Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The history behind the holidays

In 2006 federal law changed the dates of three of five fiestas patrias to allow for holiday celebrations to be on Mondays so as to enjoy long weekends.  The Anniversary of the Revolution, November 20th, was one of those changed by the new law and is now celebrated on the third Monday in November -- hence yesterday's puente.  I wonder if many of those weekending in Acapulco knew, or cared, why they had this extra holiday.  

Yesterday's observance brought the centennial year of the Revolution to an end. Fought throughout Mexico, La Revolución lasted ten long, bloody years.  One in ten Mexicans died in what was one of the great social upheavals of the 20th century.  Though it began as a revolt against the 30-year dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, it fragmented into a multi-sided civil war of socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, union, and agrarian movements -- each with separate goals and ideals.  The shared objective was the overthrow of the Diaz regime. 

Several events are widely believed to have provided sparks that eventually lit the Revolution.  In 1906 the army, under orders of Diaz, brutally repressed a miners strike in Sonora.  The massacre of Cananea led to labor unrest throughout the nation.  The Porfiriato brought industrialization and wide use of the railroad.  Large sugar cane haciendas modernized.  To increase profits they demanded increased land and water.   They usurped both from indigenous populations, leading to an increasing number of landless peasants who were soon serfs on their own ancestral lands.  The 1910 election of Emiliano Zapata as leader of his village council almost immediately gave voice to the campesino demand for the return of land.  Zapata became, for many, the heart of the Revolution.  

Another spark was a 1908 Porfirio Diaz interview with a U.S. journalist.  Diaz said “Mexico is ready for democracy and free elections” and that he would step down to allow other candidates to run in 1910.  Young, wealthy, and idealistic Francisco Madero took Diaz at his word and spent the bulk of 1908 writing a book about the upcoming 1910 election.  He formed a political party devoted to “anti-reelection” and announced his own candidacy for the presidency.   Madero traveled across Mexico and was received by huge, enthusiastic crowds.
Angered, humiliated, or both by Madero’s popularity, Diaz again ran for the presidency. In June 1910, prior to the election, Madero was arrested and held in a San Luis Potosi prison. Despite wide support for Madero and the Anti-Reelection party, the Diaz machine assured the dictator’s victory. 

In Mexico City in September 1910, oblivious to the increasing ire of his countrymen, Porfirio Diaz prepared a lavish, ostentatious celebration of his 30 years in power and the 100th anniversary of Independence.  It would be the last straw as Mexico hurtled to the precipice of revolution.

The next month, October 1910, Madero escaped to San Antonio, Texas, and issued The Plan of San Luis Potosi.  Though Madero had been a pacifist, The Plan proclaimed the recent election null and void and called for armed revolution to begin at 6 pm on November 20, 1910. He said that once the revolution began he would declare himself provisional President of Mexico and asked the people to no longer acknowledge the Diaz government.  Madero also called for restitution of land to villages and indigenous communities as well as freedom for political prisoners. 

It was a grand plan that fizzled in its execution.  On November 20 Madero arrived at the border planning to meet up with his uncle and 400 men recruited to the cause.  His uncle showed up late and with only ten men; Madero “postponed” the revolution and retreated to New Orleans. 
An immediate effect of the November 20 date was the discovery by the Diaz regime that Aguiles Serdan of Puebla was a supporter of Madero.  On November 18 he was attacked in his home and killed. Serdan is considered the first martyr of the Revolution.

The Diaz presidency did not survive long.  In early 1911 Madero was defeated in his attack on Casas Grandes but on May 10, 2011, Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa successfully captured Ciudad Juarez. On May 21 Madero and Porfirio Diaz signed the Treaty of Ciudad Juarez requiring the immediate resignation and exile of Diaz. Madero would be the new president.  Madero insisted on another election and in November won overwhelmingly.  
This might have been the end but it was only the beginning of a bloody decade.  Madero was soon betrayed, overthrown and assassinated.  Of the presidents elected or otherwise that followed in that troubled decade, few would die in their beds.

Appropriately the next Fiesta Patria is the Anniversary of the Constitution, commemorating the February 5, 1917 signing of the new constitution.  Like the Day of the Revolution, law has changed the date of this holiday from February 5 to the first Monday in February.  In 2012 it will be February 6.  You could book now for Acapulco or, better yet, make a date with yourself to visit the wonderful National History Museum in Chapultepec Castle and learn more about the fascinating and tumultuous years framed by these two holidays.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Charlie.

    The name of "the first martyr was Aquiles Serdán, with Q.

    Im from Puebla and his house actually is an awful museum, full of lies and bullsh*t.

    This law its an other way to legitimized President Calderon, to give us an other celebration and long weekend, i dont have the numbers, there are a lot of Off Day's, for the Mom, Dad, Teachers (like Gordillo), Revolution, Deaths, Independence, bla, bla, bla........ and also May, 1.

    Maybe if the citizens take sense of all the damaged that the suspensions of labors cause an other country will know.

    I see you on The News, i just read the article 1 person, 1 writer..... its great that you enjoy the country and Cuernavaca la Ciudad de la eterna primavera.