Woodrow Wilson and a Revolutionary World, 1913-1921

By Arthur S. Link | Go to book overview

Chapter One

WOODROW WILSON AND THE
MEXICAN REVOLUTION

LLOYD C . GARDNER

Mexico was quiet for thirty-four years. During that era, 1876-1910, Porfirio Diaz ruled, mixing favor and force in whatever proportions necessary to maintain his power. He was also lucky. The sweeping economic changes wrought in Mexico during his dictatorship and the underlying divisions within Mexican society actually delayed the formation of an effective opposition and diverted potential revolutionary causes into local struggles. Even after the revolution of 1910 began, no organized political party led it. Before its force was spent a decade later, perhaps a million Mexicans—one of every eight—had died. 1

The revolution began when Francisco Ignacio Madero, a liberal landowner from Coahuila, published a manifesto which demanded free and orderly elections. But Madero also proclaimed himself Provisional President of Mexico and designated November 20, 1910, as the day on which Mexicans should rise up in arms against the regime. At first Diaz resisted. When several local leaders rallied to Madero's banner, the old man heeded the advice of his inner circle and left Mexico. He left behind a final dark prophecy: "Madero has unleashed a tiger, let us see if he can control him." 2

To the outside world, the Mexican Revolution of i g i o was indeed a tiger let loose to rampage across the country and to kill foreigners and destroy their property. The antiforeign element of the revolution held together diverse groups within the country, and gave it a needed focus. But a better image of the revolution is that of a volcanic explosion which released century-old feelings that Mexicans were the sub

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