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date: 22 June 2018

Porfirian Politics in Mexico, 1876–1911

Summary and Keywords

The success and longevity of the presidency of Porfirio Díaz (1876–1880, 1884–1911) was based on a modus vivendi between the two most prominent political cultures that emerged in Mexico following the struggle for independence at the beginning of the 19th century. On the one hand were the complex networks of patriarchal authority and patronage, and the exercise of power through personal rather than institutional authority, which have always been (and still are) a structural feature of political life in the Hispanic world. These informal and hierarchical networks were described by Octavio Paz as the “Culture of the Pyramid,” alluding to their precolonial and pre-Columbian origins; they an essential feature of caudillismo (authoritarian politics or “boss rule”). On the other hand was what Octavio Paz described as the “Culture of Citizenship,” composed of liberalism, constitutionalism, and the rule of law, which were products themselves of the long and painful struggle to build the state and the nation over the course of the 19th century. The hypothesis presented here is that Porfirio Díaz not only understood but was able to combine these contradictory political cultures and to create a hybrid authoritarian/liberal regime which dominated Mexican political life for over three decades and provided an unprecedented period of political stability in stark contrast to the first 50 years of independence.

Keywords: Mexico, Porfirio Díaz, caudillismo, liberalism, cult of personality, constitutionalism

Liberalism and the Mexican Liberal Project

Liberalism constituted the ideological foundation of Porfirian politics. At the same time, it must be understood that the Porfirian regime, like other liberal regimes that preceded it, had to adapt liberal principles to the political reality of the 19th century. It is therefore important to emphasize that 19th-century Mexican liberalism was anything but monolithic, either in ideology or in implementation. Rather, it was a flexible construction, a hybrid made up of different ideological groups within the pantheon of liberal adherents—including “purists,” “Jacobins,” “moderates,” and “progressives/positivists”—and marked by a socially heterogeneous mixture of co-religionists who covered a wide spectrum, from the urban elites to the rural pueblos.1

Inspired by the American and French Revolutions, and especially by Spanish Liberal precedents, 19th-century Mexican liberals sought to replace the ancien régime of absolutist monarchy, corporate privilege, and colonial restriction with a federal republic based upon popularly elected, representative institutions, which would foster and protect citizenship, legal equality, and the secularization of civil society. The essential dilemma was how to bring these aspirations to fruition within a political culture characterized by the maintenance of colonial institutions, and by distinctly authoritarian and anti-liberal practices, without resorting to the very evils liberalism was trying to destroy: namely, caudillismo and dictatorship.2

In short, the liberal project was an immensely difficult one to implement in a newly independent society marked by fundamental structures and cultural practices that neither encapsulated nor reflected—and, in fact, were utterly inimical to—the tenets of liberal philosophy. One of the few tangible successes of 19th-century Mexican liberalism was the construction of a credible version of national patriotic history through the production of a series of history text books. Liberal historia patria (national history) did not seek, however, to underestimate its many seemingly insurmountable enemies and obstacles; rather, it highlighted them in order to provide the liberal struggle against the forces of darkness, so to speak (represented especially by the Catholic Church), with an epic, dimension. These obstacles were not imaginary or discursive, but in fact very real: liberalism faced the problems of ideological hostility from both its internal and external enemies; a largely pre-capitalist economy; the centrifugal forces of regionalism; the persistence of religious and cultural practices which long predated independence; a highly stratified social structure; and a fundamentally authoritarian political culture. Even the most triumphalist and optimistic pro- liberal accounts published toward the end of the 19th century had to recognize that liberalism remained a very fragile construct.

The period of 1855 to 1867 is a crucial one in modern Mexican history, and especially in the history of Mexican liberalism. It saw the promulgation of the sacred text of 19th-century liberalism: the Constitution of 1857. The authors of the Constitution identified two principal obstacles to Mexico’s progress as a modern nation: the maintenance of colonial, corporate institutions and their legal privileges; and colonial restrictions on the free circulation of private property. Their principal target was the Catholic Church, the institution which represented the colonial, corporate legacy par excellence. The Constitution failed to recognize Catholicism as the religion of state, and the Church’s legal immunity, control over education, and extensive property holdings came under concerted attack. The hostile response provoked by this package of liberal measures led directly to civil war after 1858.

The liberal victory in the Civil War, which lasted from 1858 to 1861, came at considerable cost. The suspension of interest payments on the accumulated debts to overseas bondholders’ debts was followed by an invasion, in 1863, of a French army in pursuit of a colonial project. The French were supported by Mexican monarchists and the ecclesiastical hierarchy, who hoped to create a conservative Mexican empire under a European prince, Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of the House of Hapsburg, thus threatening the very existence of the Mexican Republic.3

Maximilian’s execution in June 1867 represented not only the end of his imperial dream, and of French colonial ambitions in Mexico, but also the final defeat of Mexican conservativism, and the definitive triumph of Mexican liberal republicanism. In short, the defeat of the dream of empire, in which Díaz had played a prominent part as one of the most successful military commanders, ensured that liberalism would remain the predominant ideology within Mexican political life. Nevertheless, during the subsequent period of the Restored Republic (1867–1876), despite the absence of a conservative opposition, the first two presidents of the Restored Republic, Benito Juárez and Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada were unable to transform liberal victory into a period of sustained political stability. In effect, the conservative, moderate, or radical wings of the liberal movement proceeded to abandon their own rules of conduct and resorted to decidedly illiberal, and even anti-liberal, practices, including electoral manipulation, the imposition of candidates, and, in keeping with 19th-century tradition, resorting to the military coup or pronunciamiento.4

Here we see a fundamental paradox: it appeared that liberal principles could only be implemented through anti-liberal practices. These contradictions were far from resolved when Díaz became president for the first time in 1876. He himself would certainly be guilty of adopting anti-liberal practices in pursuit of liberal ends, but he was not the first (nor the last) president to govern Mexico in this way.

Provincial Foundations: Díaz and Oaxaca, 1830–1855

There is a consensus among Porfiriologists that Porfirio Díaz’s Oaxacan background was of utmost importance to his political education. It gave the young Díaz not only formal training in the most coveted professions in 19th-century Mexico—the priesthood, the law, and military service—but also an introduction (through freemasonry and the camarilla of “pure” or radical liberals under the leadership of the lawyer Marcos Pérez) to the most influential political debates of the period: constitutionalism, federalism, centralism, secularization, and the “indigenous question.” This contrasts with the opinion of many of Porfirio’s biographers, who have maintained that Porfirio always viewed intellectual debates with contempt, disdainfully calling them examples “profundismo” (pseudo-profundity).

It is important to emphasize that the political legacy inherited by politicians in Oaxaca following independence, as in many other parts of the new republic, was distinctly problematic. Subsistence and pre-capitalist production, Hispanic tradition and indigenous autonomy coexisted with liberal constitutionalism and capitalist enterprise. The consolidation of the liberal project in the aftermath of independence would require the skillful and sensitive dismantling of colonial structures, and the creation of new economic and political models: first, the development of an infrastructure to encourage trade, commerce, and industry in order to energize a fragmented and dislocated economy; second, the inculcation of citizenship, nationhood, popular participation, and the rule of law in a caste-basted society riddled with ethnic and class discrimination; and third, the preservation of a precarious and highly sensitive balance, on the one hand, between local, community, state, and central power, and, on the other, between the extension of political representation and authoritarian practice.

Faced with these daunting tasks, it is hardly surprising that Oaxaca’s post-independence politicians demonstrated a strong streak of pragmatism. Oaxaca produced two generations of talented and capable politicians who were very conscious of the economic, social, political, and cultural realities of their region (patria chica), and who were able to translate their experiences onto the national stage. Both Benito Juárez and Porfirio Díaz emerged from this provincial milieu that to dominate the political landscape of Mexico in the second half of the 19th century.

In Porfirio’s case, his political career was inextricably shaped by his military career during the Wars of the Reforma (1858–1861) and French Intervention (1862–1867). As he himself acknowledged in his Memorias (published posthumously), an important part of his initial military duties and responsibilities required him to exercise political authority in the areas under his jurisdiction. His military and political careers developed rapidly and in tandem, from his start as a young member of a rebel guerrilla faction formed in opposition to Santa Anna in 1854, to his being named major general only nine years later in 1863, at the age of thirty-three. In politics, his career began in 1855 when he was appointed sub-prefect of the district of Ixtlán in his native Oaxaca. Twelve years later, in 1867, at the age of thirty-seven, he became a presidential candidate for the first time.

In retrospect, Díaz’s experience as commander of the National Guard was not only a crucial part of his political education, but also a key to explaining the support networks that sustained him in his political career after 1867. As Guy Thomson has emphasized, the National Guard was not only an agency for military mobilization, but also an organization that filtered liberal ideology and practices to the pueblos of central and southern Mexico.5 Some of the central tenets of liberalism—such as representative local government and municipal autonomy, the abolition of obligatory tithes and labor obligations, and civic defense based on a locally recruited and locally accountable National Guard—received a positive popular response in rural and highland communities. Furthermore, the organization of the National Guard had an important role in state-building (due to the collection of taxation to fund military campaigns), and in the strengthening of national identity (through the commemoration of civic and patriotic ceremonies).

As a result, it becomes difficult to sustain the vision of a 19th-century liberalism supported exclusively by a metropolitan liberal elite. In its place, we have a much more subtle and nuanced image of an interactive process in which rural communities could identify the advantages of reforms that liberalism defended, while rejecting others that were less advantageous to them (such as the disamortization or sale of community lands). This helps explain the support that Díaz received in the central and southern parts of the country for his political campaigns after 1867. He was conscious of the fundamental contribution of the National Guard units, and aware that the liberal triumphs which took place between 1855 and 1867, as well as his accession to the presidency in 1876, would not have been possible without their mobilization and active participation.

But it is also important to stress that “popular liberalism” faced serious opposition from conservative, rural Mexico, and that the fundamental motivation of rural communities in their negotiations with liberal leaders was the preservation of local autonomy and inherited cultural practices. Díaz was always conscious of the contradictions and threats that the liberal project of state-building, political centralization, and economic modernization represented for the interests of Mexico’s rural inhabitants.

Nonetheless, at the same time, Díaz shared the vision with the majority of liberals that the economic, social, and political structures and cultural practices of Mexico’s pueblos constituted the major obstacle to social and material progress, to economic development, and to the promotion of citizenship, and the fundamental goal was to liberate them from “ignorance.” In this way, it is clear that Díaz’s affiliations were with the notion of material and social “progress,” and he was convinced that such progress was for their long-term benefit. Despite this, he understood the causes of community resistance and was always prepared to negotiate and persuade, as well as to apply pressure when necessary.

Pragmatic Liberalism: The First Administration (1876–1880)

Given the precarious political context of the coup d’état in 1876, which finally brought Díaz the presidency he had craved since 1867, it is important to emphasize that the political survival of the Díaz regime was far from inevitable or assured. The first Díaz administration seemed destined to share the experience and fate of all previous 19th-century governments, which had been plagued by the continuation of the domestic political conflicts and international hostilities that had characterized most of Mexico’s independent history. After nearly a decade of liberal government during the Restored Republic, Mexico in 1876 still lacked the basic requirements of political stability: clearly defined and secure frontiers; and stable relationships with its hemispheric neighbors the United States and Guatemala, or with the European powers. Financial and fiscal instability, exacerbated by the persistent problem of external indebtedness and a poorly developed infrastructure, remained serious impediments to economic development.

A national (and nationalist) consciousness had undoubtedly been raised among the political elite during the struggle against the French, and the impact of the Laws of the Reforma had begun to have an impact (albeit a patchy one) on the restructuring of property rights, and, by extension, on the development of a republican political consciousness. But there was little evidence of a coherent sense of national identity, of social or economic integration, or of profound social, material, or political development. Above all, despite—or, as some contemporary observers saw it, because of—the adoption of the Constitution of 1857, the country lacked legitimate government or stable institutions, and the construction of both the state and the nation had yet to be consolidated. In short, while the liberal state can be said to have embarked on its precarious existence by 1876, there was precious little evidence of an established nation, and even less of a solid basis for political stability by 1876. Despite the triumph of liberalism in 1867, the liberal project in Mexico—the establishment of representative institutions, the secularization of civil society, and the “free-market” invigoration of a postcolonial economy—still stood on very unstable foundations. It is against this background that the nature of the Díaz regime must be understood, and its achievements assessed.

Before any of these political or developmental goals could be achieved, it was vital to establish, first and foremost, a period of internal political peace. This was the principal and central task of the first Díaz administration, and it remained a consistent priority throughout the long history of regime. Its contemporary apologists (and subsequent porfirista historiography) considered the establishment of the pax porfiriana as one of its principal achievements, and it became the main justification for successive electoral victories after 1884. Despite these confident assertions of the definitive establishment of peace, it is nevertheless clear that, throughout the lifetime of the regime, political peace was far from complete. The regime was consistently buffeted by political turbulence, ranging from indigenous and agrarian rebellion to anti-re-election political agitation.

Moreover, the supreme authority that Díaz claimed, and which his enemies accused him of abusing, was, in reality, much less supreme than it appeared. In the mosaic of Mexican politics at both the national and state levels, the achievement and maintenance of power was a process of constant renegotiation. Consequently, neither porfirista historiography, which praises Díaz as a supernatural man of destiny, nor its anti-porfirista counterpart, which caricatures him as a brutal tyrant, captures the essence of Porfirian politics.

There was certainly very little evidence of political peace before Díaz’ second re-election in 1888. Nonetheless, the strategies for its ultimate achievement were adopted early on after 1876. They included repression, coercion, intimidation, and, in at least one celebrated case, in Veracruz in 1879, the execution of political opponents. But, at the same time, such authoritarian practices coexisted with (and ultimately were less important than) mediation, negotiation, and conciliation—in other words, the politics of pragmatism and realpolitik. In short, the implementation of the liberal project continued to be a tentative and difficult process, given the political inexperience of the president and his tuxtepecano allies, (those who had supported him in the Plan of Tuxtepec which brought him to power) and the scarce resources available to the central state in 1876.

It is appropriate to identify some key themes, preoccupations, and strategies of Porfirian political practice that were crucial to the survival and the consolidation of the regime. First, the distinction between ideology and practice, and, in its wake, the strong advocacy of pragmatism as one of the hallmarks of the regime; second, the importance of patronage in the construction of ties of personal loyalty and deference to the supreme authority of the president, which fueled the entire Porfirian system; third, the close formal observance of constitutional practice, especially in the conduct of elections at state and national levels; fourth, the maintenance of a delicate balance between central and state (federal) authority (perhaps the most intractable political problem in 19th-century Mexico, which was seen most clearly in Díaz’s relationship with state governors); and, finally, the adoption of force, intimidation, and other authoritarian practices as necessary tools for the maintenance of political peace.

In the formal report (Memoria) which Díaz delivered to Congress at the end of November 1880, the day before handing over of power to his successor, General Manuel Gonzalez, he claimed that the greatest achievement of his first term of office was the establishment of domestic political peace. Despite the obvious evidence to the contrary, he stated that “Peace is a fact in the entire Republic, and has been so over the last four years.” He went on to assert that the principle of no-re-election was “the essence and triumph” of the Tuxtepec revolution, and that the constitutional amendment to prohibit presidential re-election, promulgated symbolically on May 5, 1877, to coincide with the anniversary of the battle of Puebla, was a sacred principle which he was honoring by stepping down from power. He also articulated another principle that would forever be associated with his regime: “poca política y mucha administración” (little politics but a great deal of administration): that is, a preference for administration and good government over political factionalism and ideological conflict. As Díaz himself explained, “for some time now, it has been accepted that the satisfaction of the country’s most pressing needs lies in administration rather than in politics.”6

In spite of the self-congratulatory tone of the report, the soon-to-be ex-President frankly admitted that “the most important acts of my administration are better measured by what has yet to be done, rather than by what has been done.”7 In short, the central goals of the liberal project—namely, the establishment of representative institutions and the promotion of material and social development, or, as José Valadés puts it, the creation of a state and the emergence of a nation—had been sketched out, but only in principle.

Many of the mechanisms and practices adopted during the first term of office—the cultivation of deference, the widespread use of patronage, and the preference for negotiation and conciliation (as well as coercion)—remained constants through the Díaz era. As the Júarez and Lerdo administrations had endeavored to do since 1867, the first Díaz administration continued in its attempts to fit the round peg of constitutional liberalism into the square hole of authoritarian tradition and practice. Nevertheless, after Díaz’s second re-election in 1884, there was a noticeable shift in political practice toward political centralization and the consolidation of an unassailable personal authority. In pursuit of the maintenance of political peace, the central tenets of 19th-century liberalism, including the hitherto sacred principle of no-reelection, were increasingly marginalized, if not entirely abandoned, at least in terms of official discourse. As a result, rather than attempting to maintain the pragmatic balance between the regime’s constitutionalist roots and Mexico’s authoritarian political traditions, the Díaz regime after 1884 became increasingly committed to a brand of elite or patriarchal liberalism in order to sustain a period of political peace, which was to last for the next twenty years.

Patriarchal Liberalism and the Consolidation of Power (1884–1911)

Díaz’s first re-election to the presidency in 1884 marked a significant watershed in the political evolution of the regime. As a foretaste of what was to come, the election was uncontested, with Díaz standing as the only candidate. Thereafter, it is possible to identify a dual process of consolidation and transformation of the Díaz regime after 1884. While many of the mechanisms and tactics of Porfirian political pragmatism continued to be employed in the attempt to mediate and manage factional divisions, the personal and patriarchal authority of the president at the apex of the hierarchy of power became gradually consolidated, and increasingly uncontested.

In accordance with the regime’s adherence to liberal constitutionalism, the process of consolidation was legitimized by two amendments to the Constitution of 1857. The first, in 1887, permitted consecutive re-election of political officials, and thus allowed Díaz’s second re-election in 1888. The second, in 1890, removed all restriction on future re-election to public office, thus paving the way for Díaz’s third re-election in 1892 and giving legal endorsement to his re-elections in 1896, 1900, 1906, and 1910.

Although constitutional liberalism continued to provide the legal framework for the regime, its content was progressively ignored in practice. As José Valadés notes, the regime increasingly lacked any coherent doctrine, other than that of subordination to the will of the patriarch. The regime was thus able to be, simultaneously and without contradiction, liberal and conservative, pro-foreign and nationalist, secular and confessional. The essential prerequisite was that each faction or interest group, irrespective of ideology, must be prepared to recognize, and submit themselves to, the authority of the President.8

As a consequence, the authority of Don Porfirio became gradually unassailable, and “necessary” (in the words of Daniel Cosío Villegas, Díaz became El Necesario, that is, “the Indispensable”). He became the patriarch of the nation, and the custodian and arbiter of the rules of conduct of Mexican political life. This meant not only the assertion of personal authority over the institutions that governed the conduct of politics (the cabinet, both houses of Congress, the state governors, the state legislatures, the regional jefes políticos), but over the institutions that had played a decisive role in 19th-century Mexican politics—above all, the army, the church, and the Press. The evolution of a cult of personality the figure of Don Porfirio was an integral part of this gradual accretion of power.

Although the regime began to demonstrate centralizing and authoritarian ambitions, there were, nevertheless, always important constraints on presidential authority. In other words, the political control enjoyed by Díaz was never as absolute as his critics argued, because the process of centralization and consolidation was always contested, challenged, and resisted at a variety of levels. Political factionalism and dissidence were, therefore, a constant feature of the Díaz era. At the national level, or that of “high” politics, puro (“pure”) or radical liberals (also referred to in the contemporary press as jacobinos (“jacobins”) sought to uphold both the Constitution of 1857 and the tuxtepecano principle of no-reelection, and stood in opposition to moderate liberals and, increasingly, the growing influence of the conservative or “developmentalist” liberals, who became known after 1893 as the científicos. Although the científicos had reservations about the strengthening of presidential and executive authority, which successive re-election implied, they were, nevertheless, generally supportive of the regime.

At the state level, elections provided a platform for the activities of anti-re-electionist and other opposition groups, and acted as a political barometer to test the standing of the federalist political structure (a key feature of the liberal state which the regime never officially sought to undermine). The fragility of the federal pact would become particularly clear in the 1892 elections, when the controversial removal of all restrictions on re-election to political office prompted a wave of protest in various states (particularly in the northern states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila, and Nuevo León). At the same time, the regime consistently faced outbreaks of popular and indigenous protest in rural areas, most notably between 1891 and 1893, but, in some cases—such as those of the Maya in Yucatán, and the Yaqui in Sonora—on a consistent basis throughout the lifetime of the regime.9

It is clear, therefore, that the projection by the apologists of the Díaz era of untroubled political peace, or pax porfiriana, requires serious revision. The extent of local political conflicts and the patterns of local political practice in this period have only begun to emerge in recent years, as a growing number of regional studies have become available. They have revealed with greater clarity the astonishing heterogeneity of Porfirian Mexico, and the limited scope of central authority. At the same time, the existence of persistent factional and regional conflict makes the regime’s achievements in maintaining central authority and in managing and diffusing factional divisions all the more remarkable. It is important to emphasize the fact that the degree of political stability achieved by the Díaz regime between 1884 and 1906 was unparalleled in Mexico’s independent history. This, perhaps, points to the true meaning and achievement of the pax porfiriana.

Two central themes emerge in the conduct of Porfirian politics after 1884. The first was the gradual alteration of the management of camarilla (factional) politics. Díaz’s loyalty to the camarilla associated with the Plan of Tuxtepec in 1876 (whose members were known as tuxtepecanos) was gradually transformed after 1884 into the management of competing factions by playing them off against each other, and ensuring that each faction recognized the authority of the president and his role as arbiter. The second, overlapping theme is the progressive subordination of all political actors (from members of the cabinet to regional jefes políticos) to the patriarchal authority of the caudillo. This represented authoritarianism by stealth, within the framework of liberal constitutionalism. It can perhaps best be described as a form of patriarchal or elite liberalism.

During the first term of office between 1876 and 1880, camarilla politics, which had found fertile expression in the struggles between juaristas, lerdistas, and porfiristas during the Restored Republic, had played a vital role in the development of political loyalties among the group of tuxtepecanos who had helped Díaz win the presidential office in 1876. Consequently, during his first administration, Díaz had made appointments to the cabinet, to state governorships, and to the vital roles of regional military commanders from among the ranks of his tuxtepecano allies, who were linked to Díaz by ties of compadrazgo, freemasonry, and shared military or political experience. The most prominent members of this group included Justo Benítez, Protasio Tagle, Luis Mier y Terán (all of whom were fellow oaxaqueños and Masons), Carlos Pacheco, and Manuel González.

By contrast, the political appointments made after Díaz’s first re-election in 1884 following the presidency of his close ally Manuel González (1880–84) showed a marked preference for the representation of different factions. In the new cabinet, for example, Ignacio Mariscal, former Mexican Minister in London, who was now appointed Secretary for Foreign Relations, had been a lerdista prior to 1876; Matías Romero, a former juarista, was confirmed as Mexican Minister in Washington; Manuel Dublán, the new Minister of Finance (Hacienda) had been a minister in the cabinet of the Emperor Maximilian. A further indication of a change of direction for the post-1884 administration was the appointment of the young positivist Joaquín Baranda to the Ministry of Justice, a post he had also occupied under the presidency of Manuel González. It is perhaps symbolic of the prevailing ethos of renewed factional accommodation that the only remaining tuxtepecano representative in the new cabinet was Carlos Pacheco, the former governor of Chihuahua who became Minister of Development (Fomento).10 While these appointments represented a spirit of “reconciliation” within the Díaz regime after 1884, they should also be understood as part of an evolving strategy to gain greater control over the management of camarillas.

The most influential figure in the new cabinet was Manuel Romero Rubio, the Minister of the Interior (Gobernación), another former lerdista. Significantly, Romero had also been Díaz’s father-in-law since 1881, following Porfirio’s marriage to Carmen Romero Rubio.11 This second marriage has always itself been interpreted as a further example of the spirit of political reconciliation, since it represented not only the unification of lerdistas and porfiristas, but also the reconciliation of the liberal Díaz regime with the Catholic Church. This was because both Doña Carmen (or Carmelita as she was popularly known) and her mother, Doña Agustinita Castelló Rivas, were not only renowned for their piety, but had very close connections to the ecclesiastical hierarchy.12 Significantly, the wedding ceremony had been performed by Archbishop Pelagio Antonio de Labastida y Dávalos, who had been an outspoken opponent of liberal anti-clericalism and an apologist for the conservative and imperial causes. Less frequently commented upon is the fact the couple met in the residence of the first US Minister to Mexico, John Foster, following the resumption of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the United States in 1878. Foster himself certainly regarded this event as symbolic of the dramatic improvements in US-Mexican relations under Díaz.13

Díaz’s principal political objective was to establish himself as the mediator and arbiter between rival factions or camarillas. For this strategy to succeed, patronage was extended in order to control, or at the very least to supervise, the process of political nominations to both elected and non-elected posts at all levels, and thereby to manage both the core of the political process and the trajectory of individual careers. Manuel Romero Rubio played a vital role in this process until his death in 1895. Thereafter the role of principal advisor was taken up by Finance Minister José Yves Limantour. The central pillars of the strategy were, first, the streamlining of the process of electoral manipulation, and, second, the removal of the restrictions on re-election, not only of the president, but for all elected (and non-elected) posts.

The Cult of Personality

The cultivation of deference to the patriarchal figure of Porfirio Díaz was a central goal of the regime, and one of its defining characteristics. It was also an essential component of a deliberate strategy to establish Díaz as the uncontested (and incontestable) source of political legitimacy and authority. During the lifetime of the regime, the cultivation of deference became increasingly channelled into an official campaign to forge a cult of personality around the figure of Díaz, in order to add his name to the pantheon of republican patriotic heroes, and to link him to the destiny of the nation.

One of the fundamental goals of the liberal project in 19th-century Mexico was to weave liberal discourses of patriotism and republicanism into civic ceremony, and to promote the notion of citizenship and thus to permeate the consciousness of all Mexicans. At a national level, the evidence of liberal nation-building accumulated on an incremental scale throughout the Porfiriato. It was to be found in the regime’s preoccupations with domestic and scientific progress, and in the pursuit of a broad range of activities and initiatives in transportation, industry, sanitation, public hygiene, mental health—and even in the cult of the bicycle and the efficiency of the postal service.14

The adoption of these projects gave Mexico international respectability and identified it firmly with the cosmopolitan and industrial culture of the late 19th-century Western capitalist world. They helped to establish a positive (and positivist) self-image of a modern, progressive, strong, and sovereign nation with a bright future as a major center of industrial growth and an axis of international trade. The Díaz regime increasingly saw itself as leading a nation which had emerged from shaky foundations in 1876 to conquer the demons of post-independence Mexican history—political instability, economic stagnation, cultural backwardness, and a profound absence of social cohesion or integration, or of national identity.

In constructing the nation, the Díaz regime became engaged not only in numerous public and civic works projects, but also in writing the liberal history of the patria through the publication of history textbooks, the construction of national monuments, and the invention of civic ceremonies and patriotic rituals.15 The culmination of this process would be the series of activities and events that the regime planned to commemorate the centenary of Mexican independence in 1910. At the center of the celebrations, although he deliberately and significantly refused to allow any personal monument to his achievements to be constructed, was the figure of Porfirio Díaz, whose career was projected as a reflection of the painful development of the nation since 1855: from a youthful and vigorous mestizo radical following his first involvement in the Revolution of Ayutla; to the dynamic classical republican hero of the Wars of the Reforma and Intervention; to the statuesque patriotic criollo, the patriarch of the nation.16

Daniel Cosío Villegas identified the first stirrings of a cult of personality in Díaz’s second administration (1884–1888), as a reflection of the need to prepare the nation for subsequent re-election. As a result, in 1886 an organization called the “Society of Friends of the President” was established, with the express purpose of “considering, discussing, and organizing the appropriate celebrations of General Díaz’s birthday.” After Díaz was awarded the Military Merit Cross by the Spanish government in 1888, El Partido Liberal (which became the principal vehicle for official pro-Díaz propaganda) described the figure of the president as not just a head of state, but “the incarnation of the Mexican Nation.” This theme was subsequently elaborated by the National Porfirian Circle, the organization established to promote Díaz’s repeated candidacies—to such an extent that parallels (and distinctly mixed metaphors) were drawn between the physical appearance of the president and the geographical landmarks of the nation: “General Díaz, with his head covered with snow, like the volcano Popocatépetl which stands prominently in our Central Plain . . . is the lighthouse of our organization.”17

Following the second re-election in 1888, the cult of personality continued to be promoted at a number of levels, especially in the context of preparations for the crucial elections of 1892. The Junta Central Porfirista was established in 1891, followed by the “voluntary” organizations such as the Círculo de Amigos de General Díaz, which organized annual processions of students, workers, and funcionarios (civil servants) on the anniversary of the battle of Puebla (May 5). Motions were passed by all state legislatures awarding the title of benemérito or “distinguished citizen,” to the president, and the state of Morelos initiated in 1890 the practice of ordering that a portrait of the president be hung in all public offices within the state, a practice reminiscent of the display of portraits of the kings of Spain during the colonial period.

The cult became even more extravagant in the 1890s and 1900s, when Díaz was feted with ever more lavish praise, and awarded an increasing number of honorary degrees (such as an honorary doctorate of law from the University of Pennsylvania) and various medals and honors from a succession of foreign states, including the Grand Cross of the Orders of Charles III and Isabel la Católica from Spain, the Order of the Bath from the United Kingdom, and the Légion d’honneur from France.18 Following a campaign orchestrated by the “Circle of the Friends of the President,” the annual celebration of his birthday (September 15, which was actually the date of his baptism) became combined in 1897 with the celebrations to mark the independence of Mexico from Spain (September 16). Thereafter, Díaz was obliged to receive a long line of admirers from the afternoon of the fifteenth, until he launched the grito at 11:00 PM, thus commemorating the call to independence issued by Miguel Hidalgo in 1810, thereby establishing a permanent link between Díaz’s personal life and the destiny of the nation.

Decline and Fall

In the three decades between 1880 and 1910, Mexico had vastly increased the scale of domestic and international trade, attracted increasing levels of foreign investment, and embarked on an ambitious project of industrialization, railway expansion, and other public works that would transform the social and economic infrastructure of a large part (but certainly not all) of the country. It was, in fact, a program that varied greatly in impact and implementation between different economic sectors and between different regions, and one which was far from complete by 1910.

Nevertheless, it can be argued that the transformation of the public infrastructure and the process of rapid urbanization in certain parts of the country (especially Mexico City and the northern frontier states) had a profound effect not only on social and economic conditions, but also on politics and culture. Not without irony, the years immediately preceding 1910 can be seen as a period in which the regime became a victim of its own economic success. The developmentalist economic strategy had unquestionably made a significant contribution to the material transformation of key sectors, and to the consolidation of the regime. But at the same time, a number of problems continued to grow, related to the uneven distribution of wealth, economic resources, and social benefits, and the failure to broaden the scope of political participation and democratic legitimacy.

The regime’s response to the growing crisis after 1906 was hesitant, inconsistent, generally inept, and, on certain notorious occasions—such as the repression of the mining and textile strikes of 1906 and 1907—repressive and brutal. The adoption of authoritarian tactics after 1906 was itself an increasing sign of desperation. Because of the predominance of heavy-handed tactics adopted by the regime after 1906, there has been a marked tendency to assume that the repressive character of the regime during its last years was representative of the regime as a whole. This analysis, however, provides a distorted picture. Growing political and economic crises after 1900 certainly exposed the weaknesses and brittleness of a personalist political system, but they demonstrated above all that the mechanisms and techniques of the type of patriarchal liberalism which Díaz had skillfully employed since 1884 were no longer appropriate to deal with a changing set of circumstances. In Alan Knight’s succinct metaphor, the regime on the eve of the Revolution resembled a creature which could no longer adapt to the changed surroundings of its environment: “like some saurian monster, the regime lacked a political brain commensurate with its swollen economic muscle: hence its extinction.”19

There is no doubt that, after 1906, the regime adopted increasingly repressive tactics in dealing with growing manifestations of discontent and dissidence. These repressive measures were not only counterproductive, but also patently unsuccessful in suppressing the political and popular protest that coalesced under the banner of the anti-reelectionist movement after 1909 under the leadership of Francisco Madero. What is most striking is the speed with which the regime collapsed, and it took contemporaries completely by surprise. Only six months after Madero’s call for armed revolution in November 1910, Porfirio Díaz, who had monopolized political power for more than a generation, and had presided over a regime which had prided itself upon its solidity and permanence, had resigned, and departed into European exile. The rapid collapse of the regime created a problem with which historians have been grappling ever since.

The explanations of the fall of the Díaz regime can be broken down into two broad categories. First, the complex pattern of internal dislocation and disruption to the structure and fabric of Porfirian society, both at a national and a regional level, was an important determinant of the popular uprisings which helped to bring the regime down in 1911. Second, internal schisms progressively undermined the self-confidence of the regime, and the fragile equilibrium of elite consensus, which stimulated rivalry, conflict, factionalism, and division within the inner circle of the political elite, and between those within the inner circle and those on the margins of Porfirian politics. As political pressures mounted after 1900, the regime responded with a combination of impotence and repression. It became increasingly clear that the regime was no longer able to control Mexican political life in the way it had done since 1884.

Furthermore, no solution had been found to the problem of political succession, a problem which became more pressing as Díaz approached his seventh re-election in 1910. This resulted in an intense power struggle within the inner circle of the regime, and growing opposition to re-election from outside the political elite. The problem was made more acute by the deliberate obstacles which had consistently been placed in the way of the development of political institutions or parties, which deprived the regime of an institutional form of succession. As a final consideration, the prodigious energy, skill, and appetite for political manipulation which Díaz had displayed in the maintenance of a highly personalist system had begun to desert him as he approached his eightieth year.


The speed with which the Díaz regime collapsed between November 1910 and May 1911 surprised and confounded even the most astute of contemporary political commentators. The regime, which had prided itself on its longevity and had claimed to represent the triumph of political peace and definitive end of political anarchy in Mexico, had proved in the end to be remarkably fragile and brittle.

Díaz was fully aware that his resignation, which was the principal demand of the anti-reelectionist movement, would mean personal political exile. Accordingly, he made plans, even before the Ciudad Juárez Treaty had been signed, to make a rapid and unobtrusive (and, in personal terms, highly ignominious) departure from Mexico City. The Díaz family, accompanied by relatives, servants, and a military escort, left in the early hours of May 26, 1911 for the port of Veracruz. Díaz spent five days in the residence of British businessman Sir Weetman Pearson before embarking on the German steamer Ypiranga, which arrived at the French port of Le Havre on June 20, 1911.20 It is significant, and again not without irony, that his final days in Mexico, and his voyage into exile, took place under the protection of his European friends and associates, in fear of possible reprisals at the hands of his fellow Mexicans.

According to Carlos Tello Díaz, the ex-president was depressed during his long months of exile, and plagued by two conflicting sentiments: first, his own culpability for Mexico’s rapid return to political instability; and second and most of all, his grief and despair at the ingratitude of his fellow Mexicans in failing to recognize the contribution he had made to Mexico’s prosperity and progress. As he confessed to Federico Gamboa, Mexican Minister to Belgium during Díaz’s period of exile: “I feel wounded. One half of the country rose up in arms to overthrow me, and the other half folded its arms and watched me fall.”21

The deliberations of his troubled conscience are an appropriate point of departure from which to assess the legacy of Porfirio Díaz. To what extent can it be said that Díaz was personally responsible for the collapse of the regime? And did he have a right to feel aggrieved at the treatment afforded him by his fellow Mexicans, and their failure to recognize his achievements?

Díaz’s personal responsibility for the events that took him into exile was clearly substantial. The analysis provided here has repeatedly stressed the personalist character of the regime, and has focused on the strategies adopted by Díaz and his inner circle in the construction and maintenance of his unassailable authority at the apex of political power. It has also examined the combination of circumstances after 1906, including his own miscalculations, which rendered his personal grip on power increasingly tenuous.

But the analysis of the personal mistakes and the structural factors which exposed the fundamental fragility of the regime in its final months needs to be tempered by an assessment of Díaz’s achievement in manipulating the levers of power for over three decades. The central thesis proposed here is that Porfirio Díaz proved to be successful in maintaining a balance between Mexico’s dual political cultures of authoritarianism (Octavio Paz’s “Culture of the Pyramid”) and liberalism (Paz’s “Culture of Citizenship”). The essential achievement and effectiveness of the Díaz strategy lay in the construction of a modus vivendi between the traditions of personal and patriarchal authority, and the constitutional guarantees and electoral practices advocated by 19th-century Mexican liberalism.

As Díaz candidly explained in his well-known interview with journalist James Creelman in 1908:

We have preserved the republican and democratic form of government. We have defended the theory and kept it intact. Yet we adopted a patriarchal policy in the actual administration of the nation’s affairs, guiding and restraining popular tendencies with full faith that an enforced peace would allow education, industry and commerce to develop elements of stability and unity.22

The use here of the pronoun “we,” which Díaz used to trumpet the achievements of his regime, is significant. Although Díaz himself, his contemporary subordinates, and porfirista historians were more than happy to peddle the notion that he was personally—and even solely—responsible for Mexico’s political stability and material progress, it is obvious that the regime benefitted from the loyal service of a number of talented and capable individuals from across the spectrum of 19th-century Mexican politics. To name only the most prominent: Justo Benítez, Matías Romero, Ignacio Mariscal, Manuel Dublán (all of whom were from Oaxaca), Bernardo Reyes, Guillermo Landa y Escandón, Alfredo Chavero, and Justo Sierra all played a significant role in defining the character and ensuring the survival of the regime.23 Three individuals in particular were significant influences during the different phases of Díaz’s career: Justo Benítez from the 1850s until Díaz’s decision to support Manuel González as his successor in 1880; Manuel Romero Rubio from 1881 until his death in 1895; and José Yves Limantour from his appointment to the Ministry of Finance in 1893 until the Revolution of 1910–1911. There is no suggestion here, however, that these individuals played the role of éminence grise to the ambitious Díaz. He was far too skillful a politician for that. The Díaz regime was, nevertheless, a collective endeavor, and never the work of a single individual.

It is also clearly the case that the material progress that Mexico experienced in the Díaz era was not solely attributable to the president’s vision, nor to the collective efforts of the Porfirian inner circle, but rather to the impact of the development of world trade and finance in the last third of the 19th century during the first globalization of the international economy, and the drive, especially in the United States after 1877, to incorporate Mexico’s economic resources and raw materials into the expanding international economy.

As Díaz himself also admitted in the Creelman interview, the political circumstances of 1908 nevertheless demanded new forms of popular representation and expression—in effect, a change of government. However, the factional divisions within the inner circle of the Porfirian elite made it impossible to reform the system from within, and no alternative strategy was forthcoming. The promises made by Díaz in 1908, including the announcement of his own imminent retirement, aroused enormous expectations, and generated intense political activity. But the reforms failed to materialize, and Díaz announced that he would present himself again for his seventh re-election in 1910. It was apparent that no solution had been found to the central and intractable problem of succession. Indeed, it became increasingly obvious that the very nature of Díaz’s political authority, and the manner in which that authority had been maintained for so long, prevented a solution from being found. The regime itself therefore constituted the principal obstacle to change.

From the comfortable but melancholy isolation of his Parisian exile, Díaz thus had good reason to reflect upon his personal culpability in the rapid demise of his regime, and Mexico’s return to political anarchy. His regime had emerged from, and still claimed to represent, the traditions of radical, patriotic liberalism. By 1910, as a result of the regime’s progressive abandonment of constitutional principle, and its impotence and in-fighting after 1908, it had become widely perceived as incompetent, unconstitutional, and inimical to the nation’s interests.

Nevertheless, Díaz also had good reason to bemoan the ingratitude and injustice of his fellow Mexicans. By focusing on the multiple shortcomings of the last years of the regime, both contemporary revolutionaries of the decade after 1910, and subsequent anti-porfirista historians, consistently and deliberately underestimated the achievements of the Díaz regime. For nearly two generations following the death of Porfirio Díaz, the image of his regime in the popular imagination was one associated with the worst of excesses of tyranny. Among professional historians, this interpretation has long been superseded. At a popular level, there is evidence to suggest that official anti-Díaz hatred is dead, or, at least, moribund. Over the last decade there have been further opportunities for public discussion of the Porfirian legacy, especially in 2010 with the centenary of the Mexican Revolution, and again in 2015 with the centenary of Díaz’s death in Paris.

Due to the decline in the negative stereotypes of Diaz and his regime, alongside the advances in our understanding of the history of that era resulting from the work of professional historians, perhaps it is time to question and abandon the use of the “Porfiriato” label to describe such a key period of national development. For one thing, the label emphasizes and overstates the regime’s authoritarian character which, while it existed, especially in the regime’s last phase, does not encapsulate its hybrid, contradictory, and changing character over a period of more than three decades. Furthermore, it leads us to characterize the whole era mistakenly as the work of one individual, which elevates the figure of Porfirio Díaz without recognizing the many factors that contributed to the thorough transformations that Mexico experienced during the second half of the 19th century.

At the same time, it is necessary to recognize and acknowledge the regime’s contribution to the construction of the modern nation-state in Mexico. To do so requires a profound historical reconciliation with the Porfirian legacy, leaving aside the deep passions that Díaz still provokes. Once this reconciliation is achieved, but not before, it will be time to remove the remains of the old caudillo from the Parisian cemetery of Montparnasse to be reburied in his beloved Oaxaca, as he always wanted.

Discussion of the Literature

While few dictators in the history of Latin America are better known than Porfirio Díaz, it is also the case that, until relatively recently, few have been more misunderstood. It is therefore essential to any survey or analysis of the career of such an important but controversial figure to examine some of the ways in which the image of Díaz has been fashioned, denigrated, and, above all, appropriated over the course of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. This is a topic of intrinsic interest to any biography, but it is of special interest in Mexico, where national history has been appropriated by the state and presented according to the prevailing political orthodoxy to produce a distorted version of the national narrative in the form of a politicised historia patria.

The most effective and durable expressions of historia patria are to be found, first, in the late 19th century as an important component of the liberal state-building project, and, second, in the 20th century as an expression of revolutionary nationalism which nevertheless incorporated many aspects of the earlier liberal version. While historia patria can be seen as a necessary and effective tool in the long (and often painful) process of state- and nation-building in Mexico, it has been achieved at the cost of distorting historical analysis. These distortions have been particularly acute in the case of the regime of Porfirio Díaz. The different representations of the Díaz era can be seen as a clear example of changes in both historiographical fashions and in national political attitudes over the course of the 20th century.24 While contemporary assessments of the regime before 1910 were excessively positive, those which came after the Revolution of 1910–1920 were correspondingly negative. These conflicting interpretations have made it very difficult to find a balanced interpretation of either the man or his regime.

Porfirian historiography falls into one of three broad categories, each of which has a specific chronology and approach to its subject: Porfirismo; anti-Porfirismo; and neo-Porfirismo. The favorable portrayal of Díaz (Porfirismo) dominates the historiography of the period before the Revolution of 1910; it emphasizes above all the material transformation of the nation, and the achievement of political peace and stability for a period of nearly thirty-five years, in stark contrast to the regimes of Díaz’s predecessors in 19th-century Mexico. The porfirista biographies published during the latter years of the regime portrayed an image of the austere but benign patriarch, the military hero, the nation-builder, and the elder statesman fully in control of the destiny of the nation: in short, a hero in the classical republican mould. They also emphasized the personal qualities which justified Díaz’s monopolization of political office for over thirty years: inter alia, his patriotism, heroism, dedication, self-sacrifice, tenacity, and courage.

One of the many consequences of the Mexican Revolution was the destruction of the cult of Porfirismo, and its replacement by an equally powerful anti-Porfirismo. Anti-Porfirismo was not, however, exclusively a product of the Revolution, though it was most forcefully expressed after 1911, in what became the standard, orthodox pro-Revolutionary interpretation. According to anti-Porfirismo, the Díaz regime was the supreme example of tyranny, dictatorship, and oppression, and Díaz himself was condemned for his corruption, his brutality, and his betrayal of national interests.

Anti-Porfirismo dominated Mexican historiography for almost two generations after the Revolution. However, there is clear evidence that the image of Díaz and of his regime has undergone a distinct transformation since the late 20th century, which has seen a more positive interpretation of certain aspects of the Díaz era, especially the material transformation witnessed throughout the nation, symbolized above all by the construction of the railway network.

An important stimulus to this profound re-evaluation has been the scope and sophistication of recent research carried out by the current generation of both Mexican and non-Mexican historians. As a consequence, new trends in economic, social, regional, and cultural history have profoundly altered the traditional depiction of Porfirian Mexico. For example, there is now a significant corpus of sophisticated and interdisciplinary research across a broad spectrum of cultural practices—civic and religious rituals, workplace practices, fashion, leisure activities, the construction of historical monuments, the representation and “performance” of private and public spaces—alongside the analysis of contemporary discourses, inter alia, on race, ethnicity, urbanization, crime, justice, violence, science, and public health.25

The fruits of recent historical research should not be understood as examples of neo-porfirismo, and those professional historians who concentrate on the Porfirian era should not be labelled as neo-porfiristas. Neo-porfirismo is more accurately understood as a product of the transformation of national politics since the 1980s. The shift in public and official attitudes expressed by politicians and the media toward the Díaz regime in contemporary Mexico is a reflection of the radical restructuring of Mexico’s political economy, which took place in the wake of the devastating impact of the debt crisis during the 1980s.26 It is obviously not a coincidence that the recent positive re-evaluation of Porfirian economic strategy, for example, coincides with the neo-liberal strategy of successive administrations after 1982. Neo-liberal economics in Mexico and Latin America have been characterized by a return to the positive endorsement of foreign investment, a renewed stimulus of export-oriented development, and the drive toward deregulation and privatization—seen to be the hallmarks of Porfirian economic policy before 1910—in stark contrast to the post-Revolutionary orthodoxy of state intervention, nationalization and import substitution. However, it must be said that those who have sought to draw parallels between late 19th-century liberalism and contemporary neo-liberalism fail to recognize that the former promoted the extension of the state and its institutions, whereas neo-liberalism has advocated the opposite.

Recent research on the Porfirian era has opened up many new lines of interpretation. The previous denigration of the man and his era, and the dismissal of the regime as an illegitimate topic to study have, fortunately, been replaced by an appreciation of the era as a “cultural crucible” in which topics previously considered as the preserve of Revolutionary discourses—indigenismo, mestizaje, nationalism, globalization, industrialization—were openly addressed. It is therefore to be hoped that our understanding of this crucial period in the development of the modern Mexican nation will continue to be enhanced by further research. There is still plenty of work to be done.

Primary Sources

  1. 1. Coleccion Porfirio Diaz, Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City. One million documents from the personal papers, mostly correspondence (telegrams, and a small collection of photos) sent to the president’s office, and a much smaller collection of replies, organized chronologically. At the time of writing, the catalogue has been only partially completed, which does not make for very easy consultation, but this is an essential resource for the patient researcher.

  2. 2. Archivo José Ives Limantour, Centro de Estudios de la Historia de Mexico Carso (CEHM), Mexico City. The comprehensive and very well organized correspondence of Porfirio’s minister of finance (secretario de hacienda) between 1893 and 1911, the architect of the Porfirian modernization project. The emphasis is, understandably, on finance and economics, but there is also a great deal of political information on the cientificos, the group of influential lawyers, technocrats, and entrepreneurs who formed one of the most significant political factions in Porfirian Mexico. CEHM has also acquired the archive of politician and businessman Enrique Creel, governor of Chihuahua and ambassador of Mexico to the United States.

  3. 3. Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico City, an indispensable source of material on the various government offices and government agencies (Gobernación, Comunicaciones, Obras Públicas, etc.) established before, during, and after the Díaz era.

  4. 4. Archivo Historico de la Defensa Nacional, Mexico City, contains detailed and well-organized materials on all aspects of military history and the careers of military personnel.

  5. 5. Archivo Histórico de la UNAM, Mexico City, contains archival materials on Rafael Chousal, the personal secretary of President Díaz.

Further Reading

Ballard Perry, Laurens. Juárez and Díaz: Machine Politics in Mexico. DeKalb: University of Northern Illinois Press, 1978.Find this resource:

Benjamin, Thomas, and Marcial Ocasio-Meléndez. “Organizing the Memory of Modern Mexico: Porfirian Historiography in Perspective 1880s–1980s.” Hispanic American Historical Review LXIV, no. 2 (1984): 323–364.Find this resource:

Bulnes, Francisco. El Verdadero Díaz y la Revolución. Mexico: Editora Nacional, 1921.Find this resource:

Chassen, Francie. Oaxaca entre el liberalismo y la revolución: la perspectiva del sur 1867–1911. México: UAM-Itztapalapa, 2011.Find this resource:

Hernández Chávez, A. “Orígen y ocaso del ejército porfiriano.” Historia Mexicana XXXVII (1998): 257–297.Find this resource:

Cosío Villegas, Daniel. Historia Moderna de México. 10 vols. Mexico: Editorial Hermes, 1955–72.Find this resource:

Falcón, Romana, and Buve, Raymondeds. Don Porfirio Presidente...Nunca Omnipotente: Hallazgos, reflexiones y debates (1876–1911). Mexico: Iberoamerican University, 1998.Find this resource:

Garner, Paul. Porfirio Díaz. Harlow, UK: Longman, 2001.Find this resource:

Garner, Paul. Porfirio Díaz: Entre el mito y la historia. Mexico: Ed. Crítica, 2015.Find this resource:

Guerra, Francois-Xavier. Le Mexique, De l’Ancien Régime a la Révolution. 2 vols. Paris: Éditions L’Harmattan, 1985.Find this resource:

Hale, Charles. The Transformation of Liberalism in Late Nineteenth-Century Mexico. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.Find this resource:

Hamnett, Brian. “Liberalism Divided: Regional Politics and the National Project during the Mexican Restored Republic 1867–76.” Hispanic American Historical Review 76, no. 4 (1996): 659–689.Find this resource:

Iturribarría, Jorge Fernando. Porfirio Díaz Ante la Historia. Mexico, 1967.Find this resource:

Katz, Friedrich. “Liberal Republic and Porfiriato 1867–1910.” In Mexico Since Independence. Edited by Leslie Bethell, 49–125. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.Find this resource:

Knight, Alan. “El liberalismo mexicano desde la Reforma hasta la Revolución (una interpretación).” Historia Mexicana 35, no. 1 (July–September 1985): 59–91.Find this resource:

Kouri, Emilio. “Interpreting the Expropriation of Indian Pueblo Lands in Porfirian Mexico: The Unexamined Legacies of Andrés Molina Enríquez.” Hispanic American Historical Review 82, no. 1 (2002): 69–117.Find this resource:

Krauze, Enrique. Porfirio Díaz: Místico de la Autoridad. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1987.Find this resource:

McNamara, Patrick J. Sons of the Sierra: Juárez, Díaz, and the People of Ixtlán, Oaxaca, 1855–1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.Find this resource:

González Navarro, Moisés, ed. Memorias de Porfirio Díaz. Mexico City: Conaculta, 1994.Find this resource:

Pani, Erika. “Dreaming of a Mexican Empire: The Political Projects of the ‘Imperialistas.’” HAHR 82, no. 1 (2002): 1–31.Find this resource:

Peña, Luis. “Porfirio Díaz y la creación del sistema político en México.” istor 17 (2004): 60–94.Find this resource:

Riguzzi, Paolo. “From Globalisation to Revolution? The Porfirian Political Economy: An Essay on Issues and Interpretations.” Journal of Latin American Studies 41, no. 2 (May 2009): 347–368.Find this resource:

Schnell, William. Integral Outsiders: The American Colony in Mexico City 1876–1911. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2001.Find this resource:

Tenorio Trillo, Mauricio and Aurora Gómez Galvarriato. El Porfiriato: Herramientas para la Historia. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2006.Find this resource:

Thomson, Guy. “Popular Aspects of Liberalism in Mexico 1848–88.” Bulletin of Latin American Research 10, no. 3 (1991): 265–292.Find this resource:

Turner, John Kenneth. México Bárbaro. México, Ed. Porrúa, 1911.Find this resource:

Vanderwood, Paul. Disorder and Progress: Bandits, Police, and Mexican Development. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981.Find this resource:


(1.) Knight, “El liberalismo mexicano desde la Reforma hasta la Revolución (una interpretación)”; and Thomson, “Popular Aspects of Liberalism in Mexico 1848–88.”

(2.) Perry, Juárez and Díaz; Machine Politics in Mexico, 5.

(3.) Pani, “Dreaming of a Mexican Empire: The Political Projects of the ‘Imperialistas.’”

(4.) Hamnett, “Liberalism Divided: Regional Politics and the National Project during the Mexican Restored Republic 1867–76.”

(5.) Thomson, “Popular Aspects of Liberalism in Mexico 1848–88,” 265–292.

(6.) Cosío Villegas indicates that the phrase belonged to Ignacio Vallarta, not to Díaz. See Historia Moderna de México: El Porfiriato: Vida Politica Interior, xx.

(7.) Porfirio Díaz, Informe que en el último dia de su Período Constitucional da a sus Compatriotas el Presidente de los Estados-Unidos Mexicanos Porfirio Díaz (Mexico, 1880).

(8.) José Valadés, El Porfirismo: Historia de un regimen. Vol. II (México: Ed. Porrúa, 1941), 145–146.

(9.) Friedrich Katz and Jane Dale Lloyd, eds., Porfirio Diaz Frente al Descontento Popular Regional (1891–1893) (Mexico: Universidad Iberoamericana, 1986).

(10.) Cosío Villegas, Historia Moderna de México: El Porfiriato: Vida Politica Interior, 11–16.

(11.) Díaz’s first wife, his niece Delfina, had died in 1880 following the stillbirth of their seventh child.

(12.) Jorg Fernando Iturribarría, “La política de conciliación del general Díaz y el arzobispo Gillow,” Historia Mexicana 14, no. 1 (July–September 1964). Diaz also recognized the power struggle within the Church, between the more modernizing episcopal faction allied to Rome, and the intransigent conservative clergy led by Ignacio Montes de Ocá, and allied himself with the former in pursuit of a policy of reconciliation; see Ricardo Cannelli, Nación Católica y Estado Laico (Mexico: SEP/INERM, 2012).

(13.) John Foster, Diplomatic Memoirs, 2 vols. (Boston, 1910), 99.

(14.) William Beezley, Judas at the Jockey Club and Other Episodes of Porfirian Mexico (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986).

(15.) Philipe Nora, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire,” Representations 26 (1989): 7–25.

(16.) Mauricio Tenorio Trillo, “1910 Mexico City: Space and Nation in the City of the Centenario,” Journal of Latin American Studies 28, no. 1 (1996): 75–104.

(17.) Cosío Villegas, Historia Moderna de México: El Porfiriato: Vida Politica Interior, vol. X, 166.

(18.) The full list of national and international honors (including awards from Sweden, Norway, Portugal, Japan, Italy, Belgium, Prussia, Austria-Hungary, Persia, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, and China) can be found in A. M. Carreño, Archivo del General Porfirio Díaz, vol. 3, 153–154.

(19.) Alan Knight, The Mexican Revolution, 2 vols. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 36.

(20.) Paul Garner, British Lions and Mexican Eagles: Business, Politics, and Empire in the Career of Weetman Pearson in Mexico 1889–1919 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011). Carlos Tello Díaz, El exilio: Un relato de familia (Mexico: Cal y Arena, 1993), 22–27.

(21.) Gamboa cited in Tello Díaz, El Exilio, 30.

(22.) James Creelman, La entrevista Creelman (Mexico: UNAM, 2008).

(23.) Victor Macias-González, “Presidential Ritual in Porfirian Mexico: Curtsying in the Shadow of Dictators,” in Heroes and Hero Cults in Latin America, eds. Samuel Brunk and Ben Fallaw (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006).

(24.) Charles Hale, “Los mitos políticos de la nación mexicana: el liberalismo y la revolución,” Historia Mexicana 184 (1997): 821–837.

(25.) For a comprehensive analysis of the historiography of the Porfirian era, see Mauricio Trillo Tenorio and Aurora Gómez Galvarriato, El Porfiriato: Herramientas para la Historia (México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2006).

(26.) Peter Smith, “Mexico since 1946,” in Mexico Since Independence, ed. Leslie Bethell (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 321–396.