The Mexican Revolution: A History of Power Struggles and Social Change

Quck answer

The Mexican Revolution was a major armed conflict that took place in Mexico between 1910 and 1920. It was a social and political revolution that resulted in significant changes in Mexican society and government. The revolution was sparked by a desire for land reform, political freedom, and an end to the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz. It involved various factions and leaders, including Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa, who fought against the government forces. The revolution led to the creation of a new constitution in 1917 and marked the beginning of a more democratic and inclusive Mexico.

Have you ever desired to visit Mexico? For numerous individuals, it is a captivating country to explore, with a rich history and vibrant traditions. However, few are aware that Mexico was once a nation torn apart by power-hungry rulers. This gave rise to a significant event known as the Mexican Revolution.

Prior to 1521, the region we now know as Mexico was inhabited by the Aztecs. In that year, Spanish conquerors arrived and seized control of the area. They used advanced weaponry to attack the Aztecs, and inadvertently brought diseases like smallpox with them. Once in power, the Spanish imposed Christianity, as well as social and economic systems, on the native Aztecs. For the next 300 years, the Spanish invaders and their descendants ruled over Mexico.

During this period, a caste system developed in Mexico. There were the criollos, individuals of Spanish descent, who were considered to be of upper-class status and held great importance. They were the landowners and controlled the economy. On the other hand, there were the mestizos, individuals of mixed blood, who constituted the majority but possessed the least power and wealth. This system, known as La Encomienda, was highly unjust. Only criollos were allowed to own land, while mestizos were treated poorly, forced to work the land, and subjected to treatment resembling that of enslaved individuals.

From 1810 to 1821, Mexico fought a war for its independence, ultimately freeing itself from Spanish and European rule. However, after the war, mestizos became increasingly dissatisfied with their treatment, believing that they deserved more power and land. A new constitution in 1857 promised greater equality, improved economic opportunities, and a fair justice system.

In 1876, Porfirio Díaz assumed the presidency. Initially, he appeared to be a leader with good intentions. Díaz implemented infrastructure projects such as the construction of roads and railroads, as well as economic policies aimed at improvement. However, as Díaz’s presidency continued, people began to question his grip on power.

Rural communities did not experience the same benefits as urban areas, as wealth appeared to be concentrated among the privileged few. In 1910, Díaz sought re-election and imprisoned his main opponent, Francisco Madero. Madero advocated for the restoration of democracy in a government that Díaz had transformed into a dictatorship.

With Díaz back in power in October 1910, the Mexican people lost hope for fair elections. Madero fled to the United States, where, on November 20, 1910, he called upon the people to revolt against Díaz. Although no major battles took place that day, it marked the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. Díaz resigned and left Mexico in May 1911, while Madero returned from exile and was elected president in the same year.

Over the next decade, numerous battles were fought, with prominent revolutionaries such as Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata, and Venustiano Carranza organizing their forces. Throughout the civil war, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans lost their lives.

A new constitution was established in 1917, introducing educational and labor reforms. Education became free and mandatory for the first time, and the government was urged to prioritize the social and economic well-being of all Mexicans. Many consider the war to have ended in 1920, although fighting continued for several more years. It was only in 1934, when Lázaro Cárdenas assumed the presidency, that democracy truly replaced dictatorial rule in Mexico.

The Mexican Revolution was the first conflict to be captured on film. It also initiated a program that utilized artists to depict the story of the revolution. Muralists such as Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco painted on the walls of public buildings. Their artworks portrayed the events of the war and documented the lives of ordinary people. These paintings served as an educational tool for a country with a high illiteracy rate prior to widespread access to schooling.

Corridos, which are narrative songs, shared stories from the revolution. Leaders were praised in these songs and they condemned rulers who mistreated the Mexican population. Each Mexican state has its own corrido that recounts significant events. These songs remain significant today in preserving Mexican history.

Try It Out

Ready to delve deeper into the Mexican Revolution? Invite a friend or family member to participate in the following activities:

  • The Library of Congress provides a wealth of primary source content related to the Mexican Revolution. Explore at least one section of the collection and share three or more helpful artifacts (images, drawings, recordings) that you discovered with a friend or family member to enhance their understanding of the information.
  • Read this article from ThoughtCo. (and utilize any other resources you have already explored). Reflect on the individuals mentioned in the article. Who do you believe was the most effective leader for Mexico? Why? Using materials you may already have or Canva, create a poster or infographic that highlights the ways in which this person played a significant role in the Mexican Revolution.
  • Compose a social media post about the Mexican Revolution (you can draft it on paper or a digital document first!). Find or create an image that you can accompany the post with. Your post should be informative and persuasive, enticing people to learn more about the Mexican Revolution! Discuss your content with a friend or family member—perhaps an adult can assist you in posting it on social media! If so, make sure to tag @Wonderopolis!

Wonder Sources

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