Culture

As Mexicans Celebrate Día De La Revolución, Here Are 13 Facts You Need To Know About The Consequential War

Every year, November 20 marks the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, a historical event that has fascinated historians, artists, poets, filmmakers and everyday people for generations. The Mexican Revolution was in fact not a single military confrontation, but a multitude of fronts that made the period a very convoluted and complex network of alliances, intrigue and battlefronts. 

So brush up on your Mexican history and impress your abuelita with these facts that lay it all out con peras y manzanas. 

1. So who was fighting who and why?

Credit: Proyecto Puente

This historical event is also known as Mexican Civil War, as some historians argue that rather than a unified movement to overthrow the government it was in fact a series of local revolts against those in power. In 1910 Porfirio Diaz was reelected under dubious circumstances, extending his government even further after he had been in power for three decades. His opponent Francisco I. Madero, a wealthy man by all accounts, contested the results and assumed the presidency in 1911 after a year of conflict between two sectors of the Mexican elite. The middle-class and those in the lowest echelons of the social scale also despised Diaz and joined the fight. Among them was Pancho Villa, a wealthy man from Northern Mexico. 

2. So did peace reign once Madero was elected? Nah! He was killed in 1913. 

Credit: Revista Bicentenario

Not at all! The conflict extended for another decade, as conservatives opposed Madero and revolutionary fighters saw him as too conservative. Madero and his vice president Pino Suarez resigned in 1913 and were assassinated. Total chaos ensued as the vacuum in power made different factions seek control over the presidency. 

3. A succession of governments followed, deepening the civil war… bloodshed spread all over the country like a wild fire.

After Madero was killed, a counter revolutionary general, Victoriano Huerta, became president. But his mandate was ephemeral: he only stayed in power from February 2013 to June 2014. Huerta was a representative of the old regime and the business interests that wanted to keep the status quo. He was forced out by a series of regional uprisings that later developed into a generalised state of armed conflict that lasted roughly for six more years. He was succeeded by Venustiano Carranza, a wealthy landowner who fought Villa in the North and a legendary revolutionary in the South…

4. So where does Emiliano Zapata fit into this gran desmadre?

As far as icons go, Zapata is perhaps the most recognizable. The thick moustache, canana, rifle and manly disposition has become a true cultural phenomenon. Even Marlon Brando once famously played him in film. Well, Zapata opened the battlefront in the southern states and became a symbol of indigenous struggle against the elites. Zapata was assassinated in 1919 by Carranza’s forces. 

5. And were there really female soldiers? You betcha.

Known as soldaderas, a group of women performed vital roles among revolutionary forces. Some cared for the injured or made food, while many others took up arms and became legendary battle-tested combatants. They are also known as Adelitas.

6. Some historians now claim that the conflict ended in 1917.

Credit: All That Is Interesting

The fighting continued until 1920, but in political terms things came at a tense calm when the 1917 Constitution was brought into effect. However, Venustiano Carranza’s forces kept fighting the guerrilla efforts of Emiliano Zapata before and after his death. 

7.  So did the Mexican Revolution translate into a more equal country? Nope, not really.

Credit: All That Is Interesting

The Mexican Revolution started as a conflict among the elites. Figures like Madero, Huerta, Carranza and even Pancho Villa were all wealthy men trying to defend what was theirs, who worried that Porfirio Diaz was in fact a dictator after 31 years in power. The poor and vulnerable, however, did not benefit directly from the civil war. 

8. A guerrilla movement in the 1990s, and still alive Today, even took on the ideals championed by Emiliano Zapata.

Credit: Mexico News Daily

Chances are you have heard of the EZLN or Zapatista Army for National Liberation, a guerrilla movement that was born out of the forests of Chiapas in 1994. Well, the movement’s leaders have described it as a continuation of Zapata’s unfinished business in terms of reparation for indigenous communities. 

9. Casualties were enormous: up to 1.5 million people died.

Credit: The Toro Historical Review

The human cost of the conflict was massive, with casualties in the millions. Just imagine ten years of extended warfare and the gradual deterioration of infrastructure that led to more indirect deaths (hospitals were destroyed, so life expectancy dropped particularly in the poorest regions). There was also a vast migration to the United States, which some place around 200,000 displaced individuals and families who looked for refuge in Los Esteits. 

10. Corridos, a troubadour-like musical genre, was born out of the war.

Credit: The Strachwitz Frontera Collection

As has happened with many armed conflicts, the Mexican Revolution generated new manifestations of popular culture. Among them were corridos, songs that tell the adventures and misfortunes of revolutionary icons. Today’s variant, narco-corridos, talk about cartel members. 

11. The Mexican Revolution gave birth to the institutions that structure political life in Mexico today.

Credit: Sec. De. Mexico

The governments that emerged from the ashes of the war established the institutional frameworks on which the Mexican government rests today, such as State Secretariats and the elimination of the vice-presidential figure. 

12. The revolution also gave birth to a political party that ruled Mexico for 71 years and some have called the perfect dictatorship.

Plutarco Elias Calles founded the Partido Nacional Revolucionario in 1929. This party emblazoned the ideals of the revolution… at least on paper. The name changed throughout the years to finally become the PRI (Revolutionary Institutional Party, a contradiction even in its name!) in 1946. The party ruled Mexico for 71 years and some agree with Peruvian Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, who once called it the perfect dictatorship.  

13. One of the most recognizable monuments in Mexico City was built to commemorate the Mexican Revolution.

Credit: AmMejia / Giphy

El Monumento a la Revolucion is one of the most recognizable icons of Mexico City, and it has a very interesting history. The structure was built during the Porfiriato and was due to become thew Federal Legislative Palace. However, due to the war it was never finished, so the half-built structure came to signify a change and the birth of a new government based on revolutionary ideals. 

Revolutionary Energy Has Reached Chile And The People Are Fighting To Take Their Country Back

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Revolutionary Energy Has Reached Chile And The People Are Fighting To Take Their Country Back

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There is no question that Latin America is in the midst of a revolution. It seems as if there is a battle between extreme-right governments and the people, except the governments have tear gas. Puerto Ricans revolted against their corrupt Gov. Ricardo Rossello, and successfully ousted him from power. Last month, Ecuador’s indigenous communities revolted against Ecuadorian President Moreno’s decision to end fuel subsidies, among other austerity measures, and won. A month ago, indigenous President Evo Morales of Bolivia won the democratic vote only to be victimized by his own military in a coup that landed a white conservative Christian Senator to replace President Morales, now living in asylum in Mexico City. Colombia’s conservative President is a year into his term and is tear-gassing revolters throughout the country, closing the national border and implementing curfews.

Now, the people of Chile are joining the Latin American revolution to end increasing income-inequality.

What seemed like a small 30 peso increase in public transit fares has led to thousands taking to the streets to chant “It’s not 30 pesos, it’s 30 years.”

CREDIT: @ELYGLEZM / TWITTER

Why? Because, like every moment you’ve ever lost your mierda on someone for a microaggression, there is history here, and the United States is more responsible than many might think. Before dictatorship swept the nation, Chile was had democratically elected its first socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973. Allende delivered on his platform to raise the minimum wage, create universal healthcare, free school lunch, and advocated for the indigenous Mapuche children to be integrated into the public school system. Meanwhile, the United States’ CIA has funneled $3 million to finance anti-Allende campaigns and another $2.6 million to finance Eduardo Frei’s campaign — Allende’s rival. When the people continued to elect Allende, the CIA backed the Chilean military to stage a coup. The very last thing Allende told the Chilean people was his vow that he would never resign. The following morning, the military told Chile that Allende killed himself with a gift from Fidel Castro — an AK-47 rifle. Augusto Pinochet appointed himself Chile’s “Supreme Chief of the Nation,” and a dictatorship was born.

Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet may have been ousted 30 years ago, but Chileans feel like its economic progress has been to benefit the ultra-rich and only served to widen the wealth gaps. After the “Chicago Boys” (a group of economists from the University of Chicago) paternalized Pinochet into privatizing nearly everything and creating a free-market designed to benefit the US, the results have left Chile without a middle class. Many of Pinochet’s policies are still in play, and Chileans can feel it.

President Miguel Juan Sebastian Piñera was elected based on a centrist campaign. Now, he’s become another far-right leader in Latin America.

CREDIT: sebastianpinerae / Instagram

The “Chicago Boys” would become government officials in Pinochet’s dictatorship, and many of their contemporaries remain officials under Piñera’s administration. Everything is privatized, including water and social security, and it has become increasingly expensive for Chileans to simply buy their medications, pay their rising bills and live their life. Many of us can relate to rising living costs without any increase in wages or salaries. Chile is rising up.

While American media might be highlighting “violent protests” in Chile, the bulk of the violence is directed at the people from Chile’s government.

CREDIT: @JOVINOMAS / TWITTER

Last week, The New York Times reported on how an eye patch has exemplified the rising police brutality on Chileans. It’s become a symbol of protest. According to The New York Times, more than 285 Chileans have suffered severe eye trauma at the hands of Chilean law enforcement during protesters this month. “I felt an impact in my eye, and it all went black. I held up my hands so they would stop shooting and then laid on the ground, and they shot me three more times,” Brandon González, 19, who works as a hospital assistant told The New York Times. “I thought, they are going to kill me.” Even though Chileans know that their health is on the line, they’re still hitting the streets. 

Finally, President Piñera, who has a historic low 12 percent approval rating, admitted that the police were abusing citizens. “There was excessive use of force. Abuses and crimes were committed, and the rights of all were not respected,” the president said in a speech to the nation after reports of 22 deaths and more than 2,000 injuries.

Chile wants a new constitution, written by the people, instead of Pinochet.

CREDIT: @ALICHEAIB_ / TWITTER

While Piñera has announced that Chile would rewrite its Constitution, it feels like too little too late for many Chileans. They don’t trust government officials to represent the needs of the people, for fear the ultra-rich will influence the foundation of an entirely new government. “If the people want it, we will move toward a new constitution, the first under democracy,” Piñera said. We’ll see.

READ: Mon Laferte Goes Topless At 2019 Latin Grammys To Protest Violence In Chile

Mexican Students Build A 100 Year Deathiversary Ofrenda For Revolutionary Emiliano Zapata

Culture

Mexican Students Build A 100 Year Deathiversary Ofrenda For Revolutionary Emiliano Zapata

Preparatoria Emiliano Zapata / Facebook

For most of us, Día de los Muertos is a day spent with family, remembering our abuelos and sitting by an intimate altar with plates of flan, orange marigolds, and a few chupitos for good measure. This year, a Mexican high school has dedicated their campus to a stunning, giant ofrenda for revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata, on the 100 year anniversary of his death.

The assembly of the ofrenda took ten hours and over one thousand students, 90 teachers, and 15 staff. Since its completion late Monday, the school has opened its doors to the public and given over one hundred visitors student-led tours of the altar. 

In keeping with tradition, the ofrenda is divided into seven levels.

Credit: Preparatoria Emiliano Zapata / Facebook

Those levels represent the gap between the underworld and our world and help the souls travel back to earth. The bright orange, sweet-scented marigolds are meant to be a sensory guide to the deceased. The Emiliano Zapata Preparatory School will celebrate its 50th year anniversary next year. On the 100 year anniversary of their namesake’s death, the school ensured Zapata would be honored.

“May our traditions never die,” the school posted to Facebook in Spanish. “A thank you to all the students, administration, tutors and teachers at the Language Academy for this splendid work.” With one post, their ofrenda went viral, with thousands of shares and likes. 

The ofrenda is 40 feet long, and uses over 200 candles.

Credit: Preparatoria Emiliano Zapata / Facebook

Dozens of sugar skulls, fruit, tortillas, and traditional Mexican dishes are placed on the altar. “The classic figure of the leader on the right side and we placed a more contemporary version with the representation of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) on the left side,” Ricardo Valderrama Valdez, the school’s director, told El PaísTo help with the portraits of Zapata and the Zapatista soldier, poblano plastic artist Alejandro Teutli donated large sketches to the ofrenda. 

Then, the students colored them in with dyed sawdust.

Credit: Preparatoria Emiliano Zapata / Facebook

Considering that this is sawdust, we have to acknowledge the excellent shading methods used on Zapata’s cheekbones. Parents are flooding the Facebook comments with Spanish praise from moms, “Congratulations!!! to both shifts how beautiful they got, very good work chic@s, my princess is lucky to be part of that institution. 😋” The dads are coming through with comments like, “Excellent!!!!! Never forget our ancestors. Remembering is living……”

It took the school well over ten hours to create the ofrenda.

Credit: Preparatoria Emiliano Zapata / Facebook

We started Monday at seven in the morning with the students of both shifts and it ended at five in the afternoon. The students were very excited to participate, each in their own way,” Valderrama Valdez told El País. Taking a day off school to commemorate an indigenous hero? Yes, please.

Zapata was a major figure in the Mexican Revolution, specifically leading the cause of campesinos, or farmers.

Credit: Preparatoria Emiliano Zapata / Facebook

He led the revolt in Morelos, and garnered enough supporters to form the Liberation Army of the South. Their joint mission was to protect “Land and Liberty.” Zapata was the Robin Hood of land. He and his army took land from the wealthy and redistributed it to the poor. He was assassinated on April 10, 1919 by the Mexican government. 

Zapatismo remains an ongoing movement in Mexico to advocate for indigenous rights to land. 

Credit: Preparatoria Emiliano Zapata / Facebook

In 1994, a guerrilla group in Chiapas started calling themselves the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), in honor of the ideology that Zapata passed down. The group refuses to align itself with any political classification, though many observe the Robin Hood nature of their mission as libertarian socialist. 

Today, the EZLN is focused on civil resistance. Like the Zapatistas of the early 1900’s, the group is indigenous-led, seeking indigenous control of natural resources. Instead of engaging in militant activity with the Mexican government, it’s peaceful protest strategy is attracting more international and local support. Their flag is black with a red star in the center.

Today is the last day the ofrenda will be open to the public.

Credit: Preparatoria Emiliano Zapata / Facebook

“Offerings are something that must happen from generation to generation, it is something we want to convey to our students beyond academics,” Valderrama Valdez told El PaísIf you live nearby, you’re welcome to receive a tour from the students anytime from 9am to 6pm today. Felicidades, students! This is one for the books.