Mexican Revolution

I was watching something on TV and it mentioned the Mexican Revolution. I was embarressed that I couldn’t tell you anything about it besides the name Pancho Villa.

Give me the basics please. Who What When Where and Why why why.

Who won? What did they accomplish?

Thanks, but I read the Wiki article and came away not any wiser. It is overly complicated and doesn’t anwer any of my basic questions.

Ok, I’ll try, although, remember, this is just going to be a sketch, and incomplete.

Our story starts in 1863. In that year, the French use Mexico’s delinquent debt to France as an excuse to invade. They overthrow the elected government of Benito Juarez and crown an Austrian prince named Maximillian the emperor of Mexico. Maximillian does a pretty crappy job. A lot of Mexicans are still loyal to Juarez, and he launches a rebellion against Maximillian’s government. It goes on for years, with the US secretly sending support to Juarez, because, hey, they don’t want the French in control of Mexico, and the French eventually deciding that Maximillian just isn’t worth supporting any longer. So, finally, in 1867, Maximillian is overthrown by Juarez, and he and his wife are executed.

So, now Juarez is President of Mexico again, and he’s more popular than ever, because he just freed Mexico. He starts reforming Mexican society, reducing the power of the Church, and decentralizing the government (One of the big issues in 19th century Mexico is how central a government it should have, and how much power the individual Mexican states should have). He gets reelected in 1871, in what’s pretty much a rigged election, and then dies in 1872.

After his death, a member of his government named Sebastian Lerdo takes office. Lerdo has nowhere near the charm that Juarez did, though, and opponents of the government look at one of Juarez’s rivals, another leader of the revolt against Maximillian, a general named Porfino Diaz. When Lerdo gets himself reelected fraudulently in 1876, Diaz rebels against him, and gets himself made president.

Diaz also decides he’s going to modernize Mexico, and so he accepts all sort of foreign help and investment to help modernize Mexico. He starts out democratic, but soon figures that democracy is a pain, because everyone keeps arguing with you, so he starts ruling like a dictator. Mexico has “elections” but everybody knows the fix is in. People are generally willing to put up with it, in large part because if you don’t he’ll have you shot. This situation goes on until the 1910 elections, where he’s opposed by (Berkeley educated) Francisco Madero. Madero is really popular, and Diaz figures “Uh oh, I might lose this one.”, and throws Madero in jail. Election day comes, and even though Madero has a lot of support, the “official” results have Diaz winning by a landslide.

Madero supports go nuts. Madero escapes from prison and flees to San Antonio, where he writes a document saying “The election is a fraud! Don’t recognize the results! Rise up against the government!” Meanwhile, one of his supporters, a guy known as Francisco “Poncho” Villa, leads rebels against Diaz and occupy cities in the north of Mexico. In 1911, Diaz sees the writing on the wall, and steps down. Madero, trying not to rock the boat any more than neccesary, names a more conservative ally of his named Francisco Leon de la Barra, interim president. This really pisses off another one of his supporters, a radical named Emilio Zapata. Madero assumes the office later that year, but a lot of his supporters are now worried about his commitment to his stated ideals.

So, in 1913, Madero is president, but he’s made a bunch of enemies. Among them is former President Diaz’s nephew. The young Diaz conspires with the commander of the armed forces, a guy named Victoriano Hueta, as well as Henry Wilson, US ambassador to Mexico. The younger Diaz rebels against him. Huerta then offers Madero his protection, but when he has Madero, arrests him and forces him to resign in favor of Huerta. Huerta then has Madero killed.

Huerta then starts arresting Madero’s supporters. Meanwhile, US President Wilson finds out what the ambassador did, recalls him, and demands that Huerta steps down and has free elections. Huerta refuses, and Wilson sends US Marines to occupy Vera Cruz.

Meanwhile, back in Mexico, one of Madero’s supporters, a guy named Venustasio Carranza calls for former President Madero’s supporters to rise up against Huerta, and calls for the creation of a giant revolutionary army that will force out Huerta and make the government give the people their constitutional rights.

Such an army is created and fights government forces, and then finally, at the Battle of Zacatecas, in 1914, the revolutionaries win and Huerta goes into exile. Carranza becomes the new president. His presidency wasn’t going to be an easy one, though, because he quickly made enemies of both conservatives, who liked Huerta’s government, and radicals like Zapata and Villa, who were upset that his government didn’t go far enough in land reform. Villa and Zapata launched a revolution against Carranza, with Villa leading rebels in the north and Zapata leading rebels in the south. Villa soon came into conflict with the US, which supported the Carranza government, and not only attacked US companies in Mexico, but led toops across the border to attack New Mexico. In response, President Wilson ordered the army into Mexico to hunt for Villa. They didn’t find him.

Meanwhile, in the south, Zapata is also rebelling against Carranza. Carranza responds by putting a bounty on Zapata’s head. Eventually, Zapata is assassinated by someone loyal to the Carranza regime.

Let me know if this helps at all, and if I should go on.

Oh please, go on! I’m curious about the PRI and the Twenties and Thirties in Mexico.


That’s very helpful and just enough detail without being too confusing.

Good job!

Phenomenal recap. I hardly retained anything from the Spanish class in which the Mexican Revolution was covered, but Captain Amazing’s summary did bring some things back.

I just wanted to share thisfamous photograph of Pancho Villa and Emilio Zapata celebrating their takeover of the Presidential Palace.

My professor described Villa as rather bewildered at the successful overthrow of the government. He really had his own crusade separate from Zapata’s and fate brought them together on this day. They were two very different men, with ultimately very different motivations.

Wow! Those months that I spent watching El Vuelo del Águila weren’t entirely wasted (other than the soap-opera-y aspects). And I thought it was only useful to catch glimpses of young Salma Hayek. :wink:

My wife recalls her grandmother recounting stories of walking into town, and being asked to “show her money.” Depending upon who was asking, she’d have to show the “correct” form of currency in order to demonstrate the “correct” loyalties.

There are a couple of episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles set during the Mexican Revolution; Harrison Ford makes a reference to them in Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.