The Course of Mexican History

By Michael C. Meyer; William L. Sherman et al. | Go to book overview

30
The Liberal Indictment

THE LIBERAL LEADERSHIP

The opening of the twentieth century found Mexico a far different place than it had been only twenty-five years earlier. It would be sheer folly to gainsay the tremendous material benefits that had accrued in the industrial, commercial, and mining fields. But there is no Ciudad Porfirio Díaz in Mexico today, no public school or street bears his name, and it is hard to find a public statue or monument erected in his honor. Porfirian capitalism shunned the masses; the economic surplus generated by the dynamic economy had been appropriated by the few. Fifty years earlier nobody would have batted an eye, but new ideological currents had swept through the western world in the second half of the nineteenth century and had begun to lay bare the social malaise of the old regimes. A system that perpetuated itself for the sake of order and economic progress, and atrophied in the process, became less and less palatable to an increasing number of young, socially aware Mexicans.

When a handful of astute observers began to balance the progress against the costs, they at first manifested greater interest in political abuse than in social stagnation. The federal Constitution of 1857, with its theoretical guarantees, had been violated incessantly. Elections at all levels of government were a farce. The administration of justice in rural Mexico was a euphemism for the capricious whims of the local jefe político. Freedom of the press did not exist, and the restrictions of the Reform limiting the participatory role of the clergy were not enforced. To those who were concerned with the longevity of the regime, Don Porfirio became “Don Perpetuo,” while those more concerned with the brutality dubbed him “Porfiriopoxtli.”

The intelligentsia as a class did not abandon the regime with the advent of the twentieth century. The científicos continued to be loyal apologists for the dictatorship, as it well behooved them. They had convinced themselves that to attack the Díaz system was to attack the foundation of civilization itself. But a younger generation of intellectual activists,

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