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What Was the Mexican Revolution?

The Mexican Revolution took place in the country from 1910 to 1920.
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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 22 April 2014
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The Mexican Revolution started as rebellion against the established order, and turned into a civil war with several warring factions including socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, and agrarianist movements. The Mexican Revolution primarily ended in 1920, though there were still disturbances well into the 20s, a significant one being The Cristero War of 1926 to 1929. There are some historians who mark the end of the war in 1917, while others believe it ended as late as 1940.

The Mexican Revolution took place primarily between 1910 and 1920. There have been several reasons given for the revolution, but discontent over the dictatorial rule of President Porfina Diaz and working class anger over controlling plantation owners are the two reasons most attributed to the start of the conflict. Men, woman and children of all classes joined in the Mexican Revolution, which over the course of several battles saw multiple leaders rise and fall from power.

President Diaz had a good start as president. He lowered crime, stabilized the government and funded several civic projects by raising money from foreign film productions. Diaz made those in power wealthier, but the lower classes didn’t share in the riches. In addition, all classes began to be wary of Mexico’s dependence on foreign investments. There was also a new generation of aspiring politicians who found it difficult to break into government because of Diaz’s control over the system.

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In 1908, Diaz stated in an interview that he was looking forward to retirement and that he would welcome an election. Known as the Creelman Interview, this article created a sensation in Mexico. Encouraged by Diaz’s statement, Francisco I. Madero began gathering followers with the intention of running for office in 1910.

When Diaz became aware of Madero’s rising power, he became intimidated, made a false accusation and had him arrested. Diaz was re-elected. When Madero was freed, he went to Texas, where he made the claim that the election was rigged. He wrote a document entitled the Plan of San Luis Potosí which called for revolt. Madero’s writings led to the official start of the Mexican Revolution on November 20, 1910.

Another major cause of the Mexican Revolution was the increasing anger of the working class over the control that plantation owners held over the land. With the powerful milling machines that arose during the Industrial Revolution, plantation owners were able to increase production and make more money, which they used to buy land. Eventually, the plantation owners became more aggressive and began to blackmail and harass landowners for their property. The plantation owners soon controlled nearly all viable land in Mexico. The only available options for the working classes were to either become serfs for the plantation owners or to turn to crime in order to make a living.

The Mexican Revolution revolved around three primary revolutionary groups, led by Emiliano Zapata, Francisco “Pancho” Villa and Pascual Orozco. From 1911 until the end of the revolution, these three men won and lost cities and power in a continuing battle for control of Mexico. They ran Diaz out of office, but he left behind a formidable army under the control of provisional president General Victoriano Huerta.

Zapata formed an alliance with Madero. His support led to Madero being declared president, but he proved to be an impotent leader. He was arrested and eventually killed on February 22, 1913 for allegedly trying to escape his imprisonment. Huerta claimed the presidency once again, but was thrown from power by the revolutionary Venustantio Carranza in 1914. Villa fought this appointment and eventually installed Eulalio Guitierrez as president. In 1919, one of Carranza’s generals tricked Zapata into a meeting in which he was shot to death. Carranza was reinstated as president.

Zapata’s death caused a revolt against Carrenza and he was killed when he attempted to flee Mexico. Huerta was temporarily reinstated as president and elections were held. Álvaro Obregón won the election in 1920 and this put an end to most of the revolutionary violence.

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