Friday, October 11, 2019

The Revolution of 1917: Rights of the Republic

Before the Mexican Revolution, Mexico was technically a republic as it is today, but by the time of the revolution, it was a republic in name only. In the mid-1860s, Mexico fought back against the French colonial overlords and established the country for itself, but the plan only partially succeeded.   Over the next decade, grassroots efforts across the country began to bring equality to Mexico, but instead they delivered the country into the hands of an elected dictator.   In 1876, Porfirio Diaz overthrew the sitting president, forcing him to flee the country and Diaz was named president. Once he had the position, he refused to relinquish it, crushing any who dared to oppose him. For the Mexican ruling class, the period known as Porfiriato was a time of prosperity and peace. There was enormous foreign investment in Mexico and the country was developed from a largely rural economy to a modernized, industrial nation.   Then in 1910, despite Diaz efforts to destroy any opposition Francisco Madero, an academic from one the haciendas of northern Mexico, ran against Diaz. He was immediately jailed by the president and the peasants, sick of being mistreated y the Republic, galvanized behind Madero. The election fraud that had kept Diaz in office was so extreme that officially Madero received only a few hundred votes nationally. Madero worked with church leaders in San Luis Potosi to develop a plan calling on the people of Mexico to take up arms and overthrow the Diaz government. Diaz ordered Madero arrested again and he fled to Texas where he formulated the Mexican Revolution.   Within a year, Madero was sworn in as the new president of Mexico when Diaz resigned in accordance with the Treaty of Ciudad Juarez after he routed the federalist army with the assistance of forces rallying behind Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. Before the year was out, Madero and his vice president would be executed a military junta left in charge of the country because Madero refused to enact the property reforms that he had called for when encouraging the people to revolt.   Madero attempted to moderate between conservatives that wanted to keep the status quo and hard-line revolutionaries like the Zapatistas and in the end had no support at all. For the next six years, Mexico’s leadership was in a constant state of flux with the President Venustiano Carranza, a former revolutionary general who overthrew the previous military leader, chased out of Mexico City for two years of his presidency. Finally, he incorporated many of the extreme viewpoints of the revolutionaries in the Constitution of 1917. The constitution is the basis for the current Mexican government. One of the most important provisions of the constitution was that it forbade foreign investors from owning land in Mexico. The provision still stands. The reason for this proviso was the fact that during the Diaz presidency foreign investors owned the great majority of the land, making profits off the work of the local peasants and that Mexico’s oil fields were largely owned by foreign investors as well. Residents of Mexico wanted the income to remain within the country and nationalized all foreign-owned property. The Constitution also severely limited the power of the Catholic Church which had once been almost completely responsible for the education of people within Mexico. President Alvaro Obregon, who was elected to succeed Carranza after conspiring with those who assassinated his predecessor, tried to accommodate all factions of Mexican society including providing better education sponsored by the state instead of the Church and instituting rights for women. It was a bad time to a politician and Obregon was assassinated by a pro-Catholic gunman. That was in large part the beginning of the rebellion of the Church against the new government. The battles in Mexico continued well beyond the end of the war as the separation between Church and State was painful. Supporters of church supremacy began an uprising called â€Å"la Guerra Cristera† (the war of Christ) and estimates are that nearly a million people died in the battles. The battles between the Church and the government continued until 1929 when an end to the armed conflict was negotiated by the American ambassador. Many believe that the true end of the revolution was not until the presidency of Là ¡zaro Cà ¡rdenas, who ran the country from 1934 to 1940 and was the first president to willingly hand over the reins of the government to his successor.   In the meantime, the spiritual base of the national had been destroyed. In 1935, 17 Mexican states were left without a priest and only 334 licensed priests existed within the entire country. Forty were known to have been executed in the wars and hundreds of others fled the country. The reason: the Constitution of 1917. Under the diplomatic settlement, the anti-clerical provisions of the Constitution still stand. Among its provisions are: Article 5 outlawed monastic religious orders. Article 24 forbade public worship outside of church buildings, while Article 27 restricted religious organizations' rights to own property. Finally, Article 130 took away basic civil rights of members of the clergy: priests and religious leaders were prevented from wearing their habits, were denied the right to vote, and were not permitted to comment on public affairs in the press. The anti-clerical provisions of the Constitution are not generally enforced since World War II and the church has regained some of its prominence in the hearts of Mexicans, but not returned to prominence in Mexican politics. Other provisions of the new constitution include the right to freedom of the press, but with the caveat that after publication charges related to sedition and libel can be brought if they are warranted.   The constitution restricts where foreigners can own land, restricts who may be considered a citizen of Mexico and prohibits slavery. It also prohibits extradition of Mexican nationals who have committed crimes in other countries if that may result in the death penalty. The constitution specifically assures citizens the right to life and prohibits the death penalty.   The constitution assures the right of Mexican citizens to bear arms, but only those which have been approved by the Mexican National Army.   It is also one of the most progressive constitutions in the world with relation to worker rights. The Constitution provides that any slave brought into Mexico is immediately freed and offered equal protection under the law. Furthermore, workers are guaranteed the right to an eight-hour work day, a day of rest each work week, and a minimum wage. The Constitution prohibits people who are not Mexican by birth from holding most political offices, running the country’s airports or seaport, or being military officers. It also gives preference in hiring to Mexican nationals over foreigners applying for the same job, assuming that both are equally qualified.   Finally, it prohibits several forms of punishment commonly used in the pre-1917 government and outlaws the concept of a debtor’s prison.   Clearly, the biggest difference between the current Mexican government and the pre-1917 government is the treatment of the workers. Because it was the people, the workers who lead the Mexican revolution, the provisions of the new constitution are designed particularly to protect the rights of the worker.   Workers who rallied behind Emiliano Zapata and the other leaders of the revolution abandoned and executed their leaders when they strayed from the principles of land reform and workers right. Six full years before the November Revolution in Russia, the workers of Mexico began a war to assure that they would have the rights that they needed. The revolution was spurred by the harsh treatment of the peasants and lower class in early years and ended only after the people had their rights secured.

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