Mexican Revolution

The Mexican Revolution (Spanish: Revolución Mexicana, 1910–1920) was a major revolution that included a sequence of armed regional struggles that transformed Mexican culture and government. Although the regime of President Porfirio Díaz was increasingly unpopular after 31 years, there was no foreboding that a revolution was about to break out in 1910.[6] The regime failed to find a controlled solution to the issue of presidential succession, resulting in a power struggle among competing elites, and elites and the middle classes that sometimes involved the "masses".[7] This provided the opportunity in some places for agrarian insurrection, most prominently in Morelos under Emiliano Zapata.[8]

Mexican Revolution

Collage of the Mexican Revolution
Date20 November 1910 – 21 May 1920
(9 years, 6 months and 1 day)
Location
Result

Revolutionary victory

Full results
Belligerents

Forces in power:
1910–1911:
Porfiriato

Revolutionary forces:

1910–1911:
Maderistas
Orozquistas
Magonistas
Zapatistas
1911–1913:
Maderistas
Federales
1911–1913:
Reyistas
Felicistas
Orozquistas
Magonistas
Zapatistas
1913–1914:
Huertistas
Federales

1913–1914:
Constitutionalists

1914–1915:
Conventionists

1914–1915:
Carrancistas

1915–1920:
Carrancistas

Supported by
 United States (1910–1913)
 Germany (c. 1913–1919)

1915–1920:
Villistas
Zapatistas
Felicistas
Forces led by Aureliano Blanquet
Forces led by Álvaro Obregón

Supported by
 United States (1913–1918)
United Kingdom (1916–1918)
Commanders and leaders
1910–1911:
Porfirio Díaz
Ramón Corral
Manuel Mondragón
José Yves Limantour
1910–1911:
Francisco I. Madero
Pascual Orozco
Bernardo Reyes
Pancho Villa
Emiliano Zapata
Ricardo Flores Magón
1911–1913:
Francisco I. Madero 
José María Pino Suárez 
Pancho Villa
Mateo Almanza
Venustiano Carranza
Victoriano Huerta (Secretly sided with Reyes against Madero until Reyes died in 1913. After Reyes was killed, Huerta launched his own revolution.)
Aureliano Blanquet (Also secretly sided with Reyes until his death.)
1911–1913:
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 the killing of Reyes in 1913.)
Emiliano Zapata (Sided with Orozco until Orozco sided with Huerta.)
Ricardo Flores Magón (POW)
1913–1914:
Victoriano Huerta
Aureliano Blanquet
Pascual Orozco (  in 1915)
Manuel Mondragón (Until June 1913)
Francisco León de la Barra
Francisco S. Carvajal
1913–1914:
Venustiano Carranza
Pancho Villa
Emiliano Zapata
Álvaro Obregón
Plutarco Elías Calles
1914–1915:
Pancho Villa
Emiliano Zapata
Eulalio Gutiérrez
1914–1915:
Venustiano Carranza
Álvaro Obregón
1915–1920:
Venustiano Carranza 
Álvaro Obregón (until 1917)
1915–1920:
Pancho Villa
Emiliano Zapata 
Félix Díaz
Aureliano Blanquet 
Álvaro Obregón (from 1917)
Strength
Counter-revolutionary forces:
250,000 – 300,000
Revolutionary forces:
255,000 – 290,000
Casualties and losses
2 Germans killed 500 Americans killed
1.7?[3] to 2.7[4] million Mexican deaths (civilian and military)
700,000[5] to 1,117,000[5] civilian dead (using 2.7 million figure)

The sparking event was the 1910 presidential election. Díaz had initially said he would not run again for election, setting off a flurry of political activity, but he then reneged and ran again at age 80. Wealthy landowner Francisco I. Madero challenged Díaz and gained considerable popular support. The election, however, was rigged in Díaz's favor, and after he won, Madero called for an armed revolt in the Plan of San Luis Potosí.[9] Armed conflict broke out in earnest in November 1910 starting in northern Mexico, led by Madero, Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa. These Maderista forces received support from portions of the middle class, the peasantry, and organized labor,[9] enabling them to pursue a military campaign in the north, ending with Orozco's capture of Ciudad Juárez in May 1911. Díaz was forced out of office by the Treaty of Ciudad Juárez in which he resigned and went into exile, new elections were scheduled for the fall, and Francisco León de la Barra became the interim president. Madero's advisers warned against allowing the old regime to linger in power, since the revolutionaries had won the contest against it in armed combat. Madero ignored them and the elections took place in October 1911 in a free and fair vote. Madero overwhelmingly won the presidential contest and took office in November. He won a political victory, coming to power via the constitutional process, but he did not make revolutionary changes.

Once in power (November 1911-February 1913), Madero's implemented a number of changes, such as establishing freedom of the press and the right of labor to organize and strike, but he did not move on land reform angering many peasants. Opposition rapidly grew, from old supporters of the Díaz regime, foreign governments and investors; revolutionaries who had brought about Díaz's ouster but whom Madero dismissed in favor of the Federal Army they had defeated; peasants who felt betrayed that Madero did not implement agrarian reform; and urban workers who did not see Madero helping their interests enough. Peasants revolted, urban workers' strikes grew in number, and the press newly freed from Díaz's censorship chronicled Madero's failings. Madero kept his hold on power with the aid of the Federal Army, but in February 1913, the army in a conspiracy with political opponents to Madero and the support of the U.S. Ambassador, staged a successful coup d'etat. In the Ten Tragic Days, Madero and Vice President Pino Suárez were forced to resign and were assassinated, with General Victoriano Huerta becoming president of Mexico.

Huerta's counterrevolutionary regime (February 1913-July 1914) came to power supported by elites the old regime, the army, foreign investors, and many foreign governments.[10] Huerta was almost immediately opposed by Governor of Coahuila, Venustiano Carranza, who assembled a coalition of northerners to oppose Huerta, becoming the "First Chief" of the Constitutionalist Army. A bloody war between Huerta's Federal Army and the northern revolutionary forces broke out. Although Huerta's Federal Army had more troops than the revolutionary forces, the revolutionaries in northern Mexico were increasingly successful, particularly as the U.S. policy tilted toward them, allowing arms sales. The Constitutionalist Army led by two brilliant generals, Álvaro Obregón of Sonora and Pancho Villa of Chihuahua. Peasant forces in Morelos led by Emiliano Zapata had continuously opposed the regimes of Díaz, Madero, and Huerta, none of whom had been responsive to their demands for land reform. Huerta resigned and went into exile in July 1914 and the Federal Army was dissolved.

The northern revolutionary winners of the conflict with Huerta met in the Convention of Aguascalientes, attempting to reach political agreement about power. The Constitutionalist faction led by Carranza had split, with Villa allying with Zapata and Obregón remaining loyal to Carranza. Mexico was again plunged into a civil war, this time between the winning factions (1914–15). Carranza, with Obregón's military leadership, the support of the urban working class emerged as the victor in 1915. Obregón's army defeated Villa's in the Battle of Celaya in April, ending Villa as an effective opponent to the Constitutionalist. Zapata's armies were defeated as well, and they resumed guerrilla warfare in Morelos.[11]

The sequence of armed conflicts saw an evolution of military technology from Villa's old style cavalry charges to Obregón's use of machine-gun nests protected by barbed wire.[12] One major result of the revolution was the dissolution in 1914 of Mexico's Federal Army, which Madero had kept intact when elected in 1911 and Huerta had used to oust Madero. Although the conflict was primarily a civil war, foreign powers, which had important economic and strategic interests in Mexico, figured in the outcome of Mexico's power struggles. The United States played an especially significant role.[13] The losses amongst Mexico's population of 15 million were high, but numerical estimates vary a great deal. Perhaps 1.5 million people died, and nearly 200,000 refugees fled abroad, especially to the United States.[3][14]

The constitutional convention was called in late 1916 and held in Querétaro. One historian calls it "the most important single event in the history of the Revolution."[15] The February 1917 promulgation of the Mexican Constitution of 1917 set new nationalist, social, and economic goals for Mexico, curtailed the power of some foreign interests, and enhanced the power of the central state.[16] "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. Capitalism was retained and bourgeois reform enacted, not dissimilar to what happened in Peru, Chile and Argentina without civil war.[17]

The death toll and displacement of population due to the Revolution is difficult to calculate. and the economic damage it caused lasted for years. All the major leaders of the Revolution were later assassinated (Madero in 1913, Zapata in 1919, Carranza in 1920, Villa in 1923, and Obregón in 1928). The nation would not regain the level of development reached in 1910 for another twenty years.[18] Although social movements emerged during the revolution, "their defeat or subordination mattered more."[19] At the very least, it was a decade-long civil war, bringing to power a new political elite that ruled Mexico through a single political party until the presidential election of 2000.