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Mexico during the early 20th century was a state of unease, high tension and resentment as a result of land exhaustion, political unrest, economic and social inequality. There is still some unease regarding the validity of the Mexican Revolution from 1910-1920. As there were various aspects that led to formation of three major factions; middle class individuals (educated professionals), urban workers and campesinos (rural agricultural residents), protesting social, economic and political inequalities as a result of Porfirio Diaz tyrannical dictatorship. Far too often it is the middle classes perspective that is the center of attention (most scholarly worked is focused on, contextually analyze, reinterpreted and celebrated). Most fail to see, that it was the poverty that these rural agricultural were oppressed with, that was the most decisive factor in the Revolution’s outcome and would later influence other Mexican political and social endeavors. For most of the Mexico’s history, it was these rural agricultural population that had endured lasting hardship and oppression. This demographic was composed of low skilled, barely educated (mostly illiterate) and indigenous individuals. Even prior to Diaz’s regime the campesinos were perpetuated to a permanent second-class status, of which they could not escape from. Diaz regime merely intensified their suffering “Diaz tried to keep him in a servile, obedient state that others might the economic development of Mexico”.
The Mexican and United States had very alike revolutions and because of this many of the mistakes and accomplishments of each revolution are also the same, but there were several differences in the revolutions as well. They were different with regards to both social and financial structures. Each faced a tyranny ruler across an ocean trying to govern them and use them only for natural resources. These tyrannies eventually lead to the revolutions in both colonies, and in the end lead to each colony’s freedom. But financially the United States was far more advanced then Mexico and was able to become more independent, whereas Mexico was incapable to do so. Another similarity between the two revolutions, both comparable and unique, is how each new country set up their governments and the governmental structures. The United States form of government was always a republic that was governed by a written document, which gave powers to all forms of the governments. Unlike the Mexican forms of government, which were both a monarchy.
For the middle class; educated, property owning and well off individuals (lawyers, educators, clerks and officials) the Revolution was a mere protest opposition movement against the Mexican bourgeois (close friends of Diaz) whose continued dominance in wealth (major stake in the agriculture industry) and the political arena (continued Diaz regime). They were still getting their share of wealth and political influence, they just weren’t getting what they believed was a enough portion they deserved. Motivated by greed and anger they blanketed their true intentions with superficial meaningful social and political reform “ they demanded that the government respect the Constitution comply with Reform Laws (which included the separation of church and state and the suppression of religious education) and restore democracy.” The lower class with the little resources they had, had the most to lose as opposed to the middle class who were in relatively good positions, but merely wanted more. Although Diaz is often depicted as the maleficent authoritarian commander. It is crucial to point that during his reign, Mexico saw substantial economic and progressive development “railways spanned the country, mines and export crops flourished; the cities acquired paved streets, electric light, trams and drains.” Progression that even the same middle class that revolted against him gained (they just wanted more). However, this all came at a price and it was the rural class who were burdened with the development cost.
In order for Mexico to sustain its modernization and keep their local and foreign economies running smoothly, they grew largely depended on its agricultural industry; cash crops, manual labor from rural workers and land had been sold to foreign investors (oil industry). To meet the demands of production these rural workers endured hardships; overworked, their own land was owned by corporation and politicians (who made them work for them) and unfair pay 3 made it so dire that the very people producing the products couldn’t even afford them “the facility wage for an unskilled laborer in Juarez was four pesos…a plate of food cost one peso.” It was this overproduction for modernization that led to barren land “ much land was badly degraded after decades of intensive use…requiring rehabilitation…harvest in the area…were so paltry that they could no longer cover the cost of seed for planting.” Despite all this Diaz still demanded his tribute.
Some would argue the Mexican Revolution would not have happened had the middle class not formally revolted and mobilized first. After their leader, Francisco I. Madero was wrongfully thrown in prison and Diaz won his reelection campaign through corruption and coercion. Although they may have fired the first shot, it was these rural agricultural workers that drove and preserved the revolution. Without their passion and convictions that guided them (fair land distribution, liberty and control over the mean of production) the revolution may not have been able; shift regimes, workers’ rights, implement social, economic and political reforms “energized by years of social upheaval and assembled in institutions such as ejidos, unions, cooperatives and political organizations capable of making claims on the state and challenging the jurisdiction over natural resources.”
It was this lower-class faction that castes the widest net of influence and motivated others to join their causes. Rural rebel leaders like Emiliano Zapata who led the Liberation Army of the South (comprised mostly of rural residents from the city of Morelos) and Francisco “Pancho” Villa commander of the North Division, that became beloved and respected figures. Their popular caudillo reputation of defiance against impossible odds, good deeds and ideologies struck a chord with those they encountered and inspired others to join their cause “ Zapata led 4 the villagers of Morelos to recover land lost to the sugar estates…Zapata himself remained a man of the people, indifferent to formal ideologies, content with a traditional Catholicism, fiercely loyal to his Morelos followers as they were to him. Later would their biographies become of great interest to folk tales and film production “Zapatista Revolution, 1914, for instance, was billed as a “sentimental as well interesting” film about the horrors of war.”
These movements also allowed for a shift gender roles and relation. Specifically, for women, as they were no longer were women isolated to single gender role (as caretakers) or seen second to men. Rather they were seen as valuable assets and allies to the Revolution, that could be just as resourceful as men “there was a real awakening in that period that provided women of the twenties and thirties with space for sexual redefinition.” The struggle for gender equality would not be an easy battle, as men still dominated this area. However, the role rural women played for the Revolution would prove to pave the way for other women.
It should be noted that these forces although well meaning and courageous did have their shortcomings. For instance the vulnerability of children during the time was taken advantage of (poverty, orphan). If their parents were poor, there position was no much better and with some of them turning orphans after losing their parents, their situation became even dire. Rural rebels took advantage of these condition, to encourage children to enlist, as a way to live “food shortage were rampant, adolescentes attached themselves to soldiers to avoid starvation” (Leyva 428). These factions also held mandatory drafts “la lleva” “had long been used in the process of Mexican state-building. Poor men and boys…were conscripted…all factions, revolutionary and federal used compulsory service to fill their ranks.” And then there were those youth who simply enlisted on their own recognizance based on inspiration to do the right thing, mimic their heroes Villa and Zapata and serve their country. The story of Juan Soldado was a popular tale publicly distributed, to incite the youth to revolt as this protagonist did.
Zapata and Villa were locally idealized for their demenors (as heroes of the revolution), however there were those who perceived their approaches as unorthodox, radical and were therefore deemed dangerous for modern society that wanted to move away from primitive violence. Take for instance when rebel forces would station in particular regions, there would be little regard for environmental protection or maintenance, especially if the area was seized from federal control (rebels decimated areas as a symbolic gesture) “Zapatistas hordes from areas south of Texcoco stole supplies and allowed their horses to eat young plants and reers” In fact later financial efforts were directed towards repairing many of the damages caused by the rural rebels. The rural forces inability assimilate into contemporary Mexican society would prove to be their downfall “ redoubtable revolutionaries ‘and guerilla fighters often disqualified them from subsequent political careers; they were provincial, ill-educated, wedded to a traditional, rural way of life which in many respects was on the way out” Although grateful for the reinforcement, the middle class were not so drawn to the poor rural workers ideologies or their demands (fair land distribution, liberty and control over the means of production). As they felt it was to narrow and locally focused “turned their back on agrarian reform and socialist education…pursued macroeconomics policies which favored business and sharpened inequalities” They were much more interested in broad based solutions that would be beneficial to all of Mexico. Political change that relied on intellectual and strong economic support. That in turn Mexico could retain its sovereignty and competed with the United States
For the rural agricultural workers, the revolution was more than a shift in cultural and political ties. But an effort to; empower communities (self-governance), control their means of production and fair land distribution. Rural residents’ demands were reflected in solutions that came from the Revolution. The 1911 Treaty of Ciudad Juarez exiled Diaz however its provision that preserved a Diaz’s congress and military would prove fatal to Madero who would later be killed and overthrown by military general Victoriano Huerta who would then disposed by Venustiano Carranza who was conservative than Villa and Zapata and later wage Civil War against them. as well as the rural rebels that would later be reduced. Historian Ramon Ruiz argues that the peasant revolution should be seen as a revolution but rather as rebellion. Drawing upon Russia, China and Cuban revolutions that achieved alterations in basic structure of society, wealth and income. For Ruiz all this revolution accomplished was implement six year terms, overthrow Diaz, agrarian reforms and somewhat alter societal and economic ideologies “a failed proletarian/socialist revolution, which challenged, but could not defeat, an established bourgeois order, and which has left a legacy of ‘intense class conflict.” The regime after the Revolution may have been more powerful as before, as it maintained Diaz congress and military along with new radical change.
Zapata and Villa may not have been no Leon Trotsky or anything that resembles him, they were in their right crucial figure heads and much more than inspirations. In fact, ideologies like Zapatismo spawned from the rural rebel’s success in mobilization and passionate determination “similar type, fought for the implementation of an alternative vision, which could elicit fierce popular allegiance” (8). Rural rebels may have lacked formal education and ideological composure compared to the middle class but they were more conscious on the inequality and instability in Mexico and fought for social justice and equality “research reinforces the notion of a popular peasant revolution not only by virtue of simple head-counting, but also by analyzing the modes, continuities and discourse of peasant protest” Historian Alan Knight argues although rural rebels we unable to seize formal power their ability to mobilize and lead a protest against a powerful regime is something that will have a lasting impression.
Despite their defeat, their rural demands would continue linger and go on to later influence various Mexican initiatives. Various agrarian reforms were implemented as the government began to realize how much of an asset these agricultural industries were “agricultural production was a key site for the institution of new social forms” They were the foundation of their economy and in order for them to maintain stable and profitable the workers had to have must some say in their production “Carranza for example distributed 292,000 acres of land, the following six administrations distributed 16,575,000 acres mostly marginal lands…Cardenas in 1934 that the pace accelerated: 39,558,000 acres…more than double the amount under previous administrations” Not only was land distributed but the government began to federal fund agriculture education and preservation “A 1946 Department of education circular declared that trade unions, agricultural collectives, cultural groups, civic centers and women’s club should all be active sites of soil and water conservation activities with an eye towards investing in all citizens in the long-term well-being of agricultural resources
Through agricultural training, the Mexican government was able to realize that education was a crucial aspect for influence, so began the initiative for public education “the first policy 8 decision by President Alvaro Obregon was to increase government spending on education from five million dollars a year to fifty-five million” Not to mention with the rural rebel’s exposure came to light their harsh conditions that passionately ignited them to revolt. Which led workers’ rights; fair pay, adequate working conditions, reasonable working hours and unions “workers and unions emerged from the revolution exhilarated and emboldened by their experience of organization during the fighting and by the guarantees of labor rights in Article 123 of the new constitution. The growth of the labor movement”
The rural agricultural influence would go on to later influence popular culture beyond the film industry, that used biographic films of rural rebel leader Zapata and Villa as a propaganda measure. The artist was compelled to depict these rural residents uprising, as to them they represented a popular yet forgotten class “Mexican land, it’s soil, crops, and the diverse lifestyle and cultures it supported. Mexican Revolutionary artist like Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, Maria Izquierdo and Juan O’ Gorman” Social Movements also spawned for the Revolution tales, as hidden factions felt compelled to voice their opinion for social justice and equality against unfavorable situations, as did the rural class. Alan Knight points out these social movements were comprised of older generations that were different that previous generation as the education availability made it possible for them to enlighten themselves. They were drawn mostly to “see history from the bottom up; it was time for los de abajo to get their deserved attention” As opposed to elites and middle class that had long been the focus of attention.
The middle class and urban worker revolutionary factions should by no means be disregarded from the Revolutionary narrative. Although their intentions were somewhat skewed (corrupted) they still wanted social, economic and political alterations. Rather their roles should be supportive allies, of the campesinos. Who as well by no means should be perceived as these perfect heroic movements they too possessed their flaws, however despite that their flaws their contributions were far more crucial and everlasting.
With all these being said about the Mexican revolution the biggest and most important difference was that the United States revolutionaries were able to unite because they had a essential economic epicenter, whereas in Mexico there weren’t any real dominant ports or cities that were easily accessible to the rest of the world markets. Mexico also did not expand their products like the southern United States. Mexico’s only products were mining and agriculture, which put them at the hands of all the other countries. The northern part of the United States on the other hand developed and were able to produce many different goods, which kept them from becoming reliant on one product worldly demand. On the other hand, the Mexican industrial revolution got started when the Banco de Avio was started in 1830, which offered help from the government for the different industries. However, the industrial revolution in Mexico, unlike in the United States, was very slow moving, because the industries had no real stable internal market and that they encountered many shortages in capital.
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