1893-1952 Chronology of Mexico’s presidents
1877- 1880, 1884-1911 Porfirio Díaz.
1911-13 Francisco I. Madero
1913–14 Victoriano Huerta
1914-17 Vacant; however, Carranza declares himself First Chief of Constitutional Army
1917–20 Venustiano Carranza
1920–24 Álvaro Obregón
1924-28 Plutarco Elías Calles
1928 Álvaro Obregón is re-elected, but assassinated by a fanatic
1930-32 Pascual Ortiz Rubio
1934–40 Lázaro Cárdenas
1940-46 Manuel Ávila Camacho
1946-1952 Miguel Alemán Valdés
DJ was born and raised during tumultuous times in 1893. It was a time when the winds of a Mexican revolution were gathering momentum for a series of violent events that were to shape Mexico for the next 30 years. Porfirio Diaz was the president. This infamous dictator had been ruling the country for 9 years and was determined to continue to do so indefinitely—which he did for 17 more years.
Porfirio Diaz was not a well-liked President. Once he took office, he became a self-proclaimed dictator with an extreme authoritarian style. He is known for favoring the wealthy and foreign investors over the poor peasant; thus, creating a great division between the rich and the poor. His government not only took the lands from the Indian peasants, but also suppressed the growing labor movements.
On the other hand, Diaz is also given credit for establishing law and order and a workable government, per se. He professionalized the military and created the state police force called The Rurales. As a result, for several years civil wars ceased, banditry disappeared from the countryside, and provincial governors began to obey the law from Mexico City. The Rurales were a militarized police force of several thousand. They trained to maintain law and order throughout the country.
Diaz had a group of advisors that fed him ideas to govern the country. They were an elite group of wealthy, intellectual individuals whom people called (out of despise) “Los Científicos”–The Scientists. It was through their ideals that Diaz adopted French positivism as a national creed.
Nevertheless, his “workable government” was at the expense of the ordinary people of Mexico. While the elite were getting rich, the ordinary people were starving and loosing their lands to foreign capitalism. Yet, Diaz tyranny lasted for 30 years, until the oppressed had enough of him and his Cientificos—that’s when the Mexican Revolution of 1910 exploded.
DJ was 17 when Mexico went up in arms. The Mexican Revolution exploded into a bloody war, lasting for 10 years and costing the lives of over a million people. DJ grew up in these tumultuous times, mentally and physically. In the end, the Revolution brought down Diaz’s cruel dictatorship. The major players of the Revolution known in the annals of Mexican history are Francisco I. Madero, Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata and General Álvaro Obregón.
General Álvaro Obregón was a man DJ said he knew personally and of whom he spoke from time to time in his lifetime. In the archives of history, he is known as a skillful military leader and general of the Constitutional Army. He defeated the dictator Victoriano Huerta (1913-14). Later, in 1920, Obregón was elected president of the Mexican Republic, and put an end to the wars, the anarchy, the insurgencies and the chaos tearing the country apart. He defeated the Revolutionary forces of Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa in 1915. In fact, he defeated Villa in four well-known battles, two of which are considered models of military strategy—in one of them he lost an arm.
1919—Emiliano Zapata killed
Emiliano Zapata was the main leader and great hero of the Mexican Revolution. He was a man of great honor. His only purpose in the war was to return the lands to the peasants, taken during the advancement of Diaz’s capitalism. Unfortunately, he died an undignified death. He was betrayed and killed like an animal.
Zapata and Pancho Villa were both instrumental in the Revolution in defeating the dictator Diaz. However, unlike Villa who hardly missed an opportunity for a photograph or a movie clip, Zapata was a humble modest man that eschewed any political gain. He refused the presidency when he made his victorious entry into Mexico City. His death was a loss to Mexico and the Revolution, and a tragedy when it was learned that President Carranza had betrayed him in a well-planned, despicable execution. A Colonel Guajardo had invited Zapata to the hacienda of Chinameca with the pretext that he would deliver him 12,000 cartridges of ammunition as a sign of a new alliance with Carranza. Zapata took the bait and on April 10, 1919, he rode his horse into the military headquarters. He thought that he was going to be received with full honors at the sound of a trumpet and presentation of arms; instead, Guajardo’s soldiers received him with a hail of bullets.
The Mexican people revered Obregón for his accomplishments as General and President of Mexico. Besides being a military strategist and a brave general, Obregón was instrumental in the writing of the liberal Mexican constitution of 1917. However, after the constitution was put into place, he became frustrated with President Carranza for failing to implement the reforms called for in the constitution. Additionally, he despised Carranza for his insidious tricks under which he deliberately killed Zapata. Obregón, therefore, rebelled against Carranza and defeated him. Consequently, the Mexican people venerated him and made him president of Mexico in 1920.
DJ stories take us to a time of an era of reconstruction in the State of Sonora and his contacts with Obregón in the 1920s. It was a time when the nation was in disarray after the war. Over a million people had already died in the war and the country’s infrastructure was virtually destroyed, agriculture was scarce, and the national debt was at its highest. All over Mexico, people were living in deplorable economic conditions. There was rampant chaos in all sectors of government. Rapes, robberies and crimes were out of control. Enter President Obregón.
The one-arm veteran of numerous battles was a man of corpulent body, round face, broad forehead, rotund mustache, and a piercing look. When Obregón became president, from 1920-24, he was faced with the onerous challenge of reconstructing a country that had gone through a decade of revolutionary wars. So, he had two missions. One was to raise the country’s economy. The other was to put an end to the crimes and occasional insurgencies. Thus, his credo was to bring law and order into the torn country.
First, he needed to improve the economic condition of the people. For this, he put into effect agrarian, labor and land reforms. Obregón created a decree of minimum wages in the northern states, like Sonora. To clean up the country of outlaws and factions terrorizing the nation, he brought back the Rurales.
DJ grew up into adulthood during the first two decades of the 1900s. These decades were tainted by corruption in government and civil disobedience. The victims were always the innocent people who fell into the claws of dishonest government officials and bandits alike.
In the 1920s, the Rurales, which were a military police force once created during the Porfirio Díaz dictatorship, became a permanent function of government under President Obregón. Their purpose was to eradicate banditry. As an elite force, they were feared for their supreme authority to prosecute criminals. Most of the time bandits were shot, hung, or killed by the sword and without a trial.
1923—Pancho Villa killed
Villa was killed on July 20, 1923, in a well-planned assassination. Villa drove his automobile to town to baptize a friend’s child, but his executioners were waiting for him. They had rented an abandoned house on the street where they knew he would drive on his way to church. When they saw him make the turn at the corner, they opened fire with machineguns. Villa and his passengers died in a hail of bullets.
Just like Zapata, the great general of the Mexican Revolution and president of Mexico was killed in a cowardly-fashion. It was 1928. Four years after having served his term as president, Obregón decided to run one more time for president, and was unanimously re-elected, but his victory was ephemeral. A religious fanatic at the banquet assassinated him within a few hours of his election where he was to celebrate his second presidential victory.
Mexico’s President Lázaro Cárdenas is a world-known revolutionary leader who carried sweeping social and economic reforms. His actions were influenced by his humble beginnings and Indian descent. Amazingly, at the age of 18 Cárdenas had joined the armed rebels against the dictator Huerta, and a year later joined General Obregón in the battles that put an end to Huerta’s dictatorship. After Huerta, he fought as a general against the forces of Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa. Twice he ascended to governor of Michoacán—the first in 1928 at the age of 25 as interim governor. In 1934, he was elected President of Mexico. Besides being an outstanding, popular president of Mexico, he was known for his honesty, fairness and firm authority. He introduced agrarian reforms that included massive land distributions to peasants, and supported the development of the labor movement. The most intriguing fact of his career is that he is worldwide known for the expropriation of the Mexican oil fields from foreign corporations (la Expropriación de Petroleos Mexicanos). In other words, Cárdenas expropriated the rich Mexican oil fields from the hands of Britain and USA, and nationalized them. He also nationalized the railroads. Nevertheless, Cárdenas was a man of the poor. His political parties were the working class, agricultural workers, and the military.