Venustiano Carranza

 

    Venustiano Carranza was born December 29, 1859 to a land proprietor in the northeastern state of Coahuila.  Carranza was educated in a conventional liberal manner in Saltillo and Mexico City, and during the years of Porfirio Díaz (1876-1911) farmed and dabbled in local politics.[1] Carranza served as a local mayor, state deputy, and federal senator; he was very cautious in his advancement in the political realm.  Carranza was a major supporter of Bernardo Reyes and in the mounting opposition against Díaz, Reyes was a major contender to take power after he was gone, however Díaz ended Reyes political career through his many oppressive anti-political reforms.  This forced Carranza to join forces with Francisco Madero, but Carranza was a lot more cautious than the Madero revolution and helped with control of the revolution from the safety of Texas.[2] During the Madero presidency Carranza governed the state of Coahuila and developed his own army to protect Coahuila from revolts and focused the state on municipal democracy and education reform.  In February of 1913 General Victoriano Huerta formed a military coup against Madero and executed him after taking power.  Carranza refused to recognize the coup and began an unsuccessful revolt where he was forced to flee to the northwest of Mexico.  March 26, 1913 Carranza issued the Plan de Guadalupe in which he vowed to return constitutional rule back to Mexico, and while other revolts against Huerta he established his own government in the north.[3] In his own government of the north, Carranza established a currency, taxed the citizens, and even negotiated with foreign powers.  Working in conjunction with Emiliano Zapata, in the south, and Francisco “Pancho” Villa, they all worked together to overthrow Huerta in 1914.  However after Huerta was overthrown Mexico entered a civil war in which Villa and Zapata fought against Carranza and Álvaro Obregón.  The victory of Carranza and Obregón resulted in a stronger state government with nationalist self-assertion.[4] As Carranza became the political leader of the new government he overcame his cautious political views by promising agrarian and social reforms.  At this same time Obregón kept defeating Villa in battle and formed alliances with the workers of Mexico City.  The United States recognized Carranza as de facto president in 1915 only after Carranza supported a Mexican-American rebellion in the US by sending troops, but was not constitutionally elected until 1917.  The US and Carranza’s relations during his reign were usually at very high stress.  General Pershing of the US Army invaded Mexico looking for Villa in 1916, who had attacked a city in New Mexico, and the famous Zimmerman Note from the Kaiser of Germany to Carranza with a deal that if Mexico supported Germany he would give Mexico back the lands the US gained in the Mexican-American war of 1848.[5] 

            However throughout all the outside problems Carranza may have experienced in 1917 he called a congress together to put in place a very radical constitution that placed importance on labor reform, agrarian reform, anticlericalism and a nationalized economic community.[6] The 1917 Constitution was meant to continue the revolutionary efforts that started in 1910, it promised everything that the Mexicans had been fighting for the last seven years. 

            Carranza’s decline began when he began to relax on his social reforms in 1919.  Carranza was no longer as dedicated to the reforms he promised.  The social reforms led to the rise in strength of Zapata again, but Carranza did not let Zapata gain more support then he already had as he was assassinated in April of 1919.[7] With the end of World War One Mexico had to begin to deal with the US without being able to hide behind the European powers.  Also in 1920 Carranza’s plan to place a puppet president that he could control was overtaken by Obregón, who thought that he deserved the presidency.  This made Obregón decide to revolt against Carranza and when he made the first move most of the Mexican Army supported him.  Carranza tried to flee the capital, but was assassinated on May 21, 1920 in Tlazcalantongo.[8]

            Carranza gave to Mexico a constitution that promised the revolutionary spirit everything they had asked for, but Carranza was not able to support it when times were getting rough for him.  He did give Mexico a national identity that forced them to want more and better for their society.  Carranza’s downfall came when he was unable to support and continue all of the promises he had given to the Mexicans.  Carranza left Mexico better than when he had taken control, but his image was tainted by how cautious he was with the liberal reforms he had proposed. 

 

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    [1] Barbara A. Tenenbaum, ed., Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1996) 1, 572.

    [2] Ibid., 572.

    [3] Ibid., 573.

    [4] Ibid., 573.

    [5] Micheal S. Werner, ed., Encyclopedia of Mexico: History, Science, and Culture (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997) 1, 201.

    [6] Ibid., 201.

    [7] Encyclopedia of Mexico: History, Science, and Culture, 202.

    [8] Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture , 572.