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Mexican Revolution Of 1910 Essay

1579 words - 7 pages

In November 1910 the first great social revolution of the 20th century began in Mexico. The Revolution brought forth a number of different leaders pursuing different goals. Early Revolutionary presidents—Francisco Madero and Venustiano Carranza—emphasized the need for political reform. The two most famous military leaders—Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata—responded to the growing demands of the peasants and urban workers for major social and economic reforms. There were also demands for curbs on the social control and political influence exercised by the Roman Catholic Church. Almost all of the Revolutionaries reflected a growing sense of nationalism and called for a reduction in the ...view middle of the document...

Díaz employed a mix of coercion and conciliation to bring his political opponents in line. Law and order ultimately depended on the army and the rurales, which had reputations for dispensing summary justice. Díaz and his political allies rigged elections at all levels of government. Press criticism of the regime was met with force or bribery. Political and economic favors were extended to those who supported the regime.

Díaz wanted his administration to play an active role in economic development, especially industrialization. He believed that Mexico lacked the capital and technology to industrialize, so it would be necessary to make Mexico attractive to foreign investors. The attractions of political stability, government subsidies, and a friendly court system brought extensive foreign investment, particularly after 1900. Foreign investors—especially from the United States and Britain—soon dominated transportation, mining, and the oil industry.

Díaz's policies for land and agriculture proved especially controversial. Long before Díaz came to power, Mexico had a major problem with land being concentrated in the hands of a small minority of the population; under Díaz the concentration of land became worse. Díaz compensated private land companies for surveying federal lands by awarding them one-third of the land surveyed, with an option to buy the remaining two-thirds at low prices. This approach soon transferred extensive public lands into a limited number of private hands; by the mid-1890s these survey companies had gained control of 20% of Mexico's total land area. As more land passed into the control of a small minority, the vast majority of the rural population—primarily native—experienced a decline in real wages and standard of living. Agricultural policy stressed the growth of commercial agriculture geared to the export market. As production shifted to export crops such as sugar and coffee, Mexico had to import foodstuffs, even basic commodities such as corn.

Urban workers also enjoyed few of the benefits of the modernization process taking place around them. Working conditions in urban areas were harsh, with a twelve-hour workday and a six-day workweek typical. Efforts to unionize met with opposition not only from management but also from political and legal authorities. The courts typically viewed unions as "illegal associations," and political authorities used the police and sometimes even the army to suppress union activities.

Although the development policies pursued by Díaz had produced some impressive results, the benefits of the new prosperity were shared by only a small elite, perhaps 10% of Mexico's total population. A downturn in the international economy in 1907 was quickly transferred to Mexico; even the elite benefiting directly from the government's development policies suffered from this downturn. Mexico experienced a major crisis in food production and distribution in 1909 and 1910. Antiforeign sentiment was...

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