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The Mexican Revolution: Causes & Initial Events

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  • 0:48 Rise of Diaz
  • 2:01 Effects of Diaz's Presidency
  • 3:36 The Creelman Interview
  • 4:16 Francisco Madero
  • 5:14 The Characters
  • 7:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephen Benz

Stephen has taught history, journalism, sociology, and political science courses at multiple levels, including the middle school, high school and college levels.

The Mexican Revolution started in response to the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. In this video, we look at the causes of the Revolution, and then explore the initial events that led to the removal of Diaz.

The Mexican Revolution

Mexican soap operas, better known as 'telenovelas', are known worldwide for their scandalous plot lines. In this lesson, we are going to learn about a historical Mexican soap opera: the Mexican Revolution. Just like modern day telenovelas, the Mexican Revolution is full of odd characters, hated villains, deception, backstabbing and lies, violence, assassination plots, interventions by meddling neighbors, and unexpected plot twists. So if you like drama, you are in for a treat!

In this video, we will look at:

  • The dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz
  • Causes of the Mexican Revolution
  • Major players in the Mexican Revolution
  • How Diaz was removed from power

Rise of Diaz

Although the Mexican Revolution officially started in 1910, you have to go back a few decades to understand why the Revolution happened. During that time, former military general Porfirio Diaz was viewed by some as a national hero because he had helped expel French soldiers who were attacking Mexico. But don't be fooled! In today's Mexico, Diaz is far from being considered a national hero.

In 1870, Diaz ran for president of Mexico. He used a no re-election slogan during the campaign that said no president should serve more than one term. In 1876, Diaz assumed the presidency.

Although he stepped down after one term, Diaz maintained complete control over his successor, Manuel Gonzales Flores. It was as if Diaz was a puppeteer controlling Flores' commands as president.

After Flores was president for four years, Diaz decided to forget his no re-election policy. Diaz had the country's constitution amended to remove all restrictions on re-elections. Diaz basically said, 'I lied. I'm going to be president from now on.' Diaz continued to be president for 35 years.

Positive and Negative Effects of Diaz's Presidency

The 35-year era during 1876-1911, in which Diaz led the government as President, is known as the Porfiriato in Mexico. Diaz brought about economic improvement and was able to draw foreign investors to Mexico to help build the nation's railroad infrastructure, mining industry, and overall economy. Under Diaz, the economy grew at an average rate of 2.5%. Diaz also made improvements to the Mexican military, giving Mexicans a sense of pride nationwide.

But as I said earlier, Diaz is not known as a national hero these days in Mexico. That is because the growth experienced under Diaz was not shared by all. Mexican Indians, in particular, were most hurt under Diaz, who took over native lands, divided them up, and sold them to private companies. So, while Mexico experienced significant growth overall, Mexican Indians - who made up a significant portion of the Mexican population - were hurt under Diaz.

Today, Diaz's presidency is known as a dictatorship because the country was ruled by one person with total power. Diaz went to great lengths to ensure that he was re-elected every term. He used violence and intimidation to get his desired election results. People who criticized the government were viciously beaten. When that didn't work, he would just lie and make up the election results.

Generally, the combination of this ruthless dictatorship and the high levels of inequality in the country are cited by scholars as main long-term causes of the Mexican Revolution.

The Creelman Interview

Have you ever said something that came back to bite you in the butt? Diaz definitely made one of these mistakes. One of his most significant mistakes was an interview with American journalist James Creelman in 1908. In the interview, Diaz suggested that he was open to democratic reform and free elections. Suddenly, Mexicans began to suspect that Diaz's reign was coming to an end and challengers began to appear. Mexico became like a boiling pot of water. Diaz tried to put a lid on the revolutionary fever, but doing that just increased the pressure leading to a massive boiling over. Mexico was ready for a revolution.

Francisco Madero Tries a Revolution

By 1910, a clear challenger came to Diaz in the form of Francisco Madero. Madero organized and led the Anti-Re-electionist Party, essentially promising to never let a dictator like Diaz gain re-election. To try and control Madero, Diaz had him jailed and created a mock election, in which, not surprisingly, Diaz won re-election. Many Mexicans were furious about how fake this election was!

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