Mexican Revolution Web Site
Revolution in 20th Century Latin America Web Page Project

Brief Historical Introduction of the Mexican Revolution
Mexican Revolution
(1910-20), a long and bloody struggle among several factions in
constantly shifting alliances which resulted ultimately in the end of the
30-year dictatorship in Mexico and the establishment of a
constitutional republic. The revolution began against a background
of widespread dissatisfaction with the elitist and oligarchical policies
of Porfirio Díaz, which favoured wealthy landowners and
industrialists. When Díaz in 1908 said that he welcomed the
democratization of Mexican political life and appeared ambivalent
about running for his seventh reelection as president in 1910,
Francisco Madero emerged as the leader of the Antireeleccionistas
and announced his candidacy. Díaz had him arrested and declared
himself winner after a mock election in June, but Madero, released
from prison, published his Plan de San Luis Potosí from San
Antonio, Texas, calling for a revolt on November 20. The revolt
was a failure, but it kindled revolutionary hope in many quarters. In
the north, Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa mobilized their ragged
armies and began raiding government garrisons. In the south,
Emiliano Zapata waged a bloody campaign against the local
caciques (rural political bosses). In the spring of 1911 the
revolutionary forces took Ciudad Juárez, forced Díaz to resign, and
declared Madero president.

Madero's regime faltered from the start. Zapata turned against him,
angered at his failure to effect the immediate restoration of land to
dispossessed Indians. Orozco, initially a supporter of Madero, was
also dissatisfied with the slow pace of reform under the new
government and led a revolutionary movement in the north. The
U.S. government then turned against Madero as well, fearing that
the new president was too conciliatory to the rebel groups and
concerned about the threat that civil war in Mexico was posing to
American business interests there. Tensions reached a peak when
yet another faction of rebel forces, led by Félix Díaz (the former
dictator's nephew), clashed with federal troops in Mexico City
under the command of Victoriano Huerta. On Feb. 18, 1913, after
the ninth day of that melee (known as La Decena Trágica, or "The
Ten Tragic Days"), Huerta and Díaz met in the office of U.S.
Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson and signed the so-called "Pact of
the Embassy," in which they agreed to conspire against Madero and
to install Huerta as president. Huerta assumed the presidency the
following day, after arresting Madero, who was assassinated a few
days later.

Opposition to Huerta's drunken and despotic rule grew in the north,
and an uneasy alliance was formed between Pancho Villa, Álvaro
Obregón, and Venustiano Carranza, whose Plan de Guadalupe
called for Huerta's resignation. In the spring and summer of 1914,
the rebel forces converged on Mexico City, forcing Huerta into
exile. Carranza declared himself president on August 20, over Villa's
objections. A state of anarchy and bloodshed ensued until Villa,
Obregón, and Zapata held a convention at which it was agreed that
the rivalry between Villa and Carranza made order impossible, and
they elected Eulalio Gutiérrez interim president. Villa retained the
support of Zapata and backed Gutiérrez. Obregón, however,
re-allied himself with Carranza and routed Villa in a bloody battle in
April 1915 at Celaya. Thereafter, both Zapata and Villa lost ground,
and Villa, blaming his defeat on U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's
support of Carranza, launched a vendetta against Americans in
Mexico and in U.S. border towns. His raid on Columbus, N.M.,
which claimed the lives of 18 Americans, prompted President
Wilson to order General John J. Pershing into the Mexican hills in
futile pursuit.

Carranza, president again, presided over the writing of the
Constitution of 1917, which conferred dictatorial powers on the
president but gave the government the right to confiscate land from
wealthy landowners, guaranteed workers' rights, and limited the
rights of the Roman Catholic church. Carranza remained in power
by eliminating those who opposed him (Zapata was assassinated in
1919), but in 1920 opposition reached a climax when he tried to
break up a railroad strike in Sonora. Deserted by virtually all his
supporters, including Obregón, he was killed attempting to flee the
capital on May 21. Adolfo de la Huerta became interim president
until Obregón was elected in November.

Many historians regard 1920 as the end of the revolution, but
sporadic violence and clashes between federal troops and various
rebel forces continued until the reformist president, Lázaro
Cárdenas, took office in 1934 and "institutionalized" the reforms that
were fought for during the revolution and were legitimized in the
Constitution of 1917.

"Mexican Revolution" Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
[Accessed 20 September 1999].
Encyclopædia Britannica Online

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