THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION AND A NEW POLITICAL MODEL FOR MEXICO
THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION
What were the causes of the Mexican Revolution of 1910?
Historians have argued for a century about which were the most important causes of the Mexican Revolution. Although they do not agree on their relative importance, they do agree on what the fundamental causes of the revolution were. The weight given to each causal factor varies according to the geographic region and social class of a given group of revolutionaries. Nonetheless, the underlying causes of the revolution are reflected in articles of the 1917 Constitution.
Many of the Mexicans who lived in northern Mexico and participated in the revolution did so due to their experiences with foreigners who owned mines, large properties, and railroads. Working-class Mexicans employed by foreign-owned companies typically viewed themselves as second-class citizens. For example, those who worked for the railroads were not given skilled engineering positions but instead were assigned to unskilled positions. One of the goals of mining engineers graduating from the National School of Engineering as late as the 1940s was to occupy all of the professional engineering positions in every foreign-owned mine in Mexico. This antiforeign sentiment is reflected in the fact that the Constitution assigned subsoil rights to the nation, rather than viewing them as private property.
A second cause of the revolution, from the viewpoint of working Mexicans, was the lack of labor rights. During the Porfiriato, from 1884 to 1911, although Diaz occasionally permitted and even mediated peaceful strikes, negotiating with moderate labor leaders, his administration was renowned for suppressing labor strikes, particularly during the last decade of his administration. Two such occurrences included the Cananea mining demonstration in Sonora in 1906, when Arizona Rangers crossed the border as strikebreakers, and the notorious Rio Blanco Mill strike in Puebla in 1909, during which dozens of workers lost their lives. These and other labor activities and strikes led to numerous demands for improved working conditions for all Mexicans; these demands included a limit on the number of hours workers could be required to put in each day, a minimum percentage of Mexican workers in foreign-owned plants, and minimum wages. The most important revolutionary demand, which became Article 123 of the Constitution, was that labor be granted the legal right to strike. For rural workers, both mestizo and indigenous, who were typically exploited to an even greater extent than their urban counterparts, the revolution meant the redistribution of land to peasants who wanted their own farms. Land was a central issue for the men and women who supported Emiliano Zapata, a leader who emerged from Morelos. Such abuses as debt servitude and company stores (owned by the landowner), which monopolized workers' access to necessary goods, were also prohibited in the revolutionary articles incorporated in the Constitution.
Additionally, middle-class Mexicans, professionals, and intellectuals were strongly interested in political change, either because they favored a democratic polity or because they harbored political ambitions themselves and hoped for more upward political mobility as a consequence of civil violence. The most important political principles, advocated strongly by Francisco I. Madero, who had opposed Diaz in the 1910 presidential election, were effective suffrage and a ban on continuous leadership, referred to as "no reelection." The phrase "Effective Suffrage, No Reelection" appeared at the bottom of every piece of official correspondence from the federal government until well into the 1970s, indicative of its symbolic importance for postrevolutionary leaders. Many politicized Mexicans also wanted municipal autonomy, having experienced the intervention of authoritarian state or federal entities.