Villa, third from right, and fellow revolutionaries. Villa, third from right, and fellow revolutionaries.

Making peace with the Mexican Revolution

It's time to see it for what it really was: a war with no winners

My great-granduncle Aureliano Muñiz, whose identification card appears on this page, was a veteran of the Mexican Revolution, which began November 20, 1910, and concluded 10 years later.

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He and thousands of men fought to defend (voluntarily or by force) what they thought would bring a better life for them and their families.

But there is another story related to the revolution in my family, the story of my great grandfather, Miguel López, who refused to join the revolutionary army and  dodged recruitment by hiding in a barn when the forces of Pancho Villa came to his ranch to “invite” any fighting-age men they found to join the cause.

For years, the fact that my great grandfather did not want to join the revolution intrigued me, and it was not until recently that I understood his motives. Even though he was a poor farmer, he was neither starving nor desperate. He simply did not agree with the principles of the revolution.

In Mexico we tend to look at this period of history through rose-colored glasses. The rich and powerful villains, the brave heroes that emerged from the underprivileged class, and a happy ending where good triumphs over evil.

Just imagine it — thousands of poor peasants, tired of the aristocratic regime of President Porfirio Díaz, left behind everything, took their horses and rusty rifles and enrolled in the people’s army of Pancho Villa and Francisco Madero to fight to the death for democracy and justice.

We romanticize the revolutionary movement to the point that we rarely put any thought into the devastation and debacle caused by it and God forbid we talk about the period of stability and progress Mexico was going through before the revolution interrupted it.

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In his book The Awakening of a Nation, American journalist Charles Fletcher Lummins describes pre-revolution Mexico as a modern nation with a fast pace of development:

“Its transportation facilities are practically as good as those of our western states, and the investment is far more profitable. It is netted with telegraph lines (with the cheapest tariffs in America), dotted with post offices, schools, costly buildings for public business and public beneficence.”

His 1898 description of Mexico, like many other studies, differs greatly from the picture of devastation portrayed by the revolutionaries as the cause of their fight.

“Don Porfirio” received a deeply troubled Mexico when he took power in 1876 and transformed it into a modern nation.

Since its independence in 1821, Mexico had had 52 different presidents, emperors and other heads of state. The country was economically devastated from multiple invasions and wars with the world’s superpowers (Spain, France and the United States) and was submerged in a financial crisis.

During Don Porfirio’s 35-year rule (1876-1911), Mexico experienced a period of economic growth and peace never seen before. For the first time in its history, foreign and national investors perceived Mexico as stable, and investments flourished in the mining industry, textiles and agriculture.

During his term significant infrastructure investments were made, railroads to the main ports and borders were built (some of them are still in use), public finances were cleaned up and public safety was recovered.

Public services like education, telegraphs and the postal service reached most of the Mexican territory, and public universities were founded in the biggest cities including the national university (UNAM) in Mexico City.

Don Porfirio was not a champion of democracy by any means; he managed to stay in power in a quasi-king status for more than 30 years. He created a modern state without a modern democracy and his indifference to the growing inequality problem triggered the Mexican Revolution.

His biggest mistake was not understanding that Mexico had changed and its citizens were now demanding transparency and democracy.

Edmund Burke once said that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it but I would add to that quote that those who don’t know the true history are doomed to poison the truth.

This year we celebrate the 107th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. It is about time we make peace with it. We need to see the Mexican Revolution as what it really was, a war with no winners.

The revolutionaries and their good intentions started a reactionary war that evolved into an anarchy, stopped the progress and modernization that Porfirio had started and killed millions of Mexicans.

Don Porfirio and his egocentrism deprived Mexico of the transition that could have made Mexico a world power.

Before stepping down as president, Porfirio Díaz said: “Madero has unleashed a tiger, now let’s see if he can tame it.”

Alvaro Amador Muniz hails from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, is an honorary Tennessean and an avid basketball player currently living in Mexico City. He can be contacted at alvaroamadormu@gmail.com.

Revolutionary fighter Muñiz, great granduncle of the author.

 

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  • stobs

    And not one mention of the indigenous people in your article. So of course your take on “modernization” (for the wealthy and some middle class) is that everything was Porfirio peachy.

  • Geoffrey Rogg

    So true, so very true. I cannot think of any bloody revolution which has proven to be a success in its aftermath. If you are about to point out the American Revolutionary War as a success you fail to take into account that it was fundamentally a civil war between Englishmen that could be won in the Colonies but never in England. France and Russia are prime examples of the futility and misery of revolution.

    • Dave Warren

      Oh …I don’t know about that. I’m in Tepic and I have been around here quite a bit over the last 16 years. The fact is that the common man owned no land and was still remnants of the hacendas of the earlier centuries here in Nayarit. Large land ownership by many individuals is still very rare and there are huge spaces owned by very few. Sugar is still done mostly by hand here because it is still cheaper than buying machinery.
      There is a 19th century large cotton factory and properties up in Bellavista with amazing irrigation that was the largest factory of it’s kind outside of Europe begun by a Scotsman. During the revolution they hung workers and dissidents like apples from trees there. You can see the pictures on a little tour that a man gives from time to time. The factory is an absolute incredible National Treasure that is very neglected . There is an original Hacenda just outside of Compostella that is from about 1520 that is falling apart that is another National Treasure that is falling apart. Vast area of 10000 hectares that were given to Conquistadors and heirs lasting for years and years. Abuse of peasants and natives for centuries. Tragic. This continues in many ways to this day. The rich refuse to pay decent wages in this town when they can afford it …same all over Mexico where the rich take and take and feel the poor deserve what little they have. Mexico is so beautiful and diverse. I love the way life goes on on the street . In my home people live in houses all the time and the culture is sterile and uptight. But there is still suffering that needs to be lessened and the fact is that Mexico has many riches and resources.

  • John

    ”In his book The Awakening of a Nation, American journalist Charles Fletcher Lummins describes pre-revolution Mexico as a modern nation with a fast pace of development”.

    Very concerningly, Mexico now appears to have gone worse than going into reverse, with serious crime & corruption as major problems; the government seems to have lost control.

    • Peter Maiz

      Yup, some states like Guerrero are practically ungovernable.

  • gypsyken

    So should we be approving the monster in the White House who plainly would like to rule the U.S. as Porfirio Diaz ruled Mexico (or as Putin rules Russia, Erdogan rules Turkey, Xi rules China, the Crown Prince rules Saudi Arabia, etc.)???

    • David Nichols

      Another butt hurt LibRetard heard from…gypsyken, your Trump Derangement Syndrome apparently will not let you discuss the topic at hand…Try to remember the words of your Criminal Queen when she was debating Trump and said : “anyone who doesn’t accept the results of an election is a threat to Democracy”
      And apparently also a threat to an intelligent discussion concerning the Mexican Reveolution

      • Vernon King

        Do you know how stupid you look when you use a term like LibRetard to many of us?? Be Civil and argue your point without abuse and no I didn’t vote for Hillary or Trump. You can make many good arguments without name calling.

        • How correct you are.

        • David Nichols

          You say “stupid”….I say “LibRetard”
          Looks to me like a distinction without a difference, Vernon King…

          • Vernon King

            No I said you LOOK stupid. I didn’t say you were stupid. Big difference!

        • dave jones

          trump spent most of his life as a “libtard” and is definitely not a conservative. so the above post just slings dumb , blind insults because he doesn’t like the comment. 3rd grade mentality

      • gypsyken

        Are Nichols and Zapata denying that the monster in the White House would like to rule the U.S. like Porfirio Diaz ruled Mexico, like Putin rules Russia, Erdogan rules Turkey, etc.? I didn’t think so. (Put a fundamentalist hypocrite sexual molester and pedophile in the U.S. Senate, says the monster, because he will vote for whatever I want him to.)

        • jdwfinger

          ISIS should come visit you and give your head to Kathy G. Where do you live so they can stop by.

        • ben

          reminder #2, the artical is not about potus. if you want to discuss it, submit your material. there are many sites where you can ecpress yorself. TRUMP 2020, we won get ova it.

          • gypsyken

            The article is about the Mexican Revolution, which was fought to end the authoritarian rule of Porfirio Diaz. It is pertinent to compare Trump to Porfirio Diaz, because Trump clearly wants to be an authoritarian ruler, free from the constraints of a legislature and judiciary, and some people say that a revolution will be necessary to end his rule. (A poll of Trump supporters found that most of them would agree with not having a presidential election in 2020 if Trump said that such an election would not be fair, by which he means that it would not reelect him.) Most U.S. voters did not vote to make Trump president, and most Americans do not support him now.

          • David Nichols

            I’ve seen your posts—you always find a way to inject your obsession, no matter the topic..
            Sadly for your self esteem, you don’t represent the electorate of the USA…
            Happily the USA is doing better every day under Trumps leadership…unemployment at new lows, stock market and public confidence in the future at new highs…!
            Sorry that disappoints you…

          • gypsyken

            You need a little education: The state of the stock market is irrelevant to me, and to most Americans like me who are not wealthy. (Most stock is owned by the wealthy. My retirement income does not provide money to gamble in the stock market–or in Las Vegas.) Unemployment is low, but so are wages, as most money goes to corporation executives and shareholders. (The top 1% owns 90% of the nation’s wealth.) The proposal to “reform” the tax system will make the rich (including the monster) richer, and everyone else poorer. (Little attention is being paid to the fact that the individual exemption for federal income tax, which was doubled for seniors like me, is being revoked, so even if the rate is lowered, I will probably pay more income tax.) The deduction for medical expense, especially important for seniors like me, is also being removed.) Republicans remain determined to reduce Social Security and Medicare benefits. The U.S. is the only advanced country that does not provide health care to all citizens, and If the monster has his way, millions of U.S. citizens will lose access to health care. The U.S. has reverted to polluting the air and water and to ending efforts to ameliorate man-made warming of the climate (a scientific fact), which is bad not only for people living in the country but for the population of the entire world. While the monster is admired by authoritarian rulers, who he admires in return, the U.S. has lost the respect of democracies around the world, as was demonstrated at the recent conference on climate change, at which the monster’s representatives were treated with ridicule.

          • David Nichols

            Actually millions of Americans are directly affected by stock market performance as it affects the value of their 401K plan…
            Millions more are affected indirectly, as rising stock market valuations give listed companies access to more funds to grow their business–creating more jobs…
            The rest of your reply is just the usual talking points from the Left and doesn’t warrant rebuttal, which would fall on deaf ears in any case…

          • ben

            this is about mexico. not the US pres. if you insist: TRUMP2020 MAGA, we won you lost. now would you kindly step aside. the culture war is on & we are winning. back to mexico.

          • ben

            most US voters did not vote for bill clinton either. so just quit while your ahead.

          • gypsyken

            Check the facts. Clinton won the popular vote in both 1992 and 1996. Your monster in the White House lost the popular vote by some 3,000,000 votes.

          • jdwfinger

            where do you live. ISIS is on the way

          • gypsyken

            You are obviously a typical supporter of the monster in the White House: of high intelligence, highly educated, and a true intellectual!

          • ben

            mr. ken crosby, wrong about clinton but that aside: elections are detemined by the electoral votes. if that is not good enough for the republicrats & democans they can try to change the system. please try the site i reccommended, you would be very popular there. OLE!! they too see monsters under AND over the bed.

          • “… some people say that a revolution will be necessary to end his rule.”

            Be careful what you wish for. One of the points of this article is that there are no winners in revolutions. Many dead people but no winners. I find myself saddened by the amount of hate that has been promulgated among those Americans on the left. Calling Mr. Trump, “The monster in the White House”, only heightens that hate.

            I was not a supporter of Mr. Trump but he got himself elected via the prescribed electoral mechanism: the Electoral College. You may not like it but he is now President. Tantrums breed only more tantrums.

        • David Nichols

          Nichols is suggesting you try to stay on point, and not let your TDS cause you to inject your disappointment with the presidential election results into every discussion on the Internet…
          BTW, you need a little more study time on the presumption of innocence concept—it’s kinda basic to our legal process…!

    • Take a powder and a deep breath. You guys will get another chance in 2020. Nominate someone reasonable, and you’ll have a shot.

    • ben

      the artical is not about the US president. you seen distracted & obsessed. refocus.

  • Mike S

    Diaz was a successful authoritarian ruler but Mexico wanted to join the great Western democracies and try its hand at free elections, land reform, transparency, and a strong free press. Mexico had been ruled with an iron hand by a small group of wealthy land owners and there was a hunger to reform that plutocracy. When Diaz negated & “fixed” the election results for his 7th term in 1910, the fuse was lite. Transitioning to a free, fair, and democratic form of government proved more difficult than the idealists had hoped. I see lots of parallels between Diaz and Putin but also lots of very different circumstances. Authoritarian governments based on individual strong personalities always face the problem of succession and Diaz was no exception. Comparing Trump to Diaz doesn’t work for many reasons. The US is still a country of laws and a Constitution and free press. Actually “fixing” elections is almost impossible and Congress and the Supreme Court wield considerable power. Diaz and all the faults that go with being an authoritarian, actually had good economic policies bringing Mexico into the 20th century. Trump is more of an unqualified, narcissistic, pathologically lying clown out for himself and will be dumped in 2020 if not sooner.

  • The point of view presented here assumes technological advancement and creature comforts are the ultimate goal of society. This piece leaves out the crucial betrayal by some of those who led the revolution, but really just opposed the Diaz. Those “reformists” betrayed the most revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata. Those reformists could not end the revolution and declare the “victory” achieved (a partial victory meaning they got their but the masses of poor and indigenous still had nothing) until Zapata was dead. Los Pueblos, the people, know Zapata was the real thing which is why today the people invoke his memory for their movement … Los Zapatistas. Viva la revolución!

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