Mexican revolution

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The Mexican Revolution ( Spanish : Revolución mexicana ) or Mexican Civil War (Spanish: Guerra civil mexicana ) is the term used to describe the phase of political and social upheaval that began in 1910 when opposition groups around Francisco Madero began to overthrow the dictatorial ruling to bring about Mexican long-term president Porfirio Díaz . The uprising against Díaz was the beginning of a series of sometimes extremely bloody battles and unrest that gripped large parts of Mexico and did not allow the country to calm down well into the 1920s. Not only were the conflicting interests of the very different political and social support groups of the Mexican Revolution fought out, but in some cases a real social revolution was also realized. The zapatista movement, which in turn was based on the ideas of the anarchist Magonistas , who propagated indigenous collectivism and libertarian socialism under the slogan Tierra y Libertad ("Land and Freedom") , was the mainstay of the social revolutionary side of the revolution .

The violent political repression of the old Mexican oligarchy and the destruction or reshaping of the Porfirist state apparatus and the pre-revolutionary army can be seen as the main results of the protracted struggles of the Mexican Revolution, which were concluded by around 1920 . This was accompanied by the rise of a new ruling class from the ranks of the various revolutionary movements and the emergence of new state structures. However, in many cases these could only be enforced against the resistance of local strivings for autonomy, which had become politically powerful at the time when the country lacked a strong central power. Accordingly, up until the beginning of the 1930s, there were repeated revolts by individual army commanders and uprisings of certain ethnic groups or segments of the population against the new central government. The implementation of important social reforms, which had been one of the main reasons for the outbreak of the revolution in 1910, therefore took place only after a considerable delay under the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas del Río .

Starting position: Mexico under Porfirio Díaz

Political situation

Mexico's long-term president Porfirio Díaz

After decades of constantly changing governments, civil wars and military interventions by foreign powers , Mexico experienced an unprecedented phase of domestic political stability and internal peace in the 19th century during the long, second presidency of Porfirio Díaz. This was due in no small part to the centralization of political power in Mexico pursued by Díaz, which not only led to state penetration of - from an administrative point of view - previously peripheral areas, but also to the establishment of a strong national executive . This enabled the government to exercise political control down to the local level and to enforce orders much more effectively than before. Regional areas of power, the cacicazgos , were gradually eliminated or - if that was not possible - their owners were at least obliged to maintain permanent loyalty to the central government. Provided that the governors of the federal states , who previously acted largely independently , as well as other regional and local potentates of all kinds were prepared to tolerate the intervention of the state in their former domains of power, they were given the opportunity in return to give themselves and their family members, for example To enrich concessions and state benefices of all kinds or by the transfer of state land at preferential prices.

The concentration of political power pursued by the Díaz regime and its pan o palo (“carrot or stick”) policy, which initially had been beneficial for the country as a whole, became increasingly problematic in the long run. There was not only the emergence of an unprecedented patronage system with all its negative side effects such as bribery and corruption, but also the legislative and judiciary's significant loss of importance vis-à-vis the executive, the erosion of many traditional rights of the states and a gradual restriction of the autonomy of the communities . The entire system of rule began to focus more and more on the person of the president, whose style of government assumed increasingly autocratic features. After Díaz began his third term in office in 1888, de facto no governor or member of parliament could be elected to the federal congress unless he had previously received the approval of the president. This resulted in an increasing oligarchization of the state and society and - connected with it - a perpetuation of positions of power, whose bearers were soon only recruited from a small and closed circle of cliques and families absolutely loyal to the president . Towards the end of Díaz's reign there was not only an “aging of most [political] leading personalities”, but also an almost total “petrification of the political system” in Mexico. The emergence of a nationwide organized opposition movement that could have formed a political counterbalance to the president and his followers was efficient in Mexico due to the patrimonial character of the system of government, the lack of real political parties and free and fair elections, and the intimidation and repression of the government of the regime's working police apparatus is very difficult.

Economic situation

Parallel to the political centralization of Mexico, the economic modernization of the country was systematically promoted under President Díaz in the 19th century. The expansion of the infrastructure, above all the railway network as well as the raw materials producing and processing industries, and the commercialization of agriculture were specifically promoted. After 1900 the rich Mexican oil deposits began to move more and more into the center of economic interest, and by 1913 Mexico was the third largest oil producer in the world. This caused Mexico's economy to change from a previously locally and regionally structured one to an export-oriented one, which since the late 19th century has been increasingly integrated into the US economy and permeated by US capital. In 1910, 56 percent of Mexican imports came from the United States and 80 percent of Mexican exports went there. The United States had been the largest investor in Mexico by the late 19th century. American companies and sole proprietorships owned extensive estates in Mexico, were shareholders or owners of numerous Mexican banks, mines and other companies of all kinds, but above all the oil companies.

As impressive as the economic boom in Mexico was, the wealth was distributed unevenly. The vast majority of the Mexican population did not benefit in any way from the tremendous economic growth. In 1910, for example, around one percent of the population owned and controlled 96 percent of the land. 90 percent of the rural population had no real estate of their own, which is why they had to hire themselves out as workers. In doing so, they easily fell into debt bondage , which could hardly be distinguished from real slavery . These relationships were processed literarily in the Caoba cycle by B. Traven . In addition, between 1876 and 1912, municipal pastures in the order of about 1340 km² were lost.

Trouble spots in late pirate Mexico

Mexico City around the time the Mexican Revolution broke out

The above-mentioned political and economic conditions resulted in a number of specific crisis phenomena, which “can be understood as the structural preconditions [...] of the revolution”, but which were also responsible for their very different course in the individual parts of the country. Significant for the outbreak of the revolution was, for example, the fact that the consensus of the middle and upper classes with the Díaz regime, which had been essential for its political stability, was increasingly called into question in the last five years of Díaz's rule. The political and economic monopoly that the Díaz favorites had achieved in many parts of the country - for example the Terrazas Creel family clan in Chihuahua - not only led to the marginalization of the middle classes, but also alienated parts of the upper class from the regime. In addition, the tax and credit policy pursued by the Mexican government in the wake of the North American economic crisis of 1907 had a particularly negative effect on the middle classes. For example, there was great dissatisfaction among the numerous state employees, but also among the small traders and members of the liberal professions, who mostly saw no opportunity for social advancement and whose standard of living was threatened when real wages fell towards the end of Díaz's reign. The first leaders of the revolution were then to be recruited from the political opposition movement gradually emerging in these circles, for example in northern Mexico.

The development of the Mexican agricultural sector was also a hotspot of a special kind. In this context, however, it should be emphasized that the previously often postulated conflict between the rich hacienderos , who dispose of huge lands, and the oppressed, completely landless and penniless peones, the social realities of Mexico does not represent adequately at this time. Agricultural development during the presidency of Díaz was much more complicated and was characterized above all by the emergence of a relatively wealthy peasant middle class, the rancheros . The fact that the developments in the agricultural sector should nevertheless become one of the causes of the revolution was due to its economic, but even more to its political and social effects. Commercial and technical innovations in Mexican agriculture led to increased economic pressure and the economic displacement of many small tenants and farmers as well as previously independent agricultural producers. Although this development varied greatly from region to region, research has found that towards the end of the reign of Díaz a considerable part of the rural population had come into economic hardship.

The dispute between large landowners and smallholders in the states of Morelos and in the northern part of Chihuahua was particularly conflict-prone . In Morelos, where sugar had been grown since colonial times, the modernization of sugar production had made it necessary to expand the area under cultivation. In the densely populated federal state, however, this was only possible at the expense of the land-owning villages, the pueblos , and the still independent small and medium-sized owners and increasingly took the form of a systematic expropriation policy on the part of the large landowners. Their pseudo-legal, but often purely extortionate action was mostly crowned with success due to the silence of the local authorities and the corrupt courts. The constant expansion of the hacienda land gradually deprived the pueblos of their economic basis and between 1876 and 1910 led to a decline of around one sixth. The farmers who had become landless in this way often had no other option than to work on the hacienda that had taken their land from them. The associated relationships of dependency led to a proletarianization of the rural population in Morelos. Although numerous villages had lost their land or parts of it, they continued to exist as politically independent units. In this way, those affected by the land grab were not only offered a forum for protest and political will, they also found social support in the still intact village community. This in turn favored the emergence of an organized resistance against the land expropriation, which also explains why the revolution found numerous supporters in Morelos right from the start.

In the northern part of Chihuahua, land grabbing by the large landowners mainly affected those farmers and ranchers who were descendants of the military colonists who were settled in the 19th century to ward off Indian incursions (mainly Apaches and Comanches ). After the Apaches were the last to be defeated in the 1880s, the services of the former colonists were no longer required and the privileges previously generously granted were gradually withdrawn from them. They were subsequently robbed of their land on a large scale. Like their peers in Morelos, they were therefore among the first revolutionaries.

The Yaqui Indians in Sonora formed a special group of revolutionaries . During the reign of Díaz, they had found themselves almost at a permanent state of war with the Mexican government, which was primarily interested in the land they jointly cultivated and sacred to them. The cruelty of the Yaqui Wars was only surpassed by the so-called caste wars against the Mayan population of Yucatán . On the eve of the Revolution, the Yaquis were indeed still not fully defeated, but many of them were killed by then or as forced laborers on the plantations of Yucatan deported Service. If the Yaquis, who were still free, were not already waging a permanent guerrilla war against all whites, at the beginning of the revolution they at least nominally joined Francisco Madero, whom they soon fought again because he did not give them their land back either. Only Alvaro Obregon succeeded in integrating a larger part of the Yaquis into his army and thus tying them more firmly into the revolutionary camp.

Course of the Mexican Revolution

Francisco Madero, his wife and rebels (photo from the first half of 1911)

Overthrow of the Díaz regime (1910/11)

In 1908, the aged President of Mexico made people sit up and take notice with an interview he had given the American journalist James Creelman. In it he had promised the option of his resignation at the end of the current term of office with the simultaneous democratic election of a successor and even encouraged the formation of opposition parties. In the period that followed, an independent political movement was formed around the popular general and governor of the state of Nuevo León , Bernardo Reyes , who was considered the most promising successor candidate . However, the president's veto in favor of the candidate from his inner circle of power and the deportation of Reyes to a post abroad broke the top of the new electoral movement and brought Francisco Madero, a previously largely unknown offspring of a wealthy landowning family from the state of Coahuila, to the fore. In his book “ La sucesión presidencial en 1910 ” , published at the end of 1908, he had pleaded for a democratic political system in Mexico and thus caused a sensation. With the nomination of Madero and the doctor Francisco Vázquez Gómez as presidential and vice-presidential candidates, Díaz's position of power was openly challenged for the first time. Under the slogans " Sufragio efectivo - No Reeleccion " ("actual right to vote - no re-election") the anti-selectionist party Maderos developed into a popular movement that was perceived more and more as a threat by the ruling regime. Eventually Díaz gave up his initial tolerance, had Madero and his closest associates arrested and his movement broken up. After a staged re-election, Díaz's victory and that of his Vice President Ramón Corral were announced. Madero now called on the Mexicans to overthrow the president on November 20, 1910 after his escape from the prison in San Luis Potosí in the USA in the " Plan of San Luis Potosí ".

Contrary to Madero's expectations, his appeal found an echo especially in rural areas, where numerous armed groups, including those of Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villas in the northern state of Chihuahua, began to fight Díaz. In March 1911, Emiliano Zapata opened another front against Díaz in the state of Morelos south of the capital . In the big cities, on the other hand, the Porfirist army and police were mostly able to nip madist insurrection attempts in the bud and maintain control for a long time. In the long run, the poorly managed, poorly equipped and understaffed federal army, whose command structures were tailored to the person of the president, proved to be too weak to cope with the uprisings that flared up in more and more places. The regime's obvious military weakness favored further upheavals and at the same time caused increasing paralysis of the political-administrative apparatus. When the united northern rebel contingents succeeded in taking the border town of Ciudad Juárez in May 1911 and thus acquired an important base for the supply of weapons and ammunition from the USA, Díaz finally gave in to the insistence of his closest collaborators, declared his on May 17 Resigned and went into exile in Paris . In accordance with the constitution, the previous Foreign Minister, Francisco León de la Barra, took on the role of interim president , who was also responsible for preparing new elections. On May 21, 1911, the “ Treaty of Ciudad Juarez ” ( Tratado de Ciudad Juarez ), the most important part of which was the restoration of public order and the quickest possible dismissal of the various rebel contingents, officially ended the hostilities. With this treaty, in which Madero made extensive concessions to the remaining exponent of the old system and which by no means met with the undivided approval of his supporters, the first phase of the Mexican Revolution had come to an end.

Madero's presidency (1911–1913)

In October 1911 Madero was elected as the new president. He disappointed the hopes placed in him after a short time, because he not only clung to the old structures in the army and administration, but also often left the old officials in their functions. His nepotism , but above all the lack of land reform, did the rest and turned increasingly large sections of the population against him. The Zapatistas were the first to revolt against Madero. In the “ Plan of Ayala ” of November 25, 1911, they not only denied him his authority as leader of the revolution and as President of Mexico, but also founded their own revolution, the “Revolution of the South” ( Revolución del Sur ). The core of the Ayala plan, however, was the restitution of the land expropriated by the Hacendados to the old and rightful owners, the pueblos, that is, the villages or the village communities. Madero had not shown himself to be fundamentally closed to the Zapatistas' catalog of demands, as it was ultimately expressed in the Ayala plan as a policy paper, but in order to preserve the authority of his new office, he had first demanded their unconditional surrender. In the conflict that followed, the people of Morelos experienced a particularly brutal pacification campaign by the federal army, whose commander, General Juvencio Robles , burned down entire villages and forced all men who were capable of military service to join the army. However, it failed to achieve its goal of suppressing the uprising and instead created a solidarity effect between the oppressed population and the Zapata troops. Ultimately, the conflict with the Zapatistas remained an unsolved problem for Madero, albeit one that was limited to the state of Morelos. This was also due to the fact that the Zapatistas pursued an agenda that was very limited to their local and regional agricultural clientele , which was hardly attractive for segments of the population whose source of income was not agriculture and who lived outside of Morelos.

In contrast to that of the Zapatistas, the uprising that broke out in March 1912 by the popular former revolutionary general and Madero supporter Pascual Orozco, who was also joined by other revolutionary leaders who had previously fought for Madero, harbored the risk of spreading into a conflagration. Despite social demands, such as those made by Orozco and his military leaders, in reality their disappointed hopes for important political positions after the overthrow of Diaz were a major driving force of this revolt. With the help of the federal army under Victoriano Huerta , the uprising of Orozco was suppressed relatively quickly. However, this did not change the fact that Madero had not only gradually robbed himself of his own power base, but also in the eyes of the old Porfirist elites, who were still at numerous points of power, as incapable of mastering the situation and calming it down Landes had proven. In part, Madero's political mistakes and his reluctance to quickly tackle urgent problems such as land reform were due to the fact that he succumbed to the illusion that the social conflicts in Mexico in a democratic system would almost automatically become political and societal ones Would lose explosive power. The creation of a democratic order while at the same time maintaining “ a continuity of the legal order ” had top priority for the leading Maderists, while the redistribution of land and other resources was only of secondary importance for them.

Photo of the National Palace in Mexico City, taken during the fighting of the
Decena trágica in 1913

Ultimately, Madero's political survival depended on the army, which he had generously chosen to be the guardian of the new revolutionary order. In fact, however, many members of the old Porfirist officer corps could not come to terms with the new circumstances. Although they had actively participated in the suppression of the revolts from among the ranks of ex-party members Madero, otherwise they were at best indifferent to the new government . Two military rebellions, namely those instigated by Bernardo Reyes, who had returned from exile in North America, and those instigated by Felix Díaz , a nephew of the ousted long-term dictator, had failed miserably, but should have been a warning signal to the government. The two rebels, who escaped execution and had numerous sympathizers in the army, continued to conspire against the government from prison. Finally, in February 1913, there was a coup against the government, in the course of which Madero was ousted and shortly afterwards murdered along with some of his closest supporters. Involved in this coup, from which the commander-in-chief of the army, Victoriano Huerta, was to emerge as the new ruler, was also the US ambassador Henry Lane Wilson (1857-1932), who had assured Huerta and his colleagues that their project was benevolent the US government can count on. The Huerta coup went down in Mexican history as Decena Trágica , the "ten tragic days", because army units loyal to the government fought with insurgent army units in the capital for ten days, which also claimed numerous casualties among the civilian population.

The Huertas regime (1913-1914)

Huerta had initially managed to carry out the change of power relatively smoothly. He was greatly helped by the fact that, with the exception of a few states in northern Mexico, during Madero's presidency there had been no changes in the leadership of the army or in the senior civil service and the social structure of the country had hardly changed. As the new ruler, Huerta was therefore able to rely on the still powerful and influential political and social groups and networks of the former Porfirist regime, “ which gave his rule an unmistakably restorative character. “The majority of the individual states also accepted the new ruler, but this was not the case with two states: Sonora and Coahuila. The governor of Coahuila, Venustiano Carranza , had the Huertas putsch condemned by the parliament of “his” state and deprived the usurper of the right to the presidency in the “ Plan of Guadalupe ” of March 26, 1913. At the same time, in this manifesto to the nation , he proclaimed himself primer jefe , the supreme leader of the “constitutionalist”, that is, the armed forces loyal to the constitution. He derived his claim to leadership from the fact that as the elected head of a federal state within the anti-Huerta opposition, he was the highest representative of the constitutional order. Although Carranza in Coahuila soon had to give way to the superior military strength of Huerta's federal army, he nevertheless managed to consolidate his authority as the supreme leader of the anti-Huerta movement in the following months.

In addition to the quasi-state resistance organized by the two northern states, spontaneous resistance groups soon formed in northern Mexico, including Pancho Villas, which was soon to become one of the most important; and after negotiations with the Zapatistas about an armistice had failed, Huerta felt compelled to be militarily active on this front as well. In addition, there was growing opposition to Huerta's regime in the months after he came to power within the Congress, which was still elected under Madero . In October 1913, the latter had the Congress violently dissolved and rigged new elections held, with the result that his style of government now assumed more and more unmistakable dictatorial traits. Relations with the United States developed into a permanent problem for Huerta, and soon after he came to power they began to deteriorate rapidly. Although US Ambassador Wilson had tried to get Huertas' regime recognized by his country after the coup, he had failed. The expiring administration of President William Howard Taft was no longer ready to take such a step. For Taft's successor, Woodrow Wilson , who detested the way Huerta came to power, recognition of his regime under international law was out of the question. Aggravating the conflict was the fact that, like Madero, Huerta was not ready to fulfill the hopes of the United States for special promotion of its primarily economic interests in Mexico. Huerta wanted to retain a certain amount of leeway in foreign policy and therefore promoted British companies and corporations as a counterweight to the US. After its attempts to persuade Huerta to resign through economic and diplomatic pressure failed, the US administration took the violent dissolution of the Mexican Congress as an opportunity to adopt a policy of open support for Huerta's opponents. At the beginning of February 1914, the arms embargo against Mexico was relaxed, which meant that the rebel troops operating in the northern Mexican states were now able to purchase weapons, ammunition and all other supplies from the USA virtually legally. Finally, the United States took an in and of itself futile incident as the occasion and occupied the port city of Veracruz in April 1914 . In doing so, they robbed Huerta not only of important customs revenue , but also of its most important port of entry for European weapons. After the occupation of Veracruz, the ABC states (Argentina, Brazil and Chile) started a mediation offer to resolve the US-American-Mexican differences. The initial hopes of the USA to secure a decisive influence in the reorganization of Mexican conditions in these negotiations to be conducted in Niagara Falls , however, were not fulfilled. The constitutionalists showed no interest in such talks, rather they were determined to seek a military decision in the Mexican civil war and in this way to remove the remnants of the old Porfirist state apparatus once and for all.

This change in attitude by the constitutionalists led to a civil war that was fought with hitherto unknown bitterness and with the participation of broad masses, in which relatively large and well-equipped armed forces faced each other on both sides. The constitutionalist armed forces in the northern states, which could easily obtain weapons due to the attitude of the United States, changed in the course of 1913 from initially loosely organized and small units that Huerta's federal army fought with hit-and-run tactics and were often tacitly supported by the population, to compact and powerful armies. From then on, they were able to compete with their opponents in open field battles and mostly remained victorious. It was also characteristic of these constitutional combat units that they had sophisticated logistics - by Mexican standards - and that they usually reached their military deployment locations, which are often far apart, by rail. Only the Zapatistas in the south, who did not have an economic base comparable to the northern revolutionary troops and, due to the isolated location of their battlefield, also had no possibility of getting weapons and ammunition from abroad, could never completely do without guerrilla warfare . Accordingly, there was also no extensive logistical effort for them, firstly because their combat area was much smaller, secondly because they could count on the support of the local population, and thirdly because they were mostly peasant soldiers who came after Opportunity to provide for themselves and return to their farms after the end of a battle, a raid or a campaign.

In northern Mexico it was mainly three revolutionary armies that soon made a name for themselves: From Sonora, the “Army of the Northwest” ( Ejército del Noreste ) , commanded by Alvaro Obregón, advanced south along the Pacific coast towards Mexico City. In the center operated the "Division of the North" ( División del Norte ), commanded by Pancho Villa , which was formed in autumn 1913 from various rebel groups from the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Durango and which had been baptized by fire with the conquest of the city of Torreón . They completely expelled the federal army from the state of Chihuahua by early 1914 and then also made the long journey towards Mexico City. The "Army of the Northeast" ( Ejército del Noreste ) , commanded by Pablo González , gradually wrested control of the northeastern states of Mexico from Huerta's armed forces. In addition, there were anti-Huerta movements in quite a few other parts of the country, most of which, however, did not acquire any supraregional importance and in the course of further events at least nominally joined the armed forces of Obregón, Villas or Zapata.

Huerta met the growing military challenges with a massive increase in the federal army. However, the quantity was at the expense of the quality, as his government could only achieve this project with the rigorous use of forced recruiting; and even as a result, the effective level of the armed forces "only" increased to around 125,000 of the planned 250,000 men. The consequences of these forced recruits were a consistently poor morale and a high rate of desertion among the federales , members of the federal army, as well as an increasing turn of the population from Huerta's regime. Its position of power was shaken more and more since autumn 1913 by the increasing setbacks in the fight against the armed forces of the constitutionalists and finally collapsed after the devastating defeats of its armies at Zacatecas and Orendaín . In June 1914 Villa's troops had taken by storm the important garrison town of Zacatecas , which was Huerta's last bulwark along the railway line from Chihuahua to Mexico City; and in July 1914, just two weeks later, in a no less bloody battle, Obregón annihilated Huerta's army which was holding Guadalajara and forced access to the capital from this side. In view of these now irreparable losses, Huerta finally gave up and embarked on July 15, 1914 on the Ypiranga for Europe.

Huerta's constitutional successor as President was the previous Foreign Minister Francisco S. Carvajal . Immediately before the end of his short term in office, the “Treaty of Teoloyucán ” was signed on August 12, 1914 , with which the Mexican federal army unconditionally surrendered to Obregón's victorious armed forces . This also ended the hostilities between “constitutionalists” and Huertistas . This contract secured Obregón's army access to Mexico City and contained as a further provision that the units of the federal army stationed south of the capital against the Zapatistas would not have to leave their positions until they had been replaced by units of Obregón's army. Villa had already been prevented from advancing by rail after his victory. In this way, the leaders of the revolution, whom Carranza had long been suspicious of, were denied access to Mexico City.

Renewed civil war and Carranza's government (1915–1920)

The anti-Huerta coalition, in which the first cracks had already become visible during the war against it, quickly broke up after its fall. The divergent ideas of Zapata, Villas and Carranzas, who continued to insist on his claim to leadership in Mexico after the victory over Huerta as "Supreme Chief of the constitutionalist army endowed with the executive power of the nation", could not be reconciled. After Villa refused to take part in the convention of governors and generals in Mexico City called by Carranza for the beginning of October 1914 and negotiations on the entry of the Zapatistas into the Carranzas camp had failed, there was an armed conflict between Villa and Zapata on the one hand and Carranza on the other hand. To Carranza's surprise, the convention he had convened was not prepared to grant him the required “executive power” and adjourned to resume its meetings in Aguascalientes . There the convention turned completely against Carranza, confirmed Villa in his position as commander of the revolutionary army commanded by it and elected General Eulalio Gutiérrez as provisional president. For his part, Carranza has now declared the Convention's agreements to be invalid and announced that he would continue to function as the highest executive body in Mexico.

Columbus after the Villistas raid in March 1916
Soldiers of the US "punitive expedition" on the march (photo from 1916)

In the civil war that began between "conventionists" and "constitutionalists", Carranza initially turned against Villa, the strongest of his opponents. With the help of Alvaro Obregón, a rancher who had acquired his considerable military skills autodidactically , Carranza succeeded in a series of bloody battles, the decisive ones at Celaya , León-Trinidad and Aguascalientes , further north to drive and to eliminate as a supra-regional power factor. When, along with the battles at Agua Prieta and Hermosillo , Villa's attempt to replenish his troubled forces by an advance into the state of Sonora, he finally sank back down to the status of a guerrilla leader. Many of his men accepted Carranza's offer of amnesty and either left the civil war for good or joined the ranks of the former military opponents. With the remaining troops - at the end of 1915 / beginning of 1916 hardly more than 1,000 men - Villa continued to wage a stubborn guerrilla war against Carranza.

After the United States recognized the Carranza government in October 1915, Villa began to increasingly cause the United States foreign policy problems by deliberately assaulting and murdering American citizens. The attack by the Villistas on the US border town of Columbus in March 1916 resulted in another US military intervention in Mexico, this time to capture Villa. The so-called " punitive expedition " to Mexico brought the Carranza government to the brink of war with the United States and made Villas' popularity soar again, which allowed him to temporarily expand his position of power in northern Mexico. After the US had left Mexico in February 1917 because of imminent intervention in the First World War , Villa's newly won position of power quickly collapsed. In the same month Mexico also received a new constitution that took account of numerous demands of the revolutionaries. However, the implementation of the corresponding constitutional articles was delayed by the socially conservative Carranza regime, which ultimately contributed significantly to the fact that it could not find support within the workforce or among the rural population.

At that time, the Zapatistas in the south no longer represented any real threat to the Carranza regime, because in 1916 and 1917 they were increasingly on the military defensive and soon were only fighting for their own survival. This military success of the Carranza regime could not hide the fact that the political dimension of the "Zapata problem" persisted, especially since Zapata showed clear sympathy for the latter in the dispute between Carranza and Obregón that had been emerging since mid-1917. With the murder of Zapata by the Carranza regime in April 1919, the revolution entered a new phase: that of the open power struggle between Obregón and Carranza, the starting point of which was the presidential elections scheduled for 1920. In this power struggle, Obregón knew how to win over not only the remnants of the Zapatistas, but also the majority of the army commanders, whose loyalty Carranza could never be sure of. As early as May 1920, the power struggle was decided with the assassination of Carranza after he fled Mexico City. Towards the end of the year, Obregón was elected president, which in view of his undisputed position of power was little more than a matter of form.

Obregón Presidency (1920–1924)

In contrast to his predecessor, Álvaro Obregón actually succeeded during his reign (1920-1924) in largely stabilizing the country in terms of domestic and foreign policy. Even Villa could be persuaded to give up his fight against the government for good. Obregón did not achieve effective political control of the army leadership, and as in 1920, the question of who should be his successor in the presidential elections scheduled for 1924 led to an open rebellion by numerous senior army leaders and their subordinate troops at the end of 1923. Against Plutarco Elías Calles , favored by Obregón as future president , who was suspected of being involved in the murder of Pancho Villa in July 1923 under dubious circumstances, the insurgent army leaders tried to enforce Adolfo de la Huerta , the interim president of 1920 . The renewed fighting, which, like the power struggle between Carranza and Obregón, was essentially limited to the rival army, was won by the Obregón regime until May 1924. After a bloody purge in the ranks of the insurgent army leaders, Calles was elected president in July 1924 without any further incident.

Presidency of Calles (1924–1928) and Maximat (until 1935)

The political consolidation made it possible for the new president to devote himself more than any of his predecessors to the economic reconstruction of Mexico, whereby after the restructuring of the deficit state budget and the introduction of a modern tax system, priority was given to the expansion of the infrastructure and the education system. However, the implementation of the anti-clerical provisions of the 1917 constitution and the establishment of a Mexican state church independent of the Vatican in February 1925 created a new source of conflict, which in 1926 finally expanded into a comprehensive rebellion against the Calles regime. This so-called Cristiada mainly covered the central and western highlands of Mexico, where Catholicism was particularly strongly anchored in large parts of the mostly rural population. The uprising of the Cristeros , in which extreme brutality was used on both sides, could only be fought down in 1929 by the new federal army that had emerged from the former revolutionary troops.

Domestically, Calles' position of power was already undisputed at that time. He skilfully used Obregón's assassination by a fanatical Catholic in July 1928 to secure a dominant political role in Mexico even after the end of his term as president, which he called jefe máximo under various presidents who were de facto just his straw men . maintained until 1935. The reforms introduced by Calles during his presidency and the subsequent Maximat, as well as the complete normalization of relations with the USA, finally made it possible for his successor Lázaro Cárdenas , who sent Calles into exile in the USA in the spring of 1936, to carry out these comprehensive social and economic measures who the Mexican Revolution is considered to be finally over.


"Mexican supporters of the government who were captured by the armed forces of General Villa near Ojinaga await the death sentence." (Caption in Reclam's universe of February 1914)

Historians still disagree on the question of how many human lives the Mexican Revolution claimed. Estimates range from 550,000 to more than 2.1 million deaths, including between 200,000 and 700,000 people who left the country because of the never-ending violence. Based on these estimates, there is a maximum of around three million Mexicans who “disappeared” during the revolution. This maximum number was claimed by the American political scientist Rudolph Joseph Rummel in his 1994 book Death by Government and has been adopted by numerous authors. Rummel concluded in this work that over 1.4 million people in Mexico were killed as a result of fighting and military violence ( massacres and shooting of political opponents and the like).

However, figures like these have recently been called into question, and research has now revised the number of victims of purely military violence down to around 350,000 deaths. The plausibility of significantly lower numbers of victims due to military violence is supported by the fact that the revolutionary struggles never affected the whole country uniformly, but always only certain parts of the country, especially the northern and central states and Morelos. In the first few years, the fighting was also carried out with comparatively small armies that were rarely larger than a few hundred or thousand men. The revolutionary struggles reached their greatest dimension in 1915, when “conventionists” and “constitutionalists” together had around 100,000 men under arms. This number is still small compared to the armies of the First World War, which were fighting in Europe at the same time. Robert McCaa, who tried to draw a total balance of the victims (including the estimated 350,000 refugees) of the Mexican Revolution, came in his study to a number of around 1.5 million people who were killed or left the country during this time. This still very high number can be explained less as a result of the fighting, but rather due to the inadequate supply of the population, which created favorable conditions for diseases of all kinds and resulted in a correspondingly high mortality rate. For example , the pandemic flu that began in 1918 killed an estimated 300,000 people in Mexico.

Films that take place during the Mexican Revolution (selection)



  • Friedrich Katz : Germany, Díaz and the Mexican Revolution - German Politics in Mexico, 1870–1920 (= series of publications by the Institute for General History at the Humboldt University in Berlin; 9). VEB Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften, (East) Berlin, 1964, DNB 452340810 .
  • Markus Kampkötter: Emiliano Zapata. From farmer's guide to legend. A biography. Unrast, Münster 2003, ISBN 3-89771-012-9 .
  • Dittmar Dahlmann : Land and Freedom: Machnovščina and Zapatismo as examples of agrarian revolutionary movements. Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 1986, ISBN 978-3-515-04083-9 .
  • Ricardo Flores Magón: Tierra y Libertad. Selected texts (= classic of the social revolt; 11). Translated by Renée Steenbock. Unrast, Münster, 2005, ISBN 978-3-89771-908-8 .
  • Johannes Roschlau (Red.): Europe in the saddle: Western between Siberia and the Atlantic (A Cinegraph book). Edition Text + Review in Richard Boorberg Verlag, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-86916-209-6 .
  • Hans Werner Tobler : The Mexican Revolution. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1992, ISBN 3-518-38488-0 .
  • Rubén Trejo: Magonism: Utopia and Practice in the Mexican Revolution 1910–1913. Edition Av, Lich, 2006, ISBN 978-3-936049-65-7 .


  • Britton, John A. Revolution and Ideology Images of the Mexican Revolution in the United States . Louiseville: The University Press of Kentucky, 1995.
  • Chasteen, John. Born In Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America. WW Norton and Company Inc. New York, NY. 2001.
  • Cockcroft, James D. Intellectual Precursors of the Mexican Revolution 1900-1913 . Austin: From Boeckmann-Jones Company, 1968.
  • Craven, David. Art and Revolution in Latin America 1910–1990 . New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.
  • Doremus, Anne T. Culture, Politics, and National Identity in Mexican Literature and Film, 1929–1952 . New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc., 2001.
  • Documents on the Mexican Revolution Vol.1 Part 1 . ed. Gene Z. Hanrahan. North Carolina: Documentary Publications, 1976
  • Foster, David, W., ed. Mexican Literature A History. Austin: University of Texas, 1994.
  • Michael J. Gonzales: The Mexican Revolution, 1910-1940. University of New Mexico Press: Albuquerque 2002, ISBN 978-0-8263-2780-2 .
  • Hauss Charles, Smith Miriam: Comparative Politics . Nelson Thomson Learning, Copyright 2000
  • Hoy, Terry: Octavio Paz: The Search for Mexican Identity. The Review of Politics 44: 3 (July, 1982), 370-385.
  • Joe Lee Janssens: Strategy and Tactics of the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1915. Revolution Publishing, Houston 2019, ISBN 978-0-9964789-5-3 .
  • Alan Knight: The Mexican Revolution. Volume 1: Porfirians, Liberals and Peasants. Volume 2: Counter-revolution and Reconstruction. Cambridge University Press 1986 (Reprint 1990, University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln) ISBN 0-8032-7772-5 .
  • David G. LaFrance: Revolution in Mexico's Heartland. Politics, War, and State Building in Puebla, 1913-1920 (= Latin American Silhouettes). Rowman & Littlefield, Boulder et al. a. 2007 (reprint), ISBN 978-0742556003 .
  • Macias, Anna: Women and the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1920. The Americas, 37: 1 (Jul., 1980), 53-82.
  • Frank McLynn: Villa and Zapata: A History of the Mexican Revolution. Pimlico: London 2001, ISBN 978-0-7126-6677-0 .
  • Jean Meyer : La Cristiada. The Mexican People's War for Religious Liberty. Square One Publishers, New York 2013, ISBN 978-0757003158 .
  • Jean Meyer: The Cristero Rebellion. The Mexican People between Church and State 1926-1929 (= Cambridge Latin American Studies). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge u. a. 1976, ISBN 978-0-521-10205-6 .
  • Carl J. Mora: Mexican Cinema: Reflections of a Society 1896-2004 . California: University of California Press, 3rd edition, 2005.
  • Berbard S. Myers: Mexican Painting in Our Time . New York: Oxford University Press, 1956.
  • Margarita de Orellana: Filming Pancho Villa: How Hollywood Shaped the Mexican Revolution. Verso 2007.
  • Paranagua, Paula Antonio. Mexican Cinema . London: British Film Inst., 1995.
  • Suzanne B. Pasztor: The Spirit of Hidalgo. The Mexican Revolution in Coahuila . University of Calgary Press & Michigan State University Press, Calgary u. a. 2002, ISBN 978-0870136269 .
  • Quirk, Robert E. The Mexican Revolution and the Catholic Church 1910-1919 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973), pp. 1-249.
  • Reséndez Fuentes, Andrés: Battleground Women: Soldaderasand Female Soldiers in the Mexican Revolution. The Americas 51, 4 (April 1995).
  • Smith, Robert Freeman. The United States and Revolutionary Nationalism in Mexico 1916–1932. Chicago: 1972
  • Soto, Shirlene Ann. Emergence of the Modern Mexican Woman. Denver, CO: Arden Press, 1990.
  • Swanson, Julia: Murder in Mexico . History Today, June 2004. Vol. 54, Issue 6; pp. 38-45
  • Turner, Frederick C .: The Compatibility of Church and State in Mexico . Journal of Inter-American Studies 1967, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 591-602
  • Mark Wasserman: Pesos and Politics. Business, Elites, Foreigners, and Government in Mexico, 1854-1940 . Stanford University Press, Stanford 2015, ISBN 978-0-8047-9154-0
  • Weinstock, Herbert: Carlos Chavez. The Musical Quarterly 22: 4 (Oct. 1936), 435-445.

Web links

Commons : Mexican Revolution  - Album with Pictures, Videos and Audio Files

References and comments

  1. Hans W. Tobler: The Mexican Revolution , p. 96.
  2. Hans W. Tobler: The Mexican Revolution , p. 101 f., Where appropriate examples are given.
  3. Volker Depkat: History of North America. An introduction (= UTB 2614), Böhlau Verlag, Köln-Weimar-Wien 2008, ISBN 978-3-8252-2614-5 , p. 103.
  4. a b Volker Depkat: History of North America. An introduction (= UTB 2614), Böhlau Verlag, Cologne-Weimar-Wien 2008, ISBN 978-3-8252-2614-5 , p. 104.
  5. Hans W. Tobler: The Mexican Revolution , p. 113.
  6. Hans W. Tobler: The Mexican Revolution , p. 58 f. and 112 f.
  7. Hans W. Tobler: The Mexican Revolution , p. 85.
  8. ^ Walter L. Bernecker, Horst Pietschmann and Hans Werner Tobler: A Little History of Mexico. , 1st edition, Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-518-45621-7 , p. 248 f.
  9. See Frank McLynn, Villa and Zapata , pp. 9 f., 53 f., 130 and 178–180.
  10. See on this Hans W. Tobler: The Mexican Revolution , pp. 123–128.
  11. Outside of the states of Chihuahua and Sonora, the elevation spread rapidly in the north to Durango , the western part of Coahuila, Sinaloa and the Huasteca region. In the south, in addition to Morelos, there was also an uprising in Guerrero . In April 1911, rebel troops were also reported from Puebla , Tlaxcala , Hidalgo and México .
  12. See on this Hans W. Tobler: The Mexican Revolution , pp. 150–165.
  13. See Hans W. Tobler: The Mexican Revolution , p. 175f.
  14. See on this Hans W. Tobler: The Mexican Revolution , pp. 183–191.
  15. See also Hans W. Tobler: Die Mexican Revolution , pp. 176–178.
  16. ^ With John Womack: Die for the Indios. Zapata and the Mexican Revolution. Atlantis, Zurich a. a. 1972, ISBN 3-7611-0392-1 , p. 88, it is noted: “ Few revolutions were prepared, carried out and won by men who were as obsessed with the idea of ​​a continuity of the legal order as the Maderists of 1910 were / 11. It seemed that nothing was more important to them than the maintenance of normal and well-worn forms of administration. She was fascinated by the Díaz regime and its character. They grew up in it and never really shook off their ambivalent respect for that "peace" which they, along with other Mexicans, believed Díaz had brought. "
  17. See Hans W. Tobler: Die Mexican Revolution , pp. 191–194.
  18. Hans W. Tobler: The Mexican Revolution , p. 242.
  19. See on this Hans W. Tobler: The Mexican Revolution , pp. 201–205.
  20. See on this Hans W. Tobler: The Mexican Revolution , pp. 228 and 238–241.
  21. a b cf. Hans W. Tobler: The Mexican Revolution , pp. 201f. and 206-238.
  22. See Hans W. Tobler: Die Mexican Revolution , pp. 242–244.
  23. See Michael J. Gonzales: The Mexican Revolution, 1910-1940 , p. 132, and Alan Knight: The Mexican Revolution. Volume 2: Counter-revolution and Reconstruction , pp. 170f. - Villa lost the “race” for the capital, not least because of his waiting after the victory at Zacatecas. When he finally decided to resume the rail advance, he was blocked due to a lack of coal supplies for his locomotives. Contemporaries at that time, like some historians today, expressed the suspicion that Carranza had deliberately withheld the deliveries in order to enable Obregón to be the first to reach the capital of Mexico with his troops.
  24. Rummel's estimated values ​​in this regard are either taken from older literature or are based on projections and extrapolations of the numerical values ​​in the sources he used. None of his figures are based on a systematic evaluation of larger sources with the help of statistical methods. Cf. chapter 1,417,000 murdered? Barbaric Mexico in Rudolph J. Rummel: 'Demozid' - the commanded death. Mass murders in the 20th century. With a foreword by Yehuda Bauer, Yad Vashem (= Wissenschaftliche Paperbacks, Vol. 12), LIT Verlag, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-8258-3469-7 , pp. 321-332. There it is pointed out on page 332 that the number of victims could be up to three million, because "this corresponds to the decline in the total population in these years". Erwin Herbert and Ian Heath: Small Wars and Skirmishes 1902-18 , Nottingham 2003, ISBN 978-1-901543-05-6 , p. 143, also seem to have followed this interpretation of attributing the population loss solely to the acts of war .
  25. Frank McLynn, Villa and Zapata , p. 399, who refers to the research results of others, but also considers a million deaths to be possible.
  26. See Robert McCaa: Missing Millions. The Demographic Costs of the Mexican Revolution. In: Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos 19: 2 (Summer 2003), pp. 367-400.