How did the Mexican revolution begin?
Do you know what caused the Mexican revolution? Lasting from 1910 to 1920, the citizens of Mexico vigilantly fought for their freedom and for the downfall of long-time president Porfirio Díaz. Fueled by political crisis, the ensuing conflict carried on for ten years. Take a look at the true origins of the Mexican revolution.
The Díaz regime
It all started with the Díaz regime. For 30 years straight, Porfirio Díaz ruled Mexico with an iron fist. The dictator maintained his power by practicing cronyism, hoarding wealth, and denying citizens the right to vote. Soon enough, the Mexican people began to feel irate about his rule. The desire for a more constitutional government was whispered among many. Unhappy with Díaz’s blatant favoritism of the upper class, their dissent turned into a palpable movement.
In 1908, Díaz seemed to have a change of heart. All of a sudden, he was in favor of a democratic government and even shied away from his seventh presidential campaign. Yet, when competitor Francisco Madero announced his run for the presidency in 1910, Díaz promptly had him arrested. Following Madero’s detainment, Díaz pronounced himself as the president after a rigged election.
At this point, Madero was already out of prison and declared his protest of Díaz’s reelection on November 20, 1910. Even though his uprising flopped, it sparked a revolution in the heart of Mexico. Legendary Pancho Villa and his comrade Pascual Orozco set their team of rag-tag soldiers into action, robbing military fortresses in Northern Mexico. In the South, revolutionary Emiliano Zapata engaged in warfare with the regional politicos. By spring 1911, the rebel armies had already overtaken Ciudad Juárez, demanded Díaz’s resignation, and announced Madero as their new president.
Masters of war
Unfortunately, Madero’s candidacy was doomed from the beginning. After revolutionaries Zapata and Orozco lost faith in their new leader, the American government turned its back on him too. Then, former president Díaz’s nephew Félix Díaz got involved in the conflict. Commanded by Victoriano Huerta, young Díaz’s insurgent army fought against military troops in Mexico City. By February 18, 1913, Díaz and Huerta had signed the “Pact of the Embassy” with American ambassador Henry Lane Wilson. This important document contained their secret plan to impeach Madero and to elect Huerta as their new president. The next day, Huerta officially became president, and Madero was taken into custody and executed several days later.
Despite his new position, Huerta’s drunken tyrannical rule was not appreciated by the people of Mexico. Renegade leaders Pancho Villa, Álvaro Obregón, and Venustiano Carranza formed an agreement to call for Huerta’s retirement. In the middle of 1914, their guerilla armies joined together in Mexico City and pressured Huerta into fleeing the country. Soon enough, Carranza pronounced himself as the new president of Mexico in August 1914.
Of course, Carranza’s presidency wasn’t satisfactory either. After a period of complete chaos, Villa, Obregón, and Zapata hosted a meeting where they decided to swear in Eulalio Gutiérrez as their interim president. Obregón and Carranza weren’t happy with Gutiérrez’s new role and launched an all-out war with Villa in the spring of 1915. Zapata and Villa were defeated, blaming their loss on President Woodrow Wilson’s moral support for Carranza. Therefore, Villa vowed to seek revenge against the Americans who lived in Mexico and along the Mexican-American border. Starting in January 1916, Villa actually killed 17 U.S. citizens in Baja California, and 17 more Americans were executed in New Mexico several months later. Finally, President Wilson commanded his top general John J. Pershing to find the outlaw, but to no avail.
With Carranza in presidency again, he oversaw the enactment of the Mexican constitution in 1917. Ironically, this lasting contract gave presidents the power of dictators. But it also gave politicians the ability to seize the land of the wealthy, promote the rights of the working class, and to reduce the political reach of the Catholic Church. Carranza was able to preserve his presidency by having his enemy Zapata killed in 1919. However, Carranza came under scrutiny when he attempted to stop the railroad worker’s protest in Sonora, Mexico. Abandoned by his former advocates, Carranza was literally murdered when he tried to flee in exile on May 21, 1920. As a result, Adolfo de la Huerta was elected as interim president until Obregón was sworn into office in November 1920.
While most scholars view 1920 as the dramatic close of the Mexican revolution, violence in that region still continued for many years. The military soldiers and rebel armies were locked in a desperate struggle until Lázaro Cárdenas became the president in 1934. Under his rule, the citizens’ demands that sparked war in the first place were honored.
The legacy of the Mexican Revolution remains a double-edged sword. Certain leaders were stripped of their power but retained their financial standing. The people of the middle-class became government workers, but they never evolved into the upper class. Nonetheless, the biggest impact occurred in the agricultural regions of Mexico. Country landlords and farmers alike migrated to bigger cities for a new life. In fact, their living conditions were greatly increased. Yet, the issue of social equality remained to be solved. Seeking refuge, many Mexican citizens started afresh in America. They carried their rich heritage with them.