The Course of Mexican History

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

28
The Costs of Modernization

DICTATORSHIP BY FORCE

Modernization came to Mexico during the Díaz regime not simply as the result of positivist theory and careful economic planning. The peace that made it all possible was in part attributable to brute force. Díaz maintained himself in power from 1876 to 1911 by a combination of adroit political maneuvering, intimidation, and, whenever necessary, callous use of the federal army and the rurales. He was the consummate bully.

Throughout the thirty-four years the dictator maintained the sham of democracy. Elections were held periodically at the local, state, and national levels, but they were invariably manipulated in favor of those candidates who held official favor. The press throughout the epoch was tightly censored; journalists who dared to oppose the regime on any substantive matter found themselves in jail or exile, while recalcitrant editors found their newspapers closed down. Filomeno Mata, the editor of the Diario del Hogar, suffered imprisonment over thirty times for his anti-re-electionist campaigns. While a few persistent critics were killed, the large majority of the journalists were bludgeoned into submission and ceased to constitute a problem.

The dictator played off political opponents against one another, or bought them off. Potentially ambitious generals or regimental commanders were shifted regularly from one military zone to another to assure that they would be unable to cultivate a power base. State governors were invited to assume the same position in other states or to become congressmen, cabinet secretaries, or diplomats to remove their influence at home. Not even members of the Díaz family were immune. When the dictator’s nephew, Félix Díaz, decided to run for the governorship of Oaxaca against Don Porfirio’s wishes, he shortly found himself on a ship bound for Chile, where he was given a diplomatic post and allowed to cool off. Most influential Mexicans cooperated with the regime and were rewarded with political favors and lucrative economic concessions. Díaz himself never accumulated a personal for

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