An introduction to the mexican revolution


"We are not safe in the United States, now* and henceforth, without taking Mexico into account; nor is Mexico safe disregarding us.  This is something that Mexicans have long know, with dread, but that few Americans have had to look at."[1]

The Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 occurred because of the discontent of the peasants of rural Mexico.  Porfirio Díaz was first elected to power on May 5, 1877, and at first it looked as if Díaz was going to help Mexico.  In his first term, political and economic power was more centralized in the federal government and he decreased the power of the provincial and local governments.  Díaz negotiated new economic and border arrangements with the United States.    Díaz instituted a constitutional amendment that said that the president could only be elected for one term, and in 1880 Díaz did not run for reelection but basically appointed Manuel González as the new President of Mexico.[2]

However, in 1884 Díaz ran for and won reelection; Díaz won election through fraud and repression of his opponents.  Díaz was continually reelected to the presidency from 1884 till the revolution overthrew him at the beginning of his eighth term in 1910.  During these consecutive years, Díaz brought many improvements to Mexico City and the rest of the nation.  Díaz’s goal was to make Mexico as appealing as possible, he wanted many foreign investors to come in to make the rich richer, but at the same time the poor would get poorer.  Díaz was not concerned with the poor, he tried to keep them very quiet and in the back ground, and at the time there was hardly any way for the peasants to make their views known to anyone other than neighboring villages.  Díaz gave a lot of power to the rurales, the rural militia, and to city police; they were given the power to execute or arrest anyone that was causing civil unrest or threatened Díaz’s presidency.[3] He used these forces to keep him in power, and in an effort to keep opponents and any revolutions that might have tried to start down.

Díaz based his power on authority, tradition, and the conservative ideology of Positivism.  Positivism was warmly embraced because it provided them with a “political theory that advocated economic progress and social planning under the control of a technocratic elite and bolstered by an authoritarian government.”[4] Positivism denied the poor and uneducated any chance of improvement, and after the eighth election of Díaz the people of Mexico could not stand it anymore. 

Francisco Madero helped Díaz win his first election on May 5, 1877 and helped to defend and put down any opposition or threat to Díaz, Madero ran against Díaz in 1910 but lost.  Following the results of the election Madero led the most successful revolution against Díaz on November 20, 1910.[5]

From the very beginning of the revolution on November 20, 1910 the peasants began to fight for what they wanted and needed to survive in the ever-changing world.  Through many more changes of government and military dictatorships the people fought a ten-year revolution.  At the peak of the revolution the people gained the most they could when Venustiano Carranza in 1917 offered the people a very radical constitution that put their needs into law.  The revolution was going to make a difference in the lives of the oppressed.  With the new implementation of laws and reforms, life would be better than they expected.

   Our website gives a brief history of the Mexican Revolution during 1910-1920.  In an attempt to determine whether the revolution was successful, one must determine what changes were made and how the lives of the countrymen changed.  The impact of the revolutionaries was significant but the constant change in political power resulted in an unstable country, full of unmet needs and confusion.

[1] Anita Brenner, The Wind that Swept Mexico: The History of the Mexican Revolution 1910-1942 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971), 3.  *The now refers to 1943.*

[2] Barbara A. Tenenbaum, ed., Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1996) 1, 406.

[3] Micheal S. Werner, ed., Encyclopedia of Mexico: History, Science, and Culture (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997) 1, 407.

[4] Ibid., 409.

[5] Charles Cumberland, Mexican Revolution: The Constitutionalist Years (Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1972), 9.