Once settled, the spanish adapted themselves to
the country which knew relatively quiet centuries. The young men
were passionate. They made love more often than war and the mestizo
population is more numerous every generation. This new race was
irritated with the social statute formerly imposed by the Conquerors.
In late eighteenth century, there were more and more unhappy people.
Time has come for New Spain
to step aside for Mexico.
From Independence to Mexican Revolution
the father of Independence
first sparks of the Mexican insurrection shot out in Valladolid
(today Morelia) in
1809, and the following year in Querétaro,
where a small group of Creole organized an uprising. This uprising,
projected for late 1810, was prematurely discovered because of
a denunciation. Miguel Hidalgo, priest of the village Dolores,
was part of the conspiracy. On September 16th, he rang the church
bells to lead his flock to a rebellion. Indians and peasants ,
together under the Banner with the image of the Virgin
of Guadalupe, shouting “ Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe,
Long Live Independence” started a march and took possession
of Celaya, Guanajuato, Guadalajara
and Valladolid. One
month later, Hidalgo was leading an army with 80,000 men. The
uprising spread rapidly; a former student of Hidalgo, father Morelos,
roused the region of Acapulco
and the actual state of Guerrero.
But the Creoles didn’t appreciate the orientation taken
by the uprisings (Hidalgo abolished slavery and promised to the
Indians the restitution of their lands and the suppression of
the tribute) and rallied the Spanish. General Calleja recaptured
the Northern cities and crushed Hidalgo’s army on the bridge
of Calderon. Betrayed and turned over to the Spanish, Hidalgo
was sentenced and shot to death in Chihuahua
on July 31st, 1811.
picture : Portrait of Miguel Hidalgo
Morelos’s armies, well organized, stayed in the mountains
of Guerrero. Morelos occupied
the regions south of Mexico City area to the Pacific Coast and even
threatened the capital, in early 1812.
On November 6th, 1813, after taking possession of Acapulco
and Orizaba, the revolutionary leader called together the Congress
in Chilpancingo and the Congress published “the solemn act
of declaration of Independence”. In October 1814, in Apatzingan,
the Congress voted, still under the patronage of Morelos and passed
the Constitution that establishes the Mexican Republic.
But Viceroy Calleja started a counter offensive. The military campaign,
led by General Iturbide, dispersed the rebel troops. Morelos, held
prisoner, was shot to death on December 22nd, 1815.
The rebellion then entered a latent period. The cadres stayed in
the mountains, especially in Guerrero. In Spain, Ferdinand VII reestablished
the Liberal Constitution of 1812. This worried the Creole aristocracy
in Mexico. This aristocracy, feeling threatened, considered Independence
as a way to keep its privileges. Iturbide, sent by the viceroy against
with him and together, in September 1821, they established the principles
of the Plan of Iguala (maintaining catholic religion as a state
religion, melting of the races, Independence of Mexico
under a constitutional monarchy). O’Donoju, the last viceroy
of Spain in Mexico was obligated to negotiate with
Iturbide (Treaty of Orizaba). The Spanish withdrew themselves, leaving
face to face creoles, Indians and meztizos. Independent Mexico
had to face problems whose solutions went beyond the bounds. The
result has been a country governed in a despotic way during a long
Intriguing and ambitious, Iturbide, supported by the conservators,
was proclaimed emperor on July 1st, 1822. His reign didn’t
last even one year. He governed in a dictatorial way and provoked
the uprising of the army, which made him abdicate on March 19th,
The following years were a succession of pronunciamientos between
liberal and conservator partisans, who had elected and overthrown
quickly various presidents.
Santa Anna played a large role in the overthrow of Iturbide. He
was a young officer whose ambition and greed caused big losses to
the emerging Mexico.
Mastering the art of intrigue, plot and treason, this “acrobat
of politics” seized power in 1833. His politic of outrageousness
centralization provoked the revolt of Texas, whose population, in
majority Anglo-Saxon, aspired to independence. Santa Anna conducted
himself the military operations against the rebels but he lost and
was held prisoner. In order to buy his liberty he signed, in 1836,
an act admitting the independence of Texas. The Mexican government
disclaimed it but couldn’t do anything to recapture the territory.
Back in power, the conservators didn’t improve the situation
in the country. Revolts succeeded to mutinies. These almost permanent
troubles were the excuse for a French intervention in 1838. During
several weeks, the French fleet blocked the harbor of Veracruz in
order to obtain indemnities for the endured damages. Because one
of the victims was a baker whose bakery had been looted, the Mexicans
called this intervention “Pastry War”. Santa Anna took
advantage of this intervention to defend Veracruz, but he lost a
leg, torn off by a French cannonball; this cannonball brought him
back his popularity and the serial of the pronunciamientos started
again... Reelected President in 1841, he compiled wasting, demands
and extravagances (for example, he had his amputated leg buried
with pomp and circumstances in the Cathedral
of Mexico in 1838).
One year later, a pronunciamiento evicted him and forced
him to exile.
with the United States
The annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845 led inevitably
to a conflict between the two countries. In less than one year,
the American troops of General Taylor conquered the Northeastern
States. The Mexicans tried vainly to resist in Los Angeles. Called
back by the garrison of Veracruz and nominated President, thanks
to the liberals, Santa Anna marched against Taylor, but needed to
withdraw. In August 1846, the American troops arrived on Mexico
City’s door step. The Mexican bravely resisted in the
suburbs of the Capital but they were beaten up and had to sign a
peace treaty. In 1848, through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo,
Mexico gave up Texas and yielded to the United
States, California and half of New Mexico (meaning half its territory)
in exchange for 15 million dollars. The country is devastated and
debased but also profoundly divided. Rebellions and prononciamientos
impressed the following years. In 1863, elected again President,
Santa Anna came back to Mexico
City, where he declared himself perpetual dictator. After long
fights, Juan Alvarez and lgnacio Comonfort ended up evicting him
from the country for good.
Assisted by a new generation of liberals concerned with renovating
the economic, social and politic structure of the country, Ignacio
Comonfort was appointed President. He tried to reconcile all the
parties and to liquidate the colonial past. This trend, called the
Reform, was linked to an intellectual movement inspired by the French
Comonfort abolished the religious and military tribunals in 1856
and suppressed all collective land property. The clergy had to sell
its lands but only rich people could afford these haciendas and
pay the taxes.
The reform program created furor and provoked rebellions sometimes
led by fanatic Catholics (like Miramon and Mejia). In 1857, a new
Constitution was exclaimed but General Zuloaga, partisan of conservators,
was declared President. He abrogated the laws of Reform, which led
to a new civil war. After three years of violence, Benito Juárez
is elected President. He left a deep impact on the future of Mexico.
His projects and visions for the future were successful during several
decades. He decided to confiscate the clergy’s goods, to separate
the Church and State and to suppress the religious Orders. As the
treasury was almost empty, he decided to suspend payment on all
foreign debts. France, England and Spain then decided to interfere.
England and Spain were finally satisfied with a compromise but the
French army, after having landed in Veracruz, marched up to Orizaba,
then to Puebla in order to assault
it. And the French army suffered a serious defeat on May 5th, 1862.
This victory is now celebrated every year in Mexico as well as in
The U.S. as the "Cinco
de Mayo". The following year, with reinforcements, General
Forey took Puebla, and finally captured Mexico
City. But Juárez was already organizing the defense in
In 1864, Archduke Maximilian, the Austrian emperor’s brother,
accepted the throne that the Mexican conservators offered to him.
Napoléon III agreed and promised in exchange to assist them
in a military way. Everywhere, the forces of the Empire were stopped
by the guerillas of Juárez, helped by the Yankees. Facing
the criticisms of the Legislative council in Paris, Napoléon
had to finally give up and withdraw his troops. With his small army
of Mexican partisans, Maximilian tried to resist but, surrounded
with the generals Mejia and Miramon in Querétaro,
he was forced to surrender. He was executed in 1867. It was the
triumph of the Reform.
Juárez died in 1872, after having outdone an uprising fomented
by General Porfirio Diaz, but the Reform laws were incorporated
to the Constitution in 1874.
Archduke Maximilian of Hapsburg, younger brother of Emperor François-Joseph,
and his wife, Belgian Princess Carlota Amalia, could have spent
a nice life but Napoléon III, decided differently.
On May 24, 1864, the imperial couple landed in Veracruz, under the
protection of the French troops. But, blinded by their luxurious
mission, Maximilian and Carlota didn’t realize that they were
entering a random process of a conquest war.
Although liberal, Maximilian proved to be a Habsburg. Filled with
etiquette and sure of his politic talents, he was blocked by a Mexican
reality that he didn’t understand. The misunderstanding grew
over the years. Driven by Bazaine, he accepted to support the violence
against Benito Juárez’s followers.
When she realized the seriousness of the situation, Empress Carlota
left for Europe in order to obtain military and financial support,
but she failed. Betrayed by some of his closest, Maximilian was
arrested, tried by a court-martial and shot to death on June 19th,
1867. Carlota then lapsed in madness.
dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz
This veteran of the Reform war and the fight against the French
aspired also to the Presidency. Failing to overturn Juárez,
he attacked his successor, Lerdo de Tejada, when he announced his
candidature for a second presidency (1876). With the slogan : “Elective
suffrage, no reelection”, Diaz occupied Mexico
City and became President from 1876 to 1880, then from 1884
to 1911. His government had been a long enlightened dictatorship
which gave the country a time of peace and an apparent prosperity.
A secret agreement with the Church put an end to the hardest anticlerical
laws. And the Church became one of the more powerful allies of the
government. The Indian groups (Yaquis
from Sonora and Mayas from
Quintana Roo), who had been resisting to the central government
and disagreeing the confiscation of their lands, were mercilessly
repressed and subjected to slavery.
1890, Diaz relied his government, to some extent, on the ‘Cientificos’,
a group made with intellectual and business men, followers of Auguste
Comte. This group, lead by the Minister of Finances Jose Yves Limantour
(French descendent), elaborated a program of State reforms in accordance
with the new technical methods. In 1894, for the first time since
the Independence, the budget is balanced. The foreign capitals poured
in. The development of banks and railroads (most of the main lines
from Mexico to the borders, to the coasts and the
inland cities date from this time), the prodigious boom of the production,
the incitement to business given by the Cientificos eased this brilliant
recovery. But at what price! Favored with privileges, concessions
and benefits of every kind, the foreign capitals collared the city
to the detriment of the Mexican interests. In 1910, three quarts
of the mines and more than half of the oilfields were in the hands
of the big foreign companies, mainly from North-America.
Left picture : portrait of Porfirio Diaz
The American investments in Mexico reached more
than one billion of dollars, rising over the total capital owned
by the Mexicans. The foreign colonies of settlement lived isolated,
collecting wealth and sending it outside the country. During the
same time, the agriculture was totally neglected and abandoned at
the mercy of the big landowners which concentrated the lands even
more than during the colonial time. In 1910, 97 % of the total area
of the farmable lands was in the hands of some one hundred people.
Almost half of Mexico belonged to less than three
thousands families. More than 9 million of the 10 million of inhabitants
composing the agricultural population were landless. The peasants
were resolved into peonage, the Indians were abandoned, and the
factory workers were badly paid : this was the result of the “prosperity”
obtained during the Diaz’s dictatorship. Many rebellions as
well as movements of strike in factories broke out but they were
strangled by the army and rural police, composed mainly of past
Mexican Revolution of the contemporary time
The Mexican Revolution was the first of the big
revolutionary movements of the twentieth century. It expanded rapidly
in 1910 on the border with the United States, under the impulse
of a young man from a wealthy and powerful family from the North,
Francisco Madero, who devoted himself to making liberty and democracy
reign in Mexico. Taking refuge in Texas, he wrote,
in October 1910, the Plan of San
Luis Potosi, calling for a rebellion. Uprisings broke out in
November in the Northern states. Pancho Villa, who built himself
a solid reputation by stealing cattle from the big landowners of
the area, defeated the federal troops. The city of Ciudad Juárez
was occupied and an armistice concluded in May 1911. A few days
later, on May, 25th, Diaz resigned and left the same day for Europe.
He died in Paris in 1915.
picture : the mexican revolution (source : presidency of Mexico)
Francisco Madero was elected president in October
1911. This big Northern landowner acceded easily to the head of
the State. He was a convinced democrat but didn’t have the
authority needed to resolve the crucial problem of the redistribution
of the lands. He was attacked by the followers of the methods of
porfiriat on the right side and the peasant rebellion symbolized
by Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa on the left side. It was the
beginning of the Revolution. During about 20 years, violence and
anarchy reigned in Mexico.
Video about the time of
the Revolution in Latin America (comments in French)
SUPERB VIDEO - Che Guevarra in the middle
advantage of a rebellion of the garrison of Mexico
City, General Huerta, minister of the war, killed
Madero and seized power in 1913.
He governed as a bloody dictator, murdering the senators
who criticized him, putting in jail everyone that didn’t
truly obey him.
The governor of the State of Coahuila, Venustiano Carranza, was
the minister of Madero when Madero was murdered. He refused to recognize
Victoriano Huerta as President and, with few followers as Obregon,
in Sonora, and Pancho Villa, he
led the Constitutionalist Movement. The rebellion spread throughout
the country. On April 21st, the American troops invaded Veracruz
without preliminary warning or declaration of war. Convinced of
his defeat, Huerta took flight. On August, 15th, Obregon entered
Mexico City with part of his army,
followed, a few days later, by Carranza, the Leader of the Revolution.
But rival ambitions caused dissensions between Carranza, Villa and
Evicted from Mexico City by the followers
of Villa and Zapata, Carranza
established his government in Veracruz. On December 12th forced
by the circumstances, he published a decree promulgating the land
The Constitutionalist Revolution became the Social Revolution. Its
crowning was the elaboration of a new Constitution promulgated in
Querétaro on February
5th, 1917. This Constitution is still effective today.
Reelected President, Carranza didn’t have time to have this
Constitution implemented. Supported by the Americans (whose oil
companies were threatened by Carranza’s politics) and helped
by General Calles, Obregon organized a revolt against Carranza in
1920. Carranza died, shot (as well as Zapata
in 1919 and Villa in 1923).
Log on to the site :
Left picture : murder of Zapata (1919)
The presidency of Obregon (1920-1924) signaled a new step of the
government : the objectives of the Mexican Revolution were partly
applied. Obregon, with a brutal energy, knew how to reestablish
a stable government, the first one since Diaz. Obregon is also the
one who put into practice several dispositions of the Constitution
of 1917. His politics as well as his presidential procedures had
served as a base to the following presidents. During his presidency
the distribution of the lands started to be applied on a large scale
(971 thousand hectares were parted among the peasants), but the
government didn’t give the peasants the means to cultivate
The other very important action that allowed Obregon to govern more
easily was his alliance with the CROM (Confederación Regional
Obrera Mexicana, or Regional Confederation of Mexican workers).
Subsidized by the Federal district, this powerful organization supported
a lot of the governmental activity.
On December 1, 1924, Obregon left the power to his closest associate,
General Calles and retired in his property in Sonora.
In 1928, he ran again for office winning a second term as President
after having changed the law prohibiting the reelection. He returned
to Mexico to celebrate his victory but he was assassinated
in a restaurant on July 17, 1928.
Succeeding Obregon in 1924, Plutarco Calles governed officially
until 1928, and then via other persons until 1934.
He rose to the power of the presidency and consolidated the prerogatives
of the Executive Authority. His indomitable energy and his self
confidence allowed him to dominate the country. The CROM, main labor
confederation became more powerful than ever.
Since there was no party to represent the national currents, Calles
proclaimed the establishment of an official party, the National
Revolutionary Party (PNR). And it is via this party that he kept
governing the country after 1928 : for the presidential elections,
he offered the candidatures of the PNR to the men ready to execute
obediently his politic (this party will become later the Institutional
revolutionary Party - PRI -, whose role is not predominant in Mexico
The presidency of General Cárdenas (1934-1940) opened the
era of the pacific realization of the objectives formulated by the
The break between Cárdenas and Calles occurred in June 1935
when he condemned the protection given by the government to the
This break led to the creation of a labor coalition that will give
birth, in February 1936, to the Confederation of Mexican workers
(Spanish: Confederacion de trabajadores de Mexico : CTM). Cárdenas
relied on it to get rid of Calles (he was deported to the US). For
Cárdenas, the weapon of the politic renovation was the trade
unionism, whose job consisted in shaping the conscience and responsibility
of the working class in order to link it efficiently to the direction
of public affairs. Under his presidency, he applied the land Reform
: he expropriated and redistributed 17, 890 hectares of land to
peasants. He helped them also by reorganizing the banking system.
Cárdenas took another measure : the promulgation of the “Law
of Expropriation” of November 23, 1936. This law gave the
President big powers in order to expropriate the private goods “for
the public interest and the well being of the Nation”. On
June 23, 1937, Cárdenas ordained the expropriation of the
railways but the most important move concerned the British and American
oil companies; they organized collections in the whole country in
order to reimburse these companies. Mexico, united like never before,
experienced emotional scenes : the women without money brought their
rings and bracelets, peasants brought pigs and chicken. The country
was at the edge of a war with the USA which was just avoided.
At the end of his Presidential term, even if they beg him to run
again for office, Cárdenas declined the possibility of being
reelected, showing a beautiful example of the respect of the laws.
In 1940, Manuel Avial Camacho (1940-1946) succeeded to him : his
Presidency marked, two decades after the Revolution, the transition
towards a more conservative government. He sent the Mexican troops
to the Pacific during World War II. It was the triggering factor
of the development of heavy and light industry.
Under the Presidency of his successor, Miguel Aleman (1946-1952),
the National Revolutionary Party (PNR) is renamed Institutional
Revolutionary Party (PRI). He pursued industrial development, developed
the road network and created the UNAM, National Autonomous University
of Mexico. He allowed the development of tourism,
the modernization of farming, the launch of big infrastructure works
like the Hydroelectric plants and brought to fruition the irrigation
works. He also allowed the middle-class to go to University.
The following President, Adolfo Ruiz Cortines (1952-1958) gave women
the right to vote in 1953. He proceeded to the devaluation of the
peso to obtain the parity of the dollar.
Adolfo Lopez Mateos (1958-1964) redistributed 120,000 km2 ( 30 million
acres) of lands to the small farmers and created a system of medical
and social assistance.
The conservator President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz (1964-1970) favored
the world of business : important development in tourism and education.
Annual growth: 6%.
State-Party: the P.R.I. "Institutional Revolutionary Party"
After the Mexican Revolution and the million of dead (1910-1920),
the Mexican Constitution instituted the “mono-party”.
The Institutional Revolutionary Party commanded alone the country
for 70 years. State-Party, the PRI progressively integrated every
social family in the country, from the peasant to the labor unions.
The whole social body melted into an infinity of clans that formed
the State-Party which ruled, without sharing, the human activity
and the 31 States of this federation and its Federal District, where
is located the capital : Mexico City.
Ever since, the opposition has been a fiction barely tolerated.
However, since 1987, under the action of ex governor of Michoacán,
Cuauhtémoc Cardenas, son of Lázaro Cárdenas,
a democratic current bringing together the leftwing and extreme
left parties or democrats dissidents from PRI, became a party. This
formation led by M. Cárdenas almost won the elections of
1988, losing to Salinas de Gortari, the candidate of PRI. According
to many observers, it looks like there were electoral manipulations
and frauds to favor the candidate of the State-Party. The abstention
rate is close to 50 % in this country. The rumors of electoral fraud
tarnished the image of a party which lost its representativeness
in front of the rising party : the “National Action Party”,
the PAN, a rightwing party whose candidate V.Fox won the elections
of 2000 as well as his successor, President Calderón elected
in July 2006. Their elections put a stop to more than 70 years of
« revolutionary politics » and witnessed the lassitude
of the population in front of the corruption and impunity of the
In order to resolve the crisis, the government
changed drastically the politics :
Soon the country opened its borders to foreign investors. Its economy
returned to the GATT (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs which
since became the OMC- World Trade Organization-), softened and progressively
the State chose the diversity of the productive machinery : on one
side, a nationalized sector “closed” and on the other
side an industrial sector “open” to private and foreign
investors. In 1988, the new President of Mexico,
Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) began a vast plan of development
of the country supported by the politic modernization of the system.
For this plan, he had to ”negotiate” the exterior debt.
His program was based on private initiatives and free-trade. In
July 1989, Mexico obtained an “erasing” of 54 billion
dollars from its debt, meaning 35 % of what the country owed to
the World Bank system.
This ”discount” brought oxygen to a suffocated country
but it was the first time that an agreement publicly acknowledged
that the debt would never be totally reimbursed, without declaring
the debtor insolvent and preventing it from receiving new credits.
The FMI and the USA saved Mexico from bankruptcy.
The highlight of the Presidency of Carlos Salinas de Gortari had
been the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA or TLCAN) which
took effect on January 1st, 1994.
When taking office, the new President Ernesto Zedillo
(1994-2000), from the PRI had to devaluate the peso. The money lost
half its value. Thousands of Mexicans ended up having debt. Many
small businesses had to close. The unemployment was on the rise.
Prices of consumer goods rose to more than 50%. As a consequence,
there was a spectacular rise in criminality, a growing mistrust
towards the PRI, a massive emigration to the USA (an estimation
of more than 2.5 million Mexicans). The politics of rigor of President
Ernesto Zedillo allowed the country to get slowly out of the recession.
The State began new economic politics : privatizations, deregulations
and opening of the country towards foreign investors, modernization
of farming, reform of social security system, and accession of industrial
production. At the end of his mandate, the national buying power
had almost reached the 1994 level.
ALENA : NAFTA or TLCAN (Tratado de Libre Comercio de
America del Norte) : This Free Trade Agreement came into effect
on January 01, 1994 between USA, Canada and Mexico
on a vast market of more than 440 million inhabitants over a period
of 15 years : gradual elimination of barriers cross-border investments
and to the movement of goods and services among the signatory countries.