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The Mexican Revolution, like many before and since, began with a reformist phase. Madero was interested in a political reform that would keep the social and economic structure intact. That left unfulfilled the dreams and aspirations of many other revolutionaries who saw the ouster of Díaz as the beginning of a new system that would help all Mexicans. That disappointment led to revolts. In fact, during his brief presidency (October 1911 – February 1913), Madero, and his army led by Victoriano Huerta, was asked to put down no less than five different revolts. The first to declare himself against Madero was Emiliano Zapata who issued the Plan de Ayala in November. The movement took hold and soon many states in the south were in revolt as well. That uprising was never really put down until much later.

Francisco Indalecio Madero (1873–1913)

Francisco Indalecio Madero was born on the Hacienda de El Rosario in Coahuila. His grandfather Evaristo Madero and his father Francisco Madero Hernández had built a family fortune almost unrivalled in Mexico from shrewd investments in cotton, livestock, and industrial production. Francisco was expected to continue in this tradition and took business courses at Mount St. Mary’s College near Baltimore, Maryland, the Higher Business School in Paris (1887-1892), and studied agriculture at the University of California, Berkeley the following year.

When he returned to Mexico, he founded a commercial school, ran one of his family’s businesses, and indulged in his own personal lifestyle – homeopathic medicine, spiritism and vegetarianism. He was convinced that the problems of the Mexican peasantry came from the lack of democracy in their country. When President Díaz indicated that he would accept a free and fair election in 1910, Madero published La sucesión presidencial en 1910 and later founded the Anti-Reelectionist Center of Mexico in May 1909. The party’s first convention attracted representatives from all but four states and territories. Díaz had Madero arrested in early June 1910 to keep him locked away during the 26 June election, but Madero escaped in early October and fled to San Antonio, Texas, where he wrote his call to Mexicans to rise up against the regime on 20 November, 1910, known as the Plan of San Luis.

Francisco I. Madero, three-quarter length portrait. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-36672 (b&w film copy neg.)

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The Presidential Succession in 1910

Francisco Madero, son of an important textile-producing and cattle-raising family from Coahuila, read James Creelman’s interview with President Díaz and thought that he would run for president and reform Mexico. As outlined in his brave pamphlet, La sucesión presidencial en 1910 (The Presidential Succession in 1910), Madero’s concerns were mainly political; he wanted voting to mean something, and for people to be able to express themselves freely. He was not sensitive to the popular desire to have access to land to feed their families, neither was he very aware of the encroachment on peoples’ lands by agribusiness and extractive industries. Nevertheless, in these early days, his courage to rise against Díaz rallied support throughout the country.

La sucesión presidencial en 1910. General Collections, Library of Congress. Call Number: F1234. M1904 A7 no. 1

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The Presidential Election, 1910 – The Official Candidates

Despite the fact that Porfirio Díaz was 80 years old, he decided to run again for the presidency, confident that his machine would make his victory inevitable. But this time he had opposition. This corrido, or popular song, drawn by famous lithographer José Guadalupe Posada refers to the struggle between Ramon Corral, made Vice-President in 1904 because of Díaz’ advanced age, and General Bernardo Reyes, a favorite of the army.

Bernardo Reyes was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco. He quit school at 15 to join the army and fight against the French invaders. He served as aide to General Ramón Corona and remained in the army, but did not rebel with Porfirio Díaz in 1871 or in 1876. Nevertheless, he continued to advance through the ranks, becoming chief of military operations and finally becoming Minister of War from 1900-1902. He served as governor of Nuevo León twice: once from 1889-1900 and again from 1902-1909. By the end of his first governorship, he was already a Division General (three stars).

When Reyes' presidential aspirations became known, Díaz exiled him to a military mission abroad. He returned in 1911 and led a revolt which was quickly put down and resulted in his arrest. After he was released, he led another revolt with Félix Díaz, the former President's nephew, in Mexico City. This uprising led to the first fighting in the capital itself and brought on the Tragic Ten Days (La decena trágica). While Reyes tried to lead an attack on the National Palace atop a white horse, he was quickly killed.

Reyistas y Corralistas. Nuevo corrido de actualidad. Page 2Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Call Number: PGA - Vanegas, no. 100 (A size) [P&P]. Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-04565 (digital file from original, recto)

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The Presidential Election, 1910 – The Científicos Candidate

Another group tentatively sought the presidency as well. The Científicos or those in the government intent on modernizing Mexico and running it according to “scientific principles” had a different candidate in mind than either General Bernardo Reyes or Francisco Madero. They favored Minister of the Treasury José Yves Limantour, whose father had been a prominent moneylender and supplier to the government. Limantour had only become a Mexican citizen in 1879 and was generally looked upon as foreign. As Treasury Minister, he had been at the forefront of Mexico’s transformation into a more “modern” country. Because of all the deals he had negotiated, he had excellent contacts in many nations and spoke several languages fluently.

José Ives Limantour. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ggbain-05144 (digital file from original neg)

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Emiliano Zapata’s 1910 Revolt against Díaz

After Francisco Madero began his revolt against President Porfirio Díaz, Zapata recruited a group of men, who had captured the city of Cuautla, just north of Anenecuilco in May 1910. Zapata’s forces used guerrilla tactics and new ways to fight government troops. Zapata soon discovered that Madero, a hacendado, was much more interested in reinstating democratic processes than in land reform. Zapata refused to disarm his men for Madero and fled to the hills instead, continuing his fight for land.

Zapata continued his revolt and General Victoriano Huerta was sent to stop him, but violence escalated. Madero went to Morelos to negotiate with Zapata, but returned to Mexico City empty-handed. Huerta spent the next few months pursuing the Zapatistas without success.

The photograph here shows the aftermath of an attack by Zapata’s forces. By using guerrilla tactics, Zapata and his men were able to defeat government troops and prevent the resupply and reinforcement of armies attacking Morelos.

“Train Wrecked by Zapata.” Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-B2-3034-1, Library of Congress

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Madero and the Other Revolutionaries on a Map of San Antonio, Texas (1910-1911)

Many places in the United States found themselves involved in the Mexican Revolution. That fact is typical of such struggles. For example during the opposition to Rosas (1835-1852), Argentine liberals fled to Chile and Uruguay. Often Texas cities like San Antonio and El Paso were refuges for insurgents and later counter-revolutionaries, as well as people simply fleeing the fighting. It is important to remember that Francisco Madero wrote his Plan of San Luis Potosí in San Antonio. Here is a map of San Antonio. You can see some important locations for the history of the Mexican Revolution, including where detectives and counter-revolutionaries could be found.

  1. Hutchins House Hotel, 205 Garden St. – Francisco Madero’s whole family lived there.
  2. Ms. Elizabeth K. Villarreal de Madero lived at 224 Alamo St.
  3. Alfonso Madero at 421 S. Presa St.
  4. Pinkerton agent Furlong registers at Menger Hotel as "Thomas Foster"
  5. Madero returns to San Antonio to first King Wm St. and then 437 Main St.
  6. Venustiano Carranza comes to San Antonio, December 1910 first at 140 North St., later 520 S. Presa
  7. 3 upper floors of the San Antonio Loan and Trust Building at 235 Commerce St., housed the Anti-Revolutionary International Club
  8. Governor O.B. Colquitt gave public lectures about revolution in Beethoven Hall, 422 Pereida St.

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Plan of San Luis Potosí

In October 1910, Madero fled Mexico for San Antonio, Texas, to gather support, funding and munitions while planning his next attack. The most important result of that stay was the Plan of San Luis Potosí, a small document where he laid out his reasons for rebellion. Madero, using the advice of Federico González Garza, Roque Estrada, Juan Sánchez Azcona and Enrique Bordes Mangel, wrote a stirring condemnation of the tyranny of the Porfiriato and a call to arms.

According to his plan, he would establish democracy throughout the country, contracts and government transactions previously made would be respected, government would transparent and accountable, and the economy would favor Mexican enterprises instead of foreign businesses.

The Plan of San Luis Potosí was a masterpiece of 19th century economic and political liberalism, but it failed to address the two largest problems in Mexico – agrarian reform and labor rights. Why did the document gain so much support? It won public acceptance because it presented a new leader who could take Mexico to unprecedented heights by instituting political, economic and some social reform and make Mexico one of the best nations in the world.

Album Histórico Gráfico (México, 1920). General Collections, Library of Congress. F1231.5 .G666 1920. http://lccn.loc.gov/2010713764.

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Corridos: Mexican Folksongs

Ballads. Folksongs. History. Corridos are oral folk histories usually set to Ranchera or Mariachi music. Corridos celebrate heroes, condemn villains, recount important events and teach life lessons to succeeding generations. Corridos are locally situated, not only historically, but also geographically and culturally, revealing landscapes, and social mores. Most importantly, they are collaborative and communal spaces for cultural performance, demonstrated by different social backgrounds of the corridistas (balladeers). Corridos were always being created and re-sung; therefore, versions vary greatly among different communities based on the beliefs of each audience. In relaying important information while maintaining local appeal corridistas, or singers of songs were often more reliable news sources than the national press.

The recorded corrido tradition began during the last few years of the Porfiriato. These songs showed popular disillusion with the government and the social problems that beset the country. Their heroes were often poor, hardworking, disaffected men who triumphed by outsmarting corrupt officials or by capturing true criminals and turning them into legitimate local leaders. Corridos bring local figures to life through dialect, slang, and accent. They also feture a way for non-traditional heroes to be remembered. Two such characters were Adelita and Valentina, who are the heroines of Villa and Carranza marching songs respectively. Other corridos tell about local battles fought by small-town generals, too unimportant to be remembered in the history of the Revolution. The stories of common folk come out in corridos.

The most famous of these folk songs tell of other historical characters and outlaws, often classified as social bandits, working to outwit the rich and help the poor. In these songs, outlaws like Potro Lobo Gateado, Jesús Leal and Heraclio fight for justice, outwit evil plots, and save beautiful women. Many of these songs date from before the Revolution and are mostly symbolic, but those written during the Revolution detail real events. For example, in 1930 Manuel Camacho and Regino Pérez began their corrido “Nuevo Corrido de Madero,” which focuses on President Madero, his battles, and what he planned to do. Other corridos from the period detail the Tragic Ten Days and President Madero’s assassination.

Sold cheaply, broadsheets were often illustrated with the most poignant moments from the songs. This broadsheet shows Macario on horseback on the way to meet his girl. In the background dance figures of “savages” appear symbolizing the girl’s family who betray the noble Macario by inviting him to a dance to kill him. The symbolism plays off of Mexican and American ideals of civilization and barbarity, and reflects the fears that many northwestern Mexicans felt about the continuing raids of Apaches, Navajos and Yaquis on Mexican territory during the U.S. Indian Wars. The broadsheet was published by Antonio Vanegas Arroyo Company in Mexico City in 1912.

Verdaderos versos de Macario Romero. José Guadalupe Posada, artist. Broadsheet. Mexico City : Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, 1912. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-DIG-ppmsc-04557

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Leaders with Madero: Pascual Orozco, Jr. (1882–1915)

Born in San Isidro, Chihuahua, Orozco developed a solid reputation as an honest and hard-working muleteer. He quickly joined Madero’s Anti-Reelectionist Party following Francisco Madero's escape from prison after the 1910 presidential elections. Orozco was highly successful in recruiting soldiers and leading them into battle. He is usually credited with helping the insurrectionists win their first battle at Pedernales on 27 November, 1910 and, more important, with leading them to a key victory at Ciudad Juárez on 10 May, 1911. He also suppressed several uprisings against Madero in that state.

Following the victory at Ciudad Juárez, Orozco felt he was passed over for important posts, and eventually declared himself in rebellion against the regime on 3 March, 1912. He led the strongest opposition to the central government and was able to defeat the federal army led by the Minister of War, General José González Salas. It was only thanks to a series of battles led by General Victoriano Huerta at Rellano (23 May, 1912) and Bachimba (3 July) that saved the Madero government.

Unlike many other leaders of the revolution, Orozco supported Huerta after he took power from Madero in 1913. He led troops in favor of Huerta and won promotion to the highest rank in the army, General of Division. Following Huerta’s fall, Orozco refused to support either the interim government or that of Venustiano Carranza. He fled to the United States where he joined Huerta and others in planning for a new rebellion. U.S. marshals in El Paso, Texas arrested Orozco and Huerta on 27 June, 1915 and Orozco was killed supposedly during his escape.

Gen. Pascual Orozco. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-108596 (b&w film copy neg.) Call Number: BIOG FILE - Orozco, Gen. Pascual <item> [P&P]

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Leaders with Madero: Francisco “Pancho” Villa (1878–1923)

Francisco “Pancho” Villa, born Doroteo Arango, started out as a cattle rustler, but in 1910 joined the Anti-Reelectionist Party of Francisco Madero. After the victory of Ciudad Juárez in May 1911, he happily retired from the military only to rejoin to fight Pascual Orozco’s revolt in 1912. Following the assassination of Francisco Madero in February 1913, Villa gathered together an army of men who were descendants of military colonists settled in northern Mexico to fight Indian wars beginning in the 1700s.

While in control of Chihuahua state from late 1913 through 1915, Villa took control of huge landholdings while demanding sums from mine owners. These payments and the profits from estates financed his regime. He resolved to distribute these lands to the masses once the fighting had been concluded. In the meantime, their revenues took care of army widows and orphans, maintained the unemployed, and supported the army. By late 1914, he and Carranza had split and Villa had allied with Zapata. Given that Villa was from the North and Zapata from the South, their alliance was destined to be short-lived.

In 1915, Obregón, the general for Carranza’s troops, won major victories against Villa. Villa’s cavalry was slaughtered by Obregón’s men who were dug-into the terrain. By 1916 Villa was back in Chihuahua. On 8-9 March, raiders among his troops rode into the U.S. town of Columbus, New Mexico, shot up the place, and killed some 18 people. The U.S. sent a large force under General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing to find Villa, to no avail. In 1920 Villa agreed to amnesty and retirement. He was assassinated in Hidalgo de Para in 1923 to keep him from rebelling with Adolfo de la Huerta against Obregón.

“Col. Villa.” Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ggbain-09255 (digital file from original neg.)

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Villa Joins the Revolution and Becomes a Maderista Commander

Villa opposed the Terrazas family’s economic monopoly in Chihuahua. Francisco I. Madero, son of a wealthy hacendado family in Coahuila, opposed President Díaz. Although Villa was hardly political, he wanted the Porfiriato changed. After Madero published the Plan of San Luis Potosí, Villa and many others watched expectedly.

Abraham González, the Maderista leader in Chihuahua, invited Villa to join the movement. Villa became second-in-command of a group of workers, under Castulo Herrera. After his first fight with federal troops, Villa recruited twelve times the number of men, because he understood rural people.

Madero’s followers faced difficulties supporting him after he went into exile in San Antonio, Texas in 1910. Many, like Pascual Orozco, wanted simply to get rid of Terrazas, because they distrusted wealthy politicians and their movements. After Madero balked at military action at Ciudad Juárez, and his wounding at Casas Grandes, Madero revitalized his support because people saw he had willingly put his life in danger for the Revolution.

Villa and Orozco won battles for the Anti-Reelectionist cause, but Madero chose Villa’s loyalty and recruitment skills over Orozco’s independence. Villa’s success was a direct result of his strong leadership, though he lacked formal training. His troops were well-controlled, and he respected Mexican civilians. Villa was particularly sensitive to the needs of U.S. hacendados because of his past experience with them. Thanks to his behavior, his leadership generated support from fellow Mexicans, and a favorable diplomatic relationship with the U.S.

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The Tarahumara under Francisco Villa

The western Sierra Madre Mountains in the state of Chihuahua where the Tarahumara Indians lived overflowed with natural resources. Copper and iron mines there attracted international companies and their investment. U.S. oil men were anxious to develop its oil reserves, and the abundance of territory spread across tribal lands promised bountiful harvests. Chihuahua under Terrazas and his son-in-law Enrique Creel became the hub of Mexican modernization founded on indigenous labor.

The Tarahumara population, like the Yaqui and Mayo from neighboring states, decided to resist the Porfiriato because of their poverty and need to control their own culture. Excited by Francisco Madero’s speeches, the Tarahumara joined the ranks of General Francisco (Pancho) Villa’s rebel army.

Tarahumara familiarity with the harsh terrain of the Sierra Madre Mountains and their ability to cover large areas on foot made them effective scouts. For example, they were able to gather vital intelligence for Villa and his Army of the North during the prelude to the battle of Ciudad Juárez in March and April, 1911. Penetrating enemy lines, Tarahumara trackers followed Federal troop movements and numbers, allowing Villa and the other generals to move their troops to more effective positions. The revolutionary army won the battle giving Pancho Villa and the rebels the victory they needed. Tarahumara Indians would serve with distinction throughout the first part of the revolutionary war in Mexico.

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Yaqui Indians under General Álvaro Obregón

In the North, international investment and equipment led to more efficient mining. The Sonoran Desert became the location for natural resource extraction; the mining boom affected the Yaqui people greatly. Since they were the main source of manpower, many of them moved out of their villages into company towns closer to the mines. Deeply dependent on the industry, the Yaquis were subject to harsh living conditions and low wages, but the same treatment held true on nearby haciendas as well. The Díaz government tried unsuccessfully to ease the situation, but gradual impoverishment fed resistance throughout Yaqui territory. There were clashes with federal troops and Rurales throughout the state. Their opposition to the Porfiriato turned into an all-out war from the 1880s into the early part of the 20th century.

In 1910, Yaquis joined the Mexican Army under Governor José Maria Maytorena to stop rebels under the command of General Pascual Orozco. Ultimately they joined the rebel army under General Álvaro Obregón and helped the revolutionaries win the war. Their knowledge of the terrain, use of guerrilla tactics, and willingness to fight against federal forces made them a formidable force. General Obregón used Yaqui Indians both as scouts to gather intelligence and in the infantry to motivate his troops. General Obregón’s trust in the Yaqui extended to putting a few of them on his staff.

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Mayo Indians and the Revolution

The modernization of Mexico also affected the Mayo Indians in Sinaloa. They had gradually lost their lands to hacendados and international enterprises. They were forced out of their communities and, like the Yaqui in Sonora, became workers for others. In the 1890s as foreign companies established themselves in Mexico, the Mayo Indians looked to the United Sugar Company, a U.S. corporation, as a way out of their situation. When the Mayo worked for this foreign company with better wages, local hacendados faced a diminished labor supply.

When the United Sugar Company acquired more land, it lowered its wages and became as exploitative as the local haciendas. Now the Mayo had no leverage and became ever more dependent. When Francisco Madero spoke of resistance to the Porfiriato, Mayo Indians joined the fight.

The Mexican Revolution incorporated them into the Maderista Army. The Mayo, anxious to prove themselves, fought alongside Yaqui Indians and mestizo campesinos and became an impressive force for Generals Obregón and Calles. In particular, the Mayo contributed their substantial knowledge of the terrain in Sinaloa and its dangers. As they accumulated victories against federal armies, they seized control of portions of their ancestral lands. At the conclusion of the first phase of the Revolution, they expected to be rewarded for their service with the restoration of their lands, but under Madero, land reform moved very slowly and they never received the lands for which they had struggled so bravely.

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Francisco Madero and his Advisors (1911)

Although Francisco Madero became the head of the Mexican Revolution, he was supported substantially by a group of men in the state of Chihuahua. Foremost among these was Pascual Orozco, who managed to recruit a sizeable group of men to fight under the banner of the Anti-Reelectionists. This photo taken in El Paso, Texas, shows the leaders of the revolution. They include José María Pino Suárez (#1) who became Vice-President under Madero, Venustiano Carranza (#3) who led the Constitutionalists to victory, Francisco “Pancho” Villa (#10), Emilio Vázquez Gómez, whose brother had been promised the Vice Presidency (#4), Francisco Madero (#5), and, of course, Pascual Orozco (#9).

Madero & advisors, 1911. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ggbain-11241 (digital file from original negative).

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Victory of Madero’s Forces at Ciudad Juárez: Death of Aquiles Serdán – Lithograph by José Guadalupe Posada

This broadside illustrated by the famous José Guadalupe Posada contains two popular songs on the reverse. One is in honor of the Maderista taking of Ciudad Juárez in the northern frontier state of Chihuahua and the other concerns the bravery of Madero supporter and close friend Aquiles Serdán and family from the central state of Puebla. The juxtaposition is a bit strange, given that the heroism of Aquiles Serdán and his family occurred in November 1910 and the capture of the city took place in May 1911, but they were put together under the heading of “Cantos populares Maderistas,” for the public to buy and sing. Aquiles Serdán actually rose up in revolt on 18 November in response to Madero’s call for revolution on 20 November. His house was surrounded by troops, whose gunfire actually set fire to the house and killed all inside. It was a noble act, with horrendous consequences. Nevertheless, Aquiles Serdán’s sacrifice was rewarded when the Maderistas successfully took Ciudad Juárez six months later.

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Politics and the Battle at Ciudad Juárez

Villa and Orozco helped strengthen Madero’s authority by attacking Ciudad Juárez, considered impossible before Madero won their support. President Díaz, aware of the disastrous consequences should the federal army fall at Ciudad Juárez, requested talks with Madero to avoid the confrontation, and after many months of collaboration and planning, the military leaders of the rebellion were finally ready. Madero accepted, viewing political stability as superior to military triumph. Madero wanted to preserve his relationship with federal troops, because he intended to use the institutions President Díaz had established. Madero did not consider Villa and Orozco to be part of the future, seeing them as mere tools to achieve his political goals.

Villa and Orozco, angered by Madero’s passivity and the possibility of a prolonged dictatorship, disguised their attack by marching into the U.S., while informing their troops to shoot intermittently at federal forces to provoke a response. Madero allowed the fight to continue when events escalated out of his control.

Villa and Orozco’s plan succeeded, and rebels overcame federal forces at Ciudad Juárez. As the official leader of the Revolution, Madero forced President Díaz to sign the Treaty of Ciudad Juárez on 21 May 1911. The treaty demanded that the revolutionary army be dissolved, President Díaz resign and go into permanent exile.

Revolutionists entering Juárez (1911). Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-DIG-ggbain-10231

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Map of Mexico in 1911

When Mexico achieved its independence from Spain in 1821, it contained all of its present territory minus the state of Chiapas, as well as the current parts of the United States that include Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and parts of Colorado, Nevada, and other entities. It lost most of this territory as a result of its war with the United States (1846-1848) in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and then sold another sliver to complete Arizona and New Mexico (The Gadsden Purchase/La Mesilla) in 1854.

In the beginning the biggest problem on the new border was Indian raids from which the U.S. had pledged to protect Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, but failed to do. These deprecations were accompanied by attacks by famous filibusterers like William Walker, who invaded Baja California and Sonora in 1853.

During the Mexican Revolution, towns along the border were often themselves actors in the drama. These cities became havens for refugees of all sorts, some counterrevolutionary, others in search of financial backing and weaponry, and still others promoting revolution however they could. Mexican and U.S. populations were sometimes so close that they could see each other from their balconies.

National Geographic Magazine Map of Mexico. Geography & Map Division, Library of Congress. Call Number: G4410 1911 .B3

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Treaty of Ciudad Juárez (May 21, 1911)

Although the Mexican Revolution “began” on 20 November, 1910, with a call from presidential candidate Francisco I. Madero for Mexicans to rebel on that date, the Revolution really started with the rebel victory in the battle of Ciudad Juárez in May 1911. The Maderistas took the city on 10 May and Madero named a cabinet, without mentioning General Pascual Orozco, Jr. who had won the victory at Ciudad Juárez.

On 21 May, Francisco S. Carvajal, representing the Díaz government in Mexico City, signed a peace convention with Dr. Francisco Vázquez Gómez, Madero himself, and José María Pino Suárez, all pictured here, to suspend the fighting. This “Treaty of Ciudad Juárez” said that hostilities would stop throughout the entire country and General Díaz would resign from the presidency by the end of the month as would Vice President Ramón Corral. It specified that Francisco de la Barra, at that time Minister of Foreign Relations, would serve as interim President and call for new elections. It agreed that states would be indemnified for the damages caused by the fighting, and that reconstruction and repair of the telegraph and railroad lines would begin immediately.

Peace Commissioners during the Mexican Peace Commission at Ciudad Juárez, during the revolution against the Díaz government. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-118311 (b&w film copy neg.) Call Number: LOT 9563-13 [item] [P&P]

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Francisco León de la Barra (1863–1939)

Francisco León de la Barra was born in 1863 in Querétaro. Beginning in 1896, he served as Mexican ambassador to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Belgium, and the Netherlands. In 1909 he became Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. for two years during which he convinced President William Howard Taft not to invade Mexico.

President Porfirio Díaz appointed him Secretary of Foreign Affairs on 25 March 1911, but upon President Díaz’s resignation, de la Barra served as Mexico’s interim president from 25 May to 6 November 1911. De la Barra faced rebels like Zapata who continued to take towns and states in the South, Yaqui Indians wanting to secede in the North, foreign interests versus domestic big business, and the needs of poor industrial and agricultural workers. Yet, Mexicans expected he would fix these difficulties and give the next incumbent a country free of problems.

The President tried to reestablish normal life. He rebuilt railroads and telegraphs, supported Mexican businesses, using funds from accounts in foreign banks. He called for national unity and pleaded for an end to the violence of the Revolution as Congress passed initiatives to get rebels to return to private life, join the federal army, and extend public programs to help the poor and disenfranchised. Not everyone appreciated these efforts. Socialist, anarchist and communist intellectuals really wanted a revolution to change the political and economic structure of the country, while others wanted revenge for atrocities committed by rebel troops. Thus, despite his efforts, de la Barra left a Mexico still divided by class and torn apart by competing interests. He returned to politics in 1913 as Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations and was elected governor of Mexico State the following year, which he soon resigned. He opened a private practice in international business in Europe, spent the rest of his life abroad, and died in France in 1939.

Francisco de la Barra. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-120644

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