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HIST 4360- Major changes from 1821 to 1910 in Mexico

Sep 8, 2023


From the end of the War of Independence until the end of the Porfiriato, Mexico experienced changes in governance (two Constitutions and the Seven Laws) and changes in other areas too. For your second essay, identify and discuss what you consider to be the major changes from 1821 to 1910. Also, identify major area(s) in which there was a lack of change.

Your essay of 2,000 — 3,000 words must be submitted in double-spaced Calibri, Ariel, or

Major changes from 1821 to 1910 in Mexico

Ever since its independence Mexico saw some major political transition periods that changed the course of the country’s development and progress. The united front that was achieved by the people of the nation to get independence from Spain fell apart. The conflict arose regarding the reformation of the country and the Conservatives and Liberals hardly agreed on the matters of state. In the first year, the Conservatives gained more upper hand and crowned Agustin de Iturbide as the emperor but soon the opposition parties grew stronger and he was overthrown by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. In spite of this Mexico’s problems were far from being over because in 1845 the war broke out between the United States and Mexico.

There were several factors that contributed to the building up of this clash. Firstly, the United States became determined to increase its territories and get hold of more natural resources. On several occasions, the US tried to gain control over Texas. As a result in 1830, Mexico passed laws that prohibited American immigrants from entering the country. Moreover, there were strict laws that came into existence by that time that prohibited slavery. This helped to stall immigration because many Americans owned slaves. Secondly, Santa Anna repealed the Constitution of 1824 and brought forward the Seven Laws. This not only strengthened the authority of the president but also militarized the federal government. In order to ensure continued support the voting age for the people with property was raised. Thirdly, the major incident that fueled the war was Santa Anna’s decision to kill all Texan soldiers instead of taking them prisoners. This made the Texan soldiers furious and wanting to take revenge for the 1836 Alamo defeat. In the battle, Mexico didn’t receive any victory. The final battle happened in Chapultepec Castle and there was no Mexican soldier that was left alive. Santa Anna was taken as a prisoner by General Houston and compelled to grant Texas independence officially. This cleared some way for the United States to get hold of more land.

The U.S. president at that time was James K. Polk and he offered the deal to buy New Mexico from the government. This would make Texas part of the United States. When Mexico refused to bend according to their will, the US attacked which resulted in several deaths. Mexico was forced to surrender and a peaceful treaty was signed in the year 1848. It was the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that lined the borders between Mexico and the United States. The treaty defined that New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, California, Colorado, Wyoming, and some parts of Arizona would belong to the United States. The US in exchange for this paid $15 million as compensation.

Under all political and diplomatic movements, there is a belief structure that inspires it. The main social belief that resulted in the US and Mexico war was the idea of ‘manifest destiny’. There was this general belief that America is a land of great opportunity and it needs to expand its domain continuously.

John O’Sullivan proposed this term in 1845 that was used by historians to justify Mexico-America War but this manifest did not continue because of slavery expansion.

Mexico suffered several struggles after getting a victory in Independence from Spain in 1821. The calamities of civil and political nature comprised invasions from foreign countries, dictatorship, assassination, and revolution that shuddered Mexico overall. The governments kept on changing between the years 1821-1857 because of the fight for power. Liberals and Conservatives brought approximately 50 different types of government at the national level.

Wealth and property owners were mostly Conservatives also known as haciendas. The middle class that owned businesses were mostly Liberals. Both of these groups had control over the land of Mexico and bothered less about peasants, laborers, and miners who were commoners in the country. The liberals overcame the conservatives in a bloody civil war that lasted from 1858 to 1861, and Benito Juarez was chosen as president. However, the French quickly attacked and seized Mexico in order to ensure that its enormous foreign debt was paid.

Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria, a Catholic archduke, was chosen by France to establish a monarchy in Mexico. Conservatives and Mexican Catholic Church officials enthusiastically backed him. Maximilian and his conservative allies were however overthrown by liberal fighters led by Juarez when France withdrew its soldiers in 1866, and he was then murdered by firing squad. Juarez resumed office, and the Mexican people chose him for the position twice more. He intended to run for a fourth term but passed away unexpectedly. Sebastian Lerdo, his secretary of state for foreign affairs, was elected president in 1872.

Liberals had become weary of presidents serving more than one term by this point due to the possibility of them turning corrupt and gaining excessive power. Additionally, individuals in charge frequently falsified elections to their advantage. Many liberals revolted when President Lerdo declared his desire to run for another term. National hero General Porfirio Diaz, who had fought against the French, was one of them.

In 1876, Diaz declared Lerdo to be corrupt and seized power by force. For the following 35 years, he controlled Mexico either directly or through a puppet president. Diaz consolidated authority once he took control of the government. He appointed friends and family members to important positions in the federal, state, and local governments. This infuriated liberals from all socioeconomic classes who respected local autonomy.

Modernizing Mexico’s economy was one of Diaz’s primary objectives. Mexican business owners complained about his tax cuts and other economic perks for foreign investors. Diaz altered the legislation so that foreigners who purchased Mexican land might be the owners of the oil, silver, and copper found underground. He also made deals with American businesses to build a railroad network. The majority of the nation was served by railroad lines, making it simpler to reach Mexico’s ports. The goods that were exported were meat, cash crops, sugar, and cotton. The railroad bloomed these businesses and increased the scope of the market.

Small pieces of land were farmed by some Mexican peasants on their own. They typically worked on village land that they collectively held in the past. For food, Mexican peasants raised crops and grazed their livestock. Large hacienda owners, or hacendados, sought additional land under the new Diaz economy in order to boost revenues from their cash crop and beef-cattle exports. The hacendados, who were encouraged by Diaz, utilized coercion and violence to extort land from several local villagers and peasants. Numerous Mexican peasants were compelled by the loss of their land to relocate to the metropolis in search of employment or to work as low-wage hacendados. Peasants who were landless were added to the workforce, which resulted in lower pay, higher unemployment, and greater poverty. Food costs increased as a result of a lack of land for producing crops like corn. Hunger was everywhere.

Many landless peasants became ensnared in “debt peonage.” For barely any money a week, they toiled as slaves in appalling conditions on haciendas. They lived their entire lives enslaved to the hacienda because they were perpetually in debt to the hacendado’s store. Diaz permitted employee mistreatment and repressed their attempts to organize unions. In 1906, employees at a French-owned textile business in Veracruz, Mexico’s largest port, went on strike. Numerous strikers were killed by army troops dispatched by Diaz, who also executed union leaders.

In opposition to an American-owned copper mine, Sonora’s northern state’s miners went on strike in the same year. In order to discuss salary and working conditions with the miners, he declined to meet with them. He paid armed Americans from Arizona, about 40 miles distant, to enter Mexico and help him. Diaz gave the governor of Sonora the go-ahead to deputize the Americans who assisted the Mexican military in putting an end to the strike. Many Mexicans were incensed by the use of foreigners to combat the striking miners. Throughout Mexico, numerous small guerilla groups developed and joined forces under Madero’s leadership. Landless peasants, factory workers, miners, ranchers, business entrepreneurs, professors, intellectuals, and even some bandits were among the diverse groups of Mexicans who made up this group.

The majority of Mexico’s burgeoning businesses, including clothing textiles, mining, and railroads, were held by foreigners. Long hours were put in for little remuneration while working in frequently hazardous situations. In the “dual-wage system,”  Mexican workers were paid half in comparison to the workers from other parts working on the same job. This certainly didn’t catch much attention in the starting.

It was Francisco I. Madero who had believed in more liberal democratic reforms declared the election results to be faulty and declared himself provisional president of Mexico on October 5, 1910. He urged the people of Mexico to rebel against Diaz. The revolution in the subtropical south was centered in the state of Morelos. Here, enormous sugar haciendas had grown by annexing as much farmland and village territory as they could. Emiliano Zapata was a  landowner from a community whose most fertile farming land was taken by a neighboring hacienda.

Madero unveiled a liberal reform agenda that would limit presidential terms to four years, give state and local governments more political clout, and advance free market capitalism. However, he didn’t say anything about the land that the haciendas had taken from the peasants. The Mexican Revolution developed into two main factions that seemed to emerge. Liberals like Madero came first. The majority were educated, middle class, and concerned with protecting political liberties like free elections. Second, there were significantly more numbers of workers and peasants. They fought for fundamental social and economic transformation, including labor rights, schooling, the restoration of peasant land that had been stolen, and an end to famine and poverty.

In 1910, Madero started the rebellion in order to overthrow Diaz and a group of armed villagers guided by Zapata went to take back their fields.  Zapata was destined to take the reins as the Zapatista leader of the Morelos peasants. In order to recapture the area that the haciendas had taken, they became dreadful guerilla fighters. “Land and Liberty!” was Zapata’s rallying cry, and it served as the Mexican Revolution’s motto. Villa, Zapata, and other revolutionaries pounded Diaz from all sides in May 1911, forcing him to flee Mexico and seek refuge in exile in France. Madero was elected president a few months later. The 1917 Constitution established worker rights, restricted foreign investment, reinstated national ownership of resources, and forbade debt peonage. Additionally, it called for the hacendados to cede land to the peasants in exchange for government compensation. Following the passage of the new constitution, Carranza was elected president, but he did nothing to implement the reforms.

President Woodrow Wilson of the United States sent many fleets of fully equipped battleships to Veracruz in April 1914 and occupied the city with marines and sailors, further complicating matters. Wilson believed Huerta’s team to be unconstitutional and backed Carranza in his attempt to depose him. Wilson intended to deny Huerta’s government access to customs income by capturing Mexico’s largest port. Meanwhile, Zapata surrounded another portion of Huerta’s army in Morelos while Villa’s cavalry routed a group of 12,000 soldiers. General Alvaro Obregon, the head of Carranza’s troops, and his soldiers fought their way toward Mexico City. Huerta gave up and escaped to Spain in July 1914. President Wilson gave the order for American occupation forces to leave Veracruz a few months later.

Between 1910 and 1920, the ongoing fighting resulted in millions of deaths of both Mexican fighters and civilians. The fields were destroyed by fire and many other economic structures like train tracks bore the brunt of this conflict.

The people started to leave the place and take refuge in America. In conclusion, Mexico constantly saw political, social, and economic changes that created difficulties in the path toward development. The political instability affected the most because the constitutional and law enforcement changes were held strictly in the hands of the people who came into power. Thus, there was a constant division not only on political views of the circumstances but the social ideologies and beliefs that motivated revolts. 

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