Constitution of 1917

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Constitution of 1917

The constitutionalist movement, headed by Venustiano Carranza, arose through the Guadalupe Plan of March 26, 1913, following the assassination of President Francisco I. Madero. The alleged purpose of the movement was to restore the Constitution of 1857, but deep discontent among peasant farmers and workers over the dispossession of their lands and harsh working conditions in factories, clashes between different political groups, and years of armed struggle made it necessary to consolidate a number of reforms (additions to the Guadalupe Plan, dated December 12, 1914). This led to the convening of a constituent congress.

On November 21, 1916, the Constitutional Congress began its preparatory meetings. Carranza presented a moderate reform plan for the Constitution of 1857. However, the so-called radical faction, whose views eventually prevailed, was interested in implementing the proposals of the Mexican Liberal Party (July 1, 1906) and the Ayala Plan (November 28, 1911) and proved successful in asserting itself.

The Political Constitution of the United Mexican States was signed on January 31, 1917, and proclaimed fives day later (February 5) in Querétaro. The document took effect on May 1, 1917, and has been amended more than 300 times. It consists of nine sections called titles, and its great improvement over the preceding constitution was the establishment of individual rights—to a free, secular education, to health care and decent housing, to agrarian distribution, and to labor regulation (Articles 3, 4, 27, and 123)—as well as municipal freedom that transformed the political administration of the nation's territory.

Its amendments are diverse, some even going so far as to counteract some of the Constitution's original principles. This is the case of changes to Articles 3, 27, and 130, enacted in 1992 within the framework of reestablishing relations between the Vatican and the Mexican Government during the administration of Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988–1994). The amendment to Article 3 removed the ban on religious bodies, their ministers, joint stock companies and companies linked to religious groups offering primary and secondary education, teachers' education, and education for laborers and peasants. Article 27 was amended to cut back on agrarian cooperatives and make it possible for religious associations and charity institutions to acquire property. The amendment to Article 130 acknowledged some civic rights for clergy and allowed churches and religious groups to establish legal entities.

Furthermore, an amendment to Article 28 during the administration of Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León (1994–2000) authorized private investment in communications. During Zedillo's administration, the requirements and powers of the Judiciary (Articles 94 through 107) were also modified and legislation was enacted on electoral matters (Articles 41, 54, and 60).

In the early twenty-first century, reforms of unquestionable social significance have been the prohibition of the death penalty (Articles 14 and 22), the recognition of the free determination and autonomy of indigenous peoples and communities (Article 2), and the increase in the number of grades in mandatory basic education (Articles 3 and 31). These three reforms were enacted during the administration of Vicente Fox Quezada (2000–2006).

See alsoCarranza, Venustiano; Religion in Mexico, Catholic Church and Beyond.


Branco, H. N., and L. S. Rowe. "The Mexican Constitution of 1917 Compared with the Constitution of 1857." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 71, Supplement (May 1917), pp. i-v1-116.

Bullington, John P. "Problems of International Law in the Mexican Constitution of 1917." American Journal of International Law, Vol. 21, No. 4 (October 1927), pp. 685-705.

Márquez Rábago, Sergio R. Constitución Politica de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos. Sus reformas y adiciones. México: Editorial Porrúa, 2003.

Palavicini, Félix F. Historia de la Constitución de 1917. México: Consejo Editorial del Gobierno del Estado de Tabasco, 1980, t. I-II.

Tena Ramírez, Felipe. Leyes fundamentales de México 1808–1997. 20a ed. México: Editorial Porrúa, 1997.

                                  Irina CÓrdoba RamÍrez

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Constitution of 1917

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