Brief History of Mexico (II)
Written by Alfonso Elizondo
After the fall of Santana came the process of the Reform in Mexico. The Reform Laws had a significant effect on the interests of many landowners, but mainly on the interests of the Church. In 1857 the New Mexican Magna Carta was promulgated, establishing a secular state. After Comonfort’s self-coup, Benito Juárez assumed the presidency and that was the beginning of the Reform War which was again lost by the conservatives who tried to take back power with the support of French intervention. This led to the establishment of the Second Mexican Empire headed by Maximilian of Habsburg. Both the French intervention and the Empire ended in 1867 with the surrender of the Conservatives and the execution of Maximilian in Santiago de Querétaro.
Juárez continued in the presidency until he died in 1872 and was succeeded by Lerdo de Tejada, who caused a revolt when he tried to get himself re-elected. In 1876 Porfirio Diaz took over the presidency. Díaz promoted investments by foreigners and locals by granting them major privileges. This brought significant growth to the country, but the precarious situation of the workers and peasants continued throughout his thirty-year rule.
The Mexican Revolution.- The presidential elections of 1910 showed up the malaise of the regime and although they resulted in the victory of Porfirio Díaz over Francisco I. Madero who had been imprisoned, that was the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. Madero fled from prison and issued a call to arms with the Plan of San Luis. On November 20, 1910 he was joined by numerous groups of the discontented, including Pascual Orozco, Obregon, Francisco Villa, Venustiano Carranza and Emiliano Zapata. Porfirio Díaz resigned on May 24, 1911 and went to France, where he died and was buried.
In February 1913, Victoriano Huerta staged a coup that ended with the assassination of Madero and Vice President Pino Suárez. Huerta was deposed in 1914 and Carranza convened the Convention of Aguascalientes which he subsequently disregarded and defeated to become president. In 1917 Carranza promulgated the Constitution that governs Mexico to this day. He was assassinated in 1920, while Zapata was killed in 1919 and Francisco Villa in 1923.
Contemporary Mexico was created by the ‘Sonora group.’ In 1924 Plutarco Elías Calles came to power and he created the Bank of Mexico. When his term ended Álvaro Obregón was elected a second time and was assassinated. Then came the so-called ‘Maximato’ with three presidents who ruled along the same lines as Calles. In 1929 the National Revolutionary Party (PNR) was founded. This party was the precursor to the PRI and in 1934 Lázaro Cárdenas del Río was elected president for the six-year period 1934 – 1940. Cárdenas banished Calles, promoted school-based education and the Agrarian Reform and nationalized the oil industry.
During the 1950s Mexico experienced a period of great economic development facilitated by the post-war era. In 1960 the electricity industry was nationalized and growth was seen in the improvement in infrastructure, public services and social protection. A number of patronage companies connected to the government developed and this created conflicts with independent organizations. That is what happened in 1959 with the railroad workers’ strike. The demand for more political freedoms was expressed in many ways, such as the 1968 student movement, which culminated in the massacre of students by the army in Tlaltelolco and the multiple guerrillas that appeared in various parts of the country which were violently suppressed by the state.
Towards the end of the seventies, the Mexican economy was drained and went bankrupt, just as the oil boom was beginning. 1977 saw the introduction of political reform that legalized the political left and in the following years the majority of parastatal companies were privatized. In 1985 a major earthquake left thousands of people dead in Mexico City and during the six-year administration of Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) Mexico experienced an economic upturn due to the privatization of state enterprises and the opening up to foreign investment. When the FTA came into effect in 1994 the Zapatista uprising ensued and presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, and Senator Francisco Ruiz Massieu were assassinated. The economy entered a period of recession known as the ‘December Mistake’ of President Zedillo which was recognized as the first crisis caused by globalization.
On January 1, 1994, just as the FTA came into effect, a group of armed members of the indigenous community occupied several municipal centers in Chiapas, destabilizing the Salinas government and questioning its promises of modernization. Their aim was to overthrow the incumbent president and establish a participatory democracy. Then came a bloody military repression in 1997, when 45 members of the indigenous Tzotzil population were killed while praying in a church in Acteal. It was discovered that those responsible for the massacre had been paramilitary groups created by the political system of the PRI, and in 2000 that party lost the presidency of Mexico after 71 years in power. The PAN’s Vicente Fox became president and he was succeeded by Calderón, another arrogant, radical and stupid member of the PAN party who plunged the country into the bloodiest period in its history when the military faced the better prepared and motivated army of the criminal economy.
Addendum: This simple synopsis of what has happened in Mexico in recent years gives us an idea of what will happen in the immediate future: either there will be a reform of the political party system to make it into a parliamentary system with a two-round election process, or there will be violent action by the vast majority of Mexicans living in precarious conditions who can bear no more.