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History of the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1920

The decade 1910-1920 is one of the most turbulent periods in Mexican History. Frustrated by a generation of dictatorship and political and economic frustration, various sectors of Mexican society united to overthrow the raining Porfirio Diaz and his regime. This triggered a prolonged and violent power struggle that inevitably shook the entire republic. One of the regions most affected by the upheaval was the area bordering the United States. Along the border, political figures such as, Francisco Madero, Francisco Pancho Villa, and Venustiano Carranza emerged to lead movements of national importance. These political figures brought their military staging and key battle sites to the northern frontiers and border cities because of the access to customhouse revenues and American munitions.

In November 1910, Francisco Madero officially launched the revolution by crossing into the border town of Piedras Negras, Coahuila. This ignited uprisings in various border states and throughout the republic. "By April of 1911, an estimated 17,000 people had taken arms against Porfirio Diaz and his government." In May, Francisco Madero and his forces, which included Francisco Pancho Villa, took over Ciudad Juarez, which was the event that marked the first major victory for the insurgents. "TheTreaty of Juarez", provided an end to hostilities and the resignation of Porfirio Diaz. Francisco Madero was later elected president in the fall.

Soon after his election, Francisco Madero was assassinated and a constitutionalist, Venustiano Carranza took over the presidency. Francisco Pancho Villa meanwhile remained a military genius and continued to build up his forces. Carranza and Villa became enemies. Villa continued for years to wage war with Carranza's government, but finally in 1920 Villa made peace with Newly elected president, Adolfo de la Huerta.

Related Photos: Carranza - Diaz - Villa

Mexican Nationalism and Fighting in the Revolution

Every Mexican was involved in the revolution, including men, women and even children.There are many reasons why so many Mexican people became involved in the Mexican revolution. Often there was said to be three types of Mexican nationalism during the revolution. They were, Political patriotism, economic nationalism, and popular xenophobia. These three categories, although often overlapped and many people were part of two of the three categories. Political patriotism comprised the largest and most diffuse constituency. Economic nationalism was a small and select group. Popular xenophobia was nationalism among the popular class and could overlap with political patriotism but never economic nationalism.

Both the middle and upper class, as well as the lower class had their own objective to fighting in the Mexican revolution. In the upper and middle sectors of society, political disaffection from President Porfirio Diaz and his regime prompted many to form or join organizations that propounded revolution, while others assumed the leadership positions on the battle field. Among the lower class, lack of education and confusion over the precise objectives of the revolution, made it difficult to know the meaning of their own involvement in the conflict. Other factors that lead to the majority of the lower class to become apart of the fighting were: low wages, substandard working conditiones, inflation, bad housing, and deficient social services. Overall the feelings of the lower and working classes throughout Mexico, was that there was widespread cheating and exploitation by the rich, which was aided by the government. These conditions created a ripe environment for embracing revolutionary ideas and fighting for them.

Whether it was true nationalism or not, persuasion, pressure, or force, induced thousands of peasants (campesinos) and workers (obreros) to fight in the Mexican revolution. Countless died, without understanding the nature of the struggle, but many knew from the begging that the revolution presented a long-awaited opportunity to address the wrongs inflicted on the entire republic by abusive functionaries of the old regime.

Related Photos: 04 - 05

Mexican Migration to the United States

The Mexican people fighting in the revolution and the Mexican people trying to escape it, crossed over the border during some point of the revolutionary years between 1910- 1920,(see photo of Mexican border building on the right). For those who wanted no part in the conflict, the choice became to hide or to leave the country. Most of the citizens in the bordering cities opted to leave the country and migrate to the United States. Some of the important factors that caused the migration were from; the chaos, danger, economic disaster, social disorganization, conditions of violence and seized population growth, all which led to the migration across the Mexican American border. Mexican revolutionaries, as well as federals migrated to the United States when conditions made it impossible to operate in Mexico. The Mexican revolutionaries and federals entered the United Sates in hope to plot further incursions into Mexico. These exiles were joined by thousands of other political and economic refugees who sought asylum north of the international border.

Whether you were a supporter of the revolution or had no involvement in it, the United States for many was a stable and safe alternative to staying in Mexico during certain periods of unrest. "An estimated 890,371 legal Mexicans immigrants came to the United States between July 1910 and July 1920." The Mexicans were either legal immigrants, temporary workers, refugees or illegal aliens. Other factors can be noted to why there was a huge migration to the United States during the years of the Mexican revolution. Besides escaping the social and economic disorganization in Mexico, the Mexican looked to the United States as a place to find stable employment and a place to seek adventure and opportunity. The Mexicans did find work opportunities primarily in railroad construction and maintenance.

Related Photo: Mexican Century Guards

The US Reaction to Migration and Immigration Laws

In the begging of the Mexican Revolution the US immigration officials had noted that the quality of the immigrants were not measuring up to their expectations. The US immigration officials though had a sympathetic attitude and were able to justify why the immigrants fled to the United States and why the United States should allow them to stay. By 1914, during the heaviest fighting period of the revolution, the better-class started to immigrate in large numbers. The war thus was depriving the lower and working class citizens the opportunity to migrate. Only the wealthier Mexican citizens could afford to travel across the border. At this point in the revolution it was not unlikely that the US immigration officials would see entire towns cross the border before or during military clashes in the area.

Mexican Migration to the United States became problematic with the Immigration Act of 1917. The Immigration Act imposed a literacy test, a $8.00 head tax and also reiterated the prohibition against contract labor. Mexicans not understanding the new regulations or fearful of exclusion, began to immigrate illegally in to the United States. "An estimated 60,000 illegal immigrants had entered the United States in 1920 alone." The Mexicans were desperate for money, food and badly needed a job. The problem got so severe, an new smuggling industry was created to get the Mexican aliens across the frontier. Illegal immigration caused bad feelings among the Americans and the Mexicans.

Overall Mexican Migration during the Revolution had a huge impact on the United States. Many Americans felt that immigration was beneficial and necessary to the economy and were critical of the laws that were restricting the free flow of Mexicans northward. Mexicans were seen as people with good character and their migration meant they would be both producers and consumers in society and help economic growth in the United States. After traveling south of the border, many Americans were also left with the feeling that the United States simply could not turn their backs on the Mexican people, simply because the quality of life that they had in Mexico was minimal.

Related Photos: 07 - 08

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