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29th President of Mexico
1 December 1884 – 25 May 1911
|Vice President||Ramón Corral
|Preceded by||Manuel González|
|Succeeded by||Francisco León de la Barra|
17 February 1877 – 1 December 1880
|Preceded by||Juan N. Méndez|
|Succeeded by||Manuel González|
28 November 1876 – 6 December 1876
|Preceded by||José María Iglesias|
|Succeeded by||Juan N. Méndez|
|Born||José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori
15 September 1830
Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico
|Died||2 July 1915
|Resting place||Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris|
|Political party||National Porfirist Party
National Reelectionist Party (previously Liberal Party)
|Spouse(s)||Delfina Ortega Díaz (m. 1867–80); her death
Carmen Romero Rubio (m. 1881–1915); his death
|Children||Deodato Lucas Porfirio (1875–46)
Luz Aurora Victoria (1875–65)
|Profession||Military officer, politician.|
Porfirio Díaz, whose full name was José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori, (Spanish pronunciation: [porˈfiɾjo ði.as]; 15 September 1830 – 2 July 1915) was a Mexican general and politician who served seven terms as President of Mexico, a total of three and a half decades from 1876 to 1911. A veteran of the War of the Reform (1858–60) and the French intervention in Mexico (1862–67), Díaz rose to the rank of General, leading republican troops against the French-imposed rule of Emperor Maximilian. Seizing power in a coup in 1876, Díaz and his allies, a group of technocrats known as "Científicos", ruled Mexico for the next thirty-five years, a period known as the Porfiriato.
Díaz has always been a controversial figure in Mexican history; while the Porfirian regime brought stability after decades of conflict, it grew unpopular due to civil repression and political stagnation. His economic policies largely benefited his circle of allies as well as foreign investors, and helped a few wealthy estate owning hacendados acquire huge areas of land, leaving rural campesinos unable to make a living. Despite public statements favoring a return to democracy and not running for office, Díaz reversed himself and ran in 1910. His failure to institutionalize presidential succession, when he was 80 years old, triggered a political crisis between the Científicos and the followers of General Bernardo Reyes, allied with the military and with peripheral regions of Mexico. After Díaz declared himself the winner of an eighth term in office in 1910, his electoral opponent, Francisco I. Madero, issued a call for armed rebellion against the Díaz, leading to the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution. After the Federal Army suffered a number of military defeats against Madero's forces, Díaz was forced to resign in May 1911 and went into exile in France, where he died four years later.
- 1 Early years
- 2 Life as a military man and path to the presidency
- 3 The campaigns of "no-reelection"
- 4 The Porfiriato
- 5 Political career
- 6 Order and Progress
- 7 Porfirio Díaz and the Catholic Church
- 8 Economic development under Díaz
- 9 Collapse of the regime
- 10 Legacy
- 11 Orders and decorations
- 12 In popular culture
- 13 Gallery
- 14 See also
- 15 Further reading
- 16 References
- 17 External links
Porfirio Díaz was the sixth of seven children, baptized on 15 September 1830, in Oaxaca, Mexico, but his actual date of birth is unknown. September 15 is an important date in Mexican history, the eve of the day when hero of independence Miguel Hidalgo issued his call for independence in 1810; when Díaz became president, the independence anniversary was commemorated on September 15 rather than the 16th, a practice that continues to the present era. Díaz was a castizo His mother, Petrona Mori (or Mory) was the daughter of a man whose father had immigrated from Spain and Tecla Cortés, an indigenous woman; Díaz's father was a Criollo. There is confusion about his father's name, which is listed on the baptismal certificate as José de la Cruz Díaz, but is also known as José Faustino Díaz, who was a modest innkeeper and died of cholera when his son was three.
Despite the family's difficult economomic circumstances following Díaz's father's death in 1833, Díaz was sent to school at age 6. In the early independence period, the choice of professions was narrow: lawyer, priest, physician, military.The Díaz family was devoutly religious, and Díaz began training for the priesthood at the age of fifteen when his mother, María Petrona Mori Cortés, sent him to the Colegio Seminario Conciliar de Oaxaca. He was offered a post as a priest in 1846, but important national events intervened. Seminary students volunteered as soldiers to repel the U.S. invasion during the Mexican–American War. Despite not seeing action, Díaz decided his future was in the military, not the priesthood. Also in 1846, Díaz came into contact with a leading Oaxaca liberal, Marcos Pérez, who taught at the secular Institute of Arts and Sciences in Oaxaca. Another student there had been Benito Juárez, who became governor of Oaxaca in 1847. Díaz met Juárez the same year. In 1849, over family objections Díaz abandoned his ecclesiastical career and entered the Instituto de Ciencias and studied law. When Antonio López de Santa Anna returned to power by a coup d'état in 1853, he suspended the 1824 constitution and persecuted liberals. At this point, Díaz had already aligned himself with radical liberals (rojos), such as Benito Juárez. Juárez was forced into exile in New Orleans; Díaz supported the liberal Plan de Ayutla that called for the ouster of Santa Anna. Díaz evaded an arrest warrant and fled to the mountains of northern Oaxaca, where he joined the rebellion of Juan Álvarez. In 1855, Díaz joined a band of liberal guerrillas who were fighting Santa Anna's government. After the ousting and exile of Santa Anna, Díaz was rewarded with a post in Ixtlán, Oaxaca, that gave him valuable practical experience as an administrator.
Life as a military man and path to the presidency
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Díaz’s military career is most noted for his service in the Reform War and the struggle against the French. By the time of the Battle of Puebla (5 May 1862), Mexico's great victory over the French when they first invaded, General Díaz had become the general in charge of an infantry brigade.
During the Battle of Puebla, his brigade was placed in the center between the forts of Loreto and Guadalupe. From there, he successfully repelled a French infantry attack that was sent as a diversion to distract the Mexican commanders' attention from the forts that were the main target of the French army. In violation of the orders of General Ignacio Zaragoza, General Díaz and his unit fought off a larger French force and then chased after them. Despite Díaz’s inability to share control, General Zaragoza commended the actions of General Díaz during the battle as "brave and notable".
In 1863, Díaz was captured by the French Army. He escaped and was offered by President Benito Juárez the positions of secretary of defense or army commander in chief. He declined both, but took an appointment as commander of the Central Army. That same year, he was promoted to the position of Division General.
In 1864, the conservatives supporting Emperor Maximilian asked him to join the Imperial cause. Díaz declined the offer. In 1865, he was captured by the Imperial forces in Oaxaca. He escaped and fought the battles of Tehuitzingo, Piaxtla, Tulcingo and Comitlipa.
In 1866, Díaz formally declared loyalty. That same year, he earned victories in Nochixtlán, Miahuatlán, and La Carbonera, and once again captured Oaxaca. He was then promoted to general. Also in 1866, Marshal Bazaine, commander of the Imperial forces, offered to surrender Mexico City to Díaz if he withdrew support of Juárez. Díaz declined the offer. In 1867, Emperor Maximilian offered Díaz the command of the army and the imperial rendition to the liberal cause. Díaz refused both. Finally, on 2 April 1867, he went on to win the final battle for Puebla.
Five days later, Díaz married Delfina Ortega Díaz (1845–1880), the daughter of his sister Manuela Josefa Díaz Mori (1824–1856). Díaz and his niece would have seven children, but Delfina died due to complications of her seventh delivery.
When Juárez became the president of Mexico in 1868 and began to restore peace, Díaz resigned his military command and went home to Oaxaca. However, it did not take long before the energetic Díaz became unhappy with the Juárez administration.
In 1871, Díaz led a revolt against the re-election of Juárez. In March 1872, Díaz's forces were defeated in the battle of La Bufa in Zacatecas. Following Juárez's death on 9 July of that year, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada assumed the presidency and offered amnesty to the rebels. Díaz accepted in October and "retired" to the Hacienda de la Candelaria in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz. However, he remained very popular among the people of Mexico.
In 1874, he was elected to Congress from Veracruz. That year, Lerdo de Tejada's government faced civil and military unrest, and offered Díaz the position of ambassador to Germany, which he refused. In 1875, Díaz traveled to New Orleans and Brownsville, Texas to plan a rebellion, which was launched in Ojitlan, Oaxaca, on 10 January 1876 as the "Plan de Tuxtepec".
Díaz continued to be an outspoken citizen and led a second revolt against Lerdo de Tejada in 1876. This attempt also failed and Díaz fled to the United States of America. His fight, however, was far from over.
Several months later, in November 1876, Díaz returned to Mexico and fought the Battle of Tecoac, where he defeated the government forces once and for all (on 16 November). Finally, on 12 May 1877, Díaz was elected president of Mexico for the first time. His campaign of "no re-election", however, came to define his control over the state for more than thirty years.
The campaigns of "no-reelection"
As a Liberal military hero, Díaz had ambitions for national political power. He challenged the civilian president Benito Juárez, who was running for what Díaz considered an illegal subsequent term as president. In 1870, Díaz ran against President Juárez and Vice President Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada. In 1871, he made claims of fraud in the July elections won by Juárez, who was confirmed as president by the Congress in October. In response, Díaz launched the Plan de la Noria on 8 November 1871, supported by a number of rebellions across the nation, including one by Manuel González of Tamaulipas, but this rebellion failed. Following the death of Juárez of natural causes in 1872, Lerdo became president. Lerdo offered amnesty to rebels, which Díaz accepted and took up residency in Veracruz. In 1874, Díaz served in the legislature, representing Veracruz. Opposition to the presidency of Lerdo grew, particularly as anti-clericalism increased, labor unrest grew, and a major rebellion of the Yaqui in northwest Mexico under the leadership of Cajeme challenged central government rule there. Díaz saw an opportunity to plot a more successful rebellion, leaving Mexico in 1875 for New Orleans and Brownsville, Texas with his political ally Manuel González.
When Lerdo declared he was running for re-election in 1876, Díaz once again had the pretext of the principle of no-reelection to support his opposition. He issued the Plan of Tuxtepec (a town in Oaxaca) as a call to arms against Lerdo. When Lerdo was re-elected in July 1876, rebellion and unrest both before and after the election forced Lerdo from office. In November 1876, Díaz occupied Mexico City, Lerdo left Mexico for exile in New York. Díaz did not take formal control of the presidency until the beginning of 1877, putting General Juan N. Méndez as provisional president, followed by new presidential elections in 1877 that gave Díaz the presidency. Ironically, one of his government's first amendments to the 1857 liberal constitution was to prevent re-election.
Although the liberals had defeated the conservatives in the War of the Reform, the conservatives had been powerful enough still in the early 1860s to aid the imperial project of France that put Maximilian Habsburg as emperor of Mexico. With the fall of Maximilian, Mexican conservatives were cast as collaborators with foreign imperialists. With the return of the liberals under Benito Juárez, and following his death, liberals held power, but basic liberal goals of democracy, rule of law, and economic development were not reached. Díaz saw his task in his term as president to create internal order so that economic development could be possible. As a military hero and astute politician, Díaz's eventual successful establishment of that peace (Pax Porfiriana) became "one of [Díaz's] principal achievements, and it became the main justification for successive re-elections after 1884."
During his first term in office, Díaz developed a pragmatic and personalist approach to solve political conflicts. Although a political liberal who had stood with radical liberals in Oaxaca (rojos), he was not a liberal ideologue, preferring pragmatic approaches towards political issues. He was explicit about his pragmatism. He maintained control through generous patronage to political allies. Although he was an authoritarian ruler, he maintained the structure of elections, so that there was the façade of liberal democracy. His administration became famous for their suppression of civil society and public revolts. One of the catch phrases of his later terms in office was the choice between "pan o palo", ("bread or the bludgeon")—that is, "benevolence or repression." To secure U.S. government recognition of the Díaz regime, which had come to power by a coup despite the later niceties of an election after Lerdo went into exile, Mexico paid $300,000 to settle claims by the U.S. In 1878, the U.S. government recognized the Díaz regime and former U.S. president and Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant visited Mexico.
Díaz initially served only one term— after having staunchly stood against Lerdo's re-election policy. Instead of running for a second term, he handpicked his successor, Manuel González, one of his trustworthy companions. This side-step maneuver, however, did not mean that Díaz was stepping down from his powerful position. The four-year period that followed was marked by corruption and official incompetence, so that when Díaz stepped up in the election of 1884, he was welcomed by his people with open arms. More importantly, very few people remembered his "No re-election" slogan that had defined his previous campaign. During this period the Mexican underground political newspapers spread the new ironic slogan for the Porfirian times, based on the slogan "Sufragio Efectivo, No Reelección" and changed it to "Sufragio Efectivo No, Reelección". In any case, Díaz had the constitution amended, first to allow two terms in office, and then to remove all restrictions on re-election.
Having created a band of military brothers, Díaz went on to construct a broad coalition. He was a cunning politician and knew very well how to manipulate people to his advantage. A phrase used to describe the order of his rule was "Pan o palo", "Bread or a beating" (literally "Bread or stick"), meaning that one could either accept what was given willingly (often a position of political power) or else face harsh consequences (often death). Either way, rising opposition to Díaz's administration was immediately quelled.
Over the next twenty-six years as president, Díaz created a systematic and methodical regime with a staunch military mindset. His first goal was to establish peace throughout Mexico. According to John A. Crow, Díaz "set out to establish a good strong paz porfiriana, or Porfirian peace, of such scope and firmness that it would redeem the country in the eyes of the world for its sixty-five years of revolution and anarchy." His second goal was outlined in his motto – "little of politics and plenty of administration."
In reality, he started a Mexican revolution; however, his fight for profits, control, and progress kept his people in a constant state of uncertainty. Díaz managed to dissolve all local authorities and all aspects of federalism that once existed. Not long after he became president, the governors of all federal states in Mexico were answering directly to him. Those who held high positions of power, such as members of the legislature, were almost entirely his closest and most loyal friends. In his quest for even more political control, Díaz suppressed the media and controlled the court system.
In order to secure his power, Díaz engaged in various forms of co-optation and coercion. He played his people like a board game – catering to the private desires of different interest groups and playing off one interest against another. In order to satisfy any competing forces, such as the Mestizos and wealthier indigenous people, he gave them political positions of power that they could not refuse. He did the same thing with the elite Creole society by not interfering with their wealth and haciendas. Covering both pro and anti-clerical elements, Díaz was both the head of the Freemasons in Mexico and an important advisor to the Catholic bishops. Díaz proved to be a different kind of liberal than those of the past. He neither assaulted the Church (like most liberals) nor protected the Church. As for the Native American population, who were historically repressed, they were almost completely depoliticized; neither put on a pedestal as the core of Mexican society nor suppressed, and were largely left to advance by their own means. In giving different groups with potential power a taste of what they wanted, Díaz created the illusion of democracy and quelled almost all competing forces.
Díaz knew that it was crucial for him to suppress banditry; he expanded the guardias rurales (countryside police), although it guarded chiefly only transport routes to major cities. Díaz thus worked to enhance his control over the military and the police.
During the Díaz regime, the state began to take control over the cultural patrimony of Mexico, expanding the National Museum of Anthropology as the central repository of artifacts from Mexico's archeological sites, as well as asserting control over the sites themselves. The Law of Monuments (1897) gave jurisdiction over archeological sites to the federal government. This allowed the expropriation and expulsion of peasants who had been cultivating crops on the archeological sites, most systematically done at Teotihuacan. Former cavalry officer and archeologist Leopoldo Batres was Inspector of Archeological Monuments and wielded considerable power. He garnered resources from the Díaz government funds to guard archeological sites in central Mexico and Yucatan, as well as to hire workers to excavate archeological sites of particular importance for creating an image of Mexico's glorious past to foreign scholars and tourists, as well as patriotic fervor in Mexico.
From 1892 onwards, Díaz's perennial opponent was the eccentric Nicolás Zúñiga y Miranda, who lost every election but always claimed fraud and considered himself to be the legitimately elected president of Mexico.
Order and Progress
Porfirio Díaz was, and still is, admired by many. Towards the end of his presidency in 1908, James Creelman interviewed Díaz and produced an embellished and eulogistic report of him which was soon published in Pearson’s Magazine in the United States. In the interview, Díaz revealed that he would not run for the presidency again, effectively removing him from office in the upcoming elections of 1910. Díaz was perhaps overconfident or naive in thinking that his interview would remain in the anglo-speaking world because Mexican newspaper El Imparcial wasted no time in translating and publishing the interview. The Mexican people held Díaz to his word, but shortly after, Díaz broke his word and announced that he would run for reelection. The effects of this produced an opposition party that was to overthrow Díaz from office and force him into exile in 1911. Surely, Creelman did not foresee this happening as he devoted the interview and a whole book, published in 1911 just before Díaz was sent into exile, to praising Díaz and justifying his whole regime.
Notwithstanding Creelman’s glorified account of Díaz, Creelman does highlight the immediacy Díaz took to establish order—and fear—into dissenters of law as soon as he went into power in 1876. Díaz created localized bands of vigilantes, knowns as the rurales, who “punish[ed] robbery with death and requir[ed] the execution of culprits within a few hours after they were caught.” If the thief was not caught within a few hours, the chief officer of the given district would suffer the consequences. The same was said for the hacienda owner whose presumed thief Indian was not caught. Díaz continues: “It is true that we were harsh….to the point of great cruelty….[but] it was necessary then to the life and progress of the nation. The results have justified it” since “Mexico needed peace, even an enforced peace, that the nation might have time to think and work.” Creelman supports Díaz and states that even though Díaz “straighten[ed] out the public debt,” economized public expenditure, and industrialized the country, “his eyes were ever fixed on… a peace born of constructive and persuasive statesmanship, backed by strength, but to be maintained by force alone, when necessary—as the indispensable preliminary and accompaniment of national regeneration” In the long run, brutality and cruelty, according to Creelman’s interview of Díaz, were necessary elements to bring order, progress, and peace to Mexico. Indeed, virtual peace ruled Mexico for most of the Porfiriato. There were no grand-scale civil wars nor any foreign attempts to invade Mexico, but was it worth the trouble? Although Creelman devotes the vast majority of his writing to admiring Díaz as an individual, aside from the regime, Creelman is sure to also point out the perceived flaws of the Porfiriato: the restricted press, the feudal-like hacienda system, the infrastructural needs outside of major cities (and in major cities), the brutal administration of justice for trivial or political causes, the general neglect for rural Mexico, and the forced migration of Indian populations outside of their native lands. On his treatment towards the Indians, Díaz states that “they are accustomed to look to those in authority for leadership instead of thinking for themselves. That is a tendency they inherited from the Spaniards, who taught them to refrain from meddling in public affairs and rely on the Government for guidance.”
It is evident that by and large Creelman stands strong in his justification for the Porfiriato and cannot imagine a more appropriate character than Díaz to have ruled Mexico. Creelman sees Díaz as the epitome of a Mexican: “There is no more heroic, no more picturesque, no more commanding and appealing figure in the world than Porfirio Díaz, in whose veins leaps the tide-rip of two races and two civilizations.” Even as Díaz had revealed his plans to retire from office three years earlier and then decided to go against his own word, Díaz, according to Creelman’s interpretation, saw himself as a self-sacrificing patriot who thought no one else could rule Mexico better than himself. Díaz believed that the Mexican people demanded he remain in office because they knew no other president would keep the status quo. This begs the question: who were the Mexican people? Did these include Indians? And if most Indians did not participate in politics, how did Díaz conclude that he was loved by them? His logic ran thusly: Indians are naturally lazy and have an indifference for politics, which causes them to either believe that “things are bound to go on well under [his] direction...or that it would be worse than useless to attempt to oppose anything he favored.” Likely, this was part of Creelman’s embellishments to Díaz’s story.
Creelman’s accounts of Díaz are the most sensational in their prose to have risen during the Porfiriato. Also an American journalist but with an opposite view of the Porfiriato was John Kenneth Turner. Turner traveled through Mexico disguised as a wealthy American investor in search of potential enterprises. His real motive was to expose Mexico’s rumored slave-like conditions existing in the western and southern states of Yucatan and Oaxaca, respectively. As expected, the rumors were verified. What came next in Turner’s account was a critical analysis of the Porfiriato and the terrible course it took on Mexican history.
Turner opens with a chapter titled “The Slaves of Yucatan,” and describes the terrible fate that the Yaqui Indians of the northern state of Sonora suffered at the hands of Díaz’s capitalistic imperialism—that of the henequen industry. Turner plainly states that “From the viewpoint of the common Mexican the government is wholly the opposite of beneficent; it is a slave-driver, a thief, a murderer; it has neither justice nor mercy—nothing but exploitation” This view contrasts starkly from Creelman’s interpretation of how the Mexican people felt about the Porfiriato.
It is relevant to note here that Turner was extremely conservative in his use of the word “Indian.” Instead he referred to the different Indian peoples by their culture’s name, such as Yaqui or Aztec, in order to humanize and emphasize their identities. For Turner, Díaz “created a machine and oiled the machine with the flesh and blood of a people. He rewarded all except the people; the people were the sacrifice.” Indians were seen as chattel and although Díaz’s regime justified its means for this treatment, Turner emphasizes this point. Additionally, Turner does not explicitly mention the científicos, but he makes a stand against the “scientific knowledge” of that time in regard to race; in a way, against positivism. He indirectly brings up issues surrounding the Indian questions of labor—through haciendas—and of education. Turner points out that regardless of the public primary schools that had been built, “what promise does study hold out for a youth born to shoulder a debt of his father and carry it to the end of his days?” At its core, Turner’s question embodies the meaning of slavery, because that is precisely what he saw.
To reiterate, Creelman and Turner, with equal vigor and scope of investigation, depict very different regimes; respectively, one progressive and the other oppressive. In spite of their strong commitment to their reporting, both journalists rarely mention the científicos. Regardless, these first-hand accounts reveal two foreigners’ perceptions of how Indian policy was carried out in the whole of Mexico, even if they were unaware of the inner workings of the regime. On the one hand, Creelman stresses the necessity of the Porfiriato’s harshness with which Indians continued to be subjugated and socially marginalized, as was suggested by Limantour, Bulnes, and Cosmes. This treatment, to Creelman, was a justified measure so that Mexico could be modernized. Turner, on the other hand, sees no benefit to such dehumanizing treatment when nearly one half of Mexico’s population is not profiting from the economic progress, but rather, they are suffering from it, even more than they had suffered under previous governments. This, for Turner, was the opposite of modernization. Despite their opposing interpretations of Díaz ’s regime, Creelman and Turner ultimately expose any pretense of a fair and just government as perpetrated by the científicos and Díaz through positivist doctrine. It is this last point that serves as the link to Díaz’s own perceptions and actions—or lack thereof—towards Mexico’s Indians.
Porfirio Díaz was enticed by the lure of power. His indigenismo only lasted until he took the presidential seat the second time around in 1884. What changed? What made Díaz go from the victor against a reelectionist government to the very embodiment of it? His early military career proved his loyalty to his people—the Mixtecs. Prior to his presidency, Díaz provided education and military training for the Indians, which indicated that he did not view them as an obstacle. During his four-year hiatus from the presidency (1880-1884), he was the governor of his native Oaxaca and there, too, he succeeded in implementing public services, with a focus on the Indians. Díaz’s rise to power is undoubtedly impressive and it is not surprising why many, then and now, still consider him the hero of Mexico—the one who brought Mexico out of its backwardness and into the world stage. But why did Díaz, or how did he, become his own antithesis?
Some scholars agree that Díaz was never sympathetic to all Indians. In fact, he stated that the Yaquis and the Mayas had always been a pest for Mexico and that they needed to be dealt with. This is not to say that Díaz loved the rest of Mexico’s Indians. Perhaps, it could be argued that Díaz’s ultimate drive was that of economic expansion. Once Díaz amassed absolute legislative power, his indigenismo went out of the picture. It was not so much about elevating the lower classes into modern society and thus integrating them, but more about the economic and power status of the nation. After all, Indians composed less than half of Mexico’s population and their unwillingness to participate in the dominant culture made them political enemies of the state, especially those who persistently refused assimilation like the Yaqui and the Maya.
As Díaz saw it, Indians impeded progress. It was not worth it to invest time and money to bring Indians out of their intellectual darkness and into a modern society through education. Díaz did not think Indians were biologically inferior to Europeans, but felt that centuries of subjugation had psychologically inhibited their ability to modernize. As mentioned in Creelman’s interview, Díaz claimed that Indians did not care to succeed because they could not see beyond the scope of a daily life. Indians needed a ruler to dictate their lives. However, this paternalistic approach to the Indian questioned turned from an issue of social welfare at the beginning of his presidency to one of indifference, so long as the economy kept progressing. On this point, Limantour and other científicos, played a great part because they “helped to alienate Díaz from the native peoples and this resulted in a growing indifference on the President’s part toward a wide sector of the population.”
As a result, Díaz’s aggressive move toward economic progress—and its success —established a parallel move toward Indian ethnocide. One example will suffice: “It was the village that was the most important element in the life of the Mayas and which contributed to the preservation of their tightly knit society…. It was this type of solidarity and unity that the Porfirian government attempted to destroy” so that they could learn, through coercion, to use money and learn to speak Spanish. In other words, to assimilate. For Díaz and all of the científicos, including the leading Indian advocate Sierra, never attempted to help the Indians because their way of helping did not involve an Indian’s perspective. To many Indians, but especially the Yaqui and the Maya, progress for Mexico meant the dissolution of their cultures. “Progress” was not approached within the framework of Indians’ own cultural perceptions, but still “had to become [members] of the progressive Mexican society of [their] day or become non-entities.” This approach, including that of Díaz, was not at all sympathetic to Indian cultures, but rather, indicated a path toward ethnocide, which only came into fruition through the working dynamic of Díaz and the científicos.
Porfirio Díaz and the Catholic Church
Díaz came from a devoutly Catholic family; his uncle, José Agustín, was bishop of Oaxaca. Díaz had trained for the priesthood, and it seemed likely that was his career path. Oaxaca was a center of liberalism, and the founding of the Institute of Arts and Sciences, a secular institution, helped foster professional training for Oaxacan liberals, including Benito Juárez and Porfirio Díaz. Díaz was a Freemason, which did not necessarily[clarification needed] put him at odds with the Catholic Church, but did give him access to a secret brotherhood of like-minded ambitious men.
Radical liberalism was anti-clerical, seeing the privileges of the Church as challenging the idea of equality before the law and individual, rather than corporate identity. The economic power of the Church was considered a detriment to modernization and development. The Church as a major corporate landowner and de facto banking institution shaped investments to conservative landed estates more than industry, infrastructure building, or exports. When Díaz abandoned his ecclesiastical career for one in the military, his powerful uncle disowned him.
Unlike many doctrinaire liberals, Díaz was not virulently anti-clerical. However, powerful liberals following the ouster of Santa Anna had moved to implement legal measures to curtail the power of the Church. The Juárez Law abolished special privileges (fueros) of ecclesiastics and the military, and the lerdo law mandated disentailment of the property of corporations, specifically the Church and indigenous communities. The liberal constitution of 1857 removed the privileged position of the Catholic Church and opened the way to religious toleration, considering religious expression as freedom of speech. However, Catholic priests were ineligible for elective office, but could vote. Conservatives fought back in the War of the Reform, under the banner of religión y fueros (that is, Catholicism and special privileges of corporate groups), but they were defeated in 1861. Conservatives unsuccessfully tried again with the French Intervention (1862–67) to reinstate the dominance of the Church.
Following the fall of the Second Empire in 1867, liberal presidents Benito Juárez and his successor Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada began implementing the anti-clerical measures of the constitution. Lerdo went further, extending the laws of the Reform to formalize: separation of Church and State; civil marriage as the only valid manner for State recognition; prohibitions of religious corporations to acquire real estate; elimination from legal oaths any religious element, but only a declaration to tell the truth; and the elimination of monastic vows as legally binding. Further prohibitions on the Church in 1874 included: the exclusion of religion in public institutions; restriction of religious acts to church precincts; banning of religious garb in public except within churches; and prohibition of the ringing of church bells except to summon parishioners.
Díaz was a political pragmatist and not an ideologue, likely seeing that the religious question re-opened political discord in Mexico. When he rebelled against Lerdo, Díaz had at least the tacit and perhaps even the explicit support of the Church. When he came to power in 1877, Díaz left the anti-clerical laws in place, but no longer enforced them as state policy, leaving that to individual Mexican states. This led to the re-emergence of the Church in many areas, but in others a less full role. The Church flouted the Reform prohibitions against wearing clerical garb, there were open-air processions and Masses, and religious orders existed. The Church also recovered its property, sometimes through intermediaries, and tithes were again collected. The Church regained its role in education, with the complicity of the Díaz regime which did not put money into public education. The Church also regained its role in running charitable institutions. Despite an increasingly visible role of the Catholic Church during the Porfiriato, the Vatican was unsuccessful in getting the reinstatement of a formal relationship between the papacy and Mexico, and the constitutional limitations of the Church as an institution remained the law of the land.
In Díaz's personal life, it is clear that religion still mattered and that fierce anti-clericalism could have a high price. In 1870, his brother Félix, a fellow liberal, who was then governor of Oaxaca, had rigorously applied the anti-clerical laws of the Reform. In the rebellious and supposedly idolatrous town of Juchitán in Tehuantepec, Félix Díaz had "roped the image of the patron saint of Juchitán … to his horse and dragged it away, returning the saint days later with its feet cut off". When Félix Díaz had to flee Oaxaca City in 1871 following Porfirio's failed coup against Juárez, Félix ended up in Juchitán, where the villagers killed him, doing to his body even worse than he did to their saint. Having lost a brother to the fury of religious peasants, Díaz had a cautionary tale about the dangers of enforcing anti-clericalism. Even so, it is clear that Díaz wanted to remain in good standing with the Church. In 1879, when his wife died in childbirth, he wrote a private letter to Church officials renouncing the Laws of the Reform, which allowed his wife to be buried with Catholic rites on sacred ground. When Díaz remarried in 1881, to Carmen Romero Rubio, the 17-year-old daughter of one of his advisors, Oaxaca cleric Father Eulogio Gillow gave his blessing. Gillow was later appointed archbishop of Oaxaca. Doña Carmen is credited with bringing Díaz into closer reconciliation with the Church, but Díaz was already inclined in that direction.
This modus vivendi between Díaz and the Church had pragmatic and positive consequences. Díaz did not publicly renounce liberal anti-clericalism, meaning that the Constitution of 1857 remained in place, but neither did he enforce its anti-clerical measures. Conflict could reignite, but it was to the advantage of both Church and the Díaz government for this arrangement to continue. If the Church did counter Díaz, he had the constitutional means to rein in its power. The Church regained considerable economic power, with conservative intermediaries holding lands for it. The Church remained important in education and charitable institutions. Other important symbols of the normalization of religion in late 19th century Mexico included: the return of the Jesuits (expelled by the Bourbon monarchy in 1767); the crowning of the Virgin of Guadalupe as "Queen of Mexico"; and the support of Mexican bishops for Díaz's work as peacemaker. Not surprisingly, when the Mexican Revolution broke out in 1910, the Catholic Church was a staunch supporter of Díaz.
Economic development under Díaz
Crow states, "It was the golden age of Mexican economics, 3.2 dollars per peso. Mexico was compared economically to economic powers of the time such as France, Great Britain, and Germany. For some Mexicans, there was no money and the doors were thrown open to those who had." Also, economic progress varied drastically from region to region. The north was defined by mining and ranching while the central valley became the home of large-scale farms for wheat and grain and large industrial centers.
One component of economic growth involved stimulating foreign investment in the Mexican mining sector. Through tax waivers and other incentives, investment and growth were effectively realized. The desolate region of Baja California Sur benefited from the establishment of an economic zone with the founding of the town of Santa Rosalía and the commercial development of the El Boleo copper mine. This came about when Díaz granted a French mining company a 70-year tax waiver in return for its substantial investment in the project. In a similar fashion, the city of Guanajuato realized substantial foreign investment in local silver mining ventures. The city subsequently experienced a period of prosperity, symbolized by the construction of numerous landmark buildings, most notably, the magnificent Juárez Theatre.
Because Díaz had created such an effective centralized government, he was able to concentrate decision-making and maintain control over the economic instability. This instability arose largely as a result of the dispossession of hundreds of thousands of peasants of their land. Communal indigenous landholdings were privatized, subdivided, and sold. The Porfiriato thus generated a stark contrast between rapid economic growth and sudden, severe impoverishment of the rural masses, a situation that was to explode in the Mexican revolution of 1910.
Collapse of the regime
On 17 February 1908, in an interview with the U.S. journalist James Creelman of Pearson's Magazine, Díaz stated that Mexico was ready for democracy and elections and that he would retire and allow other candidates to compete for the presidency. Without hesitation, several opposition and pro-government groups united to find suitable candidates who would represent them in the upcoming presidential elections. Many liberals formed clubs supporting the governor of Nuevo León, Bernardo Reyes, as a candidate for the presidency. Despite the fact that Reyes never formally announced his candidacy, Díaz continued to perceive him as a threat and sent him on a mission to Europe, so that he was not in the country for the elections.
|“||I have no desire to continue in the Presidency. This nation is ready for her ultimate life of freedom.||”|
|— Díaz declarations to journalist James Creelman in 1908.|
|“||Since I am responsible for bringing several billion dollars in foreign investments into my country, I think I should continue in my position until a competent successor is found.||”|
|— Díaz declarations to John Hays Hammond at the summit with Pres. Taft in 1909.|
In 1909, Díaz and William Taft, the then president of the United States, planned a summit in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a historic first meeting between a U.S. president and a Mexican president and also the first time an American president would cross the border into Mexico. Díaz requested the meeting to show U.S. support for his planned eighth run as president, and Taft agreed in order to protect the several billion dollars of American capital then invested in Mexico. After nearly 30 years with Díaz in power, U.S. businesses controlled "nearly 90 percent of Mexico’s mineral resources, its national railroad, its oil industry and, increasingly, its land." Both sides agreed that the disputed Chamizal strip connecting El Paso to Ciudad Juárez would be considered neutral territory with no flags present during the summit, but the meeting focused attention on this territory and resulted in assassination threats and other serious security concerns. The Texas Rangers, 4,000 U.S. and Mexican troops, U.S. Secret Service agents, FBI agents and U.S. marshals were all called in to provide security. An additional 250 private security detail led by Frederick Russell Burnham, the celebrated scout, were hired by John Hays Hammond, a close friend of Taft from Yale and a former candidate for U.S. Vice-President in 1908 who, along with his business partner Burnham, held considerable mining interests in Mexico. On October 16, the day of the summit, Burnham and Private C.R. Moore, a Texas Ranger, discovered a man holding a concealed palm pistol standing at the El Paso Chamber of Commerce building along the procession route. Burnham and Moore captured and disarmed the assassin within only a few feet of Díaz and Taft.
According to Crow, "A cautious but new breath entered the prostrate Mexican underground. Dark undercurrents rose to the top." As groups began to settle on their presidential candidate, Díaz decided that he was not going to retire but rather allow Francisco Madero, an aristocratic but democratically leaning reformer, to run against him. Although Madero, a landowner, was very similar to Díaz in his ideology, he hoped for other elites in Mexico to rule alongside the president. Ultimately, however, Díaz did not approve of Madero and had him jailed during the election in 1910. Despite what he had formerly said about democracy and change, sameness seemed to be the only reality.
Despite this, the election went ahead. Madero had gathered much popular support, but when the government announced the official results, Díaz was proclaimed to have been re-elected almost unanimously, with Madero gathering only a minuscule number of votes. This case of massive electoral fraud aroused widespread anger throughout the Mexican citizenry. Madero called for revolt against Díaz, and the Mexican Revolution began. Díaz was forced from office and fled the country for Spain on May 31, 1911.
On 2 July 1915, Díaz died in exile in Paris. He is buried there in the Cimetière du Montparnasse (where Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir are also buried). He was survived by his second wife (María del Carmen Romero-Rubio Castelló, 1864–1944) and two of his children (Deodato Lucas Porfirio Díaz Ortega, 1873–1946, and Luz Aurora Victoria Díaz Ortega, 1875–1965). His other five children died as infants. His widow was allowed to return to Mexico in the 1940s under the presidency of Manuel Ávila Camacho.
The legacy of Díaz has undergone revision since the 1990s. In Díaz's lifetime before his ouster, there was an adulatory literature, which has been named "Porfirismo". The vast literature that characterizes him as a ruthless tyrant and dictator has its origins in the late period of Díaz's rule and has continued to shape Díaz's historical image. In recent years, however, Díaz's legacy has been re-evaluated by Mexican historians, most prominently by Enrique Krauze, in what has been termed "Neo-Porfirismo". As Mexico pursued a neoliberal path under President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the modernizing policies of Díaz that opened Mexico up to foreign investment fit with the new pragmatism of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Díaz was characterized as a far more benign figure for these revisionists.
With the wave of anti-Americanism in 2003, the following words of Diaz were recalled: "Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States.”
Attempts to return remains to Mexico
There have been several attempts to return Díaz's remains to Mexico since the 1920s. The most recent movement started in 2014 in Oaxaca by the Comisión Especial de los Festejos del Centenario Luctuoso de Porfirio Díaz Mori, which is headed by Francisco Jiménez. According to some, the fact that Díaz's remains have not been returned to Mexico "symbolises the failure of the post-Revolutionary state to come to terms with the legacy of the Díaz regime."
Orders and decorations
List of notable foreign orders awarded to President Díaz:
In popular culture
The main Mexican holiday is the Day of Independence, celebrated on September 16. Americans are more familiar with the Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the date of the Battle of Puebla, in which Díaz participated, when a major victory was won against the French. Under the Porfiriato, the Mexican Consuls in the United States gave Cinco de Mayo more importance than the Day of Independence due to the President's personal involvement in the events. It is still widely celebrated in the United States, although largely due to cultural permeation.
- The film The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin (1918) has Díaz played by Pedro Sose
- The film The Mad Empress (1939) has Díaz played by Earl Gunn
- The film Juarez (1939) has Díaz played by John Garfield
- The film Porfirio Díaz (1944) is a biopic of his life
- The film My Memories of Mexico (1944) has Díaz played by Antonio R. Frausto
- The film Sobre las olas (1950) has Díaz by Antonio R. Frausto
- The film Viva Zapata! (1952) has Díaz by Fay Roope
- The film Terra em Transe (1967) uses the character metaphorically. It is interpreted by the Brazilian actor Paulo Autran and the character is portrayed as a conservative president supported by revolutionary forces.
- The Mexican soap opera La Constitución (1970) has Díaz played by Miguel Manzano
- The Mexican soap opera El Carruaje (1972) has Díaz played by Salvador Sánchez
- Porfirio Díaz is one of the main characters of the Mexican soap opera El Vuelo del Águila (1994) with Humberto Zurita as the young Díaz and Manuel Ojeda playing Díaz as President and Fabián Robles as a child
- The film Zapata - El sueño del héroe (2004) has Díaz played by Justo Martínez
- The card-game "Pax Porfiriana" (2012) has, as its theme, the competing hacendados jockeying to win out in the regime and topple Díaz.
- Post-hardcore punk band At the Drive-In has a track titled "Porfirio Díaz" on their 1996 debut album Acrobatic Tenement
- The novel All the Pretty Horses (1992) by Cormac McCarthy. Alejandra's aunt is a childhood friend of Francisco Madero. The revolution is mentioned in a monologue.
- The James Carlos Blake novels The Friends of Pancho Villa (1996), in which Díaz is a major character, and Country of the Bad Wolfes (2012), in which Díaz is a central character.
- Porfirio Díaz is referenced in chapter two of D.H. Lawrence's seminal Studies in Classical American Literature (1923), with respect to the "perfectibility of man."
Díaz family on vacation in Egypt
- List of coupled cousins
- List of heads of state of Mexico
- 1884 in Mexico
- Emiliano Zapata
- History of Mexico
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Porfirio Diaz.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Porfiriato.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Porfirio Díaz|
- Historial Text Archive: Díaz, Porfirio (1830–1915)
- Works by Porfirio Díaz at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Porfirio Díaz at Internet Archive
- The New Student's Reference Work/Diaz, Porfirio
- Creelman's interview in Spanish
- Creelman's interview in English
- "Pax Porfiriana" (the card game) entry on BoardGameGeek
- Porfirio Díaz at Find a Grave
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