The Economy Breeds Revolution
There was no single factor that lead to the Mexican Revolution. Multiple issues instead compounded into one another until Mexico was prime for a revolution. Decades of political, societal, and economic strife contributed to the revolutionary attitudes that boiled underneath the surface of Mexican society. While the events that lead to the Revolution could be traced to issues in both the culture and politics of Mexico, it is the area of economics that makes it easiest to understand why Mexicans from all walks of life were willing to enter into a popular revolution.
Porfirio Diaz at the beginning of the 20th century was viewed as a man who had saved his country, “In the eyes of his contemporaries inside and outside of Mexico Porfirio Diaz had achieved the impossible by overseeing the creation of political stability and economic development in a nation that had foundered since independence” (Gonzalez, 59). Leaders in both Europe and America praised Diaz as a master politician. In some regards these people were not wrong in their assessment. Diaz had modernized the country though the advancement of infrastructure and the growth of the economy through mining, textiles and petroleum.
Diaz’s accomplishments were not without sacrifice. Almost every area that Diaz brought the country forward came at the expanse of a large majority of the working class in the country, “Mexico’s peasants, however, held the strongest grievances agaisnt he Diaz Regime. Tens of thousands of them had lost their land to modernizing estates bent on increasing acreage in high priced commercial crops” (Gonzales, p 61). Diaz’s economic strategy throughout his presidency saw him catering to the elite and middle classes at the price of the millions of working class citizens. His over-reliance on the production of commodities such as sugarcane, cotton, and henequen meant that families with more wealth and land would be able to contributre more to the country. These “modernizing estates” would economically ruin the lives of a large amount of the countries smaller farmers.
The growth of commodity farming also had terrible effects on the food production in Mexico. Under Diaz the country began to rely more heavily on imports for food products. Domestic farming then struggled to keep up with the demand in the country with smaller and smaller amounts of landon which to grow food, “The hacendados’ decision to boost production of commercial crops, such as cotton, sugarcane, and henequen, decreased acreage in corn, bean, and squash at a time of rising demand” (Gonzales, 62). Diaz’s economic success now lead to a working class that was so underfed that starvation was not uncommon in the country. Gonzales further shows the inequality in Diaz’s system by comparing the prices of domestic and imported goods, “The price of a metric ton of corn sold at Veracruz, for instance, increased by 200 percent between 1877 and 1907. At the same time, Mexican per capita corn production fell from 282 to 144 kilograms, a decline of nearly 50 percent” (Gonzales, 63).
It was not just the food producing citizens of the country that saw the progress of the country come primarily at their expense. Miners and industrial workers were also victims of Diaz’s policies. Diaz had given foreign investors in the country immense amounts of power and autonomy in return for their business. In the town of Puebla the Gran Circulo de Obreros Libres (GCOL) with its large membership of 10,000 members decided to strike against their French owned company for better wages. Instead of siding with his people Diaz sided with the European company and sent soldiers to break the strike. In a bloody display that was emblematic of his reign the soldiers proceeded to kill upwards of 70 workers. Dozens that were not killed wre then sent to work in camps to the south. The leaders of the strike were also executed by the soldiers under the presidents orders. Diaz’s response to the violence was not horror, but relief, “Thank God I can still kill”
It was Diaz’s inhumane and unfair economic policies that lead the the spark of rebellion being lit in the people. The advancement that other countries lauded Diaz for creating was in actuality built on the backs of millions of Mexican workers who would never see the benefits of their labor during the Porfiriato. The economic disparity that the masses saw in their country brought about the revolution in the hope that the end of the Porfiriato would lead to more fair and stable conditions for all citizens of the country.