A Revolution In Mexico Essay, Research Paper
A Revolution in Mexico
Much of Mexico’s history for the decade of 1910-1920 was recorded by hundreds of photographers. Using glass plate cameras and early cut film cameras, primitive by today’s standards, the photographers faced injury and death to take pictures that would serve as a remembrance to the people involved in the civil war or anyone on either side of the U.S.-Mexican border. Some of the views were obviously posed to portray certain views. Others showed the death and destruction resulting from the violence of a nation involved in a bloody civil war. These pictures help us to remember or learn about the past, but by far the most effective way to understand the Mexican Revolution is to hear the stories from a survivor. Tomas Zepeda is one such man.
Many times the revolution spilled across the border or involved U.S. military forces. The United States occupied Vera Cruz for nearly seven months in 1914 after Mexican officials arrested an American seaman. In 1916, Mexicans raided Glenn Springs, Texas, and Pancho Villa and his army crossed the border at Columbus, New Mexico, burned part of the town and killed seventeen soldiers and civilians. President Woodrow Wilson ordered General John J. Pershing to lead a “Punitive Expedition” into Mexico to kill or capture Villa. Villa eluded Pershing, and after eleven months the expedition returned to the United States. At age 13, Zepeda joined General Pablo Gonzales to fight for Venustiano Carranza.
This article will tell the story of the Mexican Revolution through the eyes of the soldier who survived the war. For most of Mexico’s developing history, a small minority of the people were in control of most of the country’s power and wealth, while the majority of the population worked in poverty. The two prominent leaders of the revolution were Emiliano Zapata, in Central Mexico; and Pancho Villa in the North.
Emiliano Zapata was born on Aug. 8, 1879, in Anenecuilco, Mexico. He was a Mexican revolutionary, champion of agrarianism, and a soldier during and after the Mexican Revolution. In 1897 he was arrested because he took part in a protest by the peasants of his village against the hacienda that had appropriated their lands. After obtaining a pardon, he continued agitation among the peasants, and was forced into being drafted into the army.
Francisco Indalecio Madero (1873-1913), a landowner of the North, president of Mexico from 1911 to 1913 was champion of democracy and social reform. Madero led the revolution that swept through Mexico and overthrew the Porfirio Diaz regime, but he failed to implement notable reforms. Revolts broke out, and General Victoriano Huerta treacherously assassinated Madero’s brother, seized power, and arrested and imprisoned Madero. He was killed while allegedly attempting to escape.
Francisco Madero, had lost the elections in 1910 to the dictator Porfirio Diaz and had fled to the United States, where he proclaimed himself president. Madero reentered Mexico with the help of many peasant guerrillas. Zapata and his followers decided to support Madero. In March 1911 Zapata’s tiny force took the city of Cuautla and closed the road to Mexico City. A week later, Diaz resigned and left for Europe, appointing a provisional president. Zapata, with 5,000 men, entered Cuernavaca, capital of the state of Morelos. Madero insisted on the disarmament of the guerrillas and offered Zapata compensation so that he could buy land, an offer that Zapata rejected. Zapata began to disarm his forces but stopped when the provisional president sent the army against the guerrillas.
Madero was elected president in August 1911, and Zapata met with him again but without success. Zapata had a plan to return land to the peasants. Madero received opposition from Zapata who did not want to wait for the orderly implementation of Madero’s land reforms. In November of the same year Zapata denounced Madero as president and took the position for himself. In the course of his campaigns, Zapata distributed lands taken from the haciendas. Zapata and his guerrillas adopted the slogan “Tierra y Libertad” (”Land and Liberty”).
It was during this time that the country broke into many different factions, and guerilla units roamed across the country destroying and burning down many large haciendas and ranchos. The lands not destroyed were left for the peasants. Madero was taken prisoner and executed and the entire country existed in a state of disorder for several years.
Pancho Villa rampaged through the north, and different factions fought for presidential control. Francisco Villa (l877-1923), Mexican revolutionary; and bandit in Northern Mexico was a slightly different version of Emiliano Zapata. Both revolutionaries were revered by the peasants they fought for. In l910 Villa joined the rebels and fought vigorously for Pres. Madero and later against Gen. Huerta and Pres. Carranza. Both Villa and Zapata occupied Mexico City in 1914 and 1915. Villa was defeated in 1915 by General Alvaro Obregon. After Villa’s men killed some American citizens in Columbus, New Mexico in 1916 a U.S. army expedition pursued Villa in Mexico for 11 months without success. Villa became a national hero despite his destructive and often undirected rebel ways.
Eventually, Venustiano Carranza rose to the presidency, and organized an important convention whose outcome was the Constitution of 1917, which is still in effect today. Pleasing the lower class peoples of Mexico, Carranza made land reform an important part of that constitution. This resulted in the ejido, or farm cooperative program that redistributed much of the country’s land from the wealthy land holders to the peasants. The ejidos are still in place today and comprise nearly half of all the farmland in Mexico.
The United States interest in Mexican affairs, aside from any other considerations, was heavily influenced by investments by American businesses, worth more than $1 billion, which had taken place under pro-US dictator Porfirio Diaz. He was overthrown in a revolution in 1910 led by Francisco Madero, promising democratic reforms. This caused concern among the American investors, and Madero in turn was overthrown by the US-backed General Victoriano Huerta in 1913. Huerta, however, had Madero murdered, and this was too much for Wilson.
Pancho Villa made raids into the United States hoping to provoke an American counterattack that would lead to the fall of Carranza. In 1916, Carranza agrees to allow an American military force, led by General J. Perhsing, to enter northern Mexico to crush Villa’s rebel army. American troops advanced 500 km into Mexican territory, and never did find Villa, but they attacked some regular Mexican army units. Villa’s plan had worked as this misunderstanding almost led to open war between the US and Mexico. Talks were held to settle the problems, but by April 1917, the United States had entered the First World War and their troops were withdrawn from Mexico. Villa continued his guerrilla activities until Carranza was finally overthrown in 1920. Villa then agreed to retire from politics all together. On June 20, 1923, Villa was assassinated on his ranch in Parral.
President Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy continued and expanded US military intervention in the Caribbean and Central America, invading the Dominican Republic in 1916, Haiti in 1915 (American troops stay until 1934), and Nicaragua twice, once in 1912-1925 and again in 1927-1933. American marines landed in Cuba between 1906 and 1908, invaded again in 1912, and in 1917 (the last time to prevent Cuba from increasing sugar prices). Honduras was invaded by US troops in 1905, the first of five interventions over the next 20 years. In 1921, the then US president, Calvin Coolidge, supports the overthrow of President Herrera of Guatemala, to protect the US-owned United Fruit Company. In El Salvador in 1932, the United States sent a naval force to help put down a communist rising there. All of these countries have a dislike for the United States that was demonstrated in the article. Everyone, Zepeda recalled, hated the U. S. soldiers. He said he heard stories that the tortilleras, the women who made tortillas, had even killed a few American soldiers.