Tag Archives: Mexican revolution

A brief account of the Mexican Revolution


Although I’ve talked about the personal experience of one woman and her family during the Mexican Revolution, I haven’t really discussed the holiday itself with good reason. The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) was a long, bloody, convoluted episode that even after almost 100 years still is confusing.

Here are the facts as best as I understand them.

Porfirio Diaz, a distinguished hero at the Batalla de Puebla in 1862, assumed control of the Mexican government and remained in control for 30 years as an elected dictator. Interested in only maintaining his power, he ruled in favor of the rich. While this period was responsible for the significant industrial advancement of Mexico, it came at a cost to the common people.

In 1910, Francisco Madero ran for president. Diaz had him arrested. Undeterred, Madero published the Plan de San Luis Potosí calling for revolution on November 20. In the northern part of the country, Pascual Orozco and Francisco (Pancho) Villa began raiding government garrisons. In the southern part of the country, Emiliano Zapata’s forces began attacks on the rural political heads of state.

In 1911, Diaz was forced to resign and Madero was named president. Unhappy with the new policies, Zapata and Orozco turned against Madero.

In 1913, Porfirio Diaz’s nephew, Felix Diaz, fought with Victoriano Huerta in Mexico City in a battle called La Decena Trágica. Diaz, Huerta and U.S. Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson met and signed the Pact of the Embassy. Madero and his vice-president Jose Maria Pino Suárez were arrested and assassinated. Huerta became president.

Villa, Alvaro Obregon and Venustiano Carranza combined their forces against Huerta. The Plan de Guadalupe demanded Huerta’s resignation. In 1914, Huerta was sent into exile and Carranza declared himself president. Another period of violence and unrest followed including the invasion of Veracruz by the U.S. Eulalio Gutierrez was elected president. This caused division in the ranks. Villa and Zapata supported Gutierrez while Obregon and Carranza opposed his presidency with the support of the U.S. government.

After Villa’s defeat in April 1915 in Celaya, he began attacking U.S. citizens in Mexico and along the border. By presidential order, General John J. Pershing was sent into Mexico in pursuit of Villa.

Carranza drafted the Constitution of 1917. Zapata was assassinated in 1919. A railroad strike in Sonora in 1920 further reduced any support Carranza still had and he was killed while trying to flee Mexico City in May. Adolfo de la Huerta was the interim president and Obregon was elected in November.

Violent civil unrest continued, including the Cristero War, until 1934 when Lazaro Cardenas assumed the presidency and enforced the constitution of 1917.  During this period, perhaps 2 million people died and nearly 200,000 refugees fled abroad, especially to the United States.

So a little something to think about as you watch the parade huh?

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Filed under Mexican Holidays

Surviving Revolution in La Yacata


A revolution is a change in power when the population revolts against the current organizational structures, i.e government. And as such, revolution in Mexico is not an uncommon phenomenon.


Throughout the centuries, regional groups have vied for control of certain areas in Mexico, only to be toppled from within. The Spanish came to power in Mexico as a direct result of a general revolution and the decimation caused by smallpox pandemic. (See La Malinche, Surviving a Pandemic) The son of La Malinche and Hernan Cortes, Martin, headed the first failed revolution against Spanish rule in 1566. There were several insurrections over the centuries but nothing large scale until the 1800s. In 1810 Miguel Hidalgo united the people with his Grito de Dolores for another go at revolution (See May 8) After Hidalgo’s death, Jose Morelos led the rebellion and then Vicente Guerrero carried on the fight. Mexico finally gained its independence from Spain in 1836.

All did not rest easy for the fledgling Mexico. Texas rose up in rebellion and won its independence from Mexico in 1836 as well, substantially reducing the overall size of the newly formed country.


Free, and for me, sacred, is the right to think…Education is fundamental for social happiness; It is the principle on which rest the freedom and greatness of the people.–Benito Juarez

Without hardly a pause, Mexico plunged into a 3-year civil war from 1857-1860 over proposed reforms to the constitution and the ultimate power of the Catholic Church. In the face of such political instability, France was able to invade Mexico and set up a monarchy which resulted in yet another revolution (1861-1867) ending with the execution of emperor Maximilian I. (See Battle of Puebla) Benito Juarez was reelected in 1868. However, beginning in 1871 Porfirio Diaz led several rebellions which led to his “election” in 1877 and subsequent 30-year dictatorship. During this period, Mexico lost control of most of its largest businesses to foreign companies and the resultant repression of the underclass led to the revolution of 1910. Emiliano Zapata, Venustiano Carranza, and Pancho Villa served as commanders of opposing forces during this confusing revolution, while the US repeatedly attempted to invade during the 11-year chaos.

no justicia

If there is no justice for the people, let there be no peace for the government. –Emiliano Zapata

From 1911 to 1932, the Mexican government was far from stable. There were 15 presidents during this time period, with some serving just a few months before being assassinated and one serving a mere 45 minutes before resigning. The sparks of revolution were fanned into flame again. The Cristero Rebellion occurred from 1926 to 1929 over the attempt by the federal government to reduce the power of the Catholic Church.


From 1940 until 1994, Mexico established 6-year elections. Strangely enough, each time, the PRI candidate won, leading to speculation on the overall impartiality of the election process.


Since 1994, Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) has been at war against the Mexican state. The Zapatista Revolution began as a protest against the signing of NAFTA which has done nothing for the Mexican people except widen the gap between the rich and the poor. EZLN also demanded democracy for the country where one political party (PRI) held power for more than 70 years. (See Politicking).


No forgiveness, Not forgotten, We are missing 43!

Even more recently, is the social movement for revolution sparked at the disappearance of 43 student teachers (See El Dia del Estudiante and La Llorona) in 2014.  As well as the teacher protests in Oaxaca against governmental education reform in 2016.


12 dead and 22 disappeared in Oaxaca June 2016

It remains to be seen whether a full-scale revolution results.

So how can you survive the next revolution?

Anonymous has some interesting suggestions in addition to the regular, run of the mill, Prepper be-prepared recommendations.

The first thing to do is be aware of a potential situation. There are always warning signs. Riots in urban areas, media cover-ups, censorship, unsubstantiated rumors and so on. Once you have established an area is ripe for revolution, do your Prepper thing, i.e. have food, water, and medical supplies stockpiled. Do not use drugs or drink alcohol excessively as they will make you vulnerable and you’ll need all your wits about you in a crisis situation. Do not trust the police under any circumstances. Document your experiences in order to report atrocities to international media but keep it discreet. Do not use your mobile phone as it will be monitored. Stay away from violent situations and urban areas.

So with so much history in revolution, rebellion and mass uprising, La Yacata is the place to be for the next conflict. After all, we’ve staged our own successful coup (See The Birth of the Revolution). We’ve learned not to trust the police (See Safety and Security and Justice for All? and Just another weekend adventure). I’ve become an expert on documenting my experiences (See Surviving Mexico Adventures and Disasters). We are on the way to becoming self-sufficient (See Building a dream, Constructing a life). We never have money on our mobile phones to make any incriminating phone calls. We are not in an urban area. And I stay away from drugs and alcohol at least so there’s at least one sane adult present at all times.

So in the event of revolution, I’ll see you here!







Filed under Carnival posts, Safety and Security

Women in Mexican History–Stories from the Revolution–Marcelina

train adelita

The role women were thought to play in the Mexican Revolution has been typically confined to the caricatures of the Adelitas. Although women did fight alongside their men, the Adelitas were not the only women involved in the revolution.

girl revolution

Claudia Guzes, a Mexican friend of mine, told me some stories about her family during the Mexican Revolution. With her permission, I have translated these stories and am sharing them to give name to some of these anonymous Women of the Mexican Revolution.

Claudia shares:

This is the story of my great-aunt Marcelina Magaña López, my great-grandmother’s sister, Alta Gracia Lucina Graciela Magaña López, originally from Moroleón, Guanajuato.

My great-grandmother Alta Gracia Lucina Graciela Magaña López told my mother some of the stories about her life during the Mexican Revolution. It was a difficult time for women. Soldiers, whether for or against the revolution, were known to kidnap women and girls, who were often not heard from again. Therefore, the people of the town and individual families would make special efforts to hide all the women and girls when soldiers came. Once the revolutionaries arrived in Quiahuyo and my great-grandmother, only a child at the time, asked the soldiers if they had come for las muchachas (girls). She told them that all the girls had already been hidden, which made the soldiers laugh. With good humor, they left without any girls that time.

women in the revolution

My great-grandmother also told me a story about her brother Patricio Magaña López. He was in the habit of heading out to las mezquiteras en el cerro (large areas of mesquite trees) early in the day to work in the fields. One day, he was walking before the sun had risen and literally ran into bodies of soldiers (or rebels depending on the perspective) that had been hung near the entrance of Quiahuyo.

She also told stories about the difficult life of her older sister Marcelina Magaña López. Marcelina bore 8 children, four boys Antonio and Jose Luz (Chito), Eliazar (Eliaser), and unnamed baby boy and four girls Guadalupe, María, Josefina, and Bertha. During the Revolution, her husband, Hermenegildo Pérez, decided to fight with Venustiano Carranza sometime between 1910 and 1913. His particular group patrolled Chihuahua, Zacatecas, la Sierra Madre and up through Texas.

Marcelina was in constant fear for her husband’s life when he was off on patrols while she was at home with the children. This wasn’t an unfounded fear. When rebels were caught by los federales (federal troops) nearly all captives were killed. Once Hermenegildo’s group was captured and somehow he managed to not get shot. He hid among the dead bodies of his companions, pretending to be dead as well, and survived the revolution, although his proximity to canons during the war caused him to lose much of his hearing.

When Hermenegildo did get a chance to visit, he told Marcelina where he would be so that she could come and join him but did not give her any money for the journey. Despite the objections of her mother, Marcelina went, taking all her children with her. The journey was difficult and made more so by the fact that Hermenegildo had to change his location often to hide from los federales (Federal troops). The family traveled by boxcar from one area to another.

Food also was another difficulty on the road. Marcelina and the children often ate tortillas stuffed with nothing more than quelite del campo, an edible plant found along the sides of the road and abandoned fields, or other types of foraged vegetation.   One of Marcelina’s daughters,  Bertha,  died when she was only a few months old as a result eating unripe peaches.


At times, the family sheltered under bridges. It became such an ordinary event for the children that when they finally were able to return home, her son Chito would cry because he wanted to sleep under the bridge again and not in his own bed.

On one of the family’s trips to San Luis Potosi, Marcelina gave birth to a baby boy who died a short time later.  She left her other children behind and went to pedir limosna (charity) to buy the casket.   On the road, she met with two men who were moved by Marcelina’s grief.  They took Marcelina and her infant son to the panteon (cemetery) in their car and helped her bury him.   The men promised that while they were alive, there would always be flowers on his tomb.

Both Hermenegildo and Marcelina survived the revolution. Hermenegildo became pious, reciting the rosary whenever the opportunity presented itself, and died at the respectable age of 80, although partially blind and completely deaf by then. Marcelina died much younger at the age of 60. It is most likely her life was shortened by the hardships she endured during the revolution and the “reconstruction” afterward.


This period of history, although now glorified with parades and fanfare, was devastating to many Mexican families. Thousands of families fled to the United States during the Revolution. The story of two such families, that of the Villaseñores and the Carmargos, parents of Victor E. Villaseñor are told in his biography The Rain of Gold. The accounts of these families are similar to Marcelina’s story, girls hidden under piles of chicken shit, women raped, traveling by train, high infant mortality, and families separated and destroyed. Villaseñor’s grandmother, the mother of 19 children, lost all but 3 of her children during the war. And what did all this suffering accomplish?


The conditions which sparked the Revolution, inequality of the distribution of wealth, censorship, extreme government control, are still present in México. Talk among the campesinos (farmers) is that it is time for a new revolution even as the government tries to repress it. Recently 43 students have “disappeared” (see Anatomy of a Mexican Student Massacre) hauntingly reminiscent of Tlatelolco student massacre of 1968.  There is no doubt that women will be involved in this new period of civil change.  It remains to be seen exactly how.  (See Also Crisis in Mexico: Could Forty-Three Missing Students Spark a Revolution?)


Would you like to read more about women in Mexican history?

Check out A Woman’s Survival Guide to Holidays in Mexico.

cover holidays


Filed under Guest Blogger Adventures, Mexican Cultural Stories, Mexican Holidays, Politics