Mexican Revolution

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Mexican Revolution
(Revolución Mexicana)
Collage revolución mexicana.jpg
Collage of the Mexican Revolution
Date 1910–20
Location Mexico
Mexico Counter-revolutionary forces:
Federal troops led by Porfirio Díaz
Forces led by Bernardo Reyes
Forces led by Félix Díaz
Army of Victoriano Huerta
supported by:
 United States (Until 1918)
 British Empire (1916–18)
Mexico Revolutionary forces:
supported by:
 German Empire (1917–18)
Commanders and leaders
Porfirio Díaz
Pascual Orozco, fought own revolution after Díaz was overthrown and later sided with Huerta after Huerta took power
Bernardo Reyes, led own revolution until his death in 1913
Félix Díaz, sided with Reyes and later Huerta after Reyes died in 1913
Emiliano Zapata, sided with Orozco until Huerta took power
Victoriano Huerta, sided with Reyes until Reyes died in 1913. After Reyes died, Huerta launched his own revolution and took power
Victoriano Huerta
Pascual Orozco
Venustiano Carranza
Álvaro Obregón
Venustiano Carranza 
Francisco I. Madero
Pascual Orozco, fought against Díaz
Bernardo Reyes, fought against Díaz
Pancho Villa
Emiliano Zapata
Venustiano Carranza
Francisco I. Madero 
Pancho Villa
Venustiano Carranza
Pancho Villa
Emiliano Zapata
Venustiano Carranza
Álvaro Obregón
Pancho Villa
Emiliano Zapata 
Álvaro Obregón
Casualties and losses
United States 500 killed German Empire 2 killed
Mexico 1,300,000? Total Mexicans dead (civilian and military)[1]
External Timeline A graphical timeline is available at
Timeline of the Mexican Revolution

The Mexican Revolution (Spanish: Revolución mexicana) was a major armed struggle 1910–20 that radically transformed Mexican politics and society. Although recent research has focused on local and regional aspects of the Revolution, it was a "genuinely national revolution."[2]

The failure of the 35-year long regime of Porfirio Díaz to find a managed solution to the presidential succession meant there was a political crisis among competing elites and the opportunity for agrarian insurrection.[3] Francisco I. Madero, cheated out of the 1910 presidential election, revolted under the Plan of San Luis Potosí. It declared Díaz not the legitimate president, Madero as provisional president, called for democracy, and demanded for the return of lands unjustly taken from Mexican villages.[4]

The armed conflict lasted for the better part of a decade until around 1920 and had several distinct phases.[5] 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.[6] 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. The Constitutionalist faction of northern Mexico led by Venustiano Carranza were the victors in the military phase of the conflict.

The origins of the conflict were broadly based in opposition to the Díaz regime, with the 1910 election becoming the sparking point for the outbreak of a political rebellion. Elements of the Mexican elite hostile to Díaz, led by Madero, expanded to the middle class, the peasantry in some regions, and organized labor.[7] In October 1911. Madero was overwhelmingly elected in a free and fair election. Opposition to the Madero regime increased 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. In February 1913 Madero was assassinated.

Conservatives led by General Victoriano Huerta sought, from February 1913 on, to reimpose much of the old Porfirian order, but revolts against the regime ensued in the North, under the leadership of the governor of the state of Coahuila, Venustiano Carranza, and in Morelos by peasant leader Emiliano Zapata. Anti-Huerta forces were unified to oust the president. Huerta was forced to resign in July 1914 after 17 months. The Revolution had grown increasingly broad based, radical, and violent. Many revolutionaries sought far-reaching social and economic reforms, restricting foreign investment and empowering Mexican workers and peasants via the state, while weakening conservative forces represented by the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico, wealthy landowners, and foreign capitalists.

In 1914, when the winners of the anti-Huerta struggle attempted to sort out a new revolutionary order via the Convention of Aguascalientes, that solution failed. Former allies now fought each other in another round of bloody civil war. Carranza and the best general of the Constitutionalist Army fought against former Constitutionalist general Pancho Villa, who allied with Zapata. The outcome of that civil war between revolutionaries was not a foregone conclusion, but in 1915 Obregón defeated Villa and the Constitutionalists under Carranza consolidated power.

Following the Constitutionalists' military victory, Carranza became the pre-constitutional president of Mexico. Then with the writing and ratification of a new constitution in 1917, he was elected the constitutional president. In 1920 when elections were to be held, Carranza attempted to impose a civilian as the leading candidate for the presidency. Northern generals Obregón and Adolfo de la Huerta challenged the decision via the Plan of Agua Prieta. President Carranza attempted to leave the country, but was assassinated en route. General Adolfo de la Huerta assumed the interim presidency, with the election of 1920 bringing General Alvaro Obregón to the presidency.

Out of a 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.[1][8]

This armed conflict is often categorized as the most important sociopolitical event in Mexico and one of the greatest upheavals of the 20th century;[9] it resulted in an important program of experimentation and reform in social organization.[10]

Foreign powers' important economic and strategic interests figured in the outcome of power struggles in Mexico, with United States involvement in the Mexican Revolution playing an especially significant role.[11]

Some scholars consider the promulgation of the Mexican Constitution of 1917 as its end point. “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.[12]

The constitution built on liberal principles of the Constitution of 1857, after which the Constitutionalist movement was named, but changes from that document recognized the importance of groups participating in the Revolution, particularly organized labor and the peasantry. Organized labor gained significant power, as seen in Article 123 of the Constitution of 1917. Land reform in Mexico was enabled by Article 27 of the Constitution. Economic nationalism was also enabled by Article 27, restricting ownership of enterprises by foreigners. Also in the Constitution were further restrictions on the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico, which, when implemented in the late 1920s, resulted in major violence in the Cristero War. No re-election of the president was enshrined in the Constitution and in practice.

One major result of the revolution was the disappearance of the Federal Army in 1914, defeated by revolutionary forces of the various factions in the Mexican Revolution.[13] Former revolutionary generals turned presidents of Mexico, Alvaro Obregón, Plutarco Elías Calles, and Lázaro Cárdenas took on the task in the 1920s and 1930s of diminishing the power and independence of those armies and asserting effective civilian control.[14]

Managing political succession was achieved in 1929 with the creation of the Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR), the political party that has dominated Mexico since its creation, now called the Institutional Revolutionary Party.

The Porfiriato, 1876–1911[edit]

See also: Porfirio Díaz

The Porfiriato is the period in late nineteenth-century Mexican history dominated by General Porfirio Díaz, who became president of Mexico in 1876 and ruled almonst continuously (with the exception of 1880-84), until his forced resignation in 1911.[15] After a the presidency of his ally, General Manuel González (1880-1884), Díaz ran for the presidency again and then legally remained in office until 1911. The constitution had been amended to allow presidential re-election. Díaz's re-election was ironic, since he had challenged Benito Juárez on the platform "no re-election."[16] During the Porfiriato there were regular elections that were not democratic in nature.[17] Although Díaz had publicly announced in an interview with journalist James Creelman that he would not run in the 1910 election, setting off a flurry of political activity, he changed his mind and decided to run again at age 80.

The contested 1910 election was a key political event that led to the Mexican Revolution. As Díaz aged, the question of presidential succession became increasingly important. In 1906, the office of vice president was revived, with Díaz choosing his close adviser, Ramón Corral from among his Cientifico advisers, to serve in the post.[18] By the 1910 election, Díaz regime had become highly authoritarian and opposition in many sectors of Mexican society had grown. He had been a national hero, opposing the French Intervention in the 1860s at distinguished himself in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 ("Cinco de Mayo").[19]

General Porfirio Díaz, President of Mexico

Díaz entered politics following the expulsion of the French in 1867. In the elections of 1871 that elected Benito Juárez. Díaz alleged fraud and unsuccessfully rebelled against Lerdo under the Plan de La Noria.[20] When Juárez died in office in 1872, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada succeeded him. Lerdo offered an amnesty, which Díaz accepted. However, when Lerdo ran for the presidency in 1876, Díaz successfully rebelled under the Plan de Tuxtepec.[21][22]

In his early years in the presidency Díaz was a master politician, playing factions off against one another while retaining and consolidating his own power. He used the Rurales, an armed police force directly under his control, as a paramilitary force that kept order in the countryside. He rigged elections, arguing that only he knew what was best for his country and he enforced his belief with a strong hand. "Order and Progress" were the watchwords of his rule.[23] Although Díaz came to power in 1876 under the banner of "no re-election," with the exception of the presidency of Manuel González from 1880–1884, Díaz remained in power continuously from 1884 until 1911, with rigged elections held at regular intervals giving the appearance of democracy.

Díaz's presidency was characterized by promotion of industry and development of infrastructure by opening the country to foreign investment. He believed opposition needed to be suppressed and order maintained to reassure foreign entrepreneurs that their investments were safe. The modernization and progress in cities came at the expense of the rising working class and the peasantry.

Farmers and peasants both complained of oppression and exploitation. The economy took a great leap during the Porfiriato, as he encouraged the construction of factories and industries, and infrastructure such as roads and dams, as well as improving agriculture. Industrialization resulted in the rise of an urban proletariat and attracted an influx of foreign capital from the United States and Great Britain.

Wealth, political power and access to education were concentrated among a handful of elite landholding families, overwhelmingly of European descent, known as hacendados, who controlled vast swaths of the country by virtue of their huge estates (for example, the Terrazas had one estate in Sonora that alone comprised more than a million acres). Most people in Mexico were landless, peasants laboring on the vast estates or industrial workers in the mines for little more than slave wages. Foreign companies, mostly from the United Kingdom, France and the U.S., also exercised influence in Mexico.

Anti-Diaz newspaper, Regeneración, the official publication of the Mexican Liberal Party (PLM).

Political system[edit]

A vanner (1903) at the office of opposition magazine El hijo de Ahuizote reads: "The Constitution has died" (La Constitución ha muerto).

Díaz created a formidable political machine, first working with regional strongmen and bringing them into his regime, then replacing them with jefes políticos (political bosses), who were loyal to him. He had managed political conflict and tendencies toward autonomy skillfully. A significant number of state governorships came to be held by military men, including General Bernardo Reyes, who became governor of the northern state of Nuevo León. But over the years military men were largely replaced by civilians loyal to Díaz.

As a military man himself and one who had intervened directly in politics to seize the presidency in 1876, Díaz was highly aware that the Federal Army could oppose him. He augmented the rurales, a police force created by Juárez, to his personal armed force. The rurales were only 2,500 in number, as opposed to the 30,000 in the Federal Army and another 30,000 in the Federal Auxiliaries and Irregulars and the National Guard.[24] Despite the rurales small numbers, they were highly effective at bringing control to the countryside, especially along the 12,000 miles of railway lines. They were a mobile force, often put on trains with their horses to put down rebellions in relatively remote areas of Mexico.[25]

The construction of railways had been transformative in Mexico (as well as elsewhere in Latin America), with economic activity accelerating, but also the increase in power by the Mexican state. The isolation from the central government that many areas enjoyed or suffered was ending. Telegraph lines constructed next to railroad tracks meant instant communication between distant states and the capital.[26]

The political acumen and flexibility that Díaz had exhibited in the early years of the Porfiriato began to erode. State governors came under the direct control of Díaz, who could replace them at will. The Federal Army, while still large, was increasingly an ineffective force with an aging leadership and its troops dragooned into service. Díaz attempted the same kind of manipulation he executed with the Mexican political system with business interests, with favoritism to European interests against those of the U.S.[27]

Rivalries particularly between U.S. interests and the British complicated a system that already had complex favoritism.[28] As economic activity increased and given rise to thriving industries, industrial workers began organizing. With the expansion of Mexican agriculture, with landless peasants were forced to work for low wages or move to the cities. Peasant agriculture was under pressure as haciendas expanded, such as in the state of Morelos, just south of Mexico City, where sugar plantations expanded. There was what one scholar has called “agrarian compression,” but regions of greatest repression were not the ones that rebelled.[29]

Ricardo Flores Magón (left) and Enrique Flores Magón (right), leaders of the Mexican Liberal Party in jail in the Los Angeles, California County Jail, 1917.
La Calavera Catrina, José Guadalupe Posada mocks the style of Mexican elites

Opposition to Díaz[edit]

A number of Mexicans began to organize against Díaz’s policies that had welcomed foreign capital and capitalists, suppressed nascent labor unions, and consistently moved against peasants as agriculture flourished. In 1905, a group of Mexican intellectuals and agitators who had created the Mexican Liberal Party (Partido Liberal de México), drew up a radical program of reform, specifically addressing what they considered the worse aspects of the Díaz regime. Most prominent in the PLM were Ricardo Flores Magón and his two brothers, Enrique Flores Magón and Jesús Flores Magón. They along, with Luis Cabrera Lobato and Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama, were connected to the anti-Díaz publication, El Hijo de Ahuizote. Political cartoons of José Guadalupe Posada lampooned politicians and cultural elites with mordant humor, portraying them as skeletons. The Liberal Party of Mexico founded the anti-Díaz, anarchist newspaper, Regeneración, which appeared in both Spanish and English. In exile in the United State was Práxedis Guerrero, who started an anti-Díaz newspaper in San Francisco, Alba Roja. Although leftist groups were small in number, through their publications they became highly influential and helped articulate the reasons to oppose the Díaz regime. Francisco Bulnes (politician) described these men as the “true authors” of the Mexican Revolution for agitating the masses.[30] As the 1910 election approached, Francisco I. Madero, an idealistic, political novice and member of one of Mexico’s richest families, funded a newspaper Anti-Reelectionista, in opposition to the continuous re-election of Díaz.

The Cananea strike, 1906, the company store guarded against workers.

Labor began organizing, then striking against their employers for better wages and more just treatment. Demands for better conditions for labor were part of the Liberal Party Program, drawn up in 1905. Mexican copper miners in the northern state of Sonora taking action in the 1906 Cananea strike, where, among other grievances, they were paid less than U.S. nationals working in the mines.[31] In the state of Veracruz, textile workers struck in January 1907 at the huge Río Blanco, Veracruz factory, the world’s largest, against unfair labor practices, especially the payment of wages in credit that could only be used at the company store.[32]

These strikes were ruthlessly suppressed. In the Cananea strike, mine owner William Cornell Greene got support from Díaz’s rurales in Sonora and Arizona Rangers, called in from across the U.S. border.[33] In the state of Veracruz, the Mexican army gunned down Rio Blanco textile workers and the bodies put on train cars "by special train that night, hurried to Veracruz, where the bodies were dumped in the harbor as food for sharks."[34] Government suppression of strikes was not unique to Mexico, with examples both in the U.S. and Western Europe.

John Kenneth Turner, author of Barbarous Mexico, with his wife, Ethel Duffy

The repressive nature of the Díaz regime attracted the attention of a number of U.S. nationals, who worked in international solidarity with Mexicans opposed to Díaz, especially since U.S. businesses were directly responsible for horrific labor practices in Mexico.[35] In particular, the leftist journalist, John Kenneth Turner, wrote a series of exposés of Mexico under Díaz, which he published in American magazines and then collected and published in 1910 as Barbarous Mexico. Turner posed as a rich businessman looking for a good investment in Mexico and thereby gained entry into some of the most repressive and lucrative enterprises.[36]

Since the press was suppressed in Mexico under Díaz, there was little published that was critical to the regime, including the Rio Blanco textile strike, the Cananea strike, and labor practices on plantations in Oaxaca and Yucatán. Leftist Mexican opponents of the Díaz regime went into exile in the relative safety of the United States, including Ricardo Flores Magón and Práxedis Guerrero, but cooperation of the U.S. government and Díaz agents resulted in the arrests of some.

Presidential Succession and the Election of 1910[edit]

Díaz had ruled continuously since 1884. The question of presidential succession was an issue as early as 1900 when Díaz turned 70.[37] It was his "undeclared intention to step down from the presidency in 1904."[38] Díaz seems to have considered his finance minister José Yves Limantour as his successor. However,since Limantour was a key member of the cientificos,

General Bernardo Reyes, political rival of Díaz

Díaz may have considered it necessary to balance the power structure with an opponent of the científicos, General Bernardo Reyes, who had been governor of Nuevo León, member of the Díaz cabinet, and popular figure amongst some elites.[38] Díaz was concerned about Reyes as a rival, and forced his resignation from his cabinet and then attempted to marginalize him.[39] Reyes was sent on a "military mission" to Europe, taking him away from Mexico and potential political supporters. Díaz did re-establish the office of vice president in 1906 as a means to manage succession, choosing Ramón Corral. This could have been a way to manage political succession, but, in fact, Díaz marginalized Corral from any decision-making.[40]

In a 1908 interview with U.S. journalist James Creelman, he stated that Mexico was ready for democracy and that he would step down to allow other candidates to compete for the presidency.[41][42][43] If Díaz kept to his statements in the interview, the presidency and vice presidency would be open in 1910.

In 1909, Díaz and US President William Howard Taft planned a historic summit to be held both in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, the first meeting between a U.S. president and a Mexican president. It was the first time a United States president would cross the border into Mexico.[44] Díaz requested the meeting to show that he had U.S. support for his planned eighth run as president. Taft agreed to support Diaz in order to protect the several billion dollars of American capital then invested in Mexico.[45] At the meeting, Díaz explained, "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."[46] Díaz's reversal on retiring from the presidency set off tremendous activity among opposition groups.

Francisco I. Madero campaigns from the back of a railway car in 1910.

For Díaz, "the potential challenge from Reyes would remain one of Díaz's political obsessions through the rest of the decade, which ultimately blinded him to the danger of the challenge of Francisco Madero's anti-reelectionist campaign."[47]

Francisco I. Madero ran against Díaz in 1910. Díaz thought he could control this election, as he had the previous seven.[48] Although similar overall to Díaz in his ideology,[citation needed] Madero hoped for other elites to rule alongside the president. Díaz did not approve of Madero and had him jailed on election day in 1910. Díaz was announced the winner of the election by a "landslide.". When it became obvious that the election was fixed, Madero supporter Toribio Ortega took up arms with a group of followers at Cuchillo Parado, Chihuahua on November 10, 1910.

In 1910 Francisco I. Madero, a young man from a wealthy land-owning family in the northern state of Coahuila, announced his candidacy to challenge Díaz for the presidency in the next election, under the banner of the Anti-Reelectionist Party. Madero chose as his running mate a physician who had opposed Díaz, Francisco Vázquez Gómez.[49] Madero campaigned vigorously and effectively. To ensure Madero did not win, Díaz had him thrown in jail before the election. Madero escaped and fled for a short period to San Antonio, Texas.[48]

The end of the Porfiriato[edit]

Leaders of the 1910 revolt pose for a photo after the First Battle of Juárez. Present are José María Pino Suárez, Venustiano Carranza, Francisco I. Madero (and his father), Pascual Orozco, Pancho Villa, Gustavo Madero, Raul Madero, Abraham González, and Giuseppe Garibaldi Jr.

On October 5, 1910, Madero issued a "letter from jail," known as the Plan de San Luis Potosí, with its main slogan Sufragio Efectivo, No re-elección ("free suffrage and no re-election"). It declared the Díaz presidency illegal and called for revolt against Díaz, starting on November 20, 1910. Madero's political plan did not outline major socioeconomic revolution, but it offered the hope of change for many disadvantaged Mexicans.[48]

Madero's plan was aimed at fomenting a popular uprising against Díaz, but Madero also understood that the support of the United States and U.S. financiers would be a crucial component of undermining the regime. The rich and powerful Madero family drew on its resources to make regime change possible, with Madero's brother Gustavo A. Madero hiring in October 1910 the law firm of Washington lawyer, Sherburne Hopkins, the "world's best rigger of Latin American revolutions" to foment support in the U.S.[50] A strategy to discredit Díaz with U.S. business and the U.S. government did meet some success, with Standard Oil engaging in talks with Gustavo Madero, but more importantly, the U.S. government "bent neutrality laws for the revolutionaries."[51]

Francisco León de la Barra, interim president of Mexico, May–November 1911
Pascual Orozco, revolutionary general who later revolted against Madero

Madero's vague promises of land reform in Mexico attracted many peasants throughout Mexico. He received the support from their putting pressure on Díaz. Spontaneous rebellions arose in which ordinary farm laborers, miners, and other working-class Mexicans, along with much of the country's Indian population, fought Díaz's forces with some success. Madero attracted the forces of other rebel leaders such as Pascual Orozco, Pancho Villa, Ricardo Flores Magón, Emiliano Zapata and Venustiano Carranza. They eventually joined together to fight Díaz. Díaz's army suffered several major defeats, and his regime started to fall apart.

In late 1910 revolutionary movements broke out in response to Madero's Plan de San Luis Potosí. An young and able revolutionary, Pascual Orozco, along with governor Abraham González, formed a powerful military union in the north, and took Mexicali and Chihuahua City, although they were not especially committed to Madero. These victories encouraged alliances with other revolutionary leaders, including Pancho Villa. Against Madero's wishes, Orozco and Villa fought for and won Ciudad Juárez, bordering El Paso, Texas, on the south side of the Rio Grande. Madero's action also mobilized revolutionary organization elsewhere. There was a Baja California Rebellion, which he had not planned for.

After revolutionary forces opposed to Díaz defeated the Federal Army, the revolutionaries and the Díaz regime negotiated regime change. Negotiations culminated in the May 21, 1911 Treaty of Ciudad Juárez. One of Madero's representatives to the negotiations was his running mate in the 1910 elections, Francisco Vázquez Gómez.[52] The signed treaty stated that Díaz would abdicate the presidency along with his vice president Ramón Corral by the end of May 1911, and be replaced by an interim president, Francisco León de la Barra, until elections were held.[53]

Some supporters criticized him for appearing weak by not taking the presidency from Diaz and for failing to pass immediate reforms. By following the electoral process, Madero established a liberal democracy and received support from the United States and popular leaders such as Orozco, Villa and Zapata. Francisco León de la Barra became interim president of Mexico, pending an election to be held in October 1911. Madero won the election decisively, and was inaugurated as president in November 1911.

When Díaz left for exile in Paris, is reported as saying, "Madero has unleashed a tiger; let us see if he can control it."[54]

Madero Presidency, 1911–1913[edit]

Madero was an inexperienced politician, who had never held political office before. But his election as president in October 1911, following the exile of Porfirio Díaz in May 1911 and the interim presidency of Francisco León de la Barra, raised high expectations for positive change. He fervently held to his position that Mexico needed a real democracy, which included regime change by a valid election, a free press and the right of labor to organize and strike. Rather than relying on the rebels who had helped bring him to power, Madero kept the Federal Army intact, and called on the men of action to return to civilian life. Madero increasingly relied on the Federal Army as armed rebellions broke out in Mexico in 1911–12, particularly Emiliano Zapata in Morelos and Pascual Orozco in the north.

The press embraced this freedom and Madero became a target of their criticism. Organized labor, which had been suppressed under Díaz, could and did stage strikes, which foreign entrepreneurs saw as threatening their interests. Although there had been labor unrest under Díaz, labor's new freedom to organize also came with anti-American currents.[55]

Madero did not have the experience or the ideological inclination to reward men who had helped bring him to power. Some revolutionary leaders expected personal rewards, such as the young and militarily gifted Pascual Orozco of Chihuahua. Others wanted major reforms, most especially Emiliano Zapata who fought for land reform, and Andrés Molina Enríquez, who had long worked for land reform in Mexico.[56] Madero met personally with Zapata, telling the guerrilla leader that the agrarian question needed careful study. It was clear that Madero, a member of a rich northern hacendado family, was not going to implement comprehensive agrarian reform for aggrieved peasants.

Emiliano Zapata, leader of peasant revolutionaries in Morelos beginning in 1911 and ending in his assassination in 1919

In response to that lack of action, Zapata promulgated the Plan de Ayala in November 1911, declaring himself in rebellion against Madero and he renewed guerrilla warfare in the state of Morelos. Madero sent the Federal Army to deal with the Zapata, unsuccessfully. Zapata remained true to the demands of the Plan de Ayala and in rebellion against every central government up until this assassination by an agent of President Venustiano Carranza in 1919.

Brilliant northern revolutionary general Pascual Orozco, who had helped take Ciudad Juárez for the revolutionaries, had expected to become governor of Chihuahua, a powerful position. In 1911 although Orozco was "the man of the hour," Madero gave the governorship of instead to Abraham González, a respectable revolutionary, with the explanation that Orozco had not reached the legal age of to serve as governor, a tactic that was “a useful constitutional alibi for thwarting the ambitions of young, popular, revolutionary leaders."[57]

Madero had put Orozco in charge of the large force of rurales in Chihuahua, but Orozco had emerged as gifted revolutionary fighter who had helped bring about Díaz’s fall, so Madero’s reward was insulting. In early 1912, Orozco rebelled against Madero, causing considerable dismay among U.S. businessmen and other foreign investors in the northern region. It was a signal to many that Madero’s government could not maintain the order that was the underpinning of modernization in the era of Porfirio Díaz.

Soon after this, Orozco also broke away from Madero's government. After Madero refused to agree to social reforms calling for better working hours, pay and conditions, Orozco organized his own army, called "Orozquistas." They were also called the Colorados ("Red Flaggers"). The rural working class, which had supported Madero, took up arms against him in support of Zapata and Orozco, further diluting what little support Madero had.

Madero's time as president was ended after a short time by a coup d'état in February 1913 led by Gen. Victoriano Huerta. Madero had appointed Huerta as army commander when he first achieved power. Huerta had turned against him after a stalemate between Madero's forces and those of Félix Díaz, a nephew of the former president. This stalemate encouraged Huerta to plot against Madero, which culminated in the last day of the Decena Tragica. Following Huerta's coup, Madero was forced to resign. Arrested and imprisoned, he and vice president José María Pino Suárez were both shot dead less than a week later by two army officers who were transporting them to a penitentiary. Both killers were quickly promoted—-one to the rank of general—-confirming suspicions, in most eyes, that they were acting on Huerta's orders. Although Madero had lost much support among the people, his murder ruptured the country, and he was gradually lionized as a martyr of the revolution.

Huerta Presidency, 1913–1914 and civil war[edit]

As president, Madero had kept the federal army intact as an institution, using it to put down domestic rebellions against his regime. General Huerta was a professional soldier and continued to serve in the Federal Army under the new commander-in-chief, but Huerta's loyalty lay with General Bernardo Reyes, rather than the civilian Madero. In 1912, under pressure from his cabinet, Madero had called on Huerta to suppress the rebellion by northern revolutionary Pascual Orozco. With Huerta's success against Orozco, he emerged as a powerful figure for conservative forces opposing the Madero regime.[58]

As rebellion by jailed generals Bernardo Reyes and Félix Díaz broke out in Mexico City in February 1913, a period that came to be known as the Ten Tragic Days (la decena trágica) Madero placed Huerta in charge of suppressing it as interim commander. Madero did not know that Huerta had been invited to join the conspiracy but had held back.[59] During the fighting that took place in the capital, the civilian population of the capital subjected to artillery exchanges, street fighting, and economic disruption.[60]

Huerta allowed the rebels to hold the armory in Mexico City, the Ciudadela, while Huerta consolidated his political power. Huerta changed allegiances from Madero to the rebels under Félix Díaz, (Bernardo Reyes had been killed early in the conflict). The U.S. Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson, who had done all he could to undermine U.S. confidence in Madero's presidency, brokered the Pact of the Embassy, which formalized the alliance between Félix Díaz and Huerta, with the backing of the U.S.[61] Huerta was to become provisional president of Mexico, following the resignations of Madero and his vice president, José María Pino Suárez. Rather than being sent into exile with their families, the two were murdered while being transported to prison, a shocking event, but one that did not prevent the Huerta regime's recognition by most world governments. Madero supporter and revolutionary governor of the northern state of Chihuahua Abraham González (politician), who had refused to recognize the Huerta government, was arrested and murdered in early March 1913.[62]

Lame duck President Taft, whose term ended on March 4, 1913, left the decision to recognize the new government to the incoming U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson refused to recognize Huerta's government, despite the urging of the U.S. ambassador, who had played a key role in the coup d'état. In the summer of 1913 President Wilson recalled Wilson as U.S. Ambassador and sent as his "personal representative" John Lind, a Swedish-American progressive, who sympathized with the Mexican revolutionaries. Despite the lack of formal U.S. recognition of the Huerta regime, the U.S. continued to exempt his government from the arms embargo it had imposed.[63] Wilson urged other European powers to likewise not recognize Huerta's government; he also attempted to persuade Huerta to call prompt elections "and not present himself as a candidate."[64] The U.S. offered Mexico a loan, if Huerta accepted the proposal. Huerta refused. The envoy Lind "clearly threatened a military intervention in case the demands were not met."[65]

Governor of Coahuila Venustiano Carranza, (center), the tall and distinguished looking "First Chief" of the Constitutionalist forces in northern Mexico opposing Huerta's regime.
Northern Revolutionary Gen. Francisco "Pancho" Villa with his staff in 1913. Villa is in gray suit in center. His aide, Gen. Rodolfo Fierro, is to Villa's right. Villa and Fierro served in the Constitutionalist Army opposing Huerta. Once Huerta was ousted in July 1915, Villa joined with Emiliano Zapata in the Army of the Convention and fought his former leader Venustiano Carranza and General Alvaro Obregón
American forces at Veracruz.

Huerta's presidency is usually characterized as a dictatorship. From the point of view of revolutionaries at the time and the construction of historical memory of the Revolution, Huerta's presidency is without any positive aspects. "Despite recent attempts to portray Victoriano Huerta as a reformer, there is little question that he was a self-serving dictator."[66] There are few biographies of Huerta himself, but one strongly argues that Huerta should not be labeled simply as a counter-revolutionary.[67] Huerta's regime had two distinct periods, from the coup in February 1913 to October, he attempted to legitimate his regime and demonstrate its legality by pursuing reformist policies.[68] After October 1913, he dropped all attempts to rule within a legal framework, murdering political opponents while battling revolutionary forces that had united against his regime.[69]

Huerta initially was able to recruit to his regime Andrés Molina Enríquez, author of the The Great National Problems (Los grandes problemas nacionales) a key work urging land reform in Mexico.[70] Huerta was interested in land reform as an issue since land issues had such potential for continuing unrest among the peasantry. Specifically he moved to restore "ejido lands to the Yaquis and Mayos of Sonora and [advanced] proposals for distribution of government lands to small-scale farmers."[71][72] When Huerta refused to move faster on land reform, Molina Enríquez disavowed the regime in June 1913,[73] later going on to advise the constitutional convention in 1917 on land reform.

Opposition to the Huerta regime was almost immediate, with Venustiano Carranza, a politician and rancher from Coahuila, at the forefront of opposition to Huerta. He declared against Huerta and organized his own rebel army, called the Constitutionalists, alluding to the Constitutional of 1857. On March 26, 1913, a month after Huerta gained power, Carranza issued the Plan de Guadalupe, which called for the end of the Huerta regime. Northern revolutionaries supported the plan, and Carranza

Leaders such as Villa, Zapata, Carranza and Álvaro Obregón led the fight against Huerta.[citation needed] In April 1914, U.S. opposition to Huerta had reached its peak when American forces seized and occupied the port of Veracruz, resulting in the death of 170 Mexican soldiers and an unknown number of civilians.[74][75]

In mid July 1915 the situation worsened for Huerta, and after his army suffered several defeats, he stepped down and fled to Puerto México. Huerta sought to get himself and his family out of Mexico. He turned to the German government, which had generally supported his presidency, but Germany was not eager to allow him to be transported into exile on one of its ships. But it did so. Huerta carried with him "roughly half a million marks in gold with him" as well as paper currency and checks.[76] In exile, Huerta sought to return to Mexico via the United States and made an alliance with his former adversary, Pascual Orozco. U.S. authorities arrested him and he was imprisoned in Fort Bliss, Texas. He died in January 1916, six months after going into exile.[77]

His resignation marked the end of an era since the Federal Army, a spectacularly ineffective fighting force against the revolutionaries, ceased to exist.[78] The revolutionary factions that had united in their opposition to Huerta's regime now faced a new political landscape with the counter-revolutionaries decisively defeated. The revolutionary armies now contended for power and a new era of civil war began.

Pancho Villa[edit]

Main article: Pancho Villa
The leaders of the North division of the Southern Army, generals Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, accompany generals Tomás Urbina, Rodolfo Fierro, Rafael Buelna and others walking down Mexico City's Avenida Plateros.

Pancho Villa, born José Doroteo Arango Arámbula in the northern state of Durango, was one of the major figures of the Mexican Revolution. He distinguished himself early on in the Mexican Revolution, supporting the cause of Francisco I. Madero to oust President Porfirio Díaz after the fraudulent 1910 elections. He led his Villistas in many battles, including the attack on Ciudad Juárez in 1911, which led to Díaz's resignation as president and to the election of Madero in the fall of 1911. After the assassination of Madero in February 1913 by a counter-revolutionary coup d'état by General Victoriano Huerta, Villa joined with anti-Huerta forces in the north under the leadership of the governor of Coahuila, Venustiano Carranza, to serve in the Constitutionalist Army. Huerta was defeated in July 1914 and resigned from the presidency and the coalition of revolutionaries who had ousted him fell apart. Villa broke with Carranza and allied with peasant leader Emiliano Zapata in 1914–15, but they operated in their own territories. Villa was defeated in the Battle of Celaya in April 1915 by Constitutionalist general Alvaro Obregón. Villa eventually accepted amnestry and retired to an hacienda. He remained a political threat to the regime and was assassinated in 1923.

Pancho Villa (left), Commander of the División del Norte (Division of the North), and Emiliano Zapata, Commander of the Ejército Libertador del Sur, joined forces in the Army of the Convention, which fought the Constitutionalist Army of Venustiano Carranza. In practice over the long term, Villa and Zapata fought in different areas and the Constitutionalists under Alvaro Obregón defeated Villa in 1915.

In March 1912, in Chihuahua, revolutionary Gen. Pascual Orozco revolted against the Madero regime, which he had helped bring to power. In April, President Francisco Madero commanded Gen. Victoriano Huerta of the Federal Army, to put down the revolt. The governor of Chihuahua mobilized the state militia to supplement General Huerta. Pancho Villa was a colonel in the Chihuahua state militia, and he was called up at this time. In mid-April, Villa, at the head of 400 irregular troops, joined the forces commanded by General Huerta. In May, one of Villa's subordinates appropriated an expensive horse. When the owner complained to Huerta, Huerta ordered Villa’s subordinate to be executed. Villa objected, and Huerta relented, but Huerta nursed a grudge. In June, Villa notified Huerta that inasmuch as the Orozco revolt has been put down, he and his irregulars would consider themselves no longer under Huerta's command, and would depart. Huerta became furious, and ordered that Villa be executed.[79]

Raúl Madero, Madero's brother, intervened to save Villa's life. Jailed in Mexico City, Villa fled to the United States. Soon after the assassination of President Madero he returned to Mexico to fight Huerta, although he had only a handful of companions with him. However, by 1913 his forces had swelled into an army of thousands, called the División del Norte (Northern Division). Villa and his army, along with Carranza and Obregón, joined forces to fight against the Huerta dictatorship.

Villa and Carranza had different goals. Because Villa wanted to continue the revolution, he became an enemy of Carranza. After Carranza took control in 1914, Villa and other revolutionaries who opposed him met at what was called the Convention of Aguascalientes. The convention deposed Carranza in favor of Eulalio Gutiérrez. In the winter of 1914 Villa's and Zapata's troops entered and occupied Mexico City. Villa's treatment of Gutiérrez, and the citizenry in general, outraged more moderate elements of the population, and Villa was forced from the city in early 1915.

Columbus, New Mexico, after being attacked by Villa's forces.

In 1915 Villa took part in two of the most important battles of the revolution, that together are known as Battle of Celaya, which occurred from April 6–7 and from April 13–15. He attacked the forces of Gen. Obregón but was badly defeated in what became one of the bloodiest battles of the revolution, with thousands dead. With his forces' defeat of Villa, Carranza seized power. A short time later the United States recognized Carranza as president of Mexico. On March 9, 1916, Villa crossed the U.S.–Mexico border and raided Columbus, New Mexico, in order to exact revenge on an American arms dealer who sold ammunition to Villa that he used in the Battle of Celaya and which turned out to be useless.[citation needed] During this attack, 18 Americans died but 90 of Villa's men were killed by U.S. troops and civilians who repelled the attack.

Under heavy pressure by public opinion (stoked mainly by the papers of ultra-conservative publisher William Randolph Hearst who owned a large estate in Mexico) to punish these Mexican attacks, U.S. President Wilson sent Gen. John J. Pershing and around 5,000 troops into Mexico in what turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt to capture Villa.[80] It was known as the Punitive Expedition. After nearly a year of pursuing Villa, the hunt was called off, the forces returned to the U.S. and Pershing was given command of the American Expeditionary Force in WWI.

The American intervention had been limited to the western sierras of Chihuahua. It was notable as the first time the U.S. Army used airplanes in military operations. With the Americans always in pursuit of him, Villa had the advantage of intimately knowing the inhospitable terrain of the Sonoran Desert and the almost impassable Sierra Madre mountains and always managed to stay one step ahead of his pursuers.

Even though Villa's forces were badly depleted by his loss at Celaya, he continued his fight against the Carranza government. Finally, in 1920, Obregón—who had defeated him at Celaya—finally reached an agreement with Villa, who "hung up his guns" and retired to his ranch. In 1923 Villa was assassinated by a group of seven gunmen who ambushed him while he was sitting in the back seat of his car—he never learned to drive—in Parral (According to the Pancho Villa Museum in Chihuahua City, Pancho Villa was personally driving the car that day, accompanied by his body guards --- the car is on display there, complete with bullet holes and all). It is presumed the assassination was ordered by Obregón, who feared a bid for the presidency by Villa.[citation needed]

Constitutionalists in Power under Carranza, 1915–1920[edit]

Main article: Venustiano Carranza
Venustiano Carranza, victorious leader of the Constitutionalist forces, who became President of Mexico.

Venustiano Carranza had proclaimed the Plan of Guadalupe a month after Victoriano Huerta seized power in February 1913, uniting northern factions into a movement to oust Huerta, especially under generals Alvaro Obregón and Pancho Villa. Huerta went into exile in July 1914 and the revolutionary factions sought to decide Mexico's political future in the Convention of Aguascalientes. Villa broke with Carranza and went into alliance with Emiliano Zapata. General Obregón remained loyal to Carranza, and led the Constitutionalist Army to victory over Villa in the Battle of Celaya in April 1915.

The new constitution was approved on February 5, 1917. This picture shows the Constituent Congress of 1917 swearing fealty to the new Constitution.

Carranza had gained recognition from the United States, which enabled arms sales to his forces. Villa had previously been friendly toward the United States, but its recognition of Carranza and Villa's decisive military defeat by Obregón in April 1915 in the Battle of Celaya, Villa was finished as a major force in Mexico. In 1915 Villa attacked Columbus, New Mexico and the U.S. government sent General John J. Pershing into Mexico on the year-long Pancho Villa Expedition to apprehend him. It was a failure, with Villa eluding capture, but Carranza asserted Mexican sovereignty and forced the U.S. to withdraw in 1917.

With outbreak of warfare in Europe and foreign powers, including the U.S., Greater Britain, and Germany all having significant economic and strategic interests in Mexico, Mexico in World War I maintained a policy of neutrality. In the Zimmermann Telegram, a coded cable from the German government to Carranza's government, Germany attempted to draw Mexico into war with the United States, which was itself neutral at the time. Carranza did not pursue this policy, but the leaking of the telegram pushed the U.S. into war against Germany in 1917.

Carranza's 1913 Plan of Guadalupe was narrowly political, but Carranza sought to consolidate his position, with support of the masses by policies of social and agrarian reform. As revolutionary violence subsided in 1916, leaders met to draw up a new constitution, and thus making the law of the land principles for which some revolutionaries fought. The Mexican Constitution of 1917 was strongly nationalist, giving the Mexican government the power to expropriate foreign ownership of resources and enabled land reform (Article 27). It also had a strong code protecting organized labor (Article 123) and extended state power over Roman Catholic Church in Mexico in its role in education (Article 3). The constitution was far more radical than Carranza. While he was elected constitutional president in 1917, he did not implement its most radical elements. He was not in a position to do so in any case, since despite relative subsidence of violence, there were still threats to his regime regionally.

The Constitutionalist Army was renamed the "Mexican National Army" and Carranza sent some of its most able generals to eliminate threats. In Morelos, Carranza sent General Pablo González Garza to fight Zapata's Liberating Army of the South.[81] Although the peasants of Morelos under Emiliano Zapata had not expanded beyond their local region of Morelos and parts of the state of Puebla, Carranza sought to eliminate Zapata. Morelos was very close to Mexico City and not having it under Carranza's control constituted a vulnerability for his government. Agents of the Carranza regime assassinated Zapata in 1919. Carranza sent Generals Francisco Murguía and Manuel M. Diéguez to track down Villa and eliminate Villa. They were unsuccessful doing that but did capture and execute one of Villa's top men, Felipe Angeles.[82]

Carranza pushed for the rights of women and gained women's support. During his presidency, Carranza relied on his personal secretary and close aide, Hermila Galindo de Topete, to rally and secure support for him. Through her efforts he was able to gain the support of women, workers and peasants. Carranza rewarded her efforts by lobbying for women's equality. He helped change and reform the legal status of women in Mexico.[83]

After all the bloodshed of the revolution concerning the principle of no-re-election, it was politically impossible for Carranza to run again. Carranza chose to back Ignacio Bonillas, a civilian and political unknown. For Northern generals Alvaro Obregón, Plutarco Elías Calles and Adolfo de la Huerta, who had fought successfully for the revolution, the candidacy of a civilian and potential Carranza puppet was untenable. They led a revolt against Carranza under the Plan of Agua Prieta. Carranza attempted to flee the country and was assassinated on the way to the Gulf Coast.

Emiliano Zapata[edit]

Main article: Emiliano Zapata

Emiliano Zapata was one of the leading figures in the Mexican Revolution and is considered one of the national heroes of Mexico: towns, streets and housing developments named "Emiliano Zapata" are common across the country. His image has been used on Mexican banknotes and there is a Zapata Metro station in Mexico City. Opposed to the Porfirio Díaz regime because of the loss of peasant lands to large haciendas in Morelos, Zapata initially supported Francisco I. Madero, whose Plan de San Luis Potosí promised the return of such lands. When Madero did not implement his promise after becoming president of Mexico, Zapata rebelled against him under the Plan de Ayala. Zapata was assassinated in 1919 by an agent of the Constitutionalists, the victorious faction of the Mexican Revolution.

Many peasants and indigenous Mexicans admired Zapata as a practical revolutionary whose populist battle cry, "Tierra y Libertad" (Land and Liberty), was spelled out in the Plan de Ayala for land reform. He fought for political and economic emancipation of the peasants in southern and central Mexico. Zapata was killed in 1919 by Gen. Pablo González and his aide, Col. Jesús Guajardo, in an elaborate ambush. Guajardo set up the meeting under the pretext of wanting to defect to Zapata's side. At the meeting, González's men assassinated Zapata.


"Zapatista" originally referred to a member of the revolutionary guerrilla movement founded about 1910 by Zapata. His Liberation Army of the South (Ejército Libertador del Sur) fought during the Mexican Revolution for the redistribution of agricultural land. Zapata and his army and allies, including Pancho Villa, fought for agrarian reform in Mexico. Specifically, they wanted to establish communal land rights for Mexico's peasants, who had lost their land to the wealthy elite.

The majority of Zapata's supporters were indigenous peasants from Morelos and surrounding areas, but intellectuals from urban areas also joined the Zapatistas and played a significant part in their movement, specifically the structure and communication of the Zapatista ambitions. Zapata had received a limited education in Morelos, only going to school for a few years. Educated supporters helped express his political aims. The urban intellectuals were known as "city boys" and were predominantly young males. They joined the Zapatistas for many reasons, including curiosity, sympathy, and ambition.


Zapata agreed that intellectuals could work on political strategy, but he had the chief role in proclaiming Zapatista ideology. The supporters from the cities also provided medical care, helped promote and instruct supporters in Zapatista ideology, created a plan for agrarian reform, aided in rebuilding villages destroyed by government forces, wrote manifestos and sent messages from Zapata to other revolutionary leaders.

Zapata's compadre Otilio Montaño was one of the most prominent intellectuals. Before the Revolution Montaño was a professor. During the Revolution he taught Zapatismo, recruited citizens and wrote the Plan de Ayala for land reform. Other well-known intellectuals were Abraham Martínez, Manuel Palafox, Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama, Pablo Torres Burgos, Gildardo Magaña, Dolores Jiménez y Muro, Enrique Villa and Genaro Amezcua.[84]

Women who fought alongside Zapata.

Since Zapata's political ambitions and campaign were usually local, women were able to aid the Zapatista soldiers from their homes. There were also female Zapatista soldiers who served from the beginning of the revolution. When Zapata met with President Madero on July 12, 1911, he was accompanied by his troops. Among them were female soldiers, including officers. Women joined the Zapatistas as soldiers for various reasons, including revenge for dead family members or to perform raids.

Perhaps the most popular Zapatista female soldier was Margarita Neri, who was a commander. Some of the Zapatista women soldiers were killed in battle, and long after the revolution ended many continued to wear men's clothing and carry pistols. Col. María de la Luz Espinosa Barrera was one of the few whose service was formally recognized with a pension as a veteran of the Mexican Revolution.

Land reform[edit]

Main article: Land reform in Mexico

Under the Porfiriato, rural peasants suffered the most. The regime confiscated large sections of land, which caused major losses to the agrarian work force. In 1883 the government passed a land law giving ownership of more than 27.5 million hectares of land to foreign companies. By 1894 one out of every five acres of Mexican land was owned by a foreign interest. Many wealthy Mexican families already owned huge estates, resulting in landless rural peasants working on the property as virtual slaves. In 1910 at the beginning of the revolution, about half of the rural population lived and worked on such plantations. The rapid and brutal uprooting of the peasantry contributed greatly to the violent furies unleashed in the Mexican Revolution and its subsequent course, giving it the character of a gigantic peasant war for land that attacked the structure of the Mexican state.[85]

Salvador Alvarado, after taking control of Yucatán in 1915, organized a large Socialist Party and carried out extensive land reform. He confiscated the large landed estates and redistributed the land in smaller plots to the liberated peasants.[86]

Role of the United States[edit]

Defense position set up by revolutionary forces.

The first time the United States intervened with this revolution was in 1914, during the Ypiranga incident. When United States intelligence agents received word that the Ypiranga, a German merchant ship, contained illegal firepower for Huerta, President Wilson ordered American troops to the port of Veracruz to stop the ship from docking. Wilson never actually declared war on Mexico. The United States skirmished with Huerta's troops in Veracruz. The Ypiranga did dock at another port and unload the arms, which greatly angered Wilson. The ABC Powers arbitrated and U.S. troops left Mexican soil, but the incident added to already tense Mexican-American relations.[87][88]

In 1916, in retaliation for Pancho Villa's plunder on Columbus, New Mexico, and the death of 16 United States citizens who were killed when a group of Villistas attacked a train on the Mexico North Western Railway, near Santa Isabel, Chihuahua,[89] President Wilson sent forces commanded by Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing into Mexico to capture Villa. Villa was deeply entrenched in the mountains of northern Mexico, and knew the terrain too well to be captured. Pershing could not continue with his mission and was forced to turn back. This event not only damaged the fragile United States-Mexico relationship, but also gave way to a rise in anti-American sentiment among the Mexicans.[90]

Role of the Catholic Church[edit]

From 1876–1911 relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Mexican government were stable. Porfirio Díaz had a keen interest in keeping good relations with the Church, since he was worried about the American expansionist threat. Díaz addressed the issue thus:

"Persecution of the Church, whether or not the clergy enter into the matter, means war, and such a war that the Government can win it only against its own people, through the humiliating, despotic, costly and dangerous support of the United States. Without its religion, Mexico is irretrievably lost."[citation needed]

However, Díaz was not completely supportive of the Church. Before his own presidency Díaz had supported the Juárez regime, which implemented anti-clerical policies, such as expropriation of large tracts of Church-owned property and the forced laicization of Mexican clergy. Indeed, many Roman Catholic clergy, including Miguel Pro, were executed during the anti-clerical Cristero War of Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles during the latter part of the Revolution.

There was also an effort to set up a Mexican Apostolic National Church. Decades later, in the 1970s this was subsumed into the Orthodox Church of America.

End of the military phase of revolution[edit]

A rebel camp.

In 1916, the revolution was drawing to a close. Carranza was gaining support from peasants with the promise of a new constitution. This caused Emiliano Zapata’s forces to lose some support, pushing their forces further south. Later that year, Carranza also sent General Gonzales after Zapata, causing further troubles for his Liberation Army of the South. In 1917, the situation was growing worse for Zapata.

Zapata was low on supplies and his lines were moving further south. However, a colonel named Jesús Guajardo from the Federal Army approached him, offering to join with Zapata’s forces. Zapata had misgivings, as previous defectors and former Federal Army generals had betrayed him before. To test Guajardo's loyalty, Zapata had him attack one of Carranza’s strongholds, which he carried out successfully.

As the war went on in 1919, Zapata began to run out of essential supplies, such as ammunition, and decided to acquire them from Guajardo. Zapata went to Guajardo's camp to negotiate with the colonel, whom he had not met before. However, Zapata had walked into a trap. Guajardo’s soldiers attacked Zapata, killing him and routing his forces. Venustiano Carranza rewarded Guajardo with a promotion to general and a cash prize of 100,000 pesos for having "successfully completed the difficult commission that was conferred to him."

Later that year, Carranza assembled the constitutional convention drafting the new constitution. With this, Carranza also gained support of the communists and anarchists, who were formed into Red Battalions to confront the forces of Villa and those remaining of Zapata’s. This further turned the tide, causing Villa to surrender in 1920. He negotiated a peace deal with Carranza, ending all hostilities and granting him a small estate, thus ending the war.

Later that year, Carranza held elections for the presidency. Alvaro Obregón, Carranza's best general and a reformist who pushed for the new constitution, was to oppose him for the seat. Carranza orchestrated a sham election, allowing Ignacio Bonillas to win. Carranza then fled to Guerrero where he staged a short coup to bring him into the presidency but was killed on horseback while fleeing from Mexico City to Veracruz.

Consolidation of the revolution[edit]

One of the major issues that faced Alvaro Obregón’s early post-revolution government was stabilizing Mexico. Regional caciques (chiefs) were still fighting each other in small skirmishes. The populace was demanding reforms, promised by the 1917 constitution. Many issues faced the working poor, such as debt peonage and company stores that kept the populace poor. The military had generals who wanted to overthrow the regime and take power for themselves. There were also foreign governments, primarily the United States, who feared Mexico would take a communist turn such as Russia was to do in 1918. Obregón was in a difficult position; he had to appeal to both the left and the right to ensure Mexico would not fall back into civil war.

Revolutionary General and President of Mexico Alvaro Obregón served his entire elected term 1920–1924;he ran for re-election in 1928, but was assassinated before he could take office, causing a crisis in managing presidential succession.

With regard to the masses, Obregón, who was conservative but still a reformer, started listening to demands to appease the populace. Obregón’s first focus, in 1920, was land reform. He had governors in various states push forward the reforms promised in the 1917 constitution. These were, however, quite limited. Former Zapatistas still had strong influence in the post-revolutionary government, so most of the reforms began in Morelos, the birthplace of the Zapatista movement.

Despite pressures from the U.S., Obregón flirted with the newly formed USSR. To appeal to intellectuals and left-leaning peasants, official Mexican propaganda began having a very Marxist spin. Murals with Lenin and Trotsky began to appear in government buildings. Despite the sympathy towards socialism, the government began to ferment nationalism amongst the peasantry. This was accomplished by memorializing revolutionary figures and creating anti-western murals. Among the artists employed was Diego Rivera, who had a Mexican nationalist and Marxist tinge to his government murals. Despite these moves towards an anti-western and pro-socialist regime, Obregón did not separate the Mexican economy from foreign capitalists, allowing free trade with some restrictions.

Regarding the military, one of his first moves was to incorporate the irregulars who fought in the revolution. He tried to weaken the powers of the ultra-conservative officer corps, who were not friendly to his regime. Some of his reforms began to anger the officer corps, leading to an attempted coup in 1924 that Obregón was able to crush with relative ease.

Shortly after the failed coup, Obregón’s term ended and Sonoran revolutionary Plutarco Elías Calles took power. In an attempt to buffer his regime against further coups, Calles began arming peasants and factory workers with surplus weapons. He continued other reforms pushed by his predecessor, such as land reform and anti-clerical laws to prevent the Catholic Church from influencing the state.

Revolutionary General and President of Mexico Plutarco Elías Calles (1924–1928), who founded the Partido Nacional Revolucionario and became the power behind the presidency as jefe máximo (1928–1934)

One such move, in regard to land reform, was to nationalize most farmland and give it to the peasants across Mexico. He also put into effect a national school system that was largely secular to combat church influence in late 1924. After two years the church protested the movement by refusing to give the blessed sacrament to the populace. Some peasants also joined in the protests, adding greater land reforms to the list of demands by the rebelling priests. The rebellion was openly supported by the Catholic Church and received funding, beginning the Cristero War.

Meanwhile, in 1927 another military coup was attempted, this time receiving support from land owners. Calles quickly crushed the rebellion with help from the newly mobilized peasant battalions, who later on were used to fight against the Church. In the midst of the mobilized worker’s militias, land reform, and anti-church actions, the American government began to openly declare Mexico a Bolshevik regime. To recover from the backlash, Calles began to tone down the radical rhetoric and slowed land reform policies in 1928. A year later, Calles defeated the church ending the rebellion.

After the war ended in 1929, supporters of Calles and Obregón began to form a united political party called the National Revolutionary Party or PNR. This was to unite the various revolutionary factions of the civil war to prevent further Cristero revolts and build stability.

Revolutionary General and President of Mexico Lázaro Cárdenas (1934–40), who revitalized the Revolution

After a series of interim presidents controlled by the party, Lázaro Cárdenas took power in 1934. Cárdenas was a socialist and began to base government policy on class struggle and empowering the masses. However, not all of his reforms were completely socialist, making him somewhat more centrist than purely socialist. Regardless, his rule was the most radical phase of the post revolution, social revolution.

His first acts of reform in 1935 were aimed towards peasants. Former strongmen within the land owning community were losing political power, so he began to side with the peasants more and more. He also tried to further centralize the government’s power by removing regional caciques, allowing him to push reforms easier. To fill the political vacuum, Cárdenas helped the formation of PNR sponsored peasant leagues, empowering both peasants and the government.

Other reforms included nationalization of key industries such as petroleum, land, and the railroads. To appease workers, Cárdenas furthered provisions to end debt peonage and company stores, which were largely eliminated under his rule, except in the most backwater areas of Mexico. To prevent conservative factions in the military from plotting and to put idle soldiers to work, Cárdenas mobilized the military to build public works projects. That same year another Cristero revolt occurred. This was partially caused by Cárdena’s mandate for secular education early in his presidency in 1934. The revolt was quickly put down due to lack of official support from the Catholic Church, who told rebels to surrender themselves to the government.

The next year, 1936, to further stabilize his rule, Cárdenas further armed the peasants and workers and begins to organize them into formal militias. This proved to be useful later in his presidency as the militias came to his aid in the final military coup in revolutionary Mexico in 1938.

Seeing no opposition from the bourgeoisie, generals, or conservative landlords, in 1936 Cárdenas began building collective farms called ejidos to help the peasantry, mostly in southern Mexico. These appeased the peasants, creating long-lasting stability; however, they were not very good at feeding large populations, causing an urban food crisis. To alleviate this, Cárdenas co-opted the support of capitalists to build large commercial farms to feed the urban population. This put the final nail in the coffin of the feudal hacienda system, making Mexico a mixed economy, combining agrarian socialism and industrial capitalism by 1940. Cárdenas left office in 1940, marking the end of the social revolution and ushering in half a century of relative stability.


The Monument to the Revolution in Mexico city.

The legacy of the Mexican Revolution is mixed between scholars. Marxists claim it was a worker’s revolution betrayed by the government bureaucratic class that never wanted reforms to begin with. They believe the regime was Bonapartist, meaning it was co-opted by other forces, not the workers who fought for it, ending up as a political rather than social revolution.

Functionalists argue it was essentially an inevitable occurrence, citing that it was a collapsing civil society and a government elite that was unable to reform itself. The old Porfiran system was bound to collapse and some force was going to improve upon the old system or replace it.

There is even debate on whether it was a civil war or a revolution, or some combination of the two. The old Porfirian system was removed and replaced with a new dynamic system that rotated leadership and appealed to multiple social groups yet still operated on similar foundations. The old Díaz regime was replaced with a younger and more dynamic leadership representing different national interests, one able to mobilize popular support but still maintain stability and control. It is commonly agreed the new government was largely populist only for political stability. This is evident in post revolution rule of the PNR, now PRI.

Rise of the Institutional Revolutionary Party[edit]

The PRI, or Institutional Revolutionary Party is one of the major lasting legacies of the Mexican revolution. It was formed in 1929 under Calles as the PNR, or National Revolutionary party, then changed to PMR (Party of the Mexican Revolution) in the 1930s during Cárdenas’s presidency, and to its modern name in the 1940s.

It was established to build stability in the post revolution period. The PRI was built up as a big tent corporatist party, to bring every political faction and interest group together. To funnel the populace into the party, Calles and his supporters built various delegations composed of popular, agrarian, labor, and military groupings. This was an attempt to control people from all walks of life to keep political order. However, the leadership merely wished to make it appear the public was in power. In reality, most power came from a Central Executive Committee, which budgeted all government projects. This effectively turned the legislature into a rubber stamp body for the PRI’s leadership.

The Party's name expresses the Mexican state's incorporation of the idea of revolution, and especially a continuous, nationalist, anti-imperialist, Mexican revolution, into political discourse, and its legitimization as a popular, revolutionary party.[10] The Revolution was a powerful memory and its slogans and promises were utilized to bolster the party's power.

The Party was very authoritarian and hierarchical, leaving little room for opposition. However, it was not interested in oppression for its own sake. Its main goal was to keep order, preferring pragmatism over ideology. Throughout its rule in post-revolutionary Mexico, it avoided empowering one faction too much, preferring to build its own ruling caste rather than side with another. It tended to play off both sides of the political spectrum, both the populists and the emerging bourgeoisie.

Transformation of the political landscape[edit]

The other major immediate part of the revolution’s legacy is the 1917 constitution. It was pushed forward by populist generals within Carranza’s government to gain popular support. It was not written by liberal elites or the military itself, but rather young populist professionals, giving the document some authenticity for the peasantry. The document brought numerous reforms demanded by populist factions of the revolution, most importantly the banning of the semi-feudal Hacienda system. It also introduced major labour reforms, including an 8-hour work day, a right to strike, equal pay laws for women, and an end to exploitative practices such as child labour and company stores.

It also streamlined the federal government, empowering it, but adding term limits to prevent a personal dictatorship. One article, article 27, specifically allows the federal government to intervene in all matters it deemed essential to national security, such as labour strikes. The tradition of strong-man rule was not completely thrown away, presidentialism (presidencialismo), the political arrangement of a powerful executive branch centered in the presidency, became the favored style of post-revolutionary politics.[91]

In this the Mexican Revolution was not revolutionary, only making the mechanisms of power less autocratic and more efficient in the attainment of its interests. Octavio Paz wrote that the revolution strengthened the Mexican state more than ever, making Mexico a very state-centered and patriomonialist society. In such a development they betrayed their acknowledged liberal predecessors of the Restored Republic of 1867–1876 which saw the most significant break from authoritarian politics in Mexico's history.[92]

A more modern legacy is that of another insurgency from the 1990s taking on the name Zapatista, in reference to the populist revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata. The revolt began in Chiapas, which was very reliant and supportive of the revolutionary reforms, especially the ejido system, which it had pioneered before Cárdenas took power. Most revolutionary gains were reversed in the early 1990s by President Salinas, who began moving away from the agrarian socialist policies of the late post revolution period in favour of modern finance capitalism. This culminated in the removal of the ejido system in Chiapas. The destruction of what little the poor starving peasants had caused them to revolt. Calling to Mexico’s revolutionary heritage, the movement draws heavily from early revolutionary rhetoric. It is inspired by many of Zapata’s policies, including a call towards decentralized local rule.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Robert McCaa, "Missing millions: the human cost of the Mexican Revolution." Mexican Studies 19#2 (2001). online
  2. ^ Alan Knight, "Mexican Revolution: Interpretations" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 2, p. 873. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997.
  3. ^ John Tutino, From Insurrection to Revolution: Social Bases of Agrarian Violence, 1750–1940. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1986, p. 327.
  4. ^ Friedrich Katz, The Secret War in Mexico: Europe, the United States, and the Mexican Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1981, p. 35.
  5. ^ "MEXICAN REVOLUTION 1910–1920". 
  6. ^ Knight,"Mexican Revolution: Interpretations" pp. 869–873.
  7. ^ Katz, The Secret War in Mexico p. 35.
  8. ^ Michael LaRosa and German R. Mejia (2007). An Atlas and Survey of Latin American History. M.E. Sharpe. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-7656-2933-3. 
  9. ^ Knight, Alan (May 1, 1980). "The Mexican Revolution". History Today 30 (5): 28. Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Cockcroft, James (1992). Mexico: Class Formation, Capital Accumulation, & the State. Monthly Review Press. 
  11. ^ Friedrich Katz, The Secret War in Mexico: Europe, the United States, and the Mexican Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1981.
  12. ^ John Womack, Jr. “The Mexican Revolution” in Mexico Since Independence, ed. Leslie Bethell. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991, p. 125
  13. ^ Christon Archer, "Military, 1821–1914" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 2, p. 910. Chicago: Fitzroy and Dearborn 1997.
  14. ^ Mónica Serrano, "Military, 1914–1996" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 2, p. 910-11. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997.
  15. ^ James A. Garza, "Porfirio Díaz" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 1, p. 406. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997
  16. ^ Paul Garner, Porfirio Díaz. New York: Pearson 2001, p. 98.
  17. ^ Garner, Porfirio Díaz, p. 98.
  18. ^ Garner, Porfirio Díaz, p. 253.
  19. ^ Garner, Porfirio Díaz, p. 242.
  20. ^ Garner, Porfirio Díaz,p. 245
  21. ^ Garner, Porfirio Díaz, p. 246.
  22. ^ William Weber Johnson, Heroic Mexico: The Violent emergence of a Modern Nation, Doubleday 1968, p. 69.
  23. ^ Emily Edmonds-Poli and David A. Shirk (2012). Contemporary Mexican Politics. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 28. 
  24. ^ John Womack, Jr. “The Mexican Revolution”, in ‘’Mexico Since Independence’’, Leslie Bethell, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991, p. 130.
  25. ^ Paul Vanderwood, Disorder and Progress: Bandits, police, and Mexican development. Wilmington DL: SR Books, rev. ed. 1992.
  26. ^ John Coatsworth, Growth Against Development: The Economic Impact of Railroads in Porfirian Mexico. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press 1981.
  27. ^ Deborah J. Baldwin, Protestants and the Mexican Revolution. Urbana: University of Illinois Press 1990, p. 68.
  28. ^ Friedrich Katz, The Secret War in Mexico. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1991.
  29. ^ John Tutino, From Insurrection to Revolution: Social Bases of Agrarian Violence in Mexico, 1750–1940. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1986.
  30. ^ Claudio Lomnitz citing Francisco Bulnes, ‘’El verdadero Díaz y la revolución’’ in Claudio Lomnitz, The Return of Ricardo Flores Magón. New York: Zone Books 2014, p. 55 and fn. 6, p. 533.
  31. ^ John Kenneth Turner, Barbarous Mexico, Austin: University of Texas Press 1969, reprint of the 1910 edition, pp. pp. 181–186.
  32. ^ Turner, Barbarous Mexico, pp. 167–173.
  33. ^ Turner, Barbarous Mexico, pp. 181–186.
  34. ^ Turner, Barbarous Mexico, p. 173, emphasis in the original quotation from Turner’s informant.
  35. ^ Lomnitz, The Return of Ricardo Flores Magón.
  36. ^ John Kenneth Turner, Barbarous Mexico, reprinted by University of Texas Press 1969.
  37. ^ Paul Garner, Porfirio Díaz. New York: Pearson 2001, p. 209.
  38. ^ a b Garner, Porfirio Díaz, p. 209.
  39. ^ Garner, Porfirio Díaz p. 210.
  40. ^ Garner, Porfirio Díaz p. 210
  41. ^ McLynn, Frank. Villa and Zapata p. 24.
  42. ^ Womack, John. Zapata and the Mexican Revolution p. 10.
  43. ^ Johnson, William. Heroic Mexico p41.
  44. ^ Harris 2009, p. 1.
  45. ^ Harris 2009, p. 2.
  46. ^ Obrador, Andrés Manuel López (2014). Neoporfirismo: Hoy como ayer. Berkeley, CA: Grijalbo. ISBN 9786073123266. 
  47. ^ Garner, Porfirio Díaz, p. 210.
  48. ^ a b c Clayton, Lawrence A.; Conniff, Michael L. (2005). A History of Modern Latin America. United States: Wadsworth Publishing. pp. 285–286. ISBN 0-534-62158-9. 
  49. ^ Mark Wasserman, "Francisco Vázquez Gómez" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol 2, p.151. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997.
  50. ^ John Womack, Jr. "The Mexican Revolution" in Mexico Since Independence Leslie Bethell, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991, p. 130.
  51. ^ Womack, "The Mexican Revolution", p. 131.
  52. ^ Wasserman, "Francisco Vázquez Gómez", p. 1522.
  53. ^ Charles C. Cumberland, Mexican Revolution: Genesis Under Madero. Austin: University of Texas Press 1952, p. 150.
  54. ^ quoted in Cumberland, Mexican Revolution, p. 151.
  55. ^ Friedrich Katz, The Secret War in Mexico, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1981, 48.
  56. ^ Stanley F. Shadle, Andrés Molina Enríquez: Mexican Land Reformer of the Revolutionary Era. Tucson: University of Arizona Press 1994.
  57. ^ Alan Knight, The Mexican Revolution, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press 1986, vol. 1, pp. 289–90, 554, fn. 259.
  58. ^ Douglas W. Richmond, "Victoriano Huerta" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 1, p 656. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997.
  59. ^ Richmond, "Victoriano Huerta", p 656.
  60. ^ Esperanza Tuñon Pablos, "Mexican Revolution: February 1913 – October 1915," in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 2, 855–56.Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997. p. 855.
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  62. ^ Rubén Osorio Zúniga, "Abraham González Casavantes" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 1, p. 607. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997.
  63. ^ John Mason Hart, Revolutionary Mexico: The Coming and Process of the Mexican Revolution. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1987, p. 421, fn. 13.
  64. ^ Katz, The Secret War in Mexico, p. 167
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  66. ^ Douglas W. Richmond, "Victoriano Huerta" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 1. p. 655. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997.
  67. ^ Michael C. Meyer, Huerta: A Political Portrait. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press 1972.
  68. ^ Esperanza Tuñon Pablos, "Mexican Revolution: February 1913-October 1915" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 2, p. 656. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997.
  69. ^ Tuñon Pablos, "Mexican Revolution: February 1913-October 1915", p. 856-57
  70. ^ Stanley F. Shadle, Andrés Molina Enríquez: Mexican Land Reformer of the Revolutionary Era. Tucson: University of Arizona Press 1994, pp. 62-64
  71. ^ Shadle, Andrés Molina Enríquez, pp. 62-63.
  72. ^ Meyer, Huerta, p. 165.
  73. ^ Shadle, Molina Enríquez, p. 63.
  74. ^ Alan McPherson (2013) Encyclopedia of U.S. Military Interventions in Latin America, p. 393, ABC-CLIO, USA.
  75. ^ Susan Vollmer (2007) Legends, Leaders, Legacies, p. 79, Biography & Autobiography, USA.
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  78. ^ Christon I. Archer, ”Miliary, 1821–1914” in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 2, p. 910. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997.
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  83. ^ Mirande, Alfredo; Enriquez, Evangelina. (1981). La Chicana: The Mexican-American Woman. United States: University of Chicago Press. pp. 217–219. ISBN 978-0-226-53160-1
  84. ^ Lucas, Jeffrey Kent (2010). The Rightward Drift of Mexico's Former Revolutionaries: The Case of Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press. pp. 81–132. ISBN 978-0-7734-3665-7. 
  85. ^ "The Mexican Revolution" (PDF). Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  86. ^ Donald F. Busky, Democratic Socialism: A Global Survey
  87. ^ Robert Quirk (1962). An Affair of Honor: Woodrow Wilson and the Occupation of Vera Cruz. W. W. Norton. 
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Many portions of this article are translations of excerpts from the article Revolución Mexicana in the Spanish Wikipedia.

Further reading in English[edit]

Mexican Revolution – General[edit]

  • Brenner, Anita. The Wind that Swept Mexico. New Edition. Austin: University of Texas Press 1984.
  • Brewster, Keith. "Mexican Revolution: October 1910 – February 1913" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 2, pp. 850–855. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997.
  • Crossen, John F. "Mexican Revolution: October 1915 – May 1917" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 2, pp. 859–862. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997.
  • Cumberland, Charles C. Mexican Revolution: Genesis under Madero. Austin: University of Texas Press 1952.
  • Cumberland, Charles C. Mexican Revolution: The Constitutionalist Years. Austin: University of Texas Press 1972.
  • Gilly, A. The Mexican Revolution. London 1983.
  • Gonzales, Michael J. The Mexican Revolution: 1910–1940. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2002.
  • Hart, John Mason. Revolutionary Mexico: The Coming and Process of the Mexican Revolution. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1987.
  • Katz, Friedrich. The Secret War in Mexico: Europe, the United States, and the Mexican Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1981.
  • Knight, Alan. The Mexican Revolution, Volume 1: Porfirians, Liberals, and Peasants (1986); The Mexican Revolution, Volume 2: Counter-revolution and Reconstruction. University of Nebraska Press 1986.
  • Krauze, Enrique. Mexico: Biography of Power. New York: HarperCollins 1997.
  • Matute, Alvaro. "Mexican Revolution: May 1917 – December 1920" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 2, pp. 862–864. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997.
  • Niemeyer, Victor E. Revolution at Querétaro: The Mexican Constitutional Convention of 1916–1917. Austin: University of Texas Press 1974.
  • Quirk, Robert E. The Mexican Revolution, 1914–1915: The Convention of Aguascalientes. New York: The Citadel Press 1981.
  • Quirk, Robert E. The Mexican Revolution and the Catholic Church 1910–1919. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973
  • Ruiz, Ramón Eduardo. The Great Rebellion: Mexico, 1905–1924. New York: Norton 1980.
  • Tuñon Pablos, Esperanza. "Mexican Revolution: February 1913 – October 1915," in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 2, pp. 855–859 . Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997
  • Tutino, John. From Insurrection to Revolution. Princton: Princeton University Press 1985.
  • Wasserman, Mark. The Mexican Revolution: A Brief History with Documents. (Bedford Cultural Editions Series) First Edition, 2012.
  • Wilkie, James. The Mexican Revolution: Federal Expenditure and Social Change since 1910. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1967.
  • Womack, John Jr. “The Mexican Revolution” in The Cambridge History of Latin America, vol. 5 ed. Leslie Bethell. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1986.

Biography and social history[edit]

  • Baldwin, Deborah J. Protestants and the Mexican Revolution: Missionaries, Ministers, and Social Change. Urbana: University of Illinois Press 1990.
  • Beezley, William H. Insurgent Governor: Abraham González and the Mexican Revolution in Chihuahua. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press 1973.
  • Brunk, Samuel. Emiliano Zapata: Revolution and Betrayal in Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press 1995.
  • Buchenau, Jürgen, Plutarco Elías Calles and the Mexican Revolution. Lanham MD: Rowman and Littlefied 2007.
  • Buchenau, Jürgen. The Last Caudillo: Alvaro Obregón and the Mexican Revolution. Malden MA: Wiley-Blackwell 2011.
  • Cockcroft, James D. Intellectual Precursors of the Mexican Revolution. Austin: University of Texas Press 1968.
  • Garner, Paul. Porfirio Díaz. New York: Pearson 2001.
  • Hall, Linda. Alvaro Obregón, Power, and Revolution in Mexico, 1911–1920. College Station: Texas A&M Press 1981.
  • Katz, Friedrich. The Life and Times of Pancho Villa. Stanford: Stanford University Press 1998.
  • Lomnitz, Claudio. The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón. Brooklyn NY: Zone Books 2014.
  • Lucas, Jeffrey Kent. The Rightward Drift of Mexico's Former Revolutionaries: The Case of Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 2010.
  • Macias, Anna. "Women and the Mexican Revolution, 1910–1920." The Americas, 37:1 (Jul., 1980), 53–82.
  • Meyer, Michael. Huerta: A Political Portrait. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press 1972.
  • Meyer, Michael. Mexican Rebel: Pascual Orozco and the Mexican Revolution, 1910–1915. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press 1967.
  • Poniatowska, Elena. Las Soldaderas: Women of the Mexican Revolution. Texas: Cinco Puntos Press; First Edition, November 2006
  • Reséndez Fuentes, Andrés. "Battleground Women: Soldaderas and Female Soldiers in the Mexican Revolution." The Americas 51, 4 (April 1995).
  • Ross, Stanley R. Francisco I. Madero: Apostle of Democracy. New York: Columbia University Press 1955.
  • Richmond, Douglas W. Venustiano Carranza's Nationalist Struggle: 1893–1920. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press 1983.
  • Shadle, Stanley F. Andrés Molina Enríquez: Mexican Land Reformer of the Revolutionary Era. Tucson: University of Arizona Press 1994.
  • Smith, Stephanie J. Gender and the Mexican Revolution: Yucatán Women and the Realities of Patriarchy. North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2009
  • Womack, John Jr. Zapata and the Mexican Revolution. New York: Vintage Press 1970.

Regional histories[edit]

  • Benjamin, Thomas and Mark Wasserman, eds. Provinces of the Revolution. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press 1990.
  • Blaisdell, Lowell. The Desert Revolution, Baja California 1911. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press 1962.
  • Brading, D.A., ed. Caudillo and Peasant in the Mexican Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1980.
  • Joseph, Gilbert. Revolution from Without: Yucatán, Mexico, and the United States, 1880–1924. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1982.
  • Harris, Charles H. III. The Secret War in El Paso: Mexican Revolutionary Intrigue, 1906–1920. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press 2009.
  • Jacobs, Ian. Ranchero Revolt: The Mexican Revolution in Guerrero. Austin: University of Texas Press 1983.
  • LaFrance, David G. The Mexican Revolution in Puebla, 1908–1913: The Maderista Movement and Failure of Liberal Reform. Wilmington, DL: Scholarly Resources 1989.
  • Snodgrass, Michael. Deference and Defiance in Monterrey: Workers, Paternalism, and Revolution in Mexico, 1890–1950. Cambridge University Press. 2003.
  • Wasserman, Robert. Capitalists, Caciques, and Revolution: The Native Elites and Foreign Enterprise in Chihuahua, Mexico, 1854–1911. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press 1984.

International Dimensions[edit]

  • Buchenau, Jürgen, "Mexican Revolution: Foreign Intervention" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 2, pp. 865–869. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997.
  • Clendenin, Clarence C. The United States and Pancho Villa: A study in unconventional diplomacy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1981.
  • Cline, Howard F. The United States and Mexico. 2nd edition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1961.
  • Gilderhus, M.T. Diplomacy and Revolution: U.S.-Mexican Relations under Wilson and Carranza. Tucson: University of Arizona Press 1977.
  • Grieb, K.J. The United States and Huerta. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press 1969.
  • Haley, P. E. Revolution and Intervention: The diplomacy of Taft and Wilson with Mexico, 1910–1917. Cambridge, 1970.
  • Hart, John Mason. Empire and Revolution: The Americans in Mexico since the Civil War. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 2002.
  • Katz, Friedrich. The Secret War in Mexico: Europe, the United States, and the Mexican Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1981.
  • Meyer, Lorenzo. The Mexican Revolution and the Anglo-Saxon Powers. LaJolla: Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies. University of California San Diego, 1985.
  • Quirk, Robert E. An Affair of Honor: Woodrow Wilson and the Occupation of Veracruz. Louisville: University of Kentucky Press 1962.
  • Smith, Robert Freeman. The United States and Revolutionary Nationalism in Mexico 1916–1932. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972.
  • Teitelbaum, Louis M. Woodrow Wilson and the Mexican Revolution. New York: Exposition Press 1967.

Memory and cultural dimension[edit]

  • Britton, John A. Revolution and Ideology Images of the Mexican Revolution in the United States. Louisville: The University Press of Kentucky, 1995.
  • Brunk, Samuel. The Posthumous Career of Emiliano Zapata: Myth, Memory, and Mexico's Twentieth Century. Austin: University of Texas Press 2008.
  • Doremus, Anne T. Culture, Politics, and National Identity in Mexican Literature and Film, 1929–1952. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc., 2001.
  • Foster, David, W., ed. Mexican Literature A History. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994.
  • Hoy, Terry. "Octavio Paz: The Search for Mexican Identity." The Review of Politics 44:3 (July 1982), 370–385.
  • McCard, Victoria L. Soldaderas of the Mexican revolution (The Evolution of War and Its Representation in Literature and Film), an article from West Virginia University Philological Papers 51 (2006), pgs. 43–51.
  • Mora, Carl J., Mexican Cinema: Reflections of a Society 1896–2004. Berkeley: University of California Press, 3rd edition, 2005
  • Myers, Berbard S. Mexican Painting in Our Time. New York: Oxford University Press, 1956.
  • Mraz, John. Photographing the Mexican Revolution: Commitments, Testimonies, Icons. Austin: University of Texas Press 2012.
  • Noble, Andrea, Photography and Memory in Mexico: Icons of Revolution. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010.
  • Noble, Andrea, Mexican National Cinema, London: Routledge, 2005.
  • O’Malley, Irene. 1986. The Myth of the Revolution. Westport: Greenwood Press
  • Orellana, Margarita de, Filming Pancho Villa: How Hollywood Shaped the Mexican Revolution: North American Cinema and Mexico, 1911–1917. New York: Verso, 2007
  • Paranagua, Paula Antonio. Mexican Cinema. London: British Film Institute, 1995.
  • Ross, Stanley. 1975 Is the Mexican Revolution Dead?. Philadelphia: Temple University Press
  • Rutherford, John D. Mexican society during the Revolution: a literary approach. Oxford: Oxford University Pres 1971.
  • Simmons, Merle e. The Mexican corrido as a source of interpretive study of modern Mexico, 1900–1970. Bloomington: Indiana University Press 1957.
  • Vaughn, Mary K. Negotiating Revolutionary Culture: Mexico, 1930–1940. Tucson: University of Arizona Press 1997.
  • Weinstock, Herbert. "Carlos Chavez." The Musical Quarterly 22:4 (Oct., 1936), 435–445.


  • Bailey, D. M. "Revisionism and the recent historiography of the Mexican Revolution." Hispanic American Historical Review 58(1)1978, 62–79.
  • Knight, Alan. "Mexican Revolution: Interpretations" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 2, pp. 869–873. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997.
  • Knight, Alan. "The Mexican Revolution: Bourgeois? Nationalist? Or Just a 'Great Rebellion'?" Bulletin of Latin American Research (1985) 4#2 pp. 1–37 in JSTOR
  • Knight, Alan. "Viewpoint: Revisionism and Revolution", Past and Present 134 (1992).
  • Wasserman, Mark. "You Can Teach An Old Revolutionary Historiography New Tricks Regions, Popular Movements, Culture, and Gender in Mexico, 1820–1940," Latin American Research Review (2008) 43#2 260–271 in Project MUSE
  • Womack, John Jr. "Mexican Revolution: Bibliographical Essay" in Mexico Since Indepedence, Leslie Bethell, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991, pp. 405–414.
  • Young, Eric van. "Making Leviathan Sneeze: Recent Works on Mexico and the Mexican Revolution," Latin American Research Review (1999) 34#2 pp. 143–165 in JSTOR

Primary Sources[edit]

  • Bulnes, Francisco. The Whole Truth About Mexico: The Mexican Revolution and President Wilson's Part Therein, as seen by a Cientifico. New York: M. Bulnes Book Company 1916.
  • O'Shaunessy, Edith. A Diplomat's Wife in Mexico. New York: Harper 1916.
  • Reed, John. Insurgent México. New York: International Publishers, 1969.
  • Turner, John Kenneth. Barbarous Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press 1984.
  • Wasserman, Mark. The Mexican Revolution: A Brief History with Documents. (Bedford Cultural Editions Series) First Edition, 2012.


External links[edit]