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Remember, remember, the 20th of November...

This might be a good message to write in Spanish… But then again, a long time ago I decided this is an English-posting site. So be it, I’ll only have to give more background information. This day marks the date when, 98 years ago, Francisco I. Madero started the Mexican Revolution - About a decade of unrest, civil war and ideologies. The revolution is what created the violent, uncivil image of the Mexican, which accompanied us for long years in many foreigners’ minds. The revolution brought to an end 30 years of a single-man rule, the Porfiriato. But that’s only the major symptom - The Revolution had many, many other consequences. About one million (out of a 10 million population) people died. There was a very significative rearrangement of the society, a rearrangement that took about half a century to settle. But I won’t write more background - You can always ask the wikipedia about our Revolution. The reason I am posting this is that, as it usually happens in this time of year, several so-called analysts in the media have started asking, was the Revolution really worth it? Did it change anything at all? Did the Revolution in the end win, or was it defeated from within? Should we still celebrate it? And there are, yes, reasons to doubt it. Renato Leduc, at the same time a great journalist and a delicious poet, says it as many - while at the same time, as nobody else: Tiempos en que era Dios omnipotente / y el señor Don Porfirio presidente / Tiempos, ¡ay! tan iguales al presente, or ya se están muriendo todos / ¡Jesús qué desilusión…! / se está volviendo gobierno / ¡Ay dios…! La revolución. Anyway… Our media overlords insist on us forgetting the struggles and the real changes that came from them, on rewriting the history… Probably they will push us later on to have the cristeros as the real fathers of the Nation? Even if so many bits of reality didn’t change after Porfirio Diaz’s regime fell in 1910, I find it insulting to think that even 70 years of PRI -with very sharp differences between periods, with huge differences between the PRI-born governments- are comparable to 30 years of a one-man rule; even with brutal repressions such as the dirty war against so many subversive movements in the 50s-80s (as officially There Was No Armed Struggle Anymore, just some pesky communist subversives), it cannot be compared to the Porfirian Peace (ask Cananea and Río Blanco). Today we might have a shameful concentration of money and power in very few hands (including the world’s richest man), but it certainly does not reach the point of 1910 where most of the Mexican soil was owned by less than 30 families, with latifundios as big as many states… Anyway - So far, nothing new - just bits I heard here and there, and my reactions to them. But this morning, around 8:25, I tuned in to Noticias IMER, the news program of one of the few public, non-gubernamental, independent radio stations. An interview was under way, but I could not get the interviewed person’s name (I guess, a historian - will write to ask for his data). His comments were very interesting, and very worth echoing. I’ll try not to distort him. The Revolution started off very organized, and with a very simple goal: Get Porfirio Diaz out, and call for real federal elections. Sufragio efectivo, no reelección. Of course, the fight was very short, and Madero became the president, with an overwhelming majority. Of course, also, the reactionary sectors set up a coup and killed Madero. Victoriano Huerta seized the power - and that’s where the real revolution really began. Groups all over the country (some of which were at unrest since Madero, as they were not seeing the changes they needed - changes that would bring an end to the huge class differences and disrespect to the native Mexican population) rose in arms, and forced Huerta into exile. Then, they battled each other for many more years. It became known as la bola - When somebody joined the revolutionary forces, people said he went to fight with the crowd. But, inside the crowd, there were very different points of view. No, Carranza, Villa and Zapata (the foremost leaders in the hardest part of the fight) were not power-hungry barbarians - much to the contrary. They had very full, very complex views of the problem and possible solutions. I won’t delve much into them, also, as I’m not an expert… Villa and Zapata had the most compatible approaches, seeking an aggresive land redistribution, a communal property system (closest to most of the indigenous population’s roots, what we would now call usos y costumbres). For the government, both favored going towards a Europe-like parliamentary system, where the parliament were the real force, and the president (or prime minister or whatever) would only be the designated person to implement the parliament’s decision. Both Villa and Zapata feared the evil stemming from the unlimited power that the Presidential Chair symbolized (Fui soldado de Francisco Villa / de aquel hombre de fama mundial, / que aunque estuvo sentado en la silla / no envidiaba la presidencial). They met at the Aguascalientes convention, and were quite close to each other - but were defeated by the superior Venustiano Carranza (Constitucionalista) army. Carranza, although vilified for his corruption (nowadays, carrancear is still a synonim for stealing), had an opposite view - also originating from a very deep analysis. Carranza saw that what brought down Madero was, in the end, the lack of power of the President to rule the country without support from the legislative power. So, he pushed a political program making the President the strongest man in Mexico. He and his people wrote and passed the 1917 Constitution, valid today. This constitution goes to great lengths pushing revolutionary ideals - Land and wealth redistribution, universal and free education, keeps a complete separation between state and church, ensures state control over strategic areas… The 1917 constitution is one of our history’s greatest achievements. But, of course, it is not perfect - it paved the way for a hegemonic party controlling the real power behind it all. PRI started as a very heterogeneous mixture of the whole revolutionary family, but slowly became a bureaucratic, stagnated monolith. And in a somehow ironic twist of destiny, the forces that today push for deepest changes, and precisely in the same direction that Villa and Zapata wished, are… Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) and Frente Popular Francisco Villa (FPFV). EZLN is far more successful and advanced in its social experiment. Again, I won’t comment further in what I don’t really understand. As a last point, the commenter I’m quoting (and whose name I must get, to update this post!), said that practically in every country that has transited from any sort of dictatorship towards a more-or-less believable democracy (say, everywhere in South America, or Spain, or Eastern Europe, or…), one of the first steps has been to update or replace the constitution with a new one, preventing the mistakes overlooked by the previous one from being reinstated. In our country, we have long heard about the “Reforma del Estado”, a very nice-sounding-term which nobody believes in. After the 2006 electoral mess (no matter who won in the end, everybody will agree it was a mess that should be prevented from happening again, we had high hopes of real changes being introduced. A parliamentary, or at least semi-presidentialist regime was strongly suggested as a way forward. Changing the electoral system towards having second-rounds if needed. anything! But no, we were stuck with… The same as always. So, did the Revolution win or lose? It is clear to me. It won, and it really shaped -for better- what would happen in the next 100 years. However, in a century, we have been able to twist the law to make it turn against itself. I have to agree with my EZLN-minded friends (I sympathize with EZLN’s general goals, but don’t think its way forward is the right way to go): Pushing the change from within the government is just wishful thinking, but a strong delusion. However, is there a way to push our country forward without repeating a violent cycle? I really hope so. Our current situation is simply pathetic. I lack a good closing for this post… So I’ll let good old Jefe Pluma Blanca, Renato Leduc, do it for me. Tiempos de Pancho Villa y de la guerra de mentadas y tiros en la sierra. Tiempos de fe no en Dios sino en la tierra

Por el cerro de la Pila fueron entrando a Torreón mi general Pancho Villa y atrás la revolución… ¡Ay jijos…! ya se nos hizo cuánto diablo bigotón…

Ya viene Toribio Ortega subiendo y bajando cerros y no te enredes ni engañes que ahí anda Pablito Seáñez haciendo ladrar los perros.

¡Cuánto usurero barbón…! ¡Ay jijos… cómo les vuela de la levita el faldón…! ¡Ay jijos… ya se nos hizo: triunfó la revolución…!

Tenemos camino andado… No hay que juntarse con rotos siempre te juegan traición ya Madero está vengado ya murió la usurpación.

En su caballo retinto llegó Emiliano Zapata bonita su silla charra y sus botones de plata pero mucho más bonito su famoso Plan de Ayala…

Este gallo es de navaja y no es gallo de espolón si quieres tierra trabaja trabaja no seas huevón…

Ya llegó don Venustiano con sus anteojos oscuros y Villa y Zapata gritan: No sé que tengo en los ojos… porque ya en Pablo González se vislumbra la traición ¡Ay reata no te revientes que es el último jalón…!

ya se están muriendo todos ¡Jesús qué desilusión…! se está volviendo gobierno ¡Ay dios…! La revolución.


gwolf 2008-11-21 05:34:45

So, shouldn’t it also…

Shouldn’t Franco’s death be celebrated by left-wingers as the date where finally freedom started marching back into Spain and Spain started marching back into the modern world?

jordi 2008-11-21 01:34:28

No, no!

No, no! We actually want to forget! For us, 20-N means the date of Franco’s death, celebrated by the extreme-right wing.

Manuelinux 2008-11-21 06:43:20

We need a new revolution

1910’s revolution really worth but as you say we need a new revolution, but not a violent one. They were hard times as we can read in “mal de amores” from Angeles Mastreta

PedroLMC 2008-11-28 17:52:27

Tiempos violentos

Excelente post, algo de lo que mencionas se ve claramente en un reciente documental que pasaron por television de paga sobre Pancho Villa, que deja ver tanto lo que le paso a Villa como a Zapata y por supuesto a los ideales de la revolución que a fin de cuentas hacen pensar que necesitamos una nueva, o mejor dicho mejorar aquella de 1910, lastima que el hambre se el que parece detonar nuevamente otra revoluci{on y no las ideas. Mi gramatica en ingles es fatal, una disculpa por escribir en español.

pooka 2008-11-20 21:41:51

Viva Zapata! Acá el

Viva Zapata!

Acá el grafitero ;)

toxickore 2008-11-21 06:36:35

Good post! very informative

Good post! very informative and simple