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Notes on the Mexican Revolution

© 2001 Donald J. Mabry

1. The average Mexican was worse off economically and politically in 1910 than he/she had been in 1810.

2. Industrial wages averaged 12.5 cents a day. Mexican laborer had to work 12 times as long as US worker to buy a measure of corn; 20 times to buy cheap cloth.

3. Less than 1% of families controlled 85% of the nation's wealth.

4. Early protest movements:

  • Liberal Party of Ricardo Flores Magón. 1892-1900: edited opposition newspapers. 1900 Regeneración. Agitation; run out of Mexico; goes to St. Louis where harassed by US authorities. Arrested in Los Angeles. Jailed in Arizona. Flores Magón was an anarchist.
  • Cananea, Sonora copper strike. Consolidated Copper Company of William C. Greene. 5,360 Mexicans and 2,200 Americans. Wages were above national average. Mexicans received 3 pesos for 10-11 hrs; Americans received 7 pesos for 8-10 hrs. Strike on June 1, 1906. Shot at. State troops and rurales and then U.S. forces from Arizona. 23 killed. Infuriated Mexicans but showed that the regime had no qualms about using force or use gringos to kill Mexicans.
  • Río Blanco textile mill. January 7, 1907. Riot. Soldiers used to quell the riot. Two hundred were killed by soldiers.
  • Other, scattered labor upheavals.

5. In the Revolution, soldiers were the most important. More so than peasants, workers, intellectuals, etc. Have to understand this.

6. Election, July, 1910 won handily by Díaz. Madero jailed before election, escaped after election (probably with Díaz looking the other way), and went to San Antonio, where he collaborated with anti-Díaz exiles such as Bernardo Reyes, Yves Limantour, and Francisco de la Barra.

In 1910 in San Antonio, Madero announces the Plan de San Luis Potosí (as if he were there). Declared the 1910 election invalid; said Madero had been elected president; and called for a popular uprising. Madero crosses to Coahuila on November 20, 1910 to lead the insurrection. Nothing happened.

7. Revolution began in different places at different times for different reasons. Role of the North, the most dynamic and developed region was critical.

8. Chihuahua was very important. Good guerrilla leaders such as Pancho Villa, Pascual Orozco plus others who thought they had a chance of success. Orozco and Villa cleaned up the back country. In February, 1911, Madero crosses to join Villa and Orozco, who don't welcome him.

9. Zapata in Morelos, parts of Guerrero, Puebla, Mexico, and the Distrito Federal. Zapata was the radical leader of the Revolution. Wanted to return the land to its original owners. Wouldn't quit until he won; but he was ambushed in 1919.

10. Limantour returns March, 1911 to run govt for Díaz. Too late. Díaz pledges reform; offers to resign. This news reaches Chihuahua while Villa and Orozco have federal garrison in Ciudad Juárez pinned down.

Madero willing to accept the Díaz pledge; Villa and Orozco won't; took Ciudad Juárez; they almost shot Madero when Madero tried to prevent the shooting of the federal commander . The capture of Ciudad Juárez reverberated through the federal army, which began to quit. The Díaz regime collapsed.

11. Díaz resigns and goes into exile in May, 1911, the day after Ciudad. Juárez fell.

12. Francisco de la Barra named provisional president. Presidential elections were scheduled for that year and will be won by Madero.

13. Francisco Madero. b. Oct 30, 1873. He was the eldest of fifteen children. His family was worth $15 million dollars, one of the richest in Mexico. Most of their property was in Coahuila. Madero studied in Mexico and in Baltimore, Berkeley and Paris. He was a teetotaler, vegetarian, spiritualist, and 19th century liberal.

14. Problems under de la Barra

  • Madero was obviously the next president and thus de la Barra a lame duck
  • What to do with the Revolutionary bands?
  • What to do about the Porfiristas?
  • No discussion of reforms on national level until Aguascalientes Convention of 1914.

15. Madero as president (1911-1913)

  • No support from Left because uninterested in agrarian reform.
  • Left the Porfiristas, including army officers, in place.
  • Many revolts:
  • a. Zapata and Plan de Ayala in November, 1911
    b. Pascual Orozco in 1912
    c. Bernardo Reyes in Nuevo Leon (put down)
    d. Félix Díaz (nephew of Porfirio Díaz)e. Reyes and Díaz hatch conspiracy in jail (Gustavo Madero begged brother to execute them but he wouldn't).

16. Fall of Madero, Feb, 1913.

  • Reyes and Félix Díaz bribe guards to get out of prison. Reyes and troops go to arrest Madero. Gustavo's presidential guard was loyal and resisted. Reyes was killed.
  • Félix Díaz fell back to the Ciudadela. Victoriano Huerta appointed to fight Díaz.
  • Tragic Ten Days (February 9-17) as Félix Díaz and Huerta engage in artillery duel.
  • Pacto de la Ciudadela between Félix Díaz and Huerta. Actually signed in the U.S. Embassy with help of Henry Lane Wilson. Huerta to be temporary president and "free" elections which Félix Díaz would win.
  • Madero and Pino Suárez persuaded to resign. The Foreign-Relation's minister succeeded to the presidency, then appointed Huerta as Minister, and then resigned. Huerta thus became the legal, constitutional president of Mexico.
  • Madero and José María Pino Suárez, his vice president, "shot while trying to escape."

17. Huerta was President (Feb, 1913-August, 1914). Lots of enemies.

  • Not much interested in reform but did more than critics admit.
  • Had numerous enemies:
  • Chihuahua state, especially Pancho Villa.
  • U.S. under Woodrow Wilson.
  • Venustiano Carranza in Northeast proclaims himself First Chief of the Constitutionalist Armies.
  • In Sonora. Obregón, Calles, and de la Huerta led armies in revolt.
  • The revolt a border state revolt.

18. Race for the capital won by Obregón and Sonora forces, supporting Carranza. Carranza had a provisional government, October 17, 1913.

19. Villa was the chief rival to Carranza.

20. US military intervention and invasions of Tampico and Veracruz. Nationalists rally around Huerta. US intervention did cause Huerta to fall in July, 1914.

21. Convention of Aguascalientes (October, 1914), a meeting of army leaders to decide who should rule. Villa and Carranza forces attended but Villa had troops. Named Eulalio Gutiérrez as President. Carranza ignored the Convention's selection and fights.

22. Villa drives Carranza out of Mex City. Meets with Zapata. Gives Carrancistas time to prepare, which was a mistake.

23. In 1915-1916, Obregón beats Villa, putting Carranza securely in power.

24. To gain support, Carranza begins to promise land, labor, and municipal reforms

25. In 1916, the Pershing Expedition invaded Mexico to search for Villa because of his raid on Columbus, N.M. Fought Mexican army. U.S. seriously considered going to war with Mexico. Republicans were pressuring President Wilson to declare war.

26. Constitution of 1917. Written at Querétaro in 1916-1917. Social Reform ideas. anticlericalism; labor rights; free education; breakup, big estates; subsoil rights

27. Carranza was a conservative. In 1920, he also tried to put a henchman into office.

28. 1920-1934. Sonora Dynasty. Alvaro Obregón (1920-24); Plutarco Calles (1924-28); Obregón elected 1928 but assassinated. Provisional President Emilio Portes Gil (1928-29), then Pascual Ortiz Rubio(1929-32), Provisional President Abelardo Rodríguez (1932-34).

29. National Chambers of Mexican Industry (CONCAMIN) and National Chambers of Commerce (CONCANACO) created as business organizations while the Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers (CROM) created by Luis Morones in the 1920s. Mexico begins institutionalizing.