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How did Porfirio Diaz leave Mexico for Europe?

How did Porfirio Diaz leave Mexico for Europe?

As I understand it, Porfirio Diaz departed Mexico for Europe soon after surrendering the presidency, sometime around 1911. I seem to remember that he departed on a German passenger liner. Can that be confirmed, and a name of the liner and destination be provided?

The ship was the SS Ypiranga, which was indeed a German ship (although it was at that point a cargo-steamer, not yet a passenger liner). Díaz departed from the port of Veracruz on May 31st, 1911 bound for the French port of Le Havre with a stop Havana. The event was reported in the June 1st edition of the New York Times:

VERA CRUZ, May 31. -- Ex-President Porfirio Diaz sailed from this port tonight on the steamer Ypiranga, bound for Havre. The steamer goes by way of Havana, and Gen. Diaz's ultimate destination is Spain. The ship was only a little way out when the searchlight of the fortress guarding the port was turned on it. With glasses in hand, among a small party in the stern, Diaz was standing, somewhat apart, close to the rail. He was plainly discernable, taking his farewell look at his native land.

It arrived in Havana with the general on board 2 days later, again as reported by the New York Times on June 4th:

HAVANA, June 3. -- The steamship Ypiranga, which sailed from Vera Cruz June 1, bearing into exile Gen. Porfirio Diaz, passed into this harbor at 6:30 o'clock, anchoring off the Custom House. The Ypiranga was quickly surrounded by a great fleet of tugs, launches, and harbor boats, bearing a throng of prominent Cubans and representatives of the foreign missions desirous of paying their respects to the distinguished visitor.

He eventually arrived in Le Harve on June 20th, after brief layovers in Santander and La Coruña in Spain and Plymouth, England. The picture below purports to be of the Ypiranga entering the Le Harve harbor with Díaz aboard.

This would actually turn out to be only one of the ties that the ship would have with the Mexican revolution. In April of 1914, it was involved in what would become known as "the Ypiranga incident" when it was detained while trying to dock in Veracruz to unload a shipment of arms for the Huertistas.


The Porfiriato is a term given to the period when General Porfirio Díaz ruled Mexico as president in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, coined by Mexican historian Daniel Cosío Villegas. [1] [2] [3] Seizing power in a coup in 1876, Díaz pursued a policy of "order and progress," inviting foreign investment in Mexico and maintaining social and political order, by force if necessary. There were tremendous economic, technological, social, and cultural changes during this period. As Díaz approached his 80th birthday in 1910, having been continuously elected since 1884, he still had not put in place a plan for his succession. The fraudulent 1910 elections are usually seen as the end of the Porfiriato. Violence broke out, Díaz was forced to resign and go into exile, and Mexico experienced a decade of regional civil war, the Mexican Revolution.

Las Gorras Announce Their Platform Of 1890 Analysis

According to Governor Pease “…our laws are adequate to the protection of life and property, but when citizens and authorities of a county become indifferent to their execution, they are useless” (Vargas 179). There was no justice even after the issues were brought up to those in power. Mexican Americans only had each other, since no one else was willing to open up to the idea of full equality. Mexican Americans were not treated with the respect and equality that the treaty mentioned. They had to fight for their own properties, worry about racist violence and the inequality when it came to the work force and the justice system.&hellip

How did Porfirio Diaz leave Mexico for Europe? - History

Diaz and the Porfiriato 1876-1910

When Porfirio Diaz (1830-1915) ( full name: José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori ) ,who was a Mestizo, of Mixtec and Japanese ancestry on his mother's side,seized over control of Mexico in 1876 that had an empty treasury, huge foreign debts and a large bureaucracy whose salaries were in arrears .Despite the efforts of the liberals mining, the main engine of the economy, still had not recovered from the chaos of the preceding decades .Farming methods had changed little from colonial days . Like Juarez before him, Diaz felt the key to modernizing the country was to pacify it so foreigners would invest in it . Mexico was still troubled by banditos , agrarian revolts and revolt in favor of the ousted President Lerado on the US border .Theses Diaz dealt with forcefully and had the leaders executed shortly after capture and greatly increased the power of the rurales . The era of Porfirio Díaz&rsquos government from 1876-1911 is known as the Porfiriato and its motto was ' Order and Progress.' During his 33 year rule, Mexico entered the industrial age .

Weaving the Past: Mexico in the Era of Porfirio Diaz

Within several years of taking power most European and Latin American countries recognized Diaz's government, but the US held out The US had several claims against Mexico over debts and banditos crossing into US territory .These raids almost led to war with the US in 1877. Diaz came to an agreement with the Americans and agreed to repay over 14 million in claims .Diaz reduced the number of civil servants to ease the burden on the treasury and tried to stimulate trade and crack down on smuggling . At the end of his first term, Diaz was true to his ' no-reelection ' pledge and did not seek another term . For once Mexico had a peaceful transfer of power and foreign governments began to believe Mexican politics was maturing .Diaz threw his support behind Manuel Gonzalez, who won the election with a large majority in 1880 .

A new biography of the controversial Mexican dictator who was toppled by the 1910 Revolution

President Gonzalez 1880 - 84

Gonzalez lost his right arm during the sieges of Puebla in 1867

Gonzalez strove to modernize the country, but the strain was too much for the treasury .During his administration, the railway from Mexico City to El Paso, Texas was inaugurated and the Banco Nacional de México was founded He felt he could not cut back on foreign repayment and railroad construction, so he cut the salaries of government officials .The administration of Gonzalez was accused of corruption and graft and Gonzalez himself was accused of sexual improprieties .Diaz ran again for president in 1884 and easily won . In the future he would not be bothered by his former ' no-reelection' pledge . Díaz had the constitution amended, first to allow two terms in office, and then to remove all restrictions on re-election.

The Return of Diaz and economic Progress

Diaz continued his modernization drive and the country had great economic growth .Jose Limantour, secretary of the treasury, made economic changes such as changing tariffs, switching Mexico to the gold standard and getting more favorable foreign loans for Mexico and reduced corruption .By 1890, the Mexican treasury was running in the black .

One of Jose Posada calaveras(skull) cartoons ,satirizing life among the upper classes

The work of José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913), important Mexican satirist during the Porfiriato.

There was a marked increase in railroad construction during Diaz's rule, from 400 miles of rail in 1876 to 15,000 by 1911 and greatly helped transform the country from its backwardness .Diaz had the laws changed to be more favorable to foreign investment and the mines, such as silver and cooper mines , became much more productive .silver production increased from 24,000,000 Pesos in 1877 to 85,000,000 Pesos in 1908. After the turn of the century oil exploration began in earnest , which large oil fields in Tampico and Tuxpan being exploited and soon Mexico was one of the largest petroleum producers in the world .

The army was modernized and observers were sent to America, France and Germany . Soldiers were given modern uniforms and more modern weapons and the army was reduced in size .

The Price of Peace and Economic Progress

Diaz kept the country free of civil war but at a cost .He kept himself in power through a skillful use of persuasion, threats and intimidation and strong arm tactics of the rurales and federal army and even assassination. Elections were held, but they were shams for the most part, manipulated by the powerful . From 1892 onwards Díaz's perennial opponent was Nicolás Zúñiga y Miranda, who lost every election but always claimed fraud and considered himself to be the legitimately elected president of Mexico.The press was tightly censored. generals were shifted from one military zone to another to keep them from amassing political power . Powerful Mexicans who cooperated with the Diaz regime were rewarded with lucrative contracts and concessions . Diaz himself did not seem to amass a personal fortune .

The effects of the Díaz regime were greatly felt in agrarian land reform and land was increasingly concentrated into the hands of the privileged . By 1910 only 2 percent of the population held title to land . Only 10 percent of the Indian communities held land. Many farmers were forced into debt peonage to survive .Land was confiscated from ordinal owners and land much land seized from the church reform laws or deemed 'public' land was sold to Diaz favorites for a pittance .

The hacendado owners used their vast tracts of land to grow export crops, and by 1910 their was less maize produced than in 1877. Prices increased and many Mexicans started starving .16 percent of the population was homeless .

In 1910 life expectancy was 30, in contrast to 50 in the US at the time .Peasant uprisings became common and were put down mercilessly .The Yanqui Indians of Sonora battled the government for years, but were finally defeated and forced to work on large plantations as chained slaves .Diaz was advised by cientificos, who promoted a scientific based social Darwinistic agenda. They promoted science, but many of the cientifico advisors saw the Indians as unteachable and a drag on society . It seemed a waste to educate them or better their plight .The high mortality among the Indians was seen as Social Darwinism at work .

Under Porfirio Díaz laws had been implemented which gave foreign investors the title of large sections of land and concentrated land holdings and many of the poor were forced off their land .Some Hacienda owners amassed vast landholding, such as Don Terrazas in Chihuahua .Foreigners also were given ownership of large areas of Mexican resources in order to develop them .

This painting by Alfaro Siqueiros shows Diaz trampling the Constitution

The Economic Depression of 1907-08

The slowing US economy and high inflation cause the economy to fall into a depression by 1907. Prices for the basics of life were increasing while wages remained the same or fell .In some areas wages fell 20% while living expenses increased 80 %. the laissez-faire policies of the Porfiriato did little to provide relief .The middle and upper classes supported the Porfiriato when the economy was good . Now, they were suffering as foreign banks tightened credit and the government raised taxes . They joined the poor and the Indians in demanding government change in increasing numbers .

By the early 1900s there was more opponents t o Diaz's rule,such as the Flores Magon brothers , who published Regeneracion which exposed the excesses of the Diaz government. They were forced into exile an went to San Anontio, where Diaz sent an assassin to silence them. After this, they went further inland into the US for safety to St.Louis where they continued to publish Regeneracion and smuggled it into Mexico which helped fuel the anti-Diaz movement . They organized a revolutionary party. In St. Louis in 1906 they issued a plan which resounded with many Mexicans who launched strikes throughout Mexico .

In a 1908 interview with the U.S. journalist James Creelman, Díaz stated that Mexico was ready for democracy and elections and that he would step down and allow other candidates to compete for the presidency. Many liberals supported the governor of Nuevo León, Bernardo Reyes as a candidate for the presidency, although Bernardo Reyes under the orders of Díaz never formally announced his candidacy. Despite Reyes silence, however, Díaz continued to perceive him as a threat and sent him on a mission to Europe, so that Reyes was not in the country for the elections.

Francisco Madero , an upper class politician who was affected by the plight of the peons under the dictator Porfirio Díaz, wrote the influential book on the presidential succession and argued that Mexico should return to the Constitution of 1857 with free press and free elections .Modero was a member of the upper class whose family owned large estates. He thought political, not social reform would solve the nation's problems and social and land reforms were not part of his platform . Madero did not like Diaz's dependence on foreign capital and the growing domination of American businesses .Madero became involved in politics and ran for president of an Anti-re-electionist party as Diaz himself had done so long ago .Diaz had him jailed on trumped up charges at San Luid Potosi during the election in 1910 with many other anti re-electionists throughout Mexico .

Despite what he had told Creelman, decided to run for president again .When the official results were announced by the government, Díaz was proclaimed to have been re-elected almost unanimously. This caused aroused widespread anger. Diaz began plans for his last hurrah. In September he would be 80 as well as the 100th anniversary of Mexican Independence and huge celebrations were held in which more was spent than for education that year.The poor were rounded up as to not offend the foreigners who came to the celebration.

On his release and subsequent flight to the US, Madero issued his Plan de San Luid Potosi from San Antonio, which called for the nation to rise in revolt on November 20.Town after town responded to the call of Viva la Revolucion ! The guerrilleros were supported in the countryside as well.

Rebels fire on federal positions at Ciudad Juarez

Diaz was not prepared to give up and sent army units all across Mexico to control the rebellion. In Chihuahua, the rebellion continued to grow under the leadership of Pascual Orozco and local leaders such as Pancho Villa placed themselves under his command .On Jan 2, 1911 the rebels destroyed a large federal army sent against them.

In late 1911 Orozco and Villa convinced Madero that the rebels should use most of their force to take Ciudad Juarez. At the last minute,Madero changed his mind and called of the attack, afraid stray shells might land in nearby El Paso, brings the US into the conflict . Orozco ignored this order an launched an attack. On May 10, the outnumbered federal commander surrendered .Madero was angry at Orozco for ignoring his order and did not give him a position in his cabinet and showed that the coalition was falling apart . After the victory at Ciudad Juarez, others towns such as Tehuacan, Durango and Cuatla fell to the rebels .the press began to turn against Diaz and many federal troops began deserting. Diaz realized his time was over and sent negotiators to talk with Madero .In the following Treaty of Ciudad Juarez Diaz agreed to resigned and left for France .Diaz had been overthrown, but the revolution had just started .

In 1915, Díaz died in exile in Paris. There was tremendous economic advance during the Diaz years, yet there is no Ciudad Diaz today or even a street named after him . His rule became associated with social and political abuses that were too great . The progress enjoyed by the upper classes came at the expense of the masses .

Afterwards, Mexico was racked by 10 years of fighting known as the Mexican Revolution where successive leaders tried to create a stable government .

Advantages of the Porfiriato

-We built 19,000 kilometers of railways with foreign investment and created the telegraph network to communicate the whole country.

By encouraging foreign investment, it brought improvements in mining, agriculture, oil, among others. This led to the creation of a national industry.

-In 1891 was regulated the law that establishes education as free, secular and compulsory.

-The Military Naval School was founded, and the Mexican companies of Navigation, Transatlántica Mexicana and Naviera del Pacífico were created.

-As maritime traffic increased several ports, such as Veracruz, Manzanillo, Salina Cruz and Tampico. Through the headlight service office, headlights and beacons were installed at different points where necessary.

- Public spending was reduced, with proper administration. Greater control of income was exercised. The new taxes that were created, did not obstruct the commerce.

- It was created by direct order of the same Diaz, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, (UNAM). It was promoted the development of arts and literature, especially painting.

Mexicans of European Descent - European Immigration To Mexico

Mexicans of European descent are strongly associated with the history of the Spanish in the country as Mexico has not had the history of mass immigration that other New World countries such as the United States and Argentina have had. The criollos began as the descendents of the conquistadors, which was the supplemented by further immigration from Spain in the colonial era and then from various parts of Europe and European descended peoples from other places in the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries—The term "criollo", to refer to very light skinned people, remained until the 20th century. After Independence, the Criollos took over politics and economic areas formerly banned to them such as mining. They have remained dominant since, especially in Mexico City. The expulsion of the Spanish between 1826 and 1833 kept the European ethnicity from growing as a percentage however, this expulsion did not lead to any permanent ban on European immigrants, even from Spain.

Immigration to Mexico in the 19th and 20th century mostly came from Europe and other countries with European descended populations such as Argentina and the United States. However, at its height, the total immigrant population in Mexico never exceeded one percent. One reason for this was that the country lacked large expanses of cultivatable land on its mountainous terrain, and what existed was firmly in the hands of the criollo elite. Another was that European immigration after the Mexican War of Independence was both welcomed and feared, a combination of xenophilia and xenophobia, especially to Europeans and other "whites" existing to this day.

The xenophilia toward European and European derived immigrants comes from the country's association of civilization with European characteristics. After Independence, Liberals among Mexico's elite blamed the country's indigenous heritage for its inability to keep up with the economic development of the rest of the world. However, embracing only Mexico's European heritage was not possible. This led to an effort to encourage European immigrants. One of these efforts was the dispossession of large tracts of land from the Catholic Church with the aim of selling them to immigrants and others who would develop them. However, this did not have the desired effect mostly because of political instability. The Porfirio Díaz regime of the decades before the Mexican Revolution tried again, and expressly desired European immigration to promote modernization, instill Protestant work ethics and buttress what remained of Mexico's North from further U.S. expansionism. Díaz also expressed a desire to "whiten" Mexico's heavily racially mixed population, although this had more to do with culture than with biological traits. However, the Díaz regime had more success luring investors when permanent residents, even in rural areas despite government programs. No more than forty foreign farming colonies were ever formed during this time and of these only a few Italian and German ones survived.

From the 19th to the early 20th century, most European foreigners in Mexico were in urban areas, especially the country's capital, living in enclaves and involved in business. These European immigrants would quickly adapt to the Mexican attitude that "whiter was better", and keep themselves separate from the host country. This and their status as foreigners offered them considerable social and economic advantages, blunting any inclination to assimilate. There was little incentive to integrate with the general Mexican population and when they did, it was limited to the criollo upper class. For this reason, one can find non-Spanish surnames among Mexico's elite, especially in Mexico City, to this day.

However, even when generalized mixing did occur, such as with the Cornish miners in Hidalgo state around Pachuca and Real de Monte, their cultural influence remains strong. In these areas, English style houses can be found and the signature dish is the "paste" a variation of the English pasty. In the early 20th century, a group of about 100 Russian immigrants, mostly Pryguny and some Molokane and Cossacks came to live in area near Ensenada, Baja California. The main colony is in the Valle de Guadalupe and locally known as the Colonia Rusa near the town of Francisco Zarco. Other smaller colonies include San Antonio, Mision del Orno and Punta Banda. There are an estimated 1000 descendents of these immigrants in Mexico, nearly all of whom have intermarried. The original settlements are now under the preservation of the Mexican government and have become tourist attractions.

By the end of the Porfirian era, Americans, British, French, Germans and Spanish were the most conspicuous whites in Mexico, but they were limited to Mexico City in enclaves, failing to produce the "whitening" effect desired. This history would mean that Mexico would never become a nation of immigrants, but rather one where a few well-connected newcomers could make a great impact. Despite Diaz' early efforts at attracting foreign immigration, he reversed course near the end of his government, nationalizing industries dominated by foreigners such as trains. Foreigners were blamed for much of the country's economic problems leading to restriction. This would cause many foreigners to leave. In the 20th century, especially after the Mexican Revolution, the mestizo was idealized, but it was still considered to be inferior to the European.

One reason for the Mexico's xenophobia was that Europeans and Americans often quickly dominated various industries and commerce in the country. By the mid-19th century, there were only 30,000 to 40,000 Caucasian immigrants compared to an overall population of over eight million, but their impact was strongly felt. For example, the Spanish and French came to dominate the textile industry and various areas of commerce, pioneering the industrialization of the country. Various Europeans and Americans also dominated mining, oil and cash crop agriculture. Many of these immigrants were not really immigrants at all, but rather "trade conquistadors" who remained in Mexico only long enough to make their fortunes to return to their home countries to retire. Large numbers of Americans in Texas, would eventually lead to the succession of that territory. These two experiences would strongly affect Mexico's immigration policy to this day, even though Mexico's total foreign population at its height in the 1930s, never exceeded one percent of the total.

Legal vestiges of attempts to "whiten" the population ended with the 1947 "Ley General de Población" along with the blurring of the lines between most of Mexico immigrant colonies and the general population. This blurring was hastened by the rise of a Mexican middle class, who enrolled their children in schools for foreigners and foreign organizations such as the German Club having a majority of Mexican members. However, this assimilation still has been mostly limited to Mexico's lighter skinned peoples. Mass culture promoted the Spanish language and most other European languages have declined and almost disappeared. Restrictive immigration policies since the 1970s have further pushed the assimilation process. Since then there has been very little immigration with the overwhelming majority of foreigners it the country on temporary visas.

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&ldquo European society has always been divided into classes in a way that American society never has been. A European writer considers himself to be part of an old and honorable tradition—of intellectual activity, of letters—and his choice of a vocation does not cause him any uneasy wonder as to whether or not it will cost him all his friends. But this tradition does not exist in America. &rdquo
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&ldquo The admission of Oriental immigrants who cannot be amalgamated with our people has been made the subject either of prohibitory clauses in our treaties and statutes or of strict administrative regulations secured by diplomatic negotiations. I sincerely hope that we may continue to minimize the evils likely to arise from such immigration without unnecessary friction and by mutual concessions between self-respecting governments. &rdquo
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Democrat to autocrat: The transformation of Porfirio Diaz

It is an ancient principle of politics that a revolution devours its children. Danton and Robespierre began as rebel leaders against France’s ancien régime but Robespierre ended by cutting off Danton’s head — and then being separated from his own. Kerensky led the bourgeois revolution that overthrew the Tsar — only to be replaced by a more radical revolution headed by Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky. Lenin died and then Stalin had Trotsky murdered and all his followers purged in the sensational show trials of the 1930s.

This is the story of a “child” who devoured his revolution — one who began as an activist against reaction and privilege and ended as a longtime dictator and staunch defender of the very forces he had once opposed. As absolute ruler of Mexico for 35 years, Porfirio Díaz served as president from 1876-80 and from 1884-1911. In the four year interim, the post of president was held by a Diaz puppet named Manuel González.

Like Benito Juárez, his onetime ally and later enemy, Díaz was an Indian from Oaxaca. Born in 1830, he was the son of José de la Cruz Díaz and Petrona Mori. His father died when he was three and the young boy did odd jobs to help support his mother. He received his early education at the same seminary that Juárez attended and then matriculated at the Institute of Science and Art in Oaxaca. When the U.S.-Mexican War broke out, Díaz was studying law. He enlisted in Mexico’s National Guard but the war ended before he saw any action.

In March 1854 a group of dissidents met in Ayutla, Guerrero, to plot the downfall of the flamboyant and corrupt dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna. The conspirators included Ignacio Comonfort, an Acapulco customs official with liberal views, and General Juan Alvarez, at whose hacienda the meeting took place. Alvarez was angry because Santa Anna had arbitrarily removed a number of state officials who were his friends. There they launched the Plan de Ayutla, a manifesto calling for the ouster of Santa Anna.

News of the Plan spread throughout Mexico and soon the country was in open revolt. Juárez and Díaz, who had been exiled by Santa Anna, returned to Mexico and enthusiastically joined in the insurrection. Santa Anna tried his usual tactic of trying to buy off his enemies but this time he was facing a group of idealistic liberals who were impervious to bribes. Santa Anna fled the country in August 1855 and Alvarez took over as provisional president. Juárez became minister of justice and Díaz, only twenty-five, was named subprefect of the town of Ixtlán in Nayarit.

A new constitution adopted on February 5, 1857, contained provisions restricting the power of the Church. These infuriated clericals and conservatives and thus began the bloody Reform War of 1858-61, so named because of the “Reform Laws” that were so obnoxious to fervent Catholics.

During both the Reform War and the 1864-67 war against Maximilian and the French intervention, Díaz distinguished himself as a strong right arm of the liberal cause. He was wounded twice, escaped capture three times, and between 1864-67 led forces that inflicted nine defeats on the imperialists. He also gained a reputation for honesty, returning to the government a 87,232 peso surplus that had not been spent during the campaign against Maximilian. By the end of the two wars he was a general and a household name throughout Mexico.

Díaz and Juárez had been staunch allies during the two bloody periods of conflict. The incident that estranged them took place on July 15, 1867, when Juárez was making his triumphal entry into Mexico City. In a brilliant uniform and mounted on a white horse, General Díaz rode out to meet his old friend and mentor. But Juárez just nodded curtly and signalled for his coachman to drive on.

The snub wasn’t so much personal as an expression of principle. Juárez was anti-militaristic and after the defeat of Maximilian he dismissed two-thirds of the army. Díaz resigned his commission in February 1868 and retired to La Noria, a hacienda in Oaxaca that his grateful state had awarded to him on December 27, 1867.

Juárez ran for reelection in 1871 and triumphed in a narrow three-way race against Díaz and Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada. Díaz had also made an unsuccessful run against Juárez in 1867. After losing in 1871 he issued a manifesto called the Plan de La Noria, named after his estate. Claiming that the election was fraudulent, it called for the overthrow of Juárez. Particularly ironic, in view of Díaz’s later career, was the provision in the manifesto that Juárez should be removed because he was trying to perpetuate himself in office by running for another term. It is also significant that Díaz was revolting against Juárez as a liberal populist rather than as a general attempting to stage a putsch.

The revolt failed and Díaz had to go into hiding. On July 16, 1872, Juárez died of a heart attack. Under the constitutional process, he was succeeded by Lerdo de Tejada, chief justice of the supreme court. Though Lerdo was a liberal and anticlerical, he was disliked in many quarters because he never flinched from using the power of the state to enforce his goals. In addition, it was widely believed that he had granted excessive concessions to U.S. railway interests. In January 1876, Díaz again went into revolt. This time his proclamation was called the Plan de Tuxtepec. As with Juárez, he portrayed himself as a liberal reformer rather than as an incipient military dictator. The Plan called for more democracy at the municipal level and once more attacked the principle of reelection. After initial reverses, the rebels prevailed and Díaz entered the capital on November 21. The porfiriato — Díaz’s 35-year stranglehold on Mexico — had begun.

Díaz had come to power as a champion of liberal principles — more municipal democracy, no reelection, etc. Once he assumed the presidency, it soon became clear that his main concerns were internal stability and foreign investment. To be fair, a law and order program was desperately needed in the country. Two bloody wars had taken their toll and banditry was pandemic. This unstable situation was scaring away foreign business and Díaz was anxious to create a climate of confidence for investors. He addressed the problem of internal security with a simple solution: by co-opting the most notorious bandits and putting them into the dreaded Rurales (“Rural Police”), a paramilitary force that was far better trained and paid than the unwilling conscripts dragooned into the army. The bandit problem disappeared overnight and, as time went by, the Rurales served as an effective force against peasant revolts.

Having brutally achieved domestic tranquility, Díaz next opened the country up to foreign capital, both U.S. and European. William Randolph Hearst acquired vast tracts of cattle country, the Guggenheim-controlled American Smelting and Refining Company set up ore smelters, and such big oil companies as William Doheny’s Mexican Petroleum Company and the Waters Pierce Company, with links to Standard Oil, dominated in the petroleum producing regions of the Gulf Coast. So eager was Díaz to attract foreign capital that he adopted the odious policy of paying foreign employees more than Mexicans for the same work. This was the main reason for the bloody strike, ruthlessly suppressed, at the Cananea Mining Company in Sonora. Díaz also cleverly played one side against the other, encouraging British and European capital as a counterbalance to its U.S. counterpart.

If you go by one set of statistics, the porfiriato was a howling success. Kilometers of railroad track increased from virtually zero to 14,000, silver production from 607,037 kilograms in 1877-78 to 1,816,605 in 1900, copper from 6,483 tons in 1891-92 to 52,116 in 1910-11 and henequen (sisal) from 11,283 tons in 1877 to 128,849 in 1910.

But here’s another set of porfiriato statistics. In 1893 infant mortality (death before the age of one) was 323 per thousand in Mexico City as opposed to London’s 114 and Boston’s 120. In 1895 life expectancy was 30 years and the 1910 census classified 50 percent of Mexican houses as unfit for human habitation. A 1900 survey in Mexico City showed that 15,000 families (16 percent of the population) were homeless. Wealth was being created but it certainly wasn’t trickling down.

Keeping his promise not seek reelection, Díaz didn’t run for president in 1880. As his successor he handpicked Manuel González, considered the most corrupt and incompetent of his inner circle. Gonález, living up to his reputation, gave Mexico such a wretched administration that the way was instantly paved for don Porfirio’s return to power. After that, all talk of “no reelection” died — until Francisco Madero raised his standard in 1910.

What toppled Diaz in the end was not a popular revolution but a quarrel between two ruling elites over whom Diaz had for a long time exercised a successful policy of divide and conquer. One was made up of a circle of European-educated intellectuals in Mexico City, known as científicos because they believed in the “scientific” positivist doctrines of Auguste Comte. The other comprised a provincial coalition of landowners, businessmen and generals who believed that the científicos, with their European orientation, were excessively subservient to foreign capitalists at the expense of Mexican entrepreneurs. The provincial power structure was strengthened when it managed to attract a considerable portion of the middle class to the anti-Diaz cause, small businessmen and professionals who had been hurt by the 1907 panic.

When the aging Diaz, who celebrated his eightieth birthday in 1910, came increasingly under the influence of the científicos, the provincial leaders began to balk. Organizing a group they called the Democratic party, they urged Diaz to accept General Bernardo Reyes, governor of Nuevo León, as his vice presidential candidate in 1910. Diaz refused and sent Reyes on a military mission to Europe to get rid of him. Then he nominated a highly unpopular científico, Ramón Corral, to be his running mate.

This is what set the stage for the Madero revolution of 1910. Madero came from one of Mexico’s richest families — a family in the northern state of Coahuila that typified the provincial elite that Diaz managed to alienate late in his career. Madero believed in honest government but he was no social or economic radical. Though the revolution attracted such populist rebels as Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata and Pascual Orozco, only Villa remained loyal to Madero. Zapata broke off from this upper middle-class rebellion to the left because he thought Madero was dragging his feet on land reform. Orozco broke off from the right — selling out to the Terrazas-Creel family of Chihuahua cattle barons who were completely identified with the científico faction.

Díaz would probably never have fallen if he had continued to control both elites that kept him in power so long. By favoring one over the other, he sealed his doom.

Press censorship, the role of the rurales, and foreign investment during the Porfiriato

Díaz would continue to govern Mexico until 1911. The focus of a growing cult of personality, he was reelected at the end of each term, usually without opposition. Constitutional processes were assiduously maintained in form, but in reality the government became a dictatorship. Díaz’s rule was relatively mild, however, at least in contrast to 20th-century totalitarianism. Nonetheless, by the mid-1880s the Díaz regime had negated freedom of the press through legislation that allowed government authorities to jail reporters without due process and through its financial support of publications such as El Imparcial and El Mundo, which effectively operated as mouthpieces for the state. Meanwhile, the army was reduced in size, and order was maintained by an efficient police force. In particular, the Díaz regime increased the powers of the rurales, the federal corps of rural police, which became a kind of praetorian guard for the dictatorship and intimidated Díaz’s political opponents.

Until near the end of his rule, Díaz seems to have retained the support of most literate Mexicans. The benefits of the Díaz regime, however, went mostly to the upper and middle classes. The mass of the population, especially in rural areas, remained illiterate and impoverished. Díaz’s principal objective was to promote economic development by encouraging the introduction of foreign capital, most of it from Britain, France, and especially the United States. By 1910 total U.S. investment in Mexico amounted to more $1.5 billion. Foreign investment financed the construction of some 15,000 miles (24,000 km) of railroads. Industries, especially textiles, also were developed, and a new impetus was given to mining, especially of silver and copper. Moreover, after 1900, Mexico became one of the world’s leading oil producers.

25 years of Porfiriato (1884 -1911)

Díaz regained the presidency after González's interval. It was in 1884 and he would not leave the post until 1911.

At first, the economic news brought great joy to the government and helped maintain peace and stability. The infrastructures continued to grow and mining and agricultural production were promoted.

However, at the same time discontent was growing. The authoritarianism of Díaz and the inequality in the distribution of the wealth created turned a large part of the population against him. The army's actions in the Cananea and Río Blanco strikes expanded discontent.

To this must be added the effects of the international economic crisis that emerged in 1907, which also affected Mexico. This recession caused discontent to escalate further. Thus, in 1910 the Mexican Revolution broke out and, after defeating Díaz's supporters, the Porfiriato was terminated.

People of Mexican History: Porfirio Díaz

When you’re an expat, it can be difficult joining in discussions when the conversation turns to the people of Mexican history. Therefore, WeExpats decided to release a series on these individuals to better help prepare those expats living in Mexico. In our second article in the series, we decided to cover the controversial figure: Porfirio Díaz.

*To read the first article in this series on Maximilian I, click here .

People of Mexican History – Introduction:

One of the most famous people in Mexican history, Porfirio Díaz was a general and political figure who served as the president of Mexico for a total of 31 years. He has come to dominate political discussions in Mexico due to his prominence during a tumultuous part of Mexican history—and throughout his time in Mexican politics, he has engendered an unresolved controversy in the minds of the Mexican population. This period is one of the most romanticized periods of Mexican history, and it has come to be known as the Porfiriato .

People of Mexican History – The Early Life of Porfirio Díaz:

Though the actual date of Porfirio Díaz’s birth is unknown, he was baptized in the Mexican state of Oaxaca on the 15th of September, 1830. He was born the sixth of seven children to a woman who was the child of a Spanish immigrant and an indigenous woman. His father was a criollo —or a Mexican whose lineage was almost entirely of European descent—making Porfirio Díaz a castizo . His father was a modest innkeeper who died when Díaz was three years old.

Though Porfirio Díaz was raised in poverty, the family managed to send him to school from the age of 6. Due to his family’s deeply religious views, Porfirio Díaz began studying to be a priest at age 15. He attended El Colegio Seminario Conciliar de Oaxaca. Despite being offered a position as a priest in 1846, instead, Porfirio Díaz decided to join a religious student’s organization dedicated to volunteering as soldiers during the Mexican-American War . He would see no action, however, this position solidified Porfirio Díaz’s future in the Mexican military.

By 1849, Porfirio Díaz had abandoned his religious career to pursue his studies in law. During this period, he began to find himself drawn to radical liberal ideology—at a time when Santa Anna had begun to persecute liberals. Porfirio Díaz managed to evade arrest and fled to the northern mountains of Oaxaca where he joined the rebels under Juan Álvarez . He would continue fighting until Santa Anna’s government was overthrown and Anna was forced into exile in Cuba in 1855. For his loyalty, Porfirio Díaz was awarded a position as an administrator in Ixtlán, Oaxaca.

People of Mexican History – The Military Career of Porfirio Díaz:

As you may recall from our article on Maximilian I or our article on Cinco de Mayo , the French invaded Mexico in hopes of establishing an empire in the Americas. During this period, Porfirio Díaz had managed to attain the rank of general and he was instrumental fighting off the French at the Battle of Puebla. He disobeyed direct orders from General Ignacio Zaragoza, and instead defended his position centered directly between forts Guadalupe and Loreto. After successfully repelling the attack, he pursued the battered French forces and was in the end commended for his “brave and notable” actions.

In 1863, he was captured by the French Army, but he managed to escape. Upon his arrival with the Mexican forces, the Mexican president Benito Juarez appointed him as Secretary of Defense—a position that would have effectively made him commander of the Mexican army. He declined the position, instead, he accepted a lesser position as the commander of the Central Army. That same year, he was promoted to Division General.

Though Porfirio Díaz was offered a position in Maximilian I’s loyalist army, he declined. In 1865 he was captured again, and yet again managed to escape incarceration to fight battles in Piaxtla, Tulcingo, Tehuitzingo, Comitlipa, Nochixtlán, La Carbonara, Miahuatlán, and finally the battle to retake Oaxaca. Time and time again, he was offered positions of power by the loyalist army—even being offered full command of Maximilian I’s imperial army—yet every time he declined. On April 2nd, 1867, he led the rebel forces to retake the city of Puebla in the final battle of the war.

People of Mexican History – The Early Political Career of Porfirio Díaz:

In 1868 after the war, Porfirio Díaz returned to his home state of Oaxaca—completely resigning his military career. Though Díaz had helped secure Benito Juárez’s return to the Mexican presidency, he began to openly condemn the Juarez administration. Soon, Porfirio Díaz’s ambitions of power turned his eye toward politics.

By 1870 he was actively running for president against Juárez and another candidate named Lerdo de Tejada . Porfirio Díaz lost the election in what he proclaimed publicly to be rigged elections. The following year, in response, Porfirio Díaz called for revolution and several people took up arms—including General Manuel González of Tamaulipas. However, Díaz’s supporters were defeated by early 1872. A few months after that, in mid-1872 Juárez would die of natural causes and Lerdo de Tejada would become President.

Lerdo’s time in office was filled with his own opposition and by 1874, Lerdo was facing a major rebellion by tribal leaders in the north of Mexico. Meanwhile, Porfirio Díaz had decided to move to Veracruz and he was soon elected to Congress there. Instead of running for election again, instead, Díaz decided to do what he did best. In January of 1876, he launched a military insurrection from his home state of Oaxaca. Though his forces were initially defeated—and Díaz was even forced to flee to the US for a short time—by November of 1876 Porfirio Díaz defeated Lerdo’s forces in the Battle of Tecoac and went on to occupy Mexico City.

Porfirio Díaz would condemn Lerdo to exile in New York, and in his place, he instilled an interim president for less than a year. In 1877, he would hold elections where he ran on the platform that there should be no re-elections. During these elections, Díaz emerged victoriously. He was finally president of Mexico.

People of Mexican History – El Porfiriato – Díaz’s First Term as President:

Díaz’s first years in office were characterized by the struggle with the United States in officially recognize Porfirio Díaz’s presidency—which would officially secure his legitimacy internationally. However, the United States was reluctant to recognize Mexico until issues had been settled.

The first of these issues was one of Apache raids that were taking place along the border. Apaches were given sanctuary in Mexico, thus they would cross the border, raid American border towns, and then flee back to Mexico in safety. The second issue involved a previous $300,000 USD debt that had been incurred, and that negotiations with Lerdo’s presidency had resolved. Porfirio Díaz promised to patrol the border against Apache raiders. In addition, Díaz’s presidency paid back the debt. By 1878, his presidency was officially recognized by the United States culminating in a visit by then US president Ulysses S. Grant to Mexico City.

In addition, Porfirio Díaz had to overcome the rebels that still supported Lerdo’s government. Lerdo’s supporters continued to launch insurrections across the country, however, they would eventually fail. In addition, Díaz secured his position through financial incentives and rewards for his continued political support from prominent politicians and influential figures in Mexican society. In the end, he sought reconciliation with many other people of Mexican history after his years as a radical liberal in Oaxaca. In this, Porfirio Díaz would achieve what was called the Paz Porfiriana —a term alluding to the Pax Romana , or the period of relative peace established by the Roman Empire from when Augustus founded the Roman Principate in 27 B.C.E. to the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 C.E.

True to his campaign promise, Porfirio Díaz stepped down after his presidency and his long-time right-hand man Manuel González took up the banner and the vision. Though historically, González is seen as a puppet of Porfirio Díaz, in many respects it can be argued that Manuel González was his own autonomous leader in his own right.

In particular, Manuel González would go on to forge his own political alliances with many people who had not been open supporters—or even flat out opponents of Porfirio Díaz. During the Gonzales Presidency, immigration and colonization legislation was passed, as well as changes to subsoil rights and rights to land ownership. Much of this was to facilitate extending lucrative railway concessions to US investors.

During this period, Porfirio Díaz would officially return to his long-term home in Oaxaca where he served as governor. This period was punctuated by his marriage to the 17-year-old daughter of Manuel Romero Rubio —who had long been a political rival. Their honeymoon took place through the United States visiting New Orleans, St. Louis, Washington D.C., and New York.

Accompanying them on their honeymoon was Mattias Romero—a Mexican politician who had worked for Díaz and Benito Juarez as Ambassador to the US, as well as Secretary of Finance—and his American wife. Porfirio Díaz would use the honeymoon to secure, both Mexican connections of Mattias Romero, and American political and financial allies like Ulysses S. Grant. In turn, his marriage and honeymoon ended up being a bit of a public relations stunt to help promote American and Mexican relations to spur American investment in Mexico.

People of Mexican History – El Porfiriato – the Second Term and Beyond:

Perhaps it is in the context above that we can understand Porfirio Díaz’s ire when Manuel González’s presidency ran into financial problems—so much so that the government went into bankruptcy. This brought political opposition to González where his political opponents were convinced that the administration’s failings were due to Manuel González’s personal corruption. Porfirio Díaz took the opportunity to run for president a second term.

Naturally, considering that he had run on a platform of no re-election, Porfirio Díaz’s critics were quick to bring up the former president’s hypocrisy. Díaz had the constitution amended to allow a second term (and then later had it amended again to allow for no restrictions whatsoever). Porfirio Díaz would serve for another 26 years as president and would be re-elected four more times—every time with ludicrously-high margins. Once, he even claimed to have won unanimously.

– Porfirio Díaz’s Presidential Style –

Though in Díaz’s early military career, he had been an ideologue siding with radical liberals in the mountains of Oaxaca, once he took power he displayed a shrewd, pragmatic approach to politics—a matter with which he took great pride. He was not opposed to securing power through patronage to his political allies.

However, he always kept force as an option—which was a serious thread considering Díaz’s military talents. Similar to Pablo Escobar’s motto of “plata o plomo” (meaning “silver or lead”—alluding to lead bullets), Porfirio Díaz would resolve conflict through “ pan o palo ” (meaning “bread or the bludgeon”).

His authoritarian style came to create the kind of stable climate that is necessary for industry to take root and thrive. His efforts to lure American investment and build an industrial infrastructure drew Mexico into the 20th Century. In the end, this policy of defensive modernization was another manifestation of his pragmatic approach to all issues. If you’re weak compared to the United States, you might as well take advantage of that fact—in effect, selling Mexican influence for American investment.

People of Mexican History – El Porfiriato – Controversy:

Porfirio Díaz is characterized first and foremost by his authoritarian approach to leadership. History has classically referred to him as a “republican monarch”. Many Mexicans call him a dictator which took a revolution to overthrow. However, some have argued that perhaps Mexico has judged Díaz too harshly.

Porfirio Díaz did anything to hold on to power—often resorting to coercion. However, he also relied heavily on cooptation. For example, instead of posting cabinet members from his own political party, he chose cabinet members from all parties—even those that had traditionally opposed him—and he was able to bribe them with money that he had helped to secure from foreign investments. Perhaps his legacy seems to have been dragging Mexico kicking-and-screaming into the Industrial Age.

He was able to make peace with the Catholic Church and the Freemasons of Mexico because, though he was the head of the Freemasons in Mexico, he also was an important advisor to several Bishops. He gave the church a unique level of autonomy—neither antagonizing the Catholic Church nor ardently supporting them.

Porfirio Díaz also managed to satisfy Mestizos and even some indigenous leaders by giving them political positions. He then shrewdly made them act as intermediaries for his foreign investment interests so that practically no opposition would fall on his own lap. Instead, they grew wealthier—in effect, folding them into the upper class.

Some have argued that Porfirio Díaz’s reputation as a despot stems from Revolutionary propaganda. They point to the rise of antiporifirismo as appearing at the start of the Mexican Revolution as a rhetorical tool to combat the cult of personality that had risen around him.

Nevertheless, the facts of history remain untouched. He grabbed power by force when he lost the election corruptly and then he ran on a platform of no reelection. After his tenure, he ran for reelection and kept power through corrupt elections. One is reminded of Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase. Sure Jefferson was a Jeffersonian until he himself was in power.

Porfirio Díaz suppressed the formation of any opposing political parties. He then dissolved all the past vestiges of federalism and the local authorities. Governors answered only to him. The legislative and judicial branch was comprised entirely of his most ardent supporters and closest friends. Porfirio Díaz suppressed a free press and rigged the judicial system. Virtually in every fashion, congress was simply there to implement his vision for Mexico. He expanded the rogue police force called Los Rurales who had been founded by President Benito Juarez—and were loyal to the president.

Díaz brought mining to Mexico , which in turn brought all manner of cultural influences. Under Porfirio Díaz, the peso was 3:1 USD. Mexico was considered among the great economic powers of the time, with France, Germany, and Great Britain. Had there been no revolution, perhaps Mexico would be among the developed nations of the world. However, income inequality in Mexico was egregious—almost to the levels of the feudalism still found in Russia before their revolution. Workers were indentured servants who were shockingly poor.

People of Mexican History – Revolution and Exile:

After Porfirio Díaz declared himself the winner of an eighth term in the election of 1910, the population had had enough. Running opponent Francisco I. Madero called for a rebellion which led to the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution. This time the opposition was too great and after a series of defeats of the Federal Army, Díaz was forced to resign one year later. He fled to exile in Paris, where he died four years later.

His bones reside in Paris and numerous attempts have been made to bring the bones home to his ancestral state of Oaxaca—the latest taking place in 2014.

Watch the video: Así vivió Porfirio Díaz sus últimos años en Europa (January 2022).