A Modern Spin on Revolt: Celebrating Día de la Revolución
Tara A. Spears
It started with blood and suffering. The Mexican political system was unbearable; the native Mexicans could not own land, they only work as slaves to the ruling class. It was more than envy; it was a need to gain respect, dignity, and freedom. 105 years later, the date of the start of the Mexican Revolution, November 20, is commemorated not as a day of sadness but a day of celebration, laughter, and family fiestas.
By 1910 the majority of Mexicans were desperate to get rid of the dictator Porfirio Diaz who had choked the wealth and joy out of the country for over 30 years. Francisco Madero acted out as a representative of the Mexican people that were tired of Diaz’ authoritarian rule. Along with his cabinet, Diaz was holding tightly to the reins of the country. Madero formed the Anti-Reelectionist Party and ran against Diaz, but the elections were rigged and Diaz won again.
Porfirio Diaz was hated by all Mexicans except his cronies and those with wealth. Díaz had modernized the country, laying miles of train tracks and encouraging industry and foreign investment, but at a steep price: the poor of Mexico lived a life of abject misery. In the Mexican north, miners worked without any safety or insurance; in Central Mexico the peasants were kicked off their land; and in the southern Mexican states, debt peonage meant that thousands worked essentially as slaves. He appointed all state governors, who shared in the spoils of his crooked but lucrative system. All other elections were blatantly rigged and only the extremely foolish ever tried to complain. Diaz was the darling of international investors, who commended him for “civilizing” the diverse nation Diaz ruled.
In an effort to safeguard the election results, Diaz had Madero jailed in San Luis Potosi. Once Madero was released from jail, he fled to Texas where he wrote the Plan of San Luis Potosi. The thrust of the plan was to urge the people to rise up in arms against the government in order to re-install democracy in the country. The date of November 20th at 6 pm was set for the revolt to begin.
In 1911, Porfirio Diaz accepted defeat and left office. He was allowed to flee to Paris where he remained in exile until his death in 1915 at the age of 85. Although Francisco Madero was elected president in 1911, he was assassinated just two years later. The fighting of the Mexican revolution would continue until 1920. Some historians feel that the idealistic Madero could not hold onto power once he had it because the majority of fighting men that joined with him in the revolt were tough, brutal men; Madero was simply from another world and didn’t understand the danger.
One of the long-term results of this revolution would be to enact federal law that all Mexican presidents can only be in office for a six year term. Another result was the establishment of the ejido land system: Ejido is a direct backlash to the ruling class only being able to own land. This system ensures that every Mexican who wants land can have it. Individual members can possess and farm a specific parcel including build a house. In the last 20 years, Mexicans can go through a lengthy legal process to get clear title to the land. Mexican citizens, known as ejidatarios, do not actually own the land, but are allowed to use their allotted parcels indefinitely as long as they do not fail to use the land for more than two years. Each family can pass their rights on to their children.
Modern traditions throughout Mexico involve family celebrations since Revolution Day is a federal holiday with school, bank, and many business closings. Most towns and cities have wonderful parades with children in costumes, marching bands, horses, and floats. In Jaltemba Bay the parade starts around 9:00 am down the main avenida. It will be necessary to park/leave a taxi a couple of streets over and walk to view the festivities. The 2015 parade will be on Friday, November 20.
This historical tradition was started through tears but generations later have a better life because of the passion and bravery of Madero and those that fought for land and liberty. November 20 has become a tribute to revolt that now is joyous time. Fireworks, beer, and special foods are shared with friends and family as Mexican flags proudly are displayed.
No matter where you are in Mexico, enjoy the celebrations that are excellent entertainment: the children are delightful in their reenactment outfits. Come cheer your neighbors on as you click those pictures. Thank you Madero for leading Mexico!