Mexican History: The Porfiriato (1876-1911)

Mexican school
Figure 1.--Mexico's modern school system was enishioned in the Jyarista Constitution (1857). It was, however, not really begun until the more stables years of the Porfiriato. Mexico in 1900 had 12,000 schools and 0.7 million students. They were almost all located in towns and cities. Almost no schools existed in the countryside where the bulk of the population still lived. Thisc unidentified Mexico City school was probably taken about 1910. Source: Augustín Víctor Casasola

General Porfirio Díaz (1830-1915) was a mestizo from Oaxaca. He opposed Santa Ana, fought for Juarez in the War of Reform, and with his brother fought against Emperor Maximilian. He was one of Juarez's more effective generals. He ran unsuccessfully against President Juarez (1871). He claim electiral fraud and decided to use force and overthrow the government (1876). He introduced a dictatorship which ruled Mexico for nearly 40 years. His iron-fisted rule, which lasted almost 40 years which Mexicans refer to as the Porfiriato. He and his Cientificos ruled Mexico under the banner of "Liberty, Order, and Progress". Díaz had a very specific interpretation of these terms. Liberty was extended to supportive landowners, industrialists, and entrpreneurs to make money. Order was enforced through a policy of pan y palo (bread and club). Progress was rapid economic development. Díaz negotiated arrangements with foreiners in which he and his associates profited personally. Any opposition or even criticism was supressed, often brutally. The Díaz dictatorship introduced a degree of modernization. Mexico in 1910 had a much more developed infrastructure than that of the country he had seized control of in 1876. It was, however, still an underdeveloped country. Díaz did not address Mexico's deep-seeded social problems. Ans a key area that he did not invest in was Mexico's human capital. Mexico was still a country with a small middle-class and a largely illiterate rural peasantry living in essentially feudal conditions. The Mexican Revolution was the first of the great 20th century peasant revolutions. When the Revolution came, it was a surprise to everyone--not the least to Mexicans. Díaz was astonished that the efete little teetoteling lawyer could suceed in overthrowing him. When departing for Mexico he warned, "Madero has unleashed a tiger, let us see if he can control him."

Porfirio Diaz (1830-1915)

General Porfirio Díaz was a mestizo born in Oaxaca (1830). Oaxaca is a southern state aling the Guatemalan border with a large Native American population. His father, José de la Cruz Díaz, was a modest innkeeper in Oaxava, the capital of the province with the same name. His moyther was Patrona Mori. Porfirio was only 3 years old when his father died, leaving his mother to support Porfirio and his six brothers and sisters. His mother wanted Porfirio to be a priest and the boy was educated with this goal in mind. The Chirch had the tome still had immense influence and played a major role in the educational system. The teenage Porfirio life was changed by the Mexican-American War (1846-48). He began to hear stories of the War from soldiers returning to Oaxaca. He decided against the priesthood and he ran away from home to become a soldier and fight the Americans. there was no rail line to Mexico City yet and he did not have a hjorse, so he set out on foot to join the National Guard (1847). It was an epic 250-mile trek for the young man. He arrived too late because the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was signed ending the War (1848). Díaz returned all the way to Oaxaca and decided to study law. To finance his studies at the Law Institute and assist his widowed mother he began tutoring children.

Benito Juárez (1806-72)

A young Díaz while studying law was noticed by Don Marcos Perez a judge in Oaxaca. He also was notice by Benito Juárez, at the time the govenor of Oaxaca. He would become Mexico's preminent national hero. Juárez led the opposition to Santa Ana's conservative government during the War of Reform (1858-64) and the French intervention (1864-67). Juárez was a Native American--a Zapoteco. He was born in San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca (1806). Benitoo spoke Zapotec rather than Spanish as a boy. He went to Oaxaca (city) to live with his sister, a servant in the house of Don Antonio Maza. He studied at the Santa Cruz Seminary which at the time was the only secondary school in Oaxaca. He then studied Law at the Instituto de Ciencias y Artes in Oaxaca. At a young age he served on the Town Council (1831). He was elected to the Oaxaca legislature (1833). As a lawyer he established a reputation for defending Native American (Mexicans use the term "indigenous") communities. After General Paredes Arrillaga fall from power, Juárez was elected to the Federal (national) legislature. President Gómez Farías who was noted for reducing thesize of the military, requested a loan from the church to finance the war that had broken out with the United States (1847). Juraez helped arange it. Juárez becamne govenor of Oaxaca (1847). He sponsored a range of progressive measures. He attempted to promote the development of a balanced economy. He sponsored public works, especially roads. Other projects included the reconstruction of the Government Palace. He founded the first secular scondary school in Oaxaca. He also reorganized the National Guard. and withball these achievements left a budget surplus.

Liberal-Conservative Struggle (1848-58)

Following the War with America. Liberals and Conservatives struggeled for control of the country. Santa Anna returned to the presidency. He proceeded to act against the liberal opposition. He expelled many liberals, including Juárez. Juárez went into exile at New Orleans, but continued his political activities. The Plan de Ayutla, which Juárez helped draft, proclaimed in Mexico to eject President Santa Anna. Díaz stayed in Oaxaca as Santa Ana attempted to set up a dictatorship. He supported Juárez, but was both concerned about openly expressing his political sentiment and disturbed by this failue to stand up for his beliefs. Finally he showed up at the polling place and vote for Alvarez and the revolutionists (1854). . Local officials ordered his arrest. Díaz flew to the countryside and organized a small band of compesinos. Although not yet a major force, he supported Alvarez and Juárez against Santana Ana and the Conservatives. Faced with growing oppositin, Santa Ana resigned and went into exile again, time for the last time (1855) The Liberales formed a provisional government under General Juan Álvarez. He inaugurated the period known as La Reforma. The Reform laws sponsored by the Liberales curtailed the power of the Catholic Church and the military. They also attrmpted to found a civil society and capitalist economy on the U.S. model. The Conservadores opposed the reforms and with the backing of both the military and the clergy, General Félix Zuloaga, launched a revolt(1857). They fought for the Plan de Tacubaya. The result was the War of Reform.

War of Reform (1858-64)

The War of Reform was the show down between Liberales and Conservadores in Mexico. Juárez led the Liberal forces. After Santa Ana resigned, Díaz was promoted to captain in the Federal Army. When the War of Reform broke out, he remained loyal to the Liberales. His success in combat won him promitions, lieutenant-colonel and colonel (1859), brigadier-general (1861), and finally general of division for the army (1863).

French Intervention (1862-67)

The War of Reform in effect merged with the French Intervention. Conservatives attempted to find foreign support fotr their losing struggle with the Liberales. French Emperor Napoleon III attempted to expand the French Empire by seizing Mexico. He attempted to install Austrian Arch-Duke Maximillian (rumored to be the illegitimate son of Napoleon II) on a French throne. French troops backed the Archduke. He arrived in Mexico not understanding the political situation. Emperor Maximillion was at first supported by the Conservatives, but this soon changed when they founfd that he had liberal views. At the time of the French Intervention, Díaz had become a major figure in the Mexican Army. He proved to be one of Juarez's more effective generals. When French troops first appeared in Mexico (1862), Díaz played a prominent role in resisting them. In the fighting that followed, he was seriously wounded twice. He was captured and imprisoned three times. He participated in many engagements. So important did he become in the Mexican resistance that Marshal Bazaine and Emperor Maximilian attempted to negotiate with him. The French Emperor finally withdrew French troops and Emoperor Maximillian's regime soon collapsed. He was captured and shot and executed with two of his generals at Quérétaro on Juárez'ds orders (1867). Díaz at the time commanding the Army of the East was conducting the siege of Mexico City which fell 2 days after Maximillian was executed.

Retirement (1867-71)

Díaz liberated Mexico City after Emperor Maximillian was shot. With the defeat of the French and Maximillian, he was particularly concrned with obtaining the back pay for his soldiers. e restored order in Mexico City by threatening to shoot looters. He quickly suceeded in obtaining funds to pay his men. He resigned his command of the army of the east. Juárez appointed him commander of the Army's Second Division, but Díaz wasc disturbed by the dismissal of many colleagues. He retired to public life in Oaxaca. He helped reorganoize the Army, but took no government positions.

Presidential Election (1871-76)

Díaz ran unsuccessfully against President Juarez (1871). When Juárez died (1872), Lerdo succeeded him as president. When Lerdo announced that he was seeking reelection in 1876, a the storm pf political protest broke.

Seizing Power (1876)

Díaz came out if retirement and assumed command of the forces opposing President Lerdo. A series of hard-fought battles followed. Finally Díaz triumphantly entered Mexico city as provisional president (1876). He quickly assumed the full presidency.

Political Dictatorship

Díaz introduced a dictatorship which ruled Mexico for nearly 40 years. His iron-fisted rule, which lasted almost 40 years which Mexicans refer to as the Porfiriato. He and his Cientificos ruled Mexico under the banner of "Liberty, Order, and Progress". Díaz had a very specific interpretation of these terms. Liberty was extended to supportive landowners, industrialists, and entrpreneurs to make money. Order was enforced through a policy of pan y palo (bread and club). Progress was rapid economic development. Díaz negotiated arrangements with foreiners in which he and his associates profited personally. Any opposition or even criticism was supressed, often brutally.

Científicos

The Científicos were the technocrats that advised Mexican president and dictator Porfirio Díaz. They were educated men and specialists that believed that science could correct Mexico's problems. The philosophy was called Scientific Positivesism. Díaz relied on them to help develop his program to modernize Mexico. Gabino Barreda (1820-1881) helped found the Científico circle around President Díaz. Barreda like many of the Mexican elite studied in France. He studied under Auguste Comte (1847-51). He apparently introducee the principles of scientific positivism to Mexico. During the Reforma that precipitated the War of Reforn, Juárez assigned Barreda the task of developing an educational program to make the 1857 Constitution's promise of secular public education a reality. Barreda set up the National Preparatory School (1868). It was the first secular school of higher education in Mexico. Many of the Científicos who later adbised Díaz were educated there. Manuel Romero Rubio (1828-1895) was Secretary of the Interior (1884-95). He was also the father of Díaz' second wife Carmen. He was a founding member of the Científicos. José Yves Limantour (1854-1935) was Minister de Hacienda (Treasury) (1893-11). He is often seen as the most important political voice. Justo Sierra was leading intellectual and spokesman for the group. Rafael Reyes Spíndola (1860-1922) founded theimportant Mexico City newspaper El Imparcial. It was widely seen as the semi-official newspaper of the Porfiriato. About 10 other individuals are commonly seen as part of the Científico circle. The Científicos were not without their detractors. They certainlt had enormous influence with Díaz, but were opposed by other advisers. Particularkly prominant here was General Bernardo Reyes.

Family

Díaz maried twice. His first wife was Delfina Ortega. He subsequently married Carmelita Romero Rubio (1881).

Results

The Díaz dictatorship introduced a degree of modernization. Mexico in 1910 had a much more developed infrastructure than that of the country he had seized control of in 1876. It was, however, still an underdeveloped country. Díaz did not address Mexico's deep-seeded social problems. Ans a key area that he did not invest in was Mexico's human capital. Schools were established in the cities, but were still generally unavailable in the countryside where most Mexicans believed. Mexico was still a country with a small middle-class and a largely illiterate rural peasantry living in essentially feudal conditions.

Disputed Election (1910)

President Díaz thinking he was in complete control of the country and beloved by his countrymen, told U.S. journalist James Creelman, that his country was ready for democracy and real elections (1908). He indicated that he would step down from the presidency. Precisely what was on his mind is unclear. He indicated that he would permit candidates to compete for the presidency. Several well-known Mexicans were interested and apparently took Díaz's offer at face value. Bernardo Reyes, the Díaz-appointed governor of Nuevo León, announced his candidacy. Díaz was either not serious about allowing an election or changed his mind. He may have expected his country to demand his continued presidency. He delt with Reyes by sending him off on a foreign mission. Unfortunately for Díaz he had let the genie out of the bottle. A political unknown appeared on the Mexican scene. A scholarly hacienda owner and lawyer, Francisco I. Madero, finally challenged Díaz. He was small in stature and an unlikely person to challenge the great man who had dominated the country for four decades. Madero was educated at the University of California, Berkeley. He was not a radical, but believed in democracy. Madero became famous in Mexico for his book--The Presidential Succession of 1910. Díaz was furious when he learned of the book. He ordered the arrest of Madero. Madero fled to the United States, but later returned and was arrested. The Government announced Díaz's reelection by a virtually unanimous vote. The reported Madeo vote was miniscule. There was clearly massive electoral fraud resulting in voter outrage. Madero called for an armed uprising. This was the beginning of the Mexican Revolution, but not the bloody struggle that the Revolution became. Díaz was forced from office and fled the country (1911). He found refuge in France where he is buried.

The Revolution

The Mexican Revolution was the first of the great 20th century peasant revolutions. When the Revolution came, it was a surprise to everyone--not the least to Mexicans. Díaz was astonished that the efete little teetoteling lawyer could suceed in overthrowing him. When departing for Mexico he warned, "Madero has unleashed a tiger, let us see if he can control him." Mexico's Revolution came a century after independence. Huerta, after killing Madero, was forced to fight the Revolution on many fronts. He benefitted from a strong central position, but faced a formidable if tenuous alliance including Venustiano Carranza, General Álvaro Obregón, Emiliano Zapata (in the south) and Pancho Villa (in the north). These are many of the the most esteemed names in Mexican history and both Carranza and Obregón went on the be presidents. The Mexican Revolution was the bloodiest period in Mexicam history since the Conquest. Huerta was eventually defeated. Carranza assumed the presidency. Both Villa and Zapata refused to recognize Carranza. They with their Armies of the North and South drove on Mexico City. Carranza and Obregón with their forces fled the capital. The Villistas and Zapatistas held racous celebrations after reaching Mexico City. They did not, however, have the organizational skills to organize an effective government. Carranza and Obregón retreated to Veracruz, Mexico's major port. There they reorganized and reupplied and launched a new offensive to retake the capital. In the fighting that followed, Obregón largely destroyed Villa's cavalry at Celaya (1915). Obregón lost his right arm, but won the battle. Celaya was actually a series of engagements which cnstitute the most massive battle ever fought in Latin America. Obregón commanded a modern force with artillery and machine guns. As Villa's calvlry was the major force of his army, Villa never seriously threatened the government again, although he was a continuing irritation in the North. Carranza called for a Constitutional convention (1916). He was elected the first president under the new Mexican Constitution of 1917. The Government finally dealt with Zapata. After a vicious anti-guerilla campaign weakened his forces, Zapata was lured into a trap by a government soldier and shot. Carranza tried to hold power by backing the election of a supporter (1920). When it became clear that Obregón would win the election, Carranza attempted a coup. Obregón escaped and organized a military campaign against Carranza. As Obregón approached the capital, Carranza fled, trying to reach the port of Veracruz where he could leave the country, the traditional route for failed Mexican leaders, There Obregón's forces arrested and shot him. A






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Created: 8:37 PM 6/26/2008
Last updated: 8:37 PM 6/26/2008