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By 1800 many Mexicans had grown restless with colonial rule and formed groups dedicated to discussing material progress and eventual self-government. They grew so emboldened that upon hearing the news in 1808 of the forced abdication of the monarchs in Spain in favor of Joseph Bonaparte, they were ready to seize power from the pro-Creole viceroy José de Iturrigaray, perhaps with his support. Word of their plans leaked out, however, and the Spaniards staged a preemptive coup and replaced the viceroy with one they could control.


Independence wars soon followed, triggered by another betrayal of creole conspirators. On 16 September 1810, a parish priest in the town of Dolores, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, proclaimed the famed Grito de Dolores, usually recorded as "Viva la independencia y mueran los gachupines" ("Long live independence and death to the Spaniards") despite the fact that it was never written down. According to Juan Aldama, present at discussions prior to the grito, Hidalgo meant to rally a fighting force under the banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe pledging loyalty to Ferdinand VII and vowing to protect New Spain from the French usurpers of the Spanish crown, sentiments akin to those of the Tupac Amaru II rebellion in Peru ("Death to Bad Government"), for example. Secondarily, Hidalgo was seeking to avoid arrest for treason and certain execution. When his coconspirator, Colonel Ignacio Allende, was unable to mobilize local units of the colonial army on such short notice, Hidalgo was forced to rely on a large and unorganized army of rebellious agricultural workers seeking to redress centuries-old grievances that had grown worse in the eighteenth century. This fighting force would become an important factor in the development of the Mexican state as it struggled to defend its sovereignty against a string of foreign invaders.

After Hidalgo's followers had pillaged San Miguel and Celaya, they approached the silver-rich town of Guanajuato. Its intendant, Juan Antonio de Riaño, refused to surrender the city, and Spanish-born residents took up positions at the Alhóndiga de Granaditas, the public granary. The city soon fell, and for the next day and a half Guanajuato was terrorized by looters and those eager for revenge. During the following month, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí, and Valladolid (now Morelia) surrendered in terror before the insurgent forces. Hidalgo's forces had just reached Toluca on 29 October when they faced 2,500 royalist troops under the command of Colonel Torcuato Trujillo at the Battle of Monte de las Cruces. Although they won the battle, the insurgents suffered severe losses and retreated on 3 November. By this time most Mexicans, including Indians living in indigenous communities, had refused to support Hidalgo. Subsequently Spanish forces under General Félix Calleja defeated the insurgents at Puente de Calderón on the Lerma River, some thirty-five miles east of Guadalajara. Following this defeat, the mass of troops deserted, and on 21 March 1811, royalists captured Hidalgo and Allende at Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Baján and marched them in chains to Chihuahua, where both were executed and their heads hung on public display until 1821.

Creoles still maintained their hopes for eventual self-government despite their revulsion at Hidalgo's tactics. Their optimism was bolstered by the Spanish struggle for independence from the oppressive rule of Napoleonic France. Liberals in the peninsula called a cortes in Cádiz in 1810; from June through August 1810, Mexicans from Yucatán to Santa Fe held popular elections for the first time to select their delegates. The Cortes of Cádiz, which remained in session from 24 September 1810 until 20 September 1813, divided New Spain into seven provincial deputations and established the constitutional Cabildo. Both Viceroy Francisco Javier Venegas and his successor, Félix Calleja, reacted to these changes with repression and the imprisonment of creole leaders. The insurgency continued under the leadership of Ignacio Rayón, who tried to make peace with Calleja, and then José María Morelos y Pavón. Morelos, a parish priest from southern Mexico, carefully maneuvered his small, well-disciplined army toward an encirclement of Mexico City. In the spring of 1813, in order to cope with the reaction to the Constitution of 1812, he called an eight-man Constitutional Congress in Chilpancingo (in present-day Guerrero). General Calleja and his troops broke through the encirclement of Mexico City and captured areas to the south and west, forcing the delegates to flee to Apatzingán, where they approved their constitution on 22 October 1814. Meanwhile, Ferdinand VII was restored to the Spanish throne and promptly nullified the Constitution of 1812 on 4 May 1814. Between 1811 and 1815, 15,000 Spanish troops had arrived in New Spain to restore peace to the colony. In the autumn of 1815, Colonel Agustín de Iturbide captured Morelos, who was executed in December.

Historians previously believed that nothing much occurred in the independence struggle from 1815 to 1820, but further research has produced a complex picture of guerrilla struggle "led" by Vicente Guerrero and Guadalupe Victoria, among others, and Spanish defense in a hostile environment with troops frequently changing sides. This was a difficult period for Mexicans, who were forced to live under a repressive state of siege with some creoles continuing to appear loyal to the crown while supplying aid to the insurgents. A liberal revolution in Spain in 1820 reignited hope, however, with the constitution restored and the Cortes convened once more with delegates from New Spain in attendance. Provincial deputations and constitutional cabildos appeared while Mexicans at the Cortes proposed autonomy for New World colonies.

The Spanish Cortes was unable to accept even autonomy, so creoles seized their opportunity, profiting from regional rage against Mexico City and devised a compromise for independence. They convinced General Agustín de Iturbide to put forward what would become known as the Plan De Iguala, promising a constitutional monarchy, Roman Catholicism as the state religion, and the equality of creoles and Spaniards. Iturbide then persuaded Guerrero, on 24 February 1821, to create a united force, the Army of the Three Guarantees, under Iturbide's command. By 24 August 1821, Viceroy Juan O'Donojú signed the Treaty of Córdoba, recognizing Mexican sovereignty.


Iturbide and O'Donojú immediately selected a regency to act as an executive with Iturbide as presiding officer to govern with an independent Congress, but an empty treasury, mountains of debts, the devastation of the silver mines, and an internal economy ruined by eleven years of war created serious obstacles for the new nation. Iturbide intimidated Congress and then declared himself emperor on 18 May 1822, only to abdicate less than a year later when the provinces rose against him. After over a year of parliamentary and regional struggle, a Constituent Congress issued the Constitution of 1824, proclaiming Mexico a federal republic with an elected president and Congress. That year and the next, Mexico, like other newly independent Latin American states, received substantial loans from British banking houses. Buoyed by the additional capital, President Guadalupe Victoria (1824–1829) became the only president to serve a full term in office until 1848.

For most of the rest of the century, Mexico could not collect enough revenue to pay for its governments. The years from 1824 to 1834 saw the construction of a federalist regime complete with state militias. During that time the nation established diplomatic relations with the major powers of Europe and the United States. Membership in Masonic lodges formed the basis for rudimentary political parties that gained in strength and ferocity following the passage of a law expelling Spaniards on 20 December 1827. When Manuel Gómez Pedraza was elected president in 1828, the followers of his opponent, Vicente Guerrero, staged the Revolt of the Acordada that included the sacking of a Spanish-owned shopping arcade, the Parían, and brought Guerrero to power.

During this time, Mexico followed up on a Spanish plan to bring foreigners to colonize its largely unsettled northern frontier. In 1822 it permitted Moses Austin and his son Stephen to bring up to 300 Catholic families to Texas, provided they agreed to live under Mexican law. Conditions were so enticing that immigrants, many of them Americans with their slaves, soon outnumbered Mexican settlers. In 1829 Guerrero outlawed slavery, and in April of the following year Congress prohibited further immigration from contiguous nations.

As the money from foreign loans ran out and Mexico defaulted on its repayments, its treasuries began short-term borrowing at high rates of interest from merchants known as Agiotistas, using customs revenues as guarantees of payment. Inevitably that system only depleted treasuries further. Concern over the presence of Spaniards reignited when Spain attempted to reconquer its former colony by force, landing troops at Tampico in July 1829, but a combination of heat, disease, and water shortages helped the Mexican army under the command of Manuel Mier y Terán and Antonio López de Santa Anna to defeat the invaders. Following further expulsions of Spaniards, other concerns became paramount. Mexican liberals split into federalists, who favored the creation of a more secular society and the ending of clerical mortmain, and centralists, who wanted to strengthen national authority over the states and protect the church's traditional privileges. In December 1829, the centralists under General Anastasio Bustamante rebelled against Guerrero and took power. They established a repressive regime with a censored press and borrowed heavily to preserve army support. During their rule, former president Guerrero was assassinated, the last Mexican president to suffer such a fate until 1913.

In 1832 a coalition of groups overthrew Bustamante and elected Santa Anna president. As would become his custom over the next fifteen years, the new president quickly retired to his hacienda, Manga de Clavo, in Veracruz, while Vice President Valentín Gómez Farías and his radical and liberal supporters attempted to create what they thought would be a more progressive Mexico by substantially reducing the power of the Catholic Church. They proposed that the church no longer hold a monopoly over education, be forced to sell nonessential property and pay a sales tax to the government, and relinquish its other special privileges. Unfortunately, Gómez Farías and his supporters alienated many potential supporters by persecuting former officials both in the capital and in the states. Perhaps influenced by clerical pronouncements that a virulent cholera epidemic had been caused by such impious activity, a countrywide outcry ensued, drawing Santa Anna into the fray. Although the movement started out simply as a way to stop the reforms, ultimately it led to a renunciation of federalism altogether and the enactment of the centralist Constitution of 1836.

The period from 1836 to 1846 was the heyday of Mexico's first epoch of centralism; but continued excessive borrowing, church-state controversies, and foreign invasions undermined Mexican hopes for stability. The emerging centralist regime prompted serious revolts in Zacatecas and Texas. The army, partly comprised of unsuspecting "recruits" gathered along the way, successfully defeated the federalists in Zacatecas and then marched 1,500 miles to San Antonio de Béxar (present-day San Antonio), where the men led by Santa Anna captured the Franciscan mission known as the Alamo in March 1836. Later, Santa Anna ordered the execution of all prisoners taken at the battle of Goliad, strengthening ill will toward Mexico in the United States. In April 1836, after losing the battle of San Jacinto, Santa Anna "agreed" to the independence of Texas from the Mexican nation, an agreement that Congress in Mexico City was quick to disavow. Since no territory had ever abandoned Mexican sovereignty before, Mexicans assumed that one day they would regain Texas, while Americans were in no hurry to admit a vast new slave state to the Union and quickly recognized the independence of the Republic of Texas in March 1837.

In 1837, Anastasio Bustamante returned to the presidency and created policies designed to favor moneylenders at the expense of the treasury. In a sense this was a calculated maneuver in which agiotistas were reimbursed so they would lend again, leading to that point when the Treasury was finally empty and the lenders had nothing but worthless promissory notes. In 1838 Mexico was invaded yet again, this time by the French ostensibly seeking revenge for the damage of a countryman's pastry shop during a revolt. Santa Anna led one of the armies that successfully drove the French out of Veracruz during this Pastry War; in so doing, he lost a leg and somewhat rehabilitated his reputation.

The 1840s saw a considerable unrest throughout the nation; the economy declined, unemployment grew, and crime and social upheaval increased. Consequently, national leaders insisted upon creating a strong government that might restore order and economic prosperity. As a result, a hierarchical and corporate political structure embodied in the 1843 Constitution (the Bases Orgánicas) replaced the centralist constitution of 1836 (the Siete Leyes), but it, too, failed to achieve either goal.


In early 1845 the U.S. Congress voted to annex the independent Republic of Texas, and President James K. Polk sent John Slidell to Mexico City to negotiate for the Rio Grande (Río Bravo in Mexico) as its southern boundary as well as for the sale of present-day California and part of New Mexico. Word leaked out, and the Mexicans refused to meet with Slidell. President Polk ordered U.S. troops south of the Nueces River, which the Mexicans considered part of their country. Since he could not buy the land he wanted, Polk was prepared to fight for it and had written the declaration of hostilities before news had even arrived of the 9 May 1846 clash near the Rio Grande between Mexican forces and troops led by General Zachary Taylor. On 13 May 1846 the U.S. Congress declared war on Mexico. It was an unequal contest; the United States had a much larger population and resource base on which to draw, its troops had modern cannon and other weaponry, plenty of ammunition, superb leadership from West Point graduates like Winfield Scott and Robert E. Lee, whose scouting expertise proved invaluable, as well as battle-tested veterans like Taylor. The troops received training before setting out; even the volunteers carried their own guns and were skilled shots. Although the Mexicans had more soldiers, they had been recruited as usual, had no training, and minimal equipment and supplies. Taylor (Army of the Center) marched through the central north, capturing Monterrey and Saltillo, while Stephen Kearny (Army of the West) went through New Mexico and then divided his troops in thirds. One group, headed by Colonel Sterling Price, remained in Santa Fe; a second, under Alexander Doniphan, took Chihuahua, and Kearny marched up California. In March 1847, Winfield Scott (Army of Occupation) landed in Veracruz and laid siege to the city. Having taken the port after heavy shelling, he pushed his way to Mexico City. Although six heroic Mexican cadets threw themselves off Chapultepec Castle rather than surrender (Los Niños Heroes), American troops occupied the capital in September. Throughout the war, Mexico was hampered by divided leadership; for example, when Gómez Farías, vice president once again, decreed that the church provide 15 million pesos for the war effort, clerical leaders paid soldiers to overthrow the government (the Revolt of Los Polkos). American troops finally left the capital in May 1848 after the ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which gave the United States 55 percent of Mexican territory (including present-day California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and parts of Utah, Nevada, and Colorado) in exchange for an indemnity of $15 million, used to repay foreign and moneylender loans.


By the time U.S. troops had left Mexico City, the nation's population had grown from 4.5 million in 1800 to 7.5 million, one-third of whom were Indians living in small, often isolated, rural villages. Mestizos inhabited small rural towns, spoke Spanish, and participated in a more market-oriented economy. Few rural mestizos or Indians held loyalties outside their immediate area (the Patria Chica). Provincial cities grew rapidly: Puebla had a population of 71,000 creoles, mestizos, and some Indians, with Guadalajara a close second; nearly all boasted theaters, bullrings, bookstores, a wide array of foreign and domestic merchandise, and daily or weekly newspapers. By 1852, 170,000 people lived in Mexico City, where the rich, professionals, shopkeepers, artisans, and the lame, infirm, and indigent known collectively as Léperos mingled as they emerged from the opera, the university, the Art Academy of San Carlos, the botanical garden, the libraries, the museums, or sumptuous private residences, or simply went about their business.

Although the society was patriarchal, women retained control over their dowries and held property in their own right. Like their sisters everywhere, they went to primary school in great numbers but rarely received a fraction of the secondary education afforded males. Widows often ran their own lives, families, and businesses without the intervention of male relatives.

The presence of U.S. troops in the Mexican capital provoked great soul-searching among Mexican intellectuals. A new generation of liberals followed their predecessors in blaming the church for its refusal to instill individual responsibility and its stranglehold over Mexican society, while their opponents, now calling themselves conservatives, believed that Mexico had gone astray because it tried to follow foreign models while neglecting national institutions. At first it appeared that Mexico had found the road to stability, for its first postwar president, José Joaquín de Herrera, served his full term. But when the indemnity funds ran out, the same pattern of revolt began once more when Santa Anna returned to the presidency in 1853. The new administration sold off a strip of territory known as La Mesilla for $10 million to the United States (the Gadsden Purchase) that it needed for a transcontinental railway.

Santa Anna, mired in the past, planned to use the funds to destroy his political enemies. First he ordered his opponents into exile; many of them found their way to New Orleans and met to discuss strategy. Putting their faith in venerable Juan Álvarez, leader of the newly formed state of Guerrero on the Pacific coast, the young liberals and the old federalist launched the Revolution of Ayutla. Santa Anna resigned in August 1855 as the period known as the reform began. During the presidencies of Álvarez and his protégé Ignacio Comonfort, Mexico enacted the Ley Juárez, which severely restricted the special legal privileges of the church and the army, and the Ley Lerdo, which compelled the sale of property held by corporations such as the church and Indian communities. In 1857, the government decreed state control over birth and death registries and cemeteries; and the Ley Iglesias reduced the high fees often charged for the performance of sacraments. The new federalist Constitution of 1857 codified Mexico's acceptance of free enterprise capitalism and its tenets of individualism, private property, and equality under the law, and created civil education. The church announced that it would excommunicate any Mexican swearing obedience to the new constitution. Its position created a genuine moral dilemma for many Mexicans, including President Comonfort—if government workers did not publicly support the law, they lost their jobs; if they did, they faced eternal damnation. General Félix Zuloaga led a coup against the government with Comonfort's support, only to turn against his mentor and dissolve Congress. Comonfort resigned and was succeeded by Benito Juárez, who had just been elected president of the Supreme Court, and had fled north to avoid arrest.

For the next three years the liberals, headquartered in Veracruz, and the conservatives, in Mexico City, fought each other for control over the national future. Zuloaga nullified the Reform laws while Juárez stiffened them. Although troops under the conservative general Miguel Miramón won most of the battles, he was unable to take Veracruz. Finally, on 22 December 1860, the liberal general Jesús González Ortega and his army defeated conservative troops under Miramón at San Miguel Calpulalpan in Mexico State and entered Mexico City on 1 January 1861. Following his election to the presidency in March, Juárez declared a two-year moratorium on payments on the foreign debt. The following October, the creditor powers—England, Spain, and France—agreed to a joint occupation of Mexican ports to collect their claims. Their troops arrived in December, but subsequent discussions revealed that the French intended to conquer Mexico and establish an empire there. The Spanish and British troops left; a month later, 4,500 more French troops arrived.

There were many reasons for the failed but highly significant French attempt to establish an empire in Mexico. Although it formed part of Emperor Napoleon III's global plan to extend French power, the intrigues of Mexican conservatives at his court, coupled with Empress Eugenie's Spanish origins, played their part as well. Buoyed by overly optimistic visions of welcome in a pro-clerical Mexico, the French troops found surprisingly strong resistance in conservative Puebla as they marched toward Mexico City. On 5 May 1862, peasant armies under General Ignacio Zaragoza and Brigadier General Porfirio Díaz defeated the invaders at Puebla, an event immortalized in Cinco De Mayo, an important national holiday.

Ultimately, however, the French were not to be denied, and by the end of May of the following year, they entered Mexico City as Juárez retreated north to San Luis Potosí. On 16 June 1863 the French general selected a temporary government of thirty-five notables with an executive committee of generals Juan Almonte and Mariano Salas, and Bishop of Puebla and Archbishop-elect of Mexico City Pelagio Antonio de Labastida. In October a group of Mexican conservatives went to visit Maximilian, younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, and persuaded him to accept the throne, granting his condition that the Mexican people vote its approval. The putative emperor met with Napoleon III and signed the Convention of Miramar, whereby Maximilian would gain command over French troops in exchange for a pledge to pay the costs of the French conquest of Mexico, the salaries of the French army, and all claims outstanding, thus tripling Mexico's foreign debt. Maximilian and his wife Charlotte (Carlota) arrived in liberal Veracruz in May 1864 to a chilly reception, but emotions warmed considerably as they made their way to the capital.

Maximilian brought European concepts to Mexico that would have a far-reaching effect long after he had departed the scene. He toured the countryside, ordered the construction of a broad avenue from Chapultepec Castle to the Palacio Nacional (which after his fall would be renamed the Paseo de la Reforma), and approved the establishment of the first bank. He commissioned statues honoring Columbus and Mexican independence, insisting on Mexican materials and Mexican artists. He declared a free press and amnestied all political prisoners. Most significantly, he alienated his conservative supporters by refusing to return church lands and declare Roman Catholicism the national religion. In seeking a middle ground that had long since been discredited, Maximilian courted disaster. Juárista forces, aided by a combination of foreign events—the close of the American Civil War, permitting the export of weapons to the liberals, and growing hostilities between France and Prussia that forced the return of French troops to Europe—began winning victories in the spring of 1866. Maximilian surrendered after the battle of Querétaro in May 1867, was court-martialed, and was executed by firing squad on 19 June.


The end of the empire was the beginning of modern Mexico. Soldiers who fought to defend their land against the foreign invaders began to identify with the Mexican nation as well as with their patria chica. At the same time, the imperial experience left deep scars on the Mexican psyche that have taken over a century to heal. Even before his election to a third term in 1867, Juárez was determined to punish those nations that had invaded and recognized the empire. His government refused to make any payments on the foreign debt and concentrated, for a short while at least, on its internal obligations. Juárez established a rural police force, the rurales, to secure the roads and focused on improving the national economy without recourse to foreigners. Railroads were desperately needed; the line uniting Mexico City with Veracruz was inaugurated on 1 January 1873. Localities built new schools to accommodate free and compulsory primary education—not that every villager's child actually attended. In 1871, Juárez ran for his fourth term against General Porfirio Díaz and Minister of Foreign Relations Sebastían Lerdo De Tejada. Since none of the candidates had a clear majority, the pro-Juárista Congress decided on their venerable leader. Díaz soon "pronounced" himself in revolt with the Plan of La Noria, which advocated term limitations. The rebellion was still limping along when Juárez died on 8 July 1872. The new chief justice of the Supreme Court, Sebastían Lerdo de Tejada, became interim president and was elected to that position in October. Joining forces with the Juáristas to oppose Díaz, Lerdo concentrated his efforts on expanding railroad lines, inaugurating telegraph services, and building schools.

In March 1876 Díaz issued the Plan of Tuxtepec, accusing the president of negotiating overly generous railroad contracts and violating state and municipal sovereignty. He also called for effective suffrage (genuine elections) and no reelection. Díaz entered Mexico City triumphantly on 21 November 1876. Although his comrade in arms Manuel González would serve as president from 1880 to 1884, the period from 1876 until 1911 is known as the Porfiriato in tribute to the man who dominated Mexican political life in the late nineteenth century. It is also the period whose meaning is most disputed among both historians and the Mexican population. Some see the epoch as one of unprecedented development and modernization with significant flaws, while others view it as a shameful time when Mexico was for sale to the highest foreign bidder and its people virtually enslaved by the needs of international commerce.

As Mexico entered the Porfiriato, its leaders embraced a new civic religion—positivism. As articulated in 1867 by Gabino Barreda, founder of the National Preparatory School, "Liberty, Order, and Progress," or the sensible application of scientific knowledge and method, would lead Mexico to its great future. During the first Díaz presidency, the nation tried to articulate its self-image and official history as it tentatively opened itself to the world. The United States recognized the Díaz regime in 1877, and Mexico reestablished relations with France in 1880. During this time the Mexican establishment articulated a national past that stressed identification with the mestizo rather than the creole, and with pre-Columbian culture in general and the Aztecs in particular. In a subtle gesture of protest at the stealthy reestablishment of relations with France, the Mexican Congress forbade foreign scholars from exporting archaeological artifacts uncovered at national sites; soon after, Mexico became the first nation in Latin America to fund its own excavations.

By the close of González's term, his government was accused of unbridled corruption and most of the customs revenue was mortgaged to pay foreign debts. Relations were reestablished with Great Britain in 1884 and a national bank of issue organized under foreign auspices, but the public refused to permit the government to settle the debt outstanding since 1825. The years from 1884 to 1911 mark the true Porfiriato, when Mexico developed at breakneck speed while minimizing concern for the liberty and economic security of the vast majority of its people. The national government tightened its grip as Mexico entered its second and much more centralist period, facilitated by the construction of railroads and telegraph lines. Inseparable from the successes and failures of this progress were the minister of the interior (gobernación) and Díaz's father-in-law, Manuel Romero Rubio (1884–1895), and the minister of finance, José Yves Limantour (1893–1911). Romero Rubio strengthened the national government by seizing control over state elections so that he and Díaz could put their friends and allies in office. Limantour paid off the foreign debt in 1888, only to borrow much more heavily, and abolished the state Alcabala (sales tax) that had been the economic mainstay of most cities outside the capital.

The order and progress that Barreda had championed were self-reinforcing. Technology aided order, and order produced foreign recognition, lending, and esteem. Foreign-owned companies laid 15,000 miles of railroad track, enabling many Mexican products to be shipped to faraway destinations; lands previously isolated could now be profitably brought into production. Consequently, the Porfirians tried to apply the Reform laws to dispossess Mexican Indians from their communally owned lands. Proud villagers in states like Chiapas, Yucatán, and Veracruz often became sharecroppers and agricultural wage laborers, attached to haciendas producing for export. With the increasing development of railroad traffic, regions could specialize in marketable commodities: Yucatán produced sisal fiber; Morelos, sugar; and Sonora and Chihuahua, cattle for shipment north. Tax revenues increased, and Mexico was able to buy most of its railroads by 1908. Some historians have argued that by 1910, Americans owned as much as 20 percent of the land surface of the country. In 1884 the Díaz administration had passed laws permitting proprietors to acquire ownership of property including its subsoil.

By 1908 Mexican mines, largely foreign owned, yielded 40 million pesos in gold and 85 million in silver, and large amounts in copper and zinc annually. Oil exploration accelerated after the turn of the century, with the British-owned El Águila Company producing over 100,000 barrels of crude in eight years. The first steel plant, located in Monterrey, was turning out 60,000 tons by 1911. Factories sprang up in provincial cities to produce beer, glassware, textiles, cement, cigarettes, soap, bricks, furniture, and other commodities, but Monterrey became the most industrialized. Mexico City benefited from the installation of a new drainage system. The government also commissioned improvements in port facilities and lowered tariffs. Imports and exports grew from 50 million pesos in 1876 to 488 million pesos in 1910, with exports taking the lead.

These changes had created a sizable new middle class, both urban and rural, particularly in the north, where trade with the United States had produced a certain level of prosperity. Economic benefits, as usual, were not evenly distributed. Many countries in the Western Hemisphere had undergone similar changes, but unlike Argentina or the United States, for example, Mexico had not modernized on the backs of immigrants. Many Mexicans bore the brunt of the upheaval without the salve of dreams for a better future for their children. In fact, for many, life had grown demonstrably worse.

The Porfirians maintained tight control over every facet of political life. They censored the press and used the army and the rurales to maintain the peace when required. As historians have recently shown, the Porfiriato was not as vicious as previously claimed in forcing Indians off their ancestral lands, but by 1910 over 50 percent of all villagers were sharecroppers or wage laborers working on 8,245 large haciendas owned by families like the Terrazas-Creel clan in Chihuahua, whose acreage ran into the millions. Some of these peons, illiterate and poorly paid (often in credits on the hacienda store rather than cash), struggled to survive amid poverty and hopelessness as they lived on stagnant wages and watched at least one child in four die before his or her first birthday. Nevertheless, the population almost doubled—from 8,743,000 (1874) to 15,160,000 (1910)—and residents of the capital numbered 471,066. By the 1890s, women had begun careers as teachers, an important first step to the other professions, to feminism, and to politics. The first feminist organization, the Admiradoras de Juárez, was founded in 1904. The middle class expanded considerably while the upper class lived ever more lavishly and danced the cancan, rode bicycles, and played baseball.

Ultimately the contradictions implicit in the Porfiriato—greater material development facilitated by foreign investment leading to substantial dislocation and an ideology based on a self-protective nationalism funded by increasing foreign capital—would, among many other factors, lead to the Mexican Revolution. Contact with other places through intense migration inside Mexico from the country to the city, and from the poorer south and center to the thriving north, as well as treks to the United States raised expectations and levels of sophistication. So did substantial interracial relationships (mestizaje), spreading education, and growing literacy. For example, according to the 1910 census, only 15 percent of Mexicans spoke only an indigenous language. While worldwide industrialization had spawned resentment toward those who had benefited from modernization at the masses' expense, its beneficiaries—the Mexican middle classes—yearned for democracy and political freedom.

Much as the ideas of the Enlightenment influenced the independence movement, new concepts created a ferment in Mexico after 1900. The anarchist Flores Magón brothers and their magazine Regeneración found an audience among the workers at the American-owned Cananea Consolidated Copper Company, who resented their relegation to more menial jobs for less pay while the better positions went to employees from the United States. On 1 June 1906 they went on strike, and in the melee over twenty Mexicans and two U.S. managers were killed, followed by a general uproar as the workers fired on American residents. Arizona Rangers crossed the border to restore order; the strike was broken and the leaders hanged. By the end of the year workers in textile mills in Puebla, Orizaba, and Tlaxcala had also struck, followed by a massive confrontation at the Río Blanco textile mill in Veracruz on 7 January 1907, where it appears over 100 died.

Nevertheless, the Porfirians believed all was well. In 1908 Díaz told reporter James Creelman that he planned not to run in 1910, when he would be eighty years old. The announcement sparked the publication of two major books: The Great National Problems by Andrés Molina Enríquez and The Presidential Succession in 1910 by Francisco Madero. These works outlined the two major crises facing Mexico; the former called for the agrarian reform desperately desired by the agricultural work force, and the latter championed political liberty yearned for by the middle class. In 1907 a depression hit the United States, seriously affecting the economy of the border states like Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Sonora. In 1909, villagers in Morelos under the leadership of Emiliano Zapata began taking back their ancestral lands by force from sugar haciendas. In 1910 in a fraudulent election Díaz was reelected (Francisco Madero won just 186 votes). On 16 September there was a lavish celebration of the centennial of the Grito de Dolores. Less than two months later, the country was in revolution.

See alsoAgiotista; Alcabalas; Aldama y González, Juan de; Allende, Ignacio; Almonte, Juan Nepomuceno; Álvarez, Juan; Austin, Moses; Barreda, Gabino; Bonaparte, Joseph; Bustamante, Anastasio; Cabildo, Cabildo Abierto; Calleja del Rey, Félix María; Chapultepec, Battle of; Cinco de Mayo; Ferdinand VII of Spain; Gómez Farías, Valentín; González, Manuel; González Ortega, Jesús; Guerrero, Vicente; Hidalgo y Costilla, Miguel; Iturrigaray, José de; Kearny, Stephen W; Ley Iglesias; Ley Juárez; Ley Lerdo; Limantour, José Yves; Maximilian; Mexico, Wars and Revolutions: Mexican-American War; Mier y Terán, Manuel; Morelos y Pavón, José María; O'Donojú, Juan; Pastry War; Plan of Iguala; Plan of La Noria; Plan of Tuxtepec; Polk, James Knox; Positivism; Romero Rubio, Manuel; San Jacinto, Battle of; Santa Anna, Antonio López de; Taylor, Zachary; Three Guarantees, Army of the; Venegas de Saavedra, Francisco Javier; Victoria, Guadalupe; Zaragoza, Ignacio; Zuloaga, Félix María.


Some works that span the century include John Tutino, From Insurrection to Revolution in Mexico: Social Bases of Agrarian Violence, 1750–1940 (1986), and Mary Kay Vaughan, "Primary Education and Literacy in Nineteenth-Century Mexico: Research Trends, 1968–1988," in Latin American Research Review 25, no. 1 (1990): 31-66.

For the independence period, see Hugh M. Hamill, Jr., The Hidalgo Revolt (1966); Virginia Guedea, En busca de un gobierno alterno: Los Guadalupes de México (1992); and Nettie Lee Benson, La diputación provincial y el federalismo mexicano (1955). A good summary can be found in Colin M. Mac Lachlan and Jaime E. Rodríguez O., The Forging of the Cosmic Race (1990), chap. 10.

For insights into the early republican period, see the essays in Jaime E. Rodríguez O., ed., The Independence of Mexico and the Creation of the New Nation (1989); Barbara A. Tenenbaum, The Politics of Penury: Debts and Taxes in Mexico, 1821–1856 (1986); Silvia M. Arrom, The Women of Mexico City, 1790–1857 (1985); Donald F. Stevens, Origins of Instability in Early Republican Mexico (1991); Cecilia Noriega Elío, El Constituyente de 1842 (1986); Guy P. C. Thomson, "Traditional and Modern Manufacturing in Mexico, 1821–1850," in América Latina en la época de Simón Bolívar, edited by Reinhard Liehr (1989); David J. Weber, The Mexican Frontier 1821–1846: The American Southwest Under Mexico (1982); Charles A. Hale, Mexican Liberalism in the Age of Mora, 1821–1853 (1968); and Ciro F. S. Cardoso, ed., Formación y desarrollo de la burguesía en México: Siglo XIX (1978).

On the historiography of the Reform and the French intervention, the reader can start with Ralph Roeder, Juárez and His Mexico, 2 vols. (1947); Jan Bazant, Alienation of Church Wealth in Mexico: Social and Economic Aspects of the Liberal Revolution (1971); Richard N. Sinkin, The Mexican Reform, 1855–1876: A Study in Liberal Nation-Building (1979); Robert J. Knowlton, Church Property and the Mexican Reform, 1856–1910 (1976); Jack A. Dabbs, The French Army in Mexico, 1861–1867 (1962); David A. Brading, "Liberal Patriotism and the Mexican Reforma" in Journal of Latin American Studies 20, no. 1 (May 1988): 27-48.

Studies of the restored republic and the Porfiriato include William H. Beezley, Judas at the Jockey Club (1987); Charles A. Hale, The Transformation of Liberalism in Late Nineteenth Century Mexico (1989); Paul Vanderwood, Disorder and Progress: Bandits, Police, and Mexican Development (1981); Robert H. Holden, "Priorities of the State in the Survey of the Public Land in Mexico, 1876–1911," in Hispanic American Historical Review 70, no. 4 (November 1990): 579-608; and François-Xavier Guerra, Le Mexique de l'ancien régime á la Révolution, 2 vols. (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Altamirano, Ignacio M. Historia y política de México. PRI, 1985.

Beezley, William H., and David E. Lorey, eds. Viva Mexico! Viva la independencia!: Celebrations of September 16. Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 2001.

Garfias M., Luis. Guerrilleros of Mexico: Famous Historical Figures and Their Exploits, from the Independence to the Mexican Revolution. Trans. David Castledine. Panorama Editorial, 1980.

Hunter, Amy N. History of Mexico. Philadelphia: Mason Crest Publishers, 2003.

Ratt, Dirk W., ed. Mexico, from Independence to Revolution, 1810–1910 Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982.

Rodríguez O., Jaime E. The Mexican and Mexican American Experience in the 19th Century. Tempe, AZ: Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 1989.

Servín, Elisa, Leticia Reina, and John Tutino, eds. Cycles of Conflict, Centuries of Change: Crisis, Reform, and Revolution in Mexico. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.

Wasserman, Mark. Everyday Life and Politics in Nineteenth Century Mexico: Men, Women, and War. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2000.

                                 Barbara A. Tenenbaum

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