This online exhibition opens with the figure of Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the “Father of Mexican Independence,” and shows that by the 1850s, independent Mexico had lost over one-half of its original territory to the United States. It continues with Presidents Benito Juárez (1858-1872) and Porfirio Díaz (1876-1880, 1884-1911), who brought peace, stability, and economic progress to Mexico, coupled with repression and dictatorship. In 1908, Díaz told U.S. reporter James Creelman that he thought Mexico was ready for democracy and that he might be willing to step down as President.
The interview was quickly published in Mexico and soon Francisco Madero, son of a hacendado in the northern state of Coahuila, wrote and published the seminal book, “La Sucesión presidencial en 1910,” in which he put forth his candidacy for the presidency. Díaz tried to stop Madero, but the young man wanted to bring real democracy to his country. His determination and the wretched conditions forced on Mexicans by Porfirian modernization, among many other movements and events, led to a revolution lasting until 1917.
The section on Madero takes him from his famous book to his unanticipated victory over federal troops in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua in May 1911. But even as Madero was riding triumphantly into Mexico City, Emiliano Zapata was demanding the return of lands grabbed by agribusiness in the state of Morelos. Zapata wasn’t the only threat to the Madero presidency. Many of his former allies, including Pascual Orozco and Emilio Vásquez Gómez, rebelled against him, as did his enemies such as Bernardo Reyes, former governor of Nuevo León, and Félix Díaz, nephew of the former president abetted by the U.S. Ambassador, Henry Lane Wilson. In February 1913, President Madero and Vice-President José Pino Súarez were assassinated.
Victoriano Huerta, leader of the army, took over as former Madero supporters and some of his enemies rose up in the name of the slain leader. Unhappily for Huerta, Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated as President of the United States just as the new Mexican president sought recognition. Although many other countries saw no problem in accepting the man known to his opponents as “the Usurper,” Wilson steadfastly refused to support the unelected leader and provided help to his opposition. Part of his favor to the rebels consisted of a U.S. invasion of Mexico’s Gulf Coast and the stationing of U.S. troops in Veracruz in 1914.
Once Huerta resigned the Presidency, those who had opposed the regime in the name of Madero began fighting among themselves. They seemingly divided according to their support of the Convention held in Aguascalientes. Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata agreed to ally with the Conventionists against former senator Venustiano Carranza, known as the First Chief, and his general Álvaro Obregón. Obregón discovered ways to defeat Villa’s cavalry and decimated his troops in 1915. Zapata, for his part, never marched north of Mexico City. Carranza achieved U.S. recognition and the Mexican Presidency. Although neither Villa nor Zapata ever became president, their struggles for local interests captured the imagination of Mexicans and students abroad in a way that the more prosaic Carranza and Obregón never did.
The Library of Congress also contains valuable research material for less studied areas. For example, the section on women describes their role during the fighting and during the peace. There are many examples of materials on the Pershing Invasion itself, including excerpts from the papers of both Pershing and his aide, Col. George S. Patton. This online exhibition highlights various objects of Mexican cultural production during the Revolution, from photos to novels, songs, films, plays, graphic arts, and murals. U.S. newspaper coverage of the first years of the Revolution is also shown, as is the Constitution of 1917, the role of indigenous peoples in the fighting, and immigration of frightened bystanders who came to the United States and enriched its population.