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The Mexican Civil War and Reasons for the Mexican Revolution

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During the 19th century, Mexico suffered its own civil war (The War of the Reform) and was invaded by France shortly afterward. After the War of the Reform, in which Liberals emerged as victorious against the Conservatives, Mexico’s politics and its economy were badly wounded from decades of instability and war. The political struggle following the War was the infighting between factions that supported the liberal cause during the Reform, for they now had to fight each other for power. A major political problem was the division amongst Liberals. Described as “…a quarrelsome conglomeration of small guerrilla bands, private armies, and militias” (Wasserman 107), Liberals proved to be much too divided along concrete political ideologies and actions following their victory. Unity seemed only possible during the war when they faced a common enemy. Now with power in their hands (as well as heavy arms), fights loomed between puros and moderados and other Liberals who were divided not only ideologically but also geographically. Geographically, the threat of regional political bosses was overcast. Because of the weak central government, the tradition of communal and local politics continued throughout the Reform and the War, as small villages or regions could decide their own lifestyles, giving rise to political bosses and state governors who supported the Liberal cause. Although their support would prove vital for Liberal victory, it also proved to be a dividing factor after the end of the war. Juarez, now the elected president of the nation, was still at the hands of regional political bosses who had supported him during the War of the Reform through arms and soldiers and now expected him to bow to their demands (Wasserman 109). Liberals made a political mistake in their idea and decision to weaken central authority, for now the regional bosses used federal aid selfishly and wielded power over the weak central government.

The War of Reform left the Conservative losing side embittered and angry, wanting revenge for their loss of power. Their anger, paired up with Napoleon III’s dream of international glory, led to the French Intervention, another issue almost shaking Mexican politics at their core. However, Mexicans were hungry for leadership that would not bow down to foreign powers, which Benito Juarez exuded. Without the sense of self-respect Juarez forged on Mexicans, he would not have won popular support and thus would have lost the war. With the defeat of the French, however, came a political victory in the form of a renowned sense of national pride and identity. As Wasserman writes, “Humiliation by the United States had brought about a deeply felt reassessment on the part of the Mexican people” (114), but now with leaders like Benito Juarez who refused to bow down to foreign invaders, Mexicans had forged a new self-respect. Juarez was able to win over the masses with his Liberal rhetoric of local autonomy and strong state governments.

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One cause of the Mexican Revolution was the injustice of politics, manifested in Francisco I. Madero’s imprisonment in June 1910 (Mendiola’s lecture, 10/4/2017). From prison, Madero wrote a letter titled “Plan de San Luis Potosi” in which he urged the masses to stand up in armed revolt. He cites his reason, the Porfiriato, as “A force of tyranny” that has “offered peace, but peace full of shame…because its basis is not law, but force” (Madero par. 2). I argue Madero’s political involvement as a cause of the Mexican Revolution because, although there were separate factors and years of rage boiling up that would form the backbone of the revolt, it was Madero’s presidential campaign and its ensuing chain of events that triggered the war. Support for Madero manifested itself as a “multi-class alliance of dissident elites, ruined middle class, outraged country people, and unemployed workers united around Francisco I. Madero” (Wasserman 229). The diverse coalition that stood behind Madero proved to be a major force initially in ousting Porfirio Diaz, which I argue is a major achievement of the revolution. Porfirio’s overthrow was the initial call to arms that motivated Mexicans to participate in an uprising, for it served to open up the space for a new government that would meet the needs of all involved in this new political process. However, victory was short-lived because of the warring factions and disagreements within the coalition of revolutionaries. Emiliano Zapata famously dissed Madero in his “Plan de Ayala” by bitterly citing Madero’s intentions as “satisfying his personal ambitions [and] his boundless instincts as a tyrant.” (Zapata par. 3). After Madero’s assassination, Porfirian-supporter General Victoriano Huerta took the presidency and caused another coalition to emerge amongst Venustiano Carranza, Emiliano Zapata, and Pancho Villa. While the three leaders formed a coalition to successfully overthrow Huerta, they commenced to fight “each other in a bloody civil war lasting three years” (Wasserman 229). The infighting amongst the leaders of the Revolution proved to be a major weakness of the revolution for it diverged the goals of the movement and led to high political instability, which only elongated the war.


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