Mexican Revolution

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The Mexican Revolution was a major revolution that included a sequence of armed struggles that lasted roughly from 1910 to 1920 and transformed Mexican culture and government. The outbreak of the revolution in 1910 resulted from the increasing unpopularity of the 31-year regime of Porfirio Díaz and the regime's failure to find a controlled solution to the issue of presidential succession. This resulted in a power struggle among competing elites, which provided the opportunity for peasant insurrection.[1] The wealthy landowner Francisco I. Madero challenged Díaz in the 1910 presidential election and, following the rigged results, revolted under the October 1910 Plan of San Luis Potosí.[2]

Armed conflict broke out in earnest in November 1910 starting in northern Mexico, led by Madero, Pascual Orozco, and Pancho Villa. These Maderista forces received support from portions of the middle class, the peasantry, and organized labor,[3] enabling them to pursue a military campaign in the north ending with Orozco's capture of Ciudad Juárez in May 1911. Díaz was forced out of office shortly thereafter by the Treaty of Ciudad Juárez in which he resigned and went into exile, new elections were scheduled for the fall, and Francisco León de la Barra became the interim president. The elections took place in October 1911 in a free and fair vote. Madero overwhelmingly won the presidential contest and took office in November.

Opposition to Madero's regime then grew from 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.

During a chaotic period in February 1913, known as the Ten Tragic Days (Spanish: La Decena Trágica), Madero and Vice President Pino Suárez were forced to resign and were assassinated. The counterrevolutionary regime of General Victoriano Huerta came to power, backed by US Ambassador, Henry Lane Wilson,[4] vocal bourgeois interests, and other supporters of the old order. Huerta remained in power until July 1914, when he was forced out by a coalition of different regional revolutionary forces, including the forces of Pancho Villa and those of Emiliano Zapata.

The wealthy landowner Venustiano Carranza had gathered together the Constitutionalist political faction, and with military forces under the leadership of Álvaro Obregón, he played an important part in defeating Huerta.[5] When the revolutionaries' attempt to reach political agreement failed, Mexico plunged into a civil war (1914–15). Carranza, again with Obregon's military leadership, emerged as the victor in 1915 by defeating the revolutionary forces of his former ally Pancho Villa and forcing Zapata to return to guerrilla warfare.[6] (In 1919, agents of President Carranza assassinated Zapata.)

The sequence of armed conflicts saw an evolution of military technology from Villa's cavalry charges to Obregon's early use of an airplane and also of machine-gun nests protected by barbed wire.[7] One major result of the revolution was the dissolution in 1914 of Mexico's Federal Army, which Madero had kept intact when elected in 1911 and Huerta had used to oust Madero. Although the conflict was primarily a civil war, foreign powers, which 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.[8] The losses amongst Mexico's population of 15 million were high, but numerical estimates vary a great deal. Perhaps 1.5 million people died, and nearly 200,000 refugees fled abroad, especially to the United States.[9]

Many scholars regard the promulgation of the Mexican Constitution of 1917 (Spanish: Constitucion de 1917) as the end 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.[10] 1920–40 is often considered to be a phase of the revolution, as government power was consolidated, the Catholic clergy and institutions were attacked in the 1920s, and the 1917 constitution was implemented.[11]

This armed conflict is often characterized as the most important sociopolitical event in Mexico and as one of the greatest upheavals of the 20th century.[12] It resulted in an important program of experimentation and reform in social organization.[13] The revolution resulted in a long-term political system that lasted until Mexico underwent an economic liberal reform process, which started in the 1980s.[14]


  1. John Tutino, From Insurrection to Revolution: Social Bases of Agrarian Violence, 1750–1940. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986, p. 327.
  2. Friedrich Katz, The Secret War in Mexico: Europe, the United States and the Mexican Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981, p. 35.
  3. Katz, The Secret War in Mexico p. 35.
  4. Tuñon Pablos, Mexican Revolution: February 1913 – October 1915, p. 855
  5. McLynn, Frank (2001). "The Revolt Against Huerta". Villa and Zapata: A History of the Mexican Revolution. United States: Carroll & Graf Publishers.
  6. McLynn, Frank (2001). "Villa at His Zenith; The End of Huerta; The Convention of Aguascalientes". Villa and Zapata: A History of the Mexican Revolution. United States: Carroll & Graf Publishers.
  7. McLynn, Frank (2001). Villa and Zapata: A History of the Mexican Revolution. United States: Carroll & Graf Publishers.
  8. Friedrich Katz, The Secret War in Mexico: Europe, the United States and the Mexican Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.
  9. LaRosa, Michael; Mejia, German R. (2007). An Atlas and Survey of Latin American History. M. E. Sharpe. p. 150.
  10. John Womack, Jr. "The Mexican Revolution" in Mexico Since Independence, ed. Leslie Bethell. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, p. 125
  11. Knight,"Mexican Revolution: Interpretations", pp. 869–873.
  12. Knight, Alan (1 May 1980). "The Mexican Revolution". History Today. 30 (5): 28. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  13. Cockcroft, James (1992). Mexico: Class Formation, Capital Accumulation, & the State. Monthly Review Press.
  14. Centeno, Ramón I. (2018-02-01). "Zapata reactivado: una visión žižekiana del Centenario de la Constitución". Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos. 34 (1): 36–62. :10.1525/msem.2018.34.1.36.  0742-9797.