Mexican Revolution

Modern Mexican history is dominated by the legacy of the Revolution, a bloody upheaval between 1910 and 1917 which led to the deaths of nearly two million people, one in eight of the population. In 1910 Díaz, aged 80, stood for re-election and was challenged by Francisco Madero, a northern landowner who ran under the slogan 'Effective Suffrage, No Re-election'. Defeated, Madero fled to the United States, from where he contacted other opposition groups before issuing the Plan de San Luis Potosí and calling for revolt. As rebellion spread throughout the country, Pascual Orozco seized Ciudad Juárez, which became the rebel capital and, in May 1911, Díaz resigned.

Though Madero became president in November 1911, he faced an impossible situation, between the supporters of Díaz who dominated the army, and radicals such as Orozco, Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata , who demanded land and labour reform. By February 1913, Mexico was in chaos as rival groups revolted: after 10 days of street fighting in the capital, Madero was betrayed by one of his generals, Victoriano Huerta, and murdered. Huerta took over as president but he faced three main opponents: Zapata's peasant army from Morelos, Pancho Villa's peasant and worker forces from the north, and the troops of Venustiano Carranza, a reformer and landowner from Sonora. The three formed the Constitutional coalition, but it was Villa's Division of the North which defeated Huerta's forces in a series of battles and he was forced to resign in July 1914.

At a convention held in Aguascalientes in October 1914, the Constitutionalists split and war broke out between Carranza's supporters and the radicals who backed Zapata and Villa. Villa was defeated by Carrancista general Alvaro Obregón and was forced to retreat to Chihuahua where he carried on a guerrilla struggle until 1920. Carranza called a Congress of his supporters which met at Querétaro in November 1916 and which produced the 1917 Constitution. The key features of this included a commitment to agrarian reform, social protection for workers and hostility to the Church. Carranza was then elected president but as he met opposition from supporters of Villa and Zapata he turned for allies among the pre-revolutionary elite, to some of whom he returned lands which had been seized.

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