May 25th

On this day in 1911, in the early days of the Revolution in Mexico, President Jose Porfirio Diaz is overthrown and pushed out of office.

Jose Porfirio Diaz

Fighting had broken out in 1910 as a result of Porfirio Diaz’s 35-year long regime failing to find a successor. Causing a political crisis among competing elites, but offered the opportunity of insurrection.

Wealthy landowner Francisco I. Madero ran against Diaz in the presidential election of 1910, but following rigged results culminating in victory for Diaz, revolt began with the Plan of San Luis Potosí.

Francisco I. Madero

The 1910 election became the sparking point for the rebellion’s outbreak. Elements of the Mexican elite hostile to Díaz, led by Madero, expanded to the middle class, the peasantry in some regions, and organised labour.  In October 1911, Madero was overwhelmingly elected in a free and fair election, after the armed conflicted had ousted Jose Porfirio Diaz in 1911 because of the rigged election.

However, opposition forces against Madero quickly made themselves vocal.  From both the conservatives, who saw him as too weak and too liberal, and from former revolutionary fighters and the dispossessed, who saw him as too conservative. Clearly, the tension had not been reconciled with the ousting of Diaz.

In February 1913 Madero and his vice president Pino Suárez were forced to resign, were assassinated, and the counter-revolutionary regime of General Victoriano Huerta came to power, backed by the U.S., business interests, and other supporters of the old order. Huerta remained in power from February 1913 until July 1914, when he was forced out by a coalition of different regional revolutionary forces. Then the revolutionaries’ attempt to come to a political agreement following Huerta’s ouster failed, and Mexico was plunged into a civil war (1914–1915). The Constitutionalist faction under wealthy landowner Venustiano Carranza emerged as the victor in 1915, defeating the revolutionary forces of former Constitutionalist Pancho Villa and forcing revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata back to guerrilla warfare. Zapata was assassinated in 1919, by agents of President Carranza.

The armed conflict lasted for the better part of a decade, until around 1920, and had several distinct phases. Over time the Revolution changed from a revolt against the established order under Díaz to a multi-sided civil war in particular regions with frequently shifting power struggles among factions in the Mexican Revolution. One major result of the revolution was the disappearance of the Federal Army in 1914 which Francisco Madero had kept intact when he was elected in 1911 and General Victoriano Huerta used to oust Madero. Revolutionary forces unified against Huerta’s reactionary regime defeated the Federal forces. Although the conflict was primarily a civil war, foreign powers that had important economic and strategic interests in Mexico figured in the outcome of Mexico’s power struggles. The United States played an especially significant role. Out of Mexico’s population of 15 million, the losses were high, but numerical estimates vary a great deal. Perhaps 1.5 million people died; nearly 200,000 refugees fled abroad, especially to the United States.

Politically, the promulgation of the Mexican Constitution of 1917 is seen by many scholars as the end point of the armed conflict. “Economic and social conditions improved in accordance with revolutionary policies, so that the new society took shape within a framework of official revolutionary institutions,” with the constitution providing that framework. The period 1920–1940 is often considered to be a phase of the Revolution, during which power was consolidated and the revolutionary constitution of 1917 was implemented.

1917 Mexican Constitution

This armed conflict is often categorised as one of the most important sociopolitical events in Mexico and one of the greatest upheavals of the 20th century; it resulted in an important program of experimentation and reform in social organisation.


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