the assassin was a fanatic Catholic.
For the next six years the Jefe Máximo dominated national politics through puppet presidents and by his control of the official revolutionary political party, the Partido National Revolucionario (PNR) which he organized in 1929. One reason it was called the official party was that all civil servants were obliged to contribute a small percentage of their salary. (With two reorganizations and name changes, this party has continued to govern Mexico to the present.) Emilio Portes Gil was the first interim president; he served for two years, until the election of Pascual Ortiz Rubio, who fell out of favor in 1932 and was replaced by another Calles henchman, General Abelardo Rodríguez. During the latter's term the public schools introduced sex education, and in 1934 they were obliged by a constitutional amendment to make all education "socialistic and nonreligious." Catholic and conservative leaders opposed these programs, but most Mexicans were more concerned about economic conditions than school curriculum.
Between 1929 and 1934, the world economic depression hit Mexico very hard. Foreign trade, a key source of public revenue, fell by one-half; unemployment rose dramatically and tens of thousands of destitute Mexicans returned home from the United States. Mexican radicals, some of them Marxists, pointed to the economic crisis and demanded a restructuring of society. The PNR responded with a Six Year Plan to coincide with the next presidential term. It called for a new economic system under state control and direction, which would reform agriculture, give wider benefits to organized labor, diminish if not vanquish illiteracy and free Mexico from foreign economic domination. To carry out this program the PNR backed General Lázaro Cárdenas, the presidential candidate designated by the Jefe Máximo.
Although he was a darkhorse candidate, Cárdenas was no political novice. Born in 1895 in a village of Michoacán, he left school at the age of fourteen when his father died, became a printer, then in 1913 joined the Revolution and fought in the brigades of Obregón and Calles. By 1920 he was a general. During the next dozen years he served as military commander of Tampico, governor of Michoacán, head of the PNR and secretary of war. His record as a progressive governor made him acceptable to the radicals, and his honesty, sincerity, and dreams for the nation won other backers. In 1934 he campaigned extensively throughout the nation, expounding the Six-Year Plan to peasants and workers and listening to their complaints. After his election to the presidency he consolidated the support of various sectors including the military forces. His entry into national politics had been facilitated by the Jefe Máximo, but Cárdenas soon proved that he was no puppet.
In the first months of his administration Cárdenas resolved a conflict of authority with Calles by publicly condemning his interference and by taking direct action. He eliminated Calles's men from the cabinet and gradually forced Callistas out of key positions in the PNR, governorships, and other offices. Cárdenas, who had a puritanical temperament, closed gambling casinos and brothels, many of them operated by Calles's friends, and he refused to live in the sumptuous Chapultepec Castle, converting it to a museum. When the former president continued political intrigues, he was hustled aboard an airplane and sent to the United States in April, 1936. Deported along with Calles was the corrupt labor boss Luis Morones.
Organized labor underwent a revival under Cárdenas s patronage. The old CROM group of unions was in disarray and out of favor with the government and with many workers as well. Backed by the chief executive, a radical labor leader named Vicente Lombardo Toledano organized a new confederation of Mexican workers, the Confederación de Trabajadores de México (CTM), which received occasional subsidies from the government. Lombardo Toledano was a professor of law, a brilliant orator, and an intellectual with strong Marxist leanings. Under his leadership the labor movement expanded rapidly and secured many gains. In the Cárdenas years there were more than twenty-eight hundred labor strikes-seven times the total of the previous ten years, and more than during any other presidential term. Cárdenas also helped unite disparate peasant organizations into a powerful and officially sponsored confederation, the Confederación National de Campesinos (CNC). However, when Lombardo Toledano attempted to merge the peasant and proletarian unions, the president blocked that move, because he feared it would create a political force that neither he nor the PNR could control. (A decade later Lombardo Toledano was a cofounder of such an organization, the Unión General de Obreros y Campesinos Mexicanos.)
Cárdenas, who was fully committed to agricultural reform, favored the system of collective land tenure rather than private ownership. His administration distributed 17,889,792 hectares (44,000,000 acres) of land, which was double the cumulative total since 1920 and more than any administration which followed him. For the first time, entire haciendas were nationalized and divided. Very early in his regime Cárdenas personally attended a ceremony in the cotton-growing Laguna region near Torreón where 356,000 hectares, which had belonged to 332 owners, were expropriated and turned over to collective ownership of 31,000 families numbering 150,000 people. The government organized other collective ejidos on hundreds of former haciendas in states from Baja California to Yucatán. To help these new groups of peasant owners, a National Bank of Ejidal Credit, established in 1935, extended farm loans for the purchase of seeds, fertilizer, tools, tractors, and other equipment. And the government constructed twelve dams to provide irrigation water for the collective farms. Although the granting of land to communities had great psychological value to the peasants, unfortunately ejidos proved to be inefficient agricultural units- partly because of their small size-and crop yields have been disappointing.
Cárdenas's collectivist principles applied to industry as well as farming. He sponsored a nationalization law that authorized expropriation and conversion to workers' cooperatives of businesses that did not comply with the labor legislation of Article 123 of the Constitution. Under this law the labor courts ordered a number of private enterprises to be given to the employees. A notable example of collectivization was the national railway system, FF. CC. Nacional de México, most of which had been under government ownership since the Díaz era. In June, 1937, Cárdenas reorganized the system and transferred its administration to the railroad workers. The results were disastrous: efficiency, safety, and service declined until December, 1940, when the government took back ownership and management of the railroads.
The most dramatic event of his administration occurred in March, 1938, when Cárdenas announced the nationalization of all foreign petroleum companies. This bold act culminated a two-year dispute over wages for oilfield workers. The seventeen British and North American firms had refused to pay the amount set by arbitration and confirmed by a Supreme Court order; thus the expropriation was based on Article 123, the labor code, rather than Article 27, which declared subsoil wealth to be the property of the nation. Citizens of all sectors enthusiastically supported their president's assertion of the revolutionary promise, "Mexico for the Mexicans," and the action was a boost for the nation's honor, since the foreign oil companies had a long history of operating as if they were above the law.
In the president's March 18 radio message to the nation he summarized the dispute and briefly traced the spectacular history of the oil companies' economic success in Mexico. Then Cárdenas, who had been based in the petroleum zone for several years, castigated the firms for their lack of social responsibility:
Let us now examine the social contributions of the companies. In how many of the villages bordering on the oil fields is there a hospital, or school or social center, or a sanitary water supply, or an athletic field, or even an electric plant fed by the millions of cubic meters of natural gas allowed to go to waste?
What center of oil production, on the other hand, does not have its company police force for the protection of private, selfish, and often illegal interests? These organizations, whether authorized by the Government or not, are charged with innumerable outrages, abuses, and murders, always on behalf of the companies that employ them.
Who is not aware of the irritating discrimination governing construction of the company camps? Comfort for the foreign personnel; misery, drabness, and insalubrity for the Mexicans. Refrigeration and protection against tropical insects for the former; indifference and neglect, medical service and supplies always grudgingly provided, for the latter; lower wages and harder, more exhausting labor for our people....
Another inevitable consequence of the presence of the oil companies, strongly characterized by their antisocial tendencies, and even more harmful than all those already mentioned has been their persistent and improper intervention in national affairs....
Even though Mexico agreed to compensate the former owners, nationalization of the oil properties caused some unfavorable international reaction. Diplomatic relations with Great Britain were severed for three years, but the Good Neighbor Policy of the United States kept channels open in that direction. For a few years oil production declined under the new government monopoly called Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, and most foreign oil companies boycotted and refused to transport Mexican oil or sell the nation vital petroleum equipment. Upon the outbreak of World War II and a subsequent financial settlement with the companies (British firms received $81 million and American companies $24 million, plus interest), Mexico's petroleum industry boomed again.
Offsetting the anti-foreign feelings that accompanied Mexico's property expropriations was the government's vigorous effort to promote tourist trade, particularly from the United States. In April, 1936, Cárdenas established a Department of Tourism that launched an advertising campaign heralding
Mexico's architectural treasures, folk arts, Indian cultures unique cuisine, and scenic wonders. The Pan-American high way from Laredo, Texas, to Mexico City was completed; so were all-weather roads from the capital to Acapulco and Guadalajara. Thousands of Americans drove by automobile to Mexico, where they not only contributed significantly to the economy, but also created a new bond between the people of Mexico and the United States. The influx of foreigners in those years included many Spanish refugees who became permanent residents.
During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), Mexico supported the Republic through diplomacy in the League of Nations and by furnishing arms and munitions to the beleaguered republican Loyalists. When Francisco Franco triumphed, Mexico never recognized his government nor exchanged diplomats with his regime until after Franco's death forty years later. The greatest impact of that struggle on Mexico was the arrival of thousands of anti-Franco Spanish refugees (estimates vary from sixteen to forty thousand) who were offered Mexican citizenship. Many of these Spaniards were intellectuals, professionals, or highly-skilled technicians; some were Communists, but that did not dismay Cárdenas, who, while he was not himself a Marxist, sympathized with the goals of socialism. Cárdenas also granted asylum to the Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, who was brutally murdered there in 1940 by a Stalinist agent.
Maneuverings of Communists and Fascists in Europe had repercussions in Mexico, where Nazi and Spanish Falangist agents recruited followers. A number of ultra-conservative Mexicans became members of a right-wing organization founded in 1937 and known as the Unión National Sinarquista (UNS). The ideology of this organization was based on the trinity of God, church, and family under an authoritarian government; members were obliged to obey without question orders from their leaders. At first Mexican Marxists opposed this group, but during the Soviet Russian-Nazi German rapprochement of August, 1939, to June, 1941, they followed orders from Moscow to cooperate with the Fascists and to oppose the democratic countries.
The outbreak of World War II in September, 1939, influenced Mexico's choice of a president to succeed Cárdenas. Radical members of the official party, which had been reorganized in 1938 and re-named the Partido Revolucionario Mexicano (PRM), favored General Francisco Mújica, author of key articles of the Constitution of 1917 and the oil expropriation document of 1938, but Cárdenas preferred his moderate secretary of defense, General Manuel Ávila Camacho, who became the official candidate. His principal opponent was General Juan Andreau Almazán, candidate of a new conservative party called the Partido de Acción National (PAN). After a lively campaign, the official party candidate won by the usual overwhelming majority.
Ávila Camacho's election marked a watershed in Mexico's history-government policy abruptly became more conservative. The emphasis on acute radical nationalism and rights of peasants and proletarians was replaced by a focus on modernizing the nation through economic development, especially by industrialization. Because of this change many historians have concluded that the Great Revolution ended in 1940.