Hi expats, we hope you are well and taking care of yourselves during this global pandemic. Today, we would like to share with you another important chapter in Mexico’s history: La Revolución Mexicana, the Mexican Revolution. It is celebrated in Mexico each year on November 20, although the public holiday date may vary.
One of the most well-known Mexican characters in our history is Pancho Villa. His photographs show a Mexican stereotype: a long moustache, a big Mexican sombrero and bandoliers crisscrossing his chest.
But, who was he? Was he a good guy or a bad guy? Who fought with him? And who fought against him? The rise of Pancho Villa and other rebel leaders was a result of the long-term actions of the Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz who ruled Mexico from 1877 until 1911 through seven terms in office. It was known as the El Porfiriato period.
During the Díaz rule, the majority of the Mexican people lived in very precarious conditions. Agriculture, mining and other industries were still based on feudal systems, while in the cities, the workers were exploited without having basic labor rights.
But Mexico also experienced remarkable economic growth and had political stability at that time. For example, the exchange rate then was one peso for each U.S. dollar, something that hasn’t been seen since.
These achievements were made with high economic and social costs. These costs were paid by the less favored in society and by the opponents of the Diaz regime.
After over three decades of rule, one opponent seemed up to the task of defeating Porfirio Díaz: Francisco I. Madero. He was ahead in the people’s preference to become the next president, but the dictator Díaz would not allow this, so he imprisoned him. With Madero in prison, DÍaz was elected once again.
Madero, though, escaped from prison and went to San Antonio, Texas where, on November 20, 1910, he proclaimed the Plan de San Luis that called for the Mexican people to rise up against the government of Porfirio Díaz. Rebels soon took Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, the Northern Mexico border city across from El Paso, Texas. The dictator Díaz left the presidency and went into exile in France.
Madero became the new President of Mexico, but the country plunged into chaos with all the rebel groups defending their own causes. Civil war broke out across Mexico. Each rebel group thought its cause was the right cause. Each group wanted to rule the tormented country. Rebels from the south were led by Emiliano Zapata, better known as El Caudillo del Sur. He was a farmer who fought for the rights of workers to own the land they were working on.
Rebels in the northern part of Mexico were led by Pancho Villa along with Alvaro Obregón and Pascual Orozco. Their cause was social rights.
Women were also an important part of the revolution. They were called Las Adelitas, wore traditional costumes and were courageous. Many songs were written and paintings done to represent these brave women.
Following the presidency of Francisco I. Madero, Victoriano Huerta and then Venustiano Carranza became presidents of Mexico. During Carranza’s term Mexico’s congress was convened to write a new and revolutionary Constitution in 1917. That document is still used in the country today.
After this great achievement almost all the revolutionary leaders were killed, Zapata in 1919, Carranza in 1920, Villa in 1923 and Obregón in 1928, among others.
Over one million people died in the revolution, but the good and the right cause triumphed because the Mexican Constitution of 1917 was a pioneer in the recognition of the social and labor rights based on French liberalism. The agrarian law, labor rights, education and health guaranteed by the State, freedom of the press and political rights are still valid more than a hundred years later.