VI. The World Wars and the Interwar Period, 1914–1945 > E. Latin America and the Caribbean, 1914–1945 > 4. Mexico
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1884–1910)
4. Mexico
The REVOLUTION that convulsed Mexico, beginning with the insurrection against Díaz in 1910, brought the country to total civil war by 1914. During the 34-year rule of Porfirio Díaz the country had gone through enormous economic changes, benefiting members of the elites and a small emergent middle class, but at the same time creating massive unrest in the countryside. The development of the railways, mines, commercial agriculture, and small-scale manufacturing transformed Mexico into a modern economy, but large numbers of subsistence peasant villages and other peripheral cultures lost their autonomy to centralized powers as well as access to their lands. During the late Porfiriato, unrest mounted and rural rebellions increased in frequency. By 1910 a number of factors—the depression that had begun in 1907, explosive misery and instability in the countryside, the decay and corruption of the regime, a weakened military, and discontent among affluent but disenfranchised middle-class and elite groups—came together to produce a massive social revolution.  1
In regions such as Morelos, where plantation agriculture had made great advances during the Porfiriato, campesinos under EMILIANO ZAPATA (1879–1919) remained rebellious for more than a decade, demanding a return of usurped land. In Chihuahua, where Porfirian progress had turned the frontier into a commercialized region, cross-class coalitions under leaders such as FRANCISCO (PANCHO) VILLA (1877–1923) also struggled for almost a decade against Porfirian and other centralizing forces. These groups represented the most radical elements of the revolution. They sought to recreate Mexican society in a way that empowered the lowest classes. By Dec. 1914, with Villa and Zapata in control of Mexico City, their victory seemed possible.  2
At the same time, members of the middle classes, foreigners, and the elites that had grown rich during the Porfiriato reacted decisively against the radical revolution. In 1914, more moderate leaders, such as VENUSTIANO CARRANZA (1859–1920) and ALVARO OBREGÓN (1880–1928), organized coalitions of old Porfirian interests and middle-class and urban working-class groups to stem the tide of the revolution. With the help of an infusion of American arms, these groups took control of the revolution by 1916, and proceeded to place all reforms within a very restrictive context.  3
Liberal FRANCISCO I. MADERO (1873–1913), after being defrauded of the presidency in the 1910 election, led a broad insurrectionary movement that overthrew Porfirio Díaz (May 25, 1911) and installed Madero as provisional president.  4
1911, Nov. 6
Madero elected president. Scion of a wealthy landed family, Madero soon alienated his more radical supporters with his indifference to demands for land reform. At the same time, Madero's political reforms antagonized Porfirian military officers and the U.S. ambassador, Henry Lane Wilson.  5
Nov. 28
Emiliano Zapata issued the PLAN DE AYALA, which proclaimed that all lands, waters, and woods seized by hacendados, political bosses, and others during the Porfiriato due to “tyranny and venal justice” would be returned by his revolutionary government; he then proceeded to implement that plan in the areas under his control.  6
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.