Paris 1919 Summary & Critique
Angela C. Rosario
IB History of the Americas I (2)
20 March 2009
Americas Paper III: Results of the Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution was a violent political and social upheaval that occurred in the early 20th century. The revolution began in November 1910 as an effort to overthrow the 30-year dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. It grew into a widespread rebellion that would eventually change the structure of Mexico's economy, government, and society. The fundamental goals of the revolution were incorporated in the 1917 constitution, although widespread factional fighting continued until 1920. It took almost another two decades for many of the reforms contained in the constitution to be implemented. Regardless, the goals of the revolution--particularly the need for an accountable, democratic government and the right of all Mexicans to enjoy a basic standard of living--had a lasting impact on the nation.
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The revolution produced major changes in Mexico. The old political elite had been largely swept away, to be replaced by a new revolutionary elite. The revolution set in motion a trend toward political centralization, concentrating power in the national government and particularly in the president. The role of the military in politics was substantially reduced by a series of revolutionary presidents, even though all the presidents who served between 1920 and 1946 had been revolutionary generals. The creation and evolution of an official party solved the recurring crisis over presidential succession that had marked the years from 1910 to 1928; this helped to promote the long-term political stability that Mexico later enjoyed.
In addition, the revolution launched labor and social reforms that have had a lasting effect on Mexican society. Workers and peasant farmers were given a greater voice in public affairs, although they were forced to operate within the limits set by the official party and the government. A new constitution gave workers the right to organize and to strike, and established a minimum wage, an eight-hour workday, and limitations on child labor. Enforcement of these provisions was delayed for years, and once they were put into effect, the provisions only applied to the minority of workers formally organized in trade unions. Still they proved to be important to poor and working-class Mexicans throughout the country. The revolution also prompted the Mexican government to take on a more active role in maintaining basic minimum living standards for all Mexicans, a role that has continued throughout the 20th century. The constitution of 1917 paved the way for the development of a substantial social security system, which came to include government hospitals, state-subsidized health care, and public housing.
The land reforms begun during the revolution set into motion the largest land redistribution effort ever attempted in Latin America. The new constitution restricted land ownership by the Catholic Church and foreigners and launched a process that dismantled large estates and distributed thousands of hectares of land to indigenous people and other poor farmers. These reforms returned land to many who had lost it during the Díaz dictatorship, and gave land to many farmers who had never owned property. The revolution also helped to define and to promote pride in Mexico’s national identity, especially its indigenous roots. It inspired artists such as Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, who celebrated the revolution’s political and social themes through their murals and other paintings.
All in all, the Mexican Revolution was a violent political and social upheaval that eventually changed the structure of Mexico's economy, government, and society. The constitution of 1917 incorporated the fundamental goals of the revolution, although it took almost another two decades for many of these reforms to be fulfilled. To this day, the goals of the revolution--particularly the need for an accountable, democratic government and the right of all Mexicans to enjoy a basic standard of living--still have a lasting impact on the nation.
"Mexican Revolution," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2008 http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
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