The Mexican Revolution and the United States in the Collections of the Library of Congress
The Presidency of Madero to his Assassination
General Bernardo Reyes rose up against the government in December 1911, but few rallied to his cause. Reyes was seen as part of the old regime and while Mexicans were hardly united in what they desired in a president, they knew they did not want to return to the past. Reyes surrendered on Christmas Day 1911. Emilio Vásquez Gómez gathered together a group of the disaffected in Chihuahua and managed to capture Ciudad Juárez by the end of January 1912. Madero sent General Pascual Orozco to defeat the rebels. Orozco spoke to the men and they gave up without a struggle, but soon Orozco himself was in revolt, only to surrender to Victoriano Huerta. Finally, Reyes together with Félix Díaz staged a revolt, only to have it hijacked by Huerta himself, supported by ongoing President William Howard Taft’s Ambassador to Mexico Henry Lane Wilson.
The Revolution would now take a different direction. Following Madero and Pino Suarez’ assassinations, other Mexican leaders would rise up against the Presidency of Victoriano Huerta including Venustiano Carranza and Álvaro Obregón. At the same time, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated in place of William Howard Taft, ushering in a new attitude toward Mexico and its leaders.
The 1911 Election in Mexico
As Mexico struggled to solve its most pressing problems, Congress was preparing for the elections. There were only three official candidates: Emilio Vázquez Gómez, Bernardo Reyes and Francisco I. Madero. With one candidate an anarchist, the second a supporter of the Díaz regime, and the last, the hero of the Revolution, Mexico voted for Francisco I. Madero. Magnanimously, Madero let Reyes who had been exiled during the Battle of Ciudad Juárez return to the country even after his electoral loss, as proof that Mexico was changing.
The true battle of the 1911 election was not for president, but rather for vice president. During the Revolution Madero and the Vázquez Gómez brothers had been allies, promising Dr. Francisco Vásquez Gómez that he would be Madero’s vice-president if he were elected. Relations cooled between the two men because they had very different ideas about Mexico’s future. Although he originally accepted Vázquez Gómez as his vice president, Madero dropped him in favor of José María Pino Suárez of Yucatan.
Entrada triunfante del caudillo de la revolución Sr. D. Francisco I. Madero a la capital de la república (The triumphant entrance of the leader of the revolution Mr. D. Francisco I. Madero into the capital of the republic), LC-DIG-ppmsc-04526. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
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Francisco Madero Assumes the Presidency (Lithograph by José Guadalupe Posada)
President Porifirio Díaz and his Vice President Ramón Corral resigned from the Presidency on 25 May, 1911 and shortly thereafter left the country for Paris. As recorded by eyewitnesses, Mexico was overjoyed. But, by the time Madero had taken possession of the Presidential chair on 6 November, 1911, much of his governing and fighting coalition had disintegrated. He had snubbed General Pascual Orozco, Jr. by not appointing him to the cabinet, and worse, he had ditched Francisco Vázquez Gómez, his first Vice President, in favor of José María Pino Suarez. Orozco and Emilio Vázquez Gómez (Francisco’s brother) would both rebel against him. Still, the Mexican public was excited by a fresh start and cheered the new President.
Saludo y felicitación al Señor D. Francisco I. Madero al tomar posesión de la presidencia de la República Mexicana. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-04587 (digital file from original). Call Number: PGA - Vanegas, no. 114 (A size) [P&P]
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Emiliano Zapata: Plan of Ayala and the Zapatista Rebellion
Shortly after President Madero was sworn into office, the followers of Emiliano Zapata declared themselves in revolt by issuing the Plan of Ayala. This proclamation declared allegiance to Pascual Orozco rather than to President Madero. The Plan of Ayala focused primarily on land reform stipulating that its usurpers would return their land to its rightful owners. Anyone who owned property could argue in an agrarian court once the revolt was victorious. Finally, one-third of all lands would be given back to the villages and people of Mexico for their own use.
This Plan soon had the support of the states of Guerrero, Tlaxcala, Puebla, Mexico and parts of Mexico City as well as Morelos. The leaders of the army were unable to defeat the movement and it continuously threatened the Madero presidency.
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Plan of Ayala and the Agrarian Movement
Almost as soon as Madero was sworn into office as president, in November 1911, Emiliano Zapata and his followers revolted and issued the Plan of Ayala, co-written by Zapata and school teacher Otilio E. Montaño. This proclamation declared allegiance to Pascual Orozco, and focused on land reform, specifically in contrast to President Madero’s vague land reform and social promises. The plan called for return of lands stolen by hacendados and the confiscation and reassignment of other haciendas to villages without land titles. Property owners could go to an agrarian court after the Revolution was victorious and one-third of all land would go back to villages and people of Mexico for their own use.
The states of Guerrero, Tlaxcala, Puebla, Mexico and parts of Mexico City as well as Morelos supported Zapata’s plan. Federal generals could not stop the revolt and it was a continuous threat throughout the Madero presidency. The Zapatista movement was decentralized; composed of small units of about 30-100 troops each. Individual units often operated under the most energetic guerrilla of the group, male or female. When political activist Dolores Jiménez y Muro wrote a plan condemning President Madero, Zapata invited her to join him in Morelos. She worked for the Zapatista movement until his assassination in 1919.
This article is an interview with Zapata; in the piece he tells the reporter why he is continuing his rebellion against President Madero’s government.
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Emilio Vásquez Gómez and the Threat to the New President
After Francisco León de la Barra declared open and free elections for the presidency, Emilio Vázquez Gómez decided to run for office. He published two pamphlets, Rasgos Biográficos del Sr. Lic. Emilio Vázquez Gómez and Candidato a la Presidencia de la República to introduce himself to voters. Emilio Vázquez Gómez with his brother Francisco had been early Maderistas and had lived in San Antonio with Madero and his family.
The Vázquez Gómez brothers came from an Indian family in the northeast frontier state of Tamaulipas. Emilio managed to become a lawyer while his brother Francisco received a medical degree. Beginning in 1888 Emilio proclaimed himself in opposition to President Díaz with a small pamphlet, La reelección indefinida, to be followed in 1892 with another tract against reelection. By 1909 he had become the president of the Centro Antireeleccionista and founded clubs throughout the country. He was one of the pre-candidates in 1910, but fled to the U.S. and joined Madero before the election was held. Ultimately he led a revolt against Madero, publishing El Pensamiento de la Revolución to acquaint Mexicans with his ideas. His forces captured Ciudad Juárez, but Pascual Orozco convinced Vázquez Gómez to lay down his arms. In December 1912 he rose up again, expecting that Pascual Orozco would join him. The movement fragmented quickly; not even his own brother Francisco would join it, and once again, Orozco convinced the rebel to lay down his arms in favor of national unity.
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Luis Terrazas (1829–1923) and the Politics of Chihuahua
Luis Terrazas controlled the state of Chihuahua for nearly 65 years. Terrazas, born in 1829, pushed himself onto the Chihuahuan political scene as a young man, a cattle baron turned jefe político. First elected governor in 1858, the astute businessman ran his state in northern Mexico during the French Empire, the Juárez presidency and the Porfiriato, only falling out of favor when Madero came to power. In 1866, he captured Chihuahua City for the republican cause and received the very wealthy estate of French sympathizer and moneylender Pablo Martínez del Río. Soon after, he married into the Creel family, the wealthiest American traders in northern Mexico and founded the Terrazas-Creel dynasty.
By the early 20th century, through his beneficial marital alliance and his own business savvy, Terrazas held more than seven million acres of land in his name (an amalgamation of some 50 haciendas, and a handful of smaller ranches), controlled most of northern Mexico’s textile industry, granaries, railroads, telephone companies, candle factories, sugar mills, meat packing plants and mines. His was the largest holding in all Latin America, perhaps in all the Americas combined.
Terrazas was very careful to place his family in prominent positions in both local and national politics, but by November 1910 his machine began to disintegrate. Many insurgent leaders resented Luis Terrazas and his family, who had humiliated or bankrupted them or their families in the past. So when Francisco Madero called for a new order to replace the existing power structures in Mexico, dozens of people flocked to his banner, hoping to destroy Terrazas in the process. When Madero refused to deal with him, Terrazas supported Pascual Orozco, the most determined of the early rebels against the new president.
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Francisco “Pancho” Villa's Loyalty to President Madero
Madero outraged Villa and Orozco following the Battle of Ciudad Juárez. The two generals were particularly angry that many government institutions stayed the same, and that several cabinet members remained in office. After working closely with the remaining members of the Díaz government during the interim presidency of Francisco León de la Barra, Madero was elected on 1 October 1911, and thought the Revolution was over.
Villa and Orozco were not the only revolutionary leaders to be angry with the new government. Many across the country were shocked by his perceived change of heart that removing President Díaz would resolve all of Mexico’s problems. The ideological and class divisions between many revolutionaries and their newly-elected leader peaked when several publically renounced his leadership, including Orozco who declared himself in rebellion, and Zapata who refused to stop fighting on behalf of the Revolution. Villa, in contrast, continued to support President Madero. Although he had been surprised by Madero’s behavior after the battle of Ciudad Juárez, he remained loyal. Villa firmly believed in President Madero’s mission, and shared a similar hope for a socially just Mexico.
Villa’s original goal from his early years in Chihuahua was to eradicate the Terrazas monopoly so that he could sell his meat in peace. Once Chihuahuan governor Abraham González began to redistribute land, Villa felt that the Revolution had been mostly successful, but recognized a need for additional progress. He remained loyal when the President neglected the families of soldiers. Instead, he raided the homes of wealthy hacendados and redistributed goods to the poor.
“Villa, Raoul [sic Raúl] Madero” (Villa with Raúl Madero the brother of Francisco Madero, 1914). Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-DIG-ggbain-15393
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“Plan Orozquista” and the Revolt in Chihuahua
Pascual Orozco, a muleteer from Chihuahua, joined the Maderista movement in early 1909, believing that his presidency would mean improved conditions for the working class, poor agriculturalists and the urban disenfranchised. By 1912, he was disenchanted. After having led the President to many victories, Orozco saw positions of power go to Madero’s family, regardless of competence or merit.
On 25 March 1912, the now general issued the most comprehensive plan for reform, despite his collusion with wealthy landowner and oligarch Luis Terrazas. Orozco accused President Madero of ignoring the Plan of San Luis Potosí and permitting the corruption still thriving at the local, state and national levels. President Madero filled important offices with family members and friends, and he supplied the government from family-owned businesses. Orozco called for a 10-hour workday, heavy restrictions on child labor, improved working conditions, higher wages, and immediate suppression of tiendas de raya (company stores). Orozco also demanded that all railroads be nationalized and operated by Mexicans. He promised that lands stolen from indigenous and small-time land holders would be returned, and that the government would give landless farmers whatever properties were not being used regularly.
Orozco’s 8,000 troops marched toward Mexico City in early April 1912 capturing government-held towns along the way. The rebels crushed federal forces led by José González Salas, Madero’s brother-in-law on the fields of Rellano on the border between Chihuahua and Durango. For all his military success, however, Orozco was unpopular outside Chihuahua. Author Ramón Puente wrote a scathing condemnation:
“His physiognomy has the typical features of those whose natures have a propensity and attraction to crime; his lower jaw is wide and receding, he has an enormous mouth with thin lips, a vast face with wide cheekbones, pale complexion... and last, a cold and cruel look. How can we hope for great things in the future of such an individual?”
(pp. 53-54) Ramón Puente, Pascual Orozco y la revuelta de Chihuahua, (Mexico, 1912); F1261 .P95
The very next month Victoriano Huerta was named commander of federal troops and marched them to Rellano where they defeated Orozco’s men. Orozco returned to Chihuahua because Huerta’s soldiers had more ammunition. Orozco would not fight again until Huerta became president in February 1913.
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Luis Terrazas Bribes Orozco, Villa Retaliates
President Madero’s policies in the state of Chihuahua led to the strengthening of the Terrazas monopoly. Governor Abraham González, a strong supporter of the Revolution, was sent to Mexico City to become a member of the cabinet. Terrazas made a secret agreement with Orozco to rebel against President Madero in exchange for money. Villa noticed Orozco’s avoidance of Terrazas territory and understood. Villa was unable to gather many troops from Chihuahua, but he remained committed to the Mexican people. When Orozco’s forces passed through Parral on their way to gather additional arms during the U.S. embargo, his troops forced people to give them goods. This behavior led to the eventual downfall of his movement.
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Villa is Imprisoned, Attempts Escape, and Begins Exile in El Paso
In recognition of Villa’s support for Madero in the various battles with Orozco and his forces, the President made him a general in the federal army. Initially, Villa was excited about his new position, but he discovered federal troops looked down on him because he lacked formal training. He soon left, fed up with the significant harassment he endured from his fellow federal troop members.
General Victoriano Huerta fabricated various crimes he attributed to Villa. Huerta had him transported to Mexico City and ordered that troops execute him on the way. Villa managed to survive two murder attempts, only to be imprisoned on arrival in Mexico City.
Villa tried to escape. After one failed attempt, he managed to flee prison in Mexico City with help from some of the wealthy elite. Villa accepted the assistance then drove a vehicle provided by lawyer Carlos Jauregui to escape to the U.S., where he settled in El Paso, Texas, directly across the border from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.
“Bridge- El Paso to Juárez” (between 1910 and 1915). Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-DIG-ggbain-15251
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Bernardo Reyes and Félix Díaz Attack the Madero Presidency
General Bernardo Reyes, ex-governor of the state of Nuevo León, wanted to run for president should Porfirio Díaz step down, but instead, he was exiled first to Europe and then to the U.S. In late 1911, when Francisco Madero became President of Mexico, and the Zapatistas were rebelling in the South, Reyes crossed into Mexico and declared himself in revolt against Madero. Madero feared that Reyes would have strong military support, but that never materialized. Mexicans rejected him as part of the old regime. He quickly surrendered to federal troops and was imprisoned first in Monterrey, Nuevo León and then in Mexico City.
Brigadier General Félix Díaz was President Díaz’ nephew; his father General Félix Díaz Mori, served as governor of Oaxaca, following the end of the French Empire in 1867. Félix Díaz studied at the Military College where he received an engineering degree. He was made brigadier general in 1909 and served as deputy or alternate for Oaxaca (1894-1896, 1900-1912), and Veracruz (1896-1900). He revolted against Madero in early October 1912, seeking to restore the previous government. His army, comprised mostly former army officers and bitter supporters of the previous regime, but by the end of the month, government forces had defeated Díaz and an ad-hoc court-martial sentenced him to death. Madero commuted his sentence and sent him to prison in Mexico City.
While in prison, he met General Reyes, and the two of them revolted together in February 1913. After Reyes’ early death, Díaz partnered with Victoriano Huerta, head of the army. Huerta outmaneuvered him to the Presidency, exiling Díaz as Ambassador to Japan. Díaz then decided to exile himself first to Havana and then to New York. In 1916 he led the National Reorganizing Army against the forces of Venustiano Carranza, a fight he continued until Carranza’s death in 1920. Exiled again, Díaz stayed away from Mexico until 1937. He died in Veracruz.
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Gustavo Madero (1875–1913)
The Díaz government had seized much of the Madero family’s land and embargoed its businesses once Francisco had made his opposition known. Only his brother, Gustavo, joined Francisco in his movement. Since the Revolution needed money, Gustavo raised funds by underwriting railroad bonds. By June, he had raised $375,000 U.S. By October 1910, he had travelled throughout the country, rallying support and organizing Anti-Reelectionist clubs before joining Francisco in El Paso, Texas. From that point on, Gustavo and his father, Francisco Sr. managed the Revolution’s finances. When the Treaty of Ciudad Juarez was signed on 21 May, 1911, it stipulated that the Mexican Treasury would reimburse Gustavo $700,000 for his financial support. Once he entered the government, Gustavo was frequently accused by dissidents of corruption. Gustavo also alerted the President to plots against the government. Because of growing accusations of mishandling of funds levied against Gustavo, Francisco Madero finally settled on sending his brother as special ambassador to Japan.
On 4 February, 1913, five days before the Tragic Ten Days began and fifteen days before his tragic death, Gustavo received a credible list of conspirators against the President. Francisco Madero thought the list might be a fake since General Victoriano Huerta’s name had a question mark beside it, even though everyone knew Huerta hated Madero and noted the coup would begin on 16 March, 1913. When Gustavo started visiting barracks and ammunition works, General Manuel Mondragón and his rebels moved up their plans. At 2 a.m. on Sunday, 9 February, 1913, a Forrest Guards Officer saw troops led by General Bernardo Reyes marching along the road to Tacubaya. He notified his superior, who told Gustavo Madero. Gustavo rushed out and asserted his control of the Palace guard with an impassioned speech. As Reyes and his troops advanced on the National Palace, its guard opened fire and the Tragic Ten Days began. During the first days, Gustavo bought food for the loyal troops. On 18 February, rebels arrested Gustavo Madero and took him to the headquarters of Félix Díaz and General Mondragón. After they had imprisoned and possibly tortured him, Mondragón’s men shot and killed Gustavo Madero, claiming he had been trying to escape.
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The Tragic Ten Days in Mexico City
The "Decena Trágica," or the Ten Tragic Days, is the ten days of revolt in Mexico City that began on 9 February 1913. Federal forces loyal to President Madero and various groups of rebels exchanged gunfire between the National Palace and the military outpost downtown known as "La Ciudadela," near present-day Avenida Balderas. Up until this point, the Mexican capital had largely escaped damage stemming from the Revolution. Fighting had dominated life in the north, particularly in Chihuahua and in the south, specifically Morelos. With this final and successful revolt against President Madero, the Revolution had come to the capital.
On that morning, General Manuel Mondragón set Bernardo Reyes and Félix Díaz free from their prison cells and they immediately went to the National Palace. Reyes, in full military uniform atop a white horse, rode in front and was cut down almost immediately. Although they were unable to capture the Palace, they did take control of the Ciudadela, where the army stored its ammunition. The fighting continued for 10 days, during which Huerta's men took President Madero, his brother Gustavo, and Vice-President José María Pino Suárez, prisoner. U.S. Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson brokered talks between Huerta and Díaz, making the former president's nephew a candidate for president in the next election. Four days later, Madero and Pino Suárez were assassinated.
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Villa and the “Tragic Ten Days”
President Madero refused to pardon Villa, clearly displaying the president’s preference for political gains. It also showed President Madero’s lack of judgment regarding the elites of Mexico City whom he was attempting to sway. While the President was trying to win the favor of the wealthy and politically powerful in Mexico City, they were secretly plotting his destruction. By not taking on his enemies directly, President Madero set himself up for disaster.
The Ten Tragic Days began on 9 February 1913 and lasted through 18 February 1913 in Mexico City. Generals Bernardo Reyes and Félix Díaz, two military men imprisoned for a previous coup attempt, escaped and revolted against President Madero with the assistance of General Victoriano Huerta. Huerta sent troops to fight the rebelling federal forces to show his loyalty to the president. The revolutionaries lost many men to the rebelling federal forces, and the uprising was successful. Throughout the ten days, the rebelling federal forces made massive gains. Officers captured and arrested President Madero, his Vice President José María Pino Suárez, and the Secretary of State Pedro Lascuráin and forced them to resign. Huerta probably had the former president and vice president shot before assuming the presidency himself. The then-current U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson, expressed his support of Huerta, and the murder of President Madero and Vice President Pino Suárez, which occurred on 18 February 1913. Díaz and Huerta signed the “Pact of the Embassy” the following day in Wilson’s office, agreeing to various terms regarding the new government following the Madero presidency. Huerta created a dictatorship like that of Porfirio Díaz while Villa, residing in El Paso, lived in exile. The results of these events worried many, as Huerta’s dictatorship swiftly replaced Madero’s democracy, creating a significant setback for the Revolution.
“Mexico City - Feb. 1913: group of civilians holding their noses beside charred corpse.” Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-49072
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Venustiano Carranza (1859–1920)
Venustiano Carranza, the son of a prosperous cattle rancher, was born in Cuatro Ciénagas, Coahuila on 28 December 1859. Sent to the best schools in Mexico City, Carranza was well educated and articulate. By 1887, at only 28 years old, he became municipal president of Cuatro Ciénagas. In 1893, President Díaz appointed José María Garza Galán governor of Coahuila, but Carranza organized a militia representing over 300 cattle ranching families to overthrow him. His rebellion was so successful that President Díaz sent Bernardo Reyes as his personal representative to negotiate with Carranza, who was nominated for the state legislature. In 1905, the governor of Coahuila named Carranza to the National Congress because of his incredible skill in passing legislation. By 1908, Carranza returned to his native state and ran for governor, but when Díaz withdrew his backing at the last minute, Carranza lost the election by a substantial margin.
Carranza closely followed Francisco I. Madero’s anti-reelectionist campaign. By 1909, Carranza left Mexico to join Madero in San Antonio, Texas. He soon became Madero’s trusted confidant, and was named commander of the north in 1910. On 3 May 1911, Madero named Carranza his Secretary of War. Carranza returned to Coahuila in 1911 and ran for governor again, winning easily. As governor, Carranza began to implement labor reforms, improving working conditions in mines and factories and breaking up large trusts and monopolies. Then he began a series of social reforms, including banning alcohol and prostitution. He disagreed with President Madero about maintaining strong state armies to enforce order in the states.
When President Madero was overthrown and assassinated in February 1913, Carranza denounced Huerta, accused him of assuming the presidency illegally, and declared Coahuila in a state of rebellion against the Huerta government.
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