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date: 22 June 2017

Mexico’s Political Laboratory: The Revolutionary and Postrevolutionary Southeast

Summary and Keywords

The history of the 20th century in the Southeast of Mexico is bookended by two revolutions: the Mexican Revolution as it played out in the region, along with its antecedents and aftermath, and a very different but related revolutionary movement that emerged in the state of Chiapas in the mid-1990s. The former has been little studied at the multistate regional level by historians but is critical for understanding the history of the states of the Southeast in the decades that followed. The latter has been intensively studied by scholars in numerous disciplines, but its long-term historical implications remain to be seen. Equally important but scarcely studied and relatively little known is the political history of the Southeast in between these periods of conflict and revolution.

The Southeast is a region that is commonly regarded as distinct, and even marginal, within national histories of Mexico. In the 1980s, President Miguel de la Madrid suggested that the Mexican Revolution had never reached Chiapas. Yet decades earlier, President Lázaro Cárdenas (1934–1940) famously praised neighboring Tabasco as Mexico’s “laboratory of revolution.” Meanwhile, historian Ben Fallaw contends that Yucatán was one of the most important of Mexico’s political laboratories during the 1930s. Taken together, these seemingly conflicting assertions underscore that many of the things that made the Southeast unique within Mexico also made the region important and influential to the course of modern Mexican history. They also raise the question of the Southeast’s experience of the Revolution and the long-term legacies of the revolutionary political projects that unfolded there.

Keywords: Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatán, southeast, socialism, Mexican Revolution, Zapatistas, regionalism, indigenous

The Southeast of Mexico

The Mexican Southeast is defined here as the states of Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, and Yucatán, based in part on how it was described for political purposes in the early 20th century (Quintana Roo was not yet a state). The region comprises roughly 12 percent of Mexico’s territory and contains a very broad range of climates, landscapes, and cultures. If one were to define the states of the Southeast in terms of its economy or demographics, Chiapas might look more similar to neighboring Oaxaca than it does to Yucatán; if one were to define them in terms of political history, Tabasco and Yucatán might look more similar to Veracruz than to Chiapas, particularly in the early 20th century. In terms of landscape, the region is extremely varied in both terrain and climate: Yucatán is hot and largely flat; Chiapas is quite cool and mountainous in places; and Tabasco is tropical, filled with rivers and lakes, and flood-prone. Still, one of the things that unite the states of the Southeast is precisely that their individual histories have been so marked by a shared sense of regional distinctiveness.

The Southeast and its politics have been decisively shaped by the region’s physical distance and isolation from Mexico City. Well into the 20th century, parts of the region were also crippled by a lack of transportation infrastructure. Geography also contributed to internal political divisions. In the early 20th century, Tabasco was riven by political jealousies and ceaseless competition between regional political factions, posing a formidable challenge to anyone seeking to pacify and govern the whole of the state. Likewise, in Chiapas, for generations, politics were polarized between elite factions based in the lowland modern-era state capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez and the highland colonial-era capital of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, who fought bitterly for control of the state. At the turn of the 20th century, political and economic elites of the region were protective of a high degree of local sovereignty and were not generally well disposed to the interference of outsiders in local politics, unless it was to their advantage.

In the early 20th century, the states of the Southeast were major producers of two of Mexico’s most important agricultural exports: coffee from Chiapas and henequen, a durable fiber derived from the plant of the same name, from Yucatán and, to a lesser extent, Campeche. The Southeast also produced valuable tropical hardwoods and dyewoods, fruits, sugar, chicle, and livestock. By mid-century, the region was also an important producer of oil, natural gas, and hydroelectric power.

Most of the states of the Southeast have large Mayan populations, with the exception of Tabasco. In Chiapas alone, there are over ten Mayan languages spoken. By contrast, in Yucatán, one Mayan language (Yucatec) predominates and historically has been spoken widely there, not only by Mayans. But ethnic identity was not meaningfully politically unifying for most indigenous communities in the Southeast for most of the 20th century, at either the state or regional levels. Before the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), the states of the region were notorious for their particularly brutal labor regimes, as the mostly indigenous workers on henequen haciendas in Yucatán, coffee plantations in Chiapas, and logging camps in Tabasco suffered some of the worst and most exploitative working conditions in all of Mexico, which were frequently and reasonably described as near slavery.

The Mexican Revolution in the Southeast, 1910–1914

In histories of the Mexican Revolution, the central state of Morelos is often referred to as the southern front of the war, where Emiliano Zapata legendarily led his fight to reclaim the lands that formerly belonged to his community. By implication, the Revolution never reached any further south than that. While it is true that the most important battles of the Revolution were fought in the center and north of the country and that the most influential revolutionary factions came from the states of those regions, the South and Southeast of the country also experienced violence, upheaval, and dramatic political, economic, and social change both during and after the Revolution. The Southeast was not only profoundly transformed during this period; it also produced some of the most innovative and important political experiments in Mexico in the years following the Revolution.

Many southeasterners supported Francisco I. Madero when he launched his opposition presidential campaign against President Porfirio Díaz in 1909. Many were also inspired by Madero’s famous call to take up arms against the government a year later, and many joined the fight against General Victoriano Huerta when he overthrew and assassinated Madero in 1913. After Huerta was defeated and the Mexican Revolution became a civil war between the triumphant revolutionary factions, southeasterners fought on nearly all sides. Most famously, a young activist from Yucatán named Felipe Carrillo Puerto briefly joined the Zapatistas as an agronomist. In Chiapas, ranchers and landowners who resented any attempts by outsider revolutionaries to impinge on their autonomy nominally allied themselves with Pancho Villa. But of all of the revolutionary leaders, it was only Venustiano Carranza, the former governor of the northern state of Coahuila and the “First Chief”of the Constitutionalist revolutionary faction, who made a concerted effort to lay political claim to the Southeast.

The Southeast was a large amount of physical territory that Carranza wanted in order to claim a credible victory at the national level and to become president. But the region was also rich in resources and revenue that Carranza needed to prosecute his wars against both Villa and Zapata. In particular, he hoped to claim a share of the vast wealth generated in Yucatán by the export of henequen. Militarily, the southeast was also strategically important, with its international border with Guatemala, its ports, and the narrow Isthmus of Tehuantepec as a potential choke point for the movement of both armies and goods. To this end, beginning in 1914, Carranza dispatched some of his most talented and ambitious generals as military governors, or proconsuls, to all of the states of the Southeast. Their mission was to bring the southeastern states under Constitutionalist political control, and particularly in the case of Yucatán to also take control of the regional economy.

Carranza was almost certainly not prepared for the upheaval Constitutionalism provoked in the region. Although the response by local political factions to the arrival of Constitutionalist governors and troops varied from state to state, for the rest of the 1910s the Southeast was deeply divided between supporters of Carranza and his proconsuls and their many, diverse opponents. Rather than pacifying the Southeast, Constitutionalist efforts to reform the politics and economies of the region frequently exacerbated longstanding local polemics, jealousies, and enmities. In some cases, this led to recurring political violence; in the most extreme case, it provoked a lengthy civil war.

Constitutionalism in the Southeast, 1914–1917

The best known of the Constitutionalist proconsuls was General Salvador Alvarado, who arrived in Yucatán in 1915.1 Alvarado was arguably one of the most politically talented generals of his generation. He also had a well-developed set of political beliefs, which he expounded on in a series of books that he published on his vision for Mexico’s postrevolutionary “reconstruction.” These prescriptions involved extensive political, economic, and social reforms, in which Alvarado was strongly influenced and borrowed extensively from United States progressivism, along with other political philosophies of the time. He argued for much greater economic and social justice than Mexico had ever achieved before, and some of his ideas were formative to some of the more radical promises that were subsequently made to all Mexican citizens in the 1917 federal constitution.2 Although Alvarado did not advocate the overthrow of capitalism, nor was he especially influenced by Marxism, he described his reformist politics as “Socialist” and went on to found one of the first Socialist political parties in Mexico shortly after his arrival to Yucatán. Over the next fifteen years, this relatively loosely defined brand of Socialism would become the most important political movement in the Southeast.

Alvarado embarked on an ambitious program of reform for Yucatán, but his reformist objectives were significantly complicated by his equally important responsibility for keeping the state’s valuable henequen export sector up and running. Alvarado embarked on a significant reform of labor practices in Yucatán, particularly on the henequen haciendas. He proudly claimed to have liberated the Mayan campesinos of the state from bondage with the far-reaching new workplace regulations that he implemented. In his effort to stamp out the practice of debt peonage, Alvarado imposed in its place standardized workdays and weeks, regulations on wages and hiring and firing practices, rights to collective bargaining, and a minimum wage.3

Alvarado was significantly assisted in his efforts to reform Yucatán by Felipe Carrillo Puerto, who had by then returned from his time in Morelos with the Zapatistas. Carrillo Puerto was a young political organizer who was markedly more radical in his politics than his new mentor. He became the principal grass-roots political organizer for Alvarado’s Socialist Party of Yucatán, working to organize its local syndicates, known as ligas de resistencia (resistance leagues). The liga system became a signature of reformist governments across the Southeast in the years that followed. Carrillo Puerto advocated pairing labor reform with an equally ambitious program of land reform, something that Alvarado did undertake as governor, but not to the extent proposed by Carrillo Puerto.

One of the most important parts of Alvarado’s charge in Yucatán was also to modernize the henequen economy. He did this by creating a state-run regulatory commission for henequen, which purchased the entirety of the crop from the planters of the state and then managed its sale on the international market. In this, as in most of his reforms, Alvarado came up against stiff resistance by the ultra-wealthy planter class, at least initially. But the success of the regulatory commission proved to be irresistible, as the state and the planters along with it turned generous profits with Alvarado’s reorganization and management of henequen exports, and with booming demand for the fiber during the First World War as competing supplies from elsewhere in the world were disrupted.

Alvarado also believed in social reform, something he expounded on at great length in his books and put into action as the governor of Yucatán. This included the expansion of public education and public health, and state-sponsored programs dedicated to the welfare of women and children. In 1915 and 1916, Alvarado organized two feminist congresses in the state, with the goal of including women in his social and political reform project through inviting them to participate in various state-sponsored programs. Although the congresses were largely limited to educated middle- and upper-class women, it was a critical precedent for subsequent efforts in postrevolutionary Mexico to organize women politically.4

Alvarado’s fellow Constitutionalist governors attempted many of the same reforms in other states of the Southeast in the mid-1910s, but none achieved the same political success or depth of reform he did in Yucatán. Across the region, proconsuls decreed new labor laws intended to modernize the economies and regulate the treatment of workers in each state. But Alvarado was much more successful at building a cross-class alliance in Yucatán in support of his political programs and reform endeavors than any of his counterparts, who commonly met stiff resistance from local elites on the one hand and homegrown radical reformers on the other, who were chronically frustrated by the relatively limited reformist fervor of the Constitutionalists, as Carranza increasingly sought to slow reform and to stymie radicalism in favor of achieving political stability in the region. Carranza’s appointed governors who defied him were quickly removed from the region and reassigned elsewhere. General Francisco Múgica, one of the most radical members of the revolutionary generation, only kept his post as governor of Tabasco for a year after pushing hard for land reform there.

Backlash against Constitutionalism, 1917–1920

Carranza’s efforts to circumscribe reform in the Southeast backfired badly. In Tabasco, profound factionalism that predated the Revolution made governing the state challenging at best. The state was deeply divided along both political and regional lines, as different parts of the state produced their own independent revolutionary factions in the early to mid-1910s. Although Tabasco had local factions that had independently chosen to support the Constitutionalists well before the state’s first proconsul arrived, the men that Carranza dispatched to govern the state found that this was a nearly impossible order to fulfill. Unlike the other states of the Southeast, Carranza chose several local politicians to lead Tabasco, perhaps in the hope that their local knowledge would allow them to navigate the tangle of political loyalties and rivalries that so roiled the state. But they fared little better than their outsider colleagues.5

In Campeche, proconsul Joaquín Mucel was notably successful at imposing order on behalf of Carranza compared to most of his counterparts in the Southeast, but he did so with an iron fist. Although he implemented a labor law similar to those decreed by the Constitutionalists across the Southeast, he also shut down many of Campeche’s political institutions in favor of governing unilaterally. More than any of the other Constitutionalist military governors, Mucel also openly abused his position of power, using it to line his own pockets. Still, Carranza rewarded Mucel for the order he was able to achieve in the state by allowing him to stay on as governor there, even as he reassigned all of the other proconsuls to other parts of the country after a few years.6

The Constitutionalists’ efforts to govern Chiapas were the least successful of all. Chiapas’s relative isolation and distance from Mexico City, even compared to the other states of the Southeast, had helped to perpetuate a particularly strong tradition of local sovereignty there, in spite of the political ascendance of allies of Porfirio Díaz in the state previous to the Revolution. The arrival of General Jesus Agustín Castro as Carranza’s first proconsul in Chiapas in 1915 provoked a civil war that lasted for the rest of the 1910s. It was led principally by ranchers and planters who resented any outsider interference in the affairs of Chiapas. Known as the Mapaches (raccoons), the rebels succeeded in thwarting Constitutionalist efforts at reform and pacification alike in a conflict that crippled the state both politically and economically. At the same time, as the Constitutionalists attempted to impose order on Chiapas, they alienated reformers who might otherwise have been their allies. In the coastal coffee-growing region of the state, political organizers began to unionize coffee workers, ostensibly to pursue many of the same labor reform goals championed by the Constitutionalists. Yet instead of forging productive alliances with local reformers, the Constitutionalists cracked down on them, imprisoning some of their leaders and repressing their organizing efforts.7

As his appointed governors faltered in their efforts to exert political control over the southeast on his behalf, Carranza changed strategy by 1917–1918 and dispatched none other than Salvador Alvarado as his military commander for the whole of the region. Alvarado rightly assessed that none of his fellow proconsuls had been able to achieve either the depth of reform or the political stability that he had in Yucatán. Yet Alvarado’s mission now was more military than political, as he embarked on a brutal campaign across Chiapas and Tabasco to attempt to bring the fractious Southeast to political heel, with little success.

In Yucatán, Felipe Carrillo Puerto now led the Socialist Party of Yucatán, and Socialist Carlos Morales took power as governor. Carrillo Puerto expanded the purview of the Socialist Party, building new ligas de resistencia in rural areas that Alvarado had largely ignored. In 1919, he organized the first of two Socialist congresses of Yucatán to articulate an ambitious plan of action and to codify the direction and administration of the Socialist Party moving forward.

The Sonorans and the Southeast

The unrest that Constitutionalism provoked across the Southeast only abated with the defeat and death of President Venustiano Carranza. A revolutionary faction from the northern state of Sonora, led by Alvaro Obregón, Plutarco Elías Calles and Adolfo de la Huerta, rebelled against Carranza in May of 1920. Obregón was Carranza’s successful and popular general who had prosecuted his war against Pancho Villa and now sought the presidency for himself. When Carranza refused to support his ambitions, Obregón and his allies issued the Plan de Agua Prieta, withdrawing their recognition of Carranza’s government. Carranza was then killed as he attempted to flee Mexico City. Obregón took office as president soon thereafter, with Calles as his second-in-command as minister of government and De la Huerta as his minister of finance.

Obregón’s first priority as president was pacification and stabilization of the country following the Revolution, as became clear in his approach to governing the Southeast. The Sonorans benefited from the fact that Constitutionalism had alienated nearly everyone in the region, across the political spectrum. Frustrated reformers were hopeful that the triumph of the Agua Prieta rebellion meant that meaningful implementation of revolutionary promises might finally be effected. But political or ideological affinity was not as important to Obregón in choosing potential allies in the region as their demonstrated ability to exert control and to achieve peace. In Yucatán, Obregón counted on a close alliance with the Socialist leader Felipe Carrillo Puerto. However, in Chiapas, Obregón chose to empower the Mapache rebels, rather than the reformers who founded the Chiapas Socialist Party in 1920. The Mapache leader, Tiburcio Fernández Ruiz, had fought hard against the Constitutionalists and pledged his loyalty to Obregón, and he now became governor of Chiapas. The result was that revolutionary reform was significantly delayed there, as Fernández Ruiz resisted implementing any of the promises of the 1917 constitution. In spite of serious allegations of repression and corruption against Fernández Ruiz throughout his 1920–1924 term, Obregón stood by his ally.8

In Tabasco, Obregón and Minister of Government Calles forged an alliance with a young lawyer named Tomás Garrido Canabal. Garrido had served in several of the Constitutionalist administrations in the state during the 1910s and had also briefly served as interim governor of Yucatán. He was strongly influenced by some of Carranza’s more radical and ambitious proconsuls and became an experienced bureaucrat. He also allied himself with the Tabasco Radical Party, founded in the mid-1910s by one of the revolutionary factions there. As Tabasco remained mired in violent factional infighting, Garrido made himself into a steadfast and loyal ally to the Sonorans.

In Campeche, a broad spectrum of politicians and would-be reformers, united in their distaste for the particularly authoritarian form Constitutionalism took there, formed the Pro-Campeche Political Party in 1920. Some of the founders of the new party were relatively radical Socialist reformers who took significant inspiration from Felipe Carrillo Puerto in neighboring Yucatán and like Carrillo Puerto came to be closely allied with Obregón and Calles; others were more moderate in their political aims. This tension eventually devolved into a rivalry that colored the politics of Campeche for years to come.

The Socialist Parties of the Southeast, 1920–1924

By 1920, there were Socialist parties that were either in power or poised to take it in all of the states of the Southeast, all closely allied with Obregón and Calles. All of these parties faced the challenge of balancing the political and social wants and needs of their leaders and their partisans with the demands and commands of their powerful national patrons. In all cases, the Socialists’ alliances with the Sonorans cut both ways: they were an indispensable political lifeline, but they also imposed limits on their political autonomy.

Across the region, reformers were both inspired and supported by Felipe Carrillo Puerto of Yucatán, who renamed the party that he inherited from Alvarado the Socialist Party of the Southeast, with the intention of spreading Socialism across the entirety of the region. In the beginning, this first and foremost meant to neighboring Campeche. The Yucatecan Socialists supported a small but growing reformist movement in Campeche, a relationship that was formalized in 1920 with the creation of the Agrarian Socialist Party of Campeche as an affiliated branch of the Socialist Party of the Southeast. With the support of the Yucatecan Socialists and the federal government, Socialist Enrique Gómez Briceño took power as governor in 1921. But the Socialists’ own leadership was deeply divided between moderate and more radical factions, and they soon turned on each other. The governor was widely perceived to have mismanaged the settlement of a railroad strike in the state in the summer of 1921, and lost most of the popular support he enjoyed in the process.9 Finally, Ramón Félix Flores, the leader of the more radical Socialist faction, supplanted him as governor in November of 1921.

The Chiapas Socialist Party was founded in early 1920, built on the foundations of labor organizing among coffee workers in previous years. Led by a young political organizer named Ricardo Alfonso Paniagua, the party was closely allied with Carlos A. Vidal, a Constitutionalist general who had served under Alvarado and was influenced by Carrillo Puerto, and hoped to undertake a similar political reform in Chiapas.10 Obregón’s choice of the Mapache leader Tiburcio Fernández Ruiz to lead the state in 1920 was a significant setback to the Chiapas Socialists’ hopes and political plans. But the Socialists did not relent, and they spent the duration of Fernández Ruiz’s governorship building their base of support within the state and forging relationships with regional and national allies.

In Tabasco, Tomás Garrido Canabal fought his way through a tangle of factionalism and strife to the governorship in 1921. Garrido transformed the Tabasco Radical Party into the Radical Socialist Party of Tabasco and used it to build a formidable political machine in the years that followed. Like their counterparts in Campeche, Vidal and Garrido received support and encouragement from the Yucatecan Socialists, who viewed alliances with like-minded politicians elsewhere in the Southeast as a crucial part of their long-term goal to turn the whole of the region Socialist. Minister of Government Plutarco Elías Calles also took a particular interest in the Socialist parties of the region. For their part, the Socialists of the region correctly assessed that Calles was much more open to their relatively radical politics than Obregón was and reached out to him for his support and patronage.

The 1924 presidential succession was bound to be fraught, as the first national election after the end of the armed phase of the Mexican Revolution, and it ultimately provoked a new crisis. In 1923, Minister of Finance Adolfo de la Huerta broke with President Obregón, in protest of Obregón’s choice of Calles to succeed him in the presidency and over growing political differences between them. He was joined in his criticisms of Obregón and Calles by Jorge Prieto Laurens, the leader of the National Cooperatist Party, which was the most powerful political party in Mexico at the time. Prieto Laurens convinced De la Huerta to become the Cooperatists’ opposition presidential candidate and became the political mastermind of De la Huerta’s split with the Sonorans. A large number of dissident politicians and generals also seconded his mutiny, which devolved into an armed uprising known as the De la Huerta rebellion. Although it was defeated within six months, the rebellion was an acute moment of crisis for the postrevolutionary federal government, as an estimated 50 percent of the military defected to the rebels.11

Although the main centers of the rebellion were in other parts of Mexico, the rebellion had serious and far-reaching consequences in the Southeast, as the rebels managed to capture both power and territory in the region. Lured by the revenues generated by henequen and with the support of elites that had been antagonized by Socialist reform initiatives in the region, rebel forces successfully turned the military garrisons in Campeche and then Yucatán against the government in December of 1923 and took control of both states. Felipe Carrillo Puerto attempted to flee, but was captured and executed. Rebel forces also captured Tabasco, forcing Governor Tomás Garrido Canabal to flee. Chiapas was the only state in the region that never fell into rebel control. Unlike the other states of the southeast, all local political factions supported the government during the rebellion.

The Southeast was one of the last parts of national territory to be recaptured by the government, and the rebellion left indelible political marks there. In Tabasco, an enraged Tomás Garrido Canabal retook the governorship and dedicated himself to purging the state of suspected rebels and rebel sympathizers for years to come. In Chiapas, Socialist Carlos Vidal’s collaboration with the government during the rebellion assured him Calles’s support in his bid for the governorship of that state in 1924. In Yucatán, the Sonorans supported the takeover of the Socialist Party there with more moderate leadership once the state was recaptured, and pushed for a slowdown of Socialist reform there.

The Postrevolutionary Southeast, 1925–1934

By the mid-1920s, the entire Southeast was governed by self-described Socialist governments. Southeastern Mexican Socialism of this period was not especially ideological, but it did share a core set of political principles and strategies. Like Alvarado, the southeastern Socialists were strongly nationalist. While they all sought to free themselves from the power and influence of the foreign corporations that operated in their states and had historically dominated their export sectors, they did not advocate the overthrow of capitalism, but rather sought to harness it for the greater social good through state-led management and oversight of their economies. In Tabasco and Yucatán in particular, Socialists advocated the formation of cooperatives for both producers and consumers, to complement their larger programs of economic reforms for working people. They were most consistent in their dedication to social reform, particularly the dramatic expansion of public education, especially into rural areas. This effort went hand in hand with anticlerical campaigns of the day, as the Socialists, particularly in Tabasco, sought to liberate their constituents from what they regarded to be the reactionary and anti-modern influence of the Catholic Church.12 In all cases, although with some variation in the details, the southeastern Socialists built corporatist political parties that were designed to forge strong and enduring bonds between political elites and popular constituencies, as a means of mobilizing cross-class support for their reform initiatives.

Strongly influenced by Alvarado and Carrillo Puerto’s political experiments in popular organizing and party formation in Yucatán, governors Tomás Garrido Canabal in Tabasco and Carlos A. Vidal in Chiapas spent the years following the De la Huerta rebellion working to implement ambitious programs of political and social reform in their respective states, carefully balancing their bona fide challenges to the pre-revolutionary status quo with circumspect, qualified support for the export sectors on which their states’ economies depended. In Campeche, Governor Angel Castillo Lanz inherited the organization of the Agrarian Socialist Party of the Southeast and used it to concentrate power in his own hands, first as governor and then from behind the scenes, rather than to implement especially far-reaching social, political, and economic reform. In part, Socialism was less successful in Campeche than elsewhere in the region because the Socialists there began and remained deeply divided amongst themselves well into the 1930s.

With the support of Plutarco Elías Calles, now president, as well as Luis Napoleón Morones, the leader of the powerful Mexican Regional Labor Confederation (CROM), Carlos Vidal took office as governor of Chiapas in the spring of 1925. Chiapas was a state deeply divided along regional, class, and ethnic lines, even by southeastern standards; moreover, it was a state that lacked the foundations of reform achieved elsewhere in the region by Socialists in the previous years. The challenges facing Vidal and the Chiapas Socialists were therefore especially formidable. They got off to an aggressive and ambitious start. Within the first six months of his governorship, Vidal distributed more land to families in need than his predecessor had in his four years in the office. He also created a statewide labor confederation that closely resembled the centralized liga systems of the other Socialist parties of the region. Socialism in Chiapas was short-lived, however. In 1927, Vidal was assassinated after helping to lead a short-lived, unsuccessful rebellion against Alvaro Obregón’s return for a second presidential term. The leaders of the Chiapas Socialist Party were also killed. While some of its members came to power in the state in later years, the party never recovered from the loss of its leadership.

Returning to the governorship of Tabasco in 1924 after the De la Huerta rebellion, Tomás Garrido Canabal built an extensive hierarchy of ligas de resistencia across the state, organizing workers (and, secondarily, campesinos) according to both where they worked and where they lived. All of the ligas belonged to a statewide Liga Central, which organized all liga members under its umbrella as members of the Radical Party. Many jobs in the state were reserved for liga members exclusively, and the unionized workers of Tabasco were guaranteed some of the highest wages in Mexico by the end of the 1920s by one of the most far-reaching labor laws in Mexico at that time.13 In exchange, liga members gave up a measure of their political freedom, as unanimous support for the Radical Party’s initiatives and electoral slates was both the expectation and the norm.

Garrido Canabal is perhaps best known both historically and in popular memory for his rabid anticlericalism. During his time in power in Tabasco, Garrido took implementation of the 1917 constitution’s strict separation of church and state and Calles’s anticlerical laws to the most extreme level achieved anywhere in Mexico; by the end of the 1920s, only one priest was allowed to live and work in Tabasco per hundred thousand residents. Garrido was also renowned for his dedication to the dramatic reform and expansion of public education in the state, a program intended to complement his government’s strict anticlericalism, by providing “rational” alternatives to religion and superstition. Many former churches in the state were converted to public schools and cultural centers over the course of the 1920s and early 1930s.

In Yucatán following Felipe Carrillo Puerto’s death, a power struggle ensued between radicals and moderates that revealed internal divisions within the Socialist Party of the Southeast and blunted its ability to pursue its reform agenda. In the mid-late 1920s, party leaders tempered the ambitions and radicalism of the organization, often empowering themselves at the expense of the interests of the people and communities they purportedly represented. Further, the henequen economy that had once made Yucatán one of the wealthiest states in Mexico, already in decline by the early 1920s, had collapsed by the end of the decade, transforming the political equation in the state. Henequen planters also continued to fight against state control over the henequen economy in the years after Carrillo Puerto’s murder. The federal government also asserted a higher degree of control over both the henequen economy and the politics of Yucatán, in collaboration with a governor who was prioritized revitalizing the henequen economy over pursuing the reform agenda of Carrillo Puerto and other committed Socialists in the state.

One of the most consistent traits of southeastern Socialism was that, under Socialist control, they were some of the first states in Mexico to recognize the political rights of women. In Yucatán women were permitted to vote during the governorship of Felipe Carrillo Puerto (1922–1924), but suffrage was never written into law. In Campeche, women were allowed to participate in politics within the Socialist party there, and within ligas de resistencia. In Tabasco in 1925, during the governorship of Tomás Garrido Canabal, women won the right to vote in municipal elections and to run for office, although there were restrictions placed on which women were eligible to vote and how many women were allowed to occupy political offices. In May of 1925, Socialist Chiapas became the first state to grant women the same political rights as men, fully and permanently, twenty-seven years before women recognized as full citizens in Mexico, in 1952.14

Cardenismo in the Southeast, 1934–1940

The presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas (1934–1940) is commonly regarded as the peak of postrevolutionary political, economic and social reform in Mexico. Cárdenas is best known for his nationalization of Mexico’s oil in 1938 and for undertaking an ambitious and extensive program of land reform and redistribution, to a much greater extent than any of his presidential predecessors or successors, expropriating and distributing nearly twenty million hectares of land. He also oversaw a significant expansion of public education, as well as a restructuring of the ruling party, the National Revolutionary Party (PNR), into the Mexican Revolutionary Party (PRM) along more corporatist lines, as an effort to tighten the institutional bonds between political elites and citizens. The impact of all of these programs was certainly felt in the Southeast, and several leaders of the Socialist parties of the region gained prominent national positions under Cárdenas. However, as scholars have emphasized in recent regional histories of this period, the legacies of Cardenista reform in the region were more equivocal than Cárdenas’s legend would often have it.

In Yucatán, the advent of Cardenismo did not attenuate the resistance of the henequen planters to land reform. As the economy of the state continued to falter in the early 1930s as demand for henequen from the United States plummeted during the Great Depression, the cross-class alliance that Alvarado and Carrillo Puerto had attempted to forge between workers and employers in Yucatán continued to disintegrate. To make matters worse, suppliers elsewhere in the world had begun to supplant Yucatecan henequen on the world market. In 1935, Cárdenas finally ordered the expropriation and redistribution of land in the henequen zone of the state, which had long remained untouched by land reform in the state.

In the most in-depth study of Cardenismo in the region, historian Ben Fallaw has found that while Cardenista agrarian reform in Yucatán was extensive in its scope and ambition and that no Mexican state was more affected by Cardenismo, it was not nearly as successful as it could have been.15 First, reform had worked best in Yucatán when the henequen economy was booming. By the 1930s, the henequen economy had collapsed. Second, the form that Cardenista reform took in the state alienated people across class lines. Planters and landowners predictably continued to resist the potential loss of their land and property to federal expropriation. But many workers were also hesitant to fight for the destruction of the henequen haciendas, on which they relied for employment. Further, resident workers on plantations that were expropriated were often not included as ejido grantees, fueling resentment, and recipients of ejido grants were frequently dissatisfied with the wages and the services they received as ejidatarios. Workers also faced threats against them by paramilitaries organized by the planters. Finally, as elsewhere in Mexico, reform in Yucatán was also limited by deeply entrenched political interests in the state. As in earlier periods, out of necessity, reformers often counted on local allies and power brokers to implement federal programs in the state, which often empowered corrupt or self-interested local intermediaries that frequently impeded or blunted reform programs.

Frustrated by the lack of progress his agents had made, Cárdenas visited Yucatán himself in 1937. He stayed for more than three weeks, during which he declared a sweeping land reform that would nationalize all of the henequen plantations, create many more new ejidos, and guarantee loans and access to credit for ejidatarios. The reform did not live up to its many promises. It was thwarted by local political intermediaries who pursued their own agendas, and it failed to generate a critical mass of popular support. Many campesinos were left without land, and the ones that did receive land frequently did not receive enough or did not have access to the equipment or the funds to make the land profitable. In the end, Fallaw argues, Cardenismo in Yucatán was a missed opportunity for real and enduring reform and redistribution of wealth and resources, done in by poor planning, bad decisions, and insufficient funding and undermined by entrenched local interests that cut across class and ethnic lines.

After serving two gubernatorial terms Tomás Garrido Canabal of Tabasco became minister of agriculture in Cárdenas’s cabinet in 1934 and soon became renowned as a firebrand as he brought his unique brand of politics from the Southeast to Mexico City.16 Garrido had always been a polarizing figure, even at the local level in Tabasco; he was equally so once he arrived in the national capital as a cabinet minister, accompanied by a brigade of Red Shirts. These, his strongest and most fervent supporters, proved to be a political liability in Mexico City as they staged demonstrations that devolved into violence in which several people lost their lives. Finally, as President Cárdenas confronted his old mentor Calles in 1935, he asked his entire cabinet, including Garrido, to resign. Meanwhile, in Tabasco, violent conflicts broke out between Garrido’s supporters and his opponents, who hoped to loosen his political grip on the state once and for all. Ultimately, Garrido left for exile in Costa Rica in August of 1935.

Garrido’s influence remained strong in Tabasco. For most of the 1920s and early 1930s, the political system of the state had been centered on Garrido himself and was deeply polarized between his supporters and his vehement detractors. It was therefore a particularly significant political challenge to implement Cardenista reform in Tabasco. Worse, Garrido’s exile coincided with the precipitous decline in the state of banana production, which was by then Tabasco’s preeminent export. The sector was further hurt by the shifting of international fruit companies to other countries they deemed less likely to nationalize their properties than Mexico under Cárdenas. Although he was a self-described Socialist, Garrido had redistributed very little land in Tabasco during the 1920s and early 1930s. Cardenista land reform increased the number of ejidos in the state by a factor of ten. Historian Carlos Martínez Assad asserts that labor reform under Cárdenas was much more fraught than land reform in Tabasco, since labor organization had been such a central feature of Garrido’s brand of Socialism in the preceding period, and ongoing struggles between ligas de resistencia and non-liga unions intensified over the years. The situation was further complicated once Garrido was gone, as national labor organizations descended on the state after years of being shunned by the Tabasco Socialists. Socialism in Tabasco had always been characterized by fierce independence in many respects. Well into the 1940s, the national party struggled to gain a strong presence and influence on the ground in Tabasco.

Cardenista reforms arrived to Chiapas in 1936, later than to other states, in part because of Chiapas’s deserved reputation as a place that was particularly difficult to reform, with an entrenched elite prepared and anxious to defend the highly unequal status quo. Reformers were right to be concerned. As the federal government sought to halt land reform in the early 1930s, Governor Raymundo Enríquez (1928–1932) instead increased it, granting more land to petitioners than Lázaro Cárdenas did as governor of Michoacán in the same period.17 But by the time Cárdenas became president in 1934, postrevolutionary reformism was in retreat in Chiapas, where governor Victórico Grajales was working to roll back what land and labor reforms had already been undertaken in the state and to combat new federal reform initiatives. Under Grajales, organizations formed to support workers and campesinos were now used to coopt and control them, and when this failed, more extreme measures were employed by the state government and its allies, including incarceration and assassination. Further violence ensued as Cárdenas attempted to place an ally in the governor’s office that year, and multiple factions refused to accept his election. The new Cardenista governor, Efraín Gutiérrez, was only able to take office with significant federal intervention.

Once the federal government did embark on reforming Chiapas, its efforts were much less successful in advancing reform objectives than elsewhere in Mexico. Particularly in the highlands, local elites in Chiapas fought bitterly against the advance of federal reforms in the state, which they viewed as an intolerable encroachment on a long tradition of local sovereignty. Coffee growers were largely successful in protecting themselves from expropriation, while recipients of land grants were subject to ongoing attacks and harassment. Ejido lands were often not productive enough to feed resident families, as landowners frequently succeeded in keeping the best farmland. Although Governor Gutiérrez oversaw the redistribution of nearly half a million hectares of land during his term in office (1936–1940) during the zenith of Cardenista land reform, the effort did little to solve the problems of land hunger and land concentration in Chiapas. By the late 1940s, successors of the counterrevolutionary Mapaches were back in power in Chiapas.

Revolutionary Legacies in the Southeast

The revolutionary and postrevolutionary history of the Southeast is full of seeming contradictions. The region is often regarded to have been “left out” of the Mexican Revolution, at least in its armed phase between 1910 and 1920. However, the Constitutionalist proconsuls stationed there, particularly Salvador Alvarado, engaged in some of the most innovative and radical political experimentation that occurred anywhere in Mexico in those years. So did some of the Socialist politicians that took power in the region in the 1920s. Yet by the 1930s, southeastern states became some of the most challenging to reform for the federal government during the peak of postrevolutionary reform under president Lázaro Cárdenas. In the years that followed, the region again became notorious for its inequality and lack of notable progress toward social or economic justice.

The best-known southeastern revolution began many years later in one of the region’s most unequal and impoverished places. On January 1, 1994, Chiapas took center stage in Mexico, perhaps for the first time, and grabbed the world’s attention in the process. On the day that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was set to go into effect, a mostly indigenous army announced its existence and staged an armed takeover of several cities and towns in the highlands of the state. Wearing ski masks and bandanas over their faces and using only mononymous pseudonyms to protect their identities, members of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN) made a long list of demands for economic, political, and social reform, not just in Chiapas but in all of Mexico. In the process they shone a bright light on the extreme poverty, racism, and inequality they faced living in the rural Southeast, where corruption, graft, and mismanagement had commonly curtailed or entirely derailed most federal programs intended to address the dire lack of resources available and the notoriously low standard of living of many of the citizens of Chiapas, particularly within indigenous communities. Although the armed phase of the rebellion was quite short, confined to only a few weeks that January, the impact of the EZLN’s highly publicized emergence was far-reaching, both in Mexico and internationally. The Zapatista movement was transformed into a long-term social and political protest that increasingly came to focus on indigenous rights and autonomy, which is still ongoing.18

The timing of the Zapatista revolt to coincide with the advent of NAFTA was by design, as the EZLN hoped to draw attention to what they argued was the crisis of neoliberalism in Mexico, as the government, controlled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), turned its back on all of the promises made to Mexican citizens by the 1917 revolutionary constitution. In the highlands of Chiapas, where subsistence farmers were chronically unable to grow enough corn to feed their families on the limited plots of land to which they had access, the 1992 reform by President Carlos Salinas de Gortari that effectively put an end to land reform and redistribution was taken as a serious blow, even after decades of the federal government falling well short of any of the relief it promised to impoverished communities across Mexico.

One of the many historically interesting features of the Zapatista movement was that it called on people both inside and outside of Mexico to become aware of the plight of indigenous communities in Chiapas, a state where elites had long been strongly protective of their local sovereignty and had fiercely resisted the interference of outsiders in local politics. In this effort, they were notably successful. If the Zapatistas failed to bring about the radical reform they envisioned for Chiapas or to convince a particularly large segment of the population to join them in withdrawing popular recognition of the federal government, they did succeed in provoking new and important conversations about the status and the needs of indigenous Mexicans and in making many people aware of the grinding poverty and stark inequality faced by the indigenous communities of Chiapas, as well as in other parts of Mexico. Popular culture embraced the Zapatistas, who were pioneers of using social media for political purposes. Within Mexico, the Zapatistas’ staking of a new claim to the revolutionary legacy of Emiliano Zapata and his fight for the rural working poor was one that resonated strongly at the end of the 1990s. The long-term revolutionary legitimacy of the ruling party seemed to many Mexicans to be little more than the stuff of the party’s own fantasy, particularly in places like the Southeast where so many revolutionary-era promises had gone unfulfilled.

Discussion of the Literature

As a region, the history of the Southeast of Mexico has been relatively understudied compared to other regions and other states, particularly in the revolutionary and postrevolutionary period. Although the state of Yucatán has received extensive attention from historians, Campeche, Tabasco, and Quintana Roo have received relatively little. Chiapas has received more scholarly attention in the past two decades than it did previously, thanks in part to the interest sparked among scholars in many disciplines by the Zapatista uprising there. Unfortunately, there are no multistate regional histories of the Southeast to date, although the comparisons between them are quite revealing in terms of larger regional and national political, social, and economic trends. A good starting place for anyone studying Mexico at the state level (not just in the Southeast) is the collection of “Brief Histories” of each Mexican state, published by the Colegio de México and the Fondo de Cultura Económica.19

Since the late 20th century, our historical understandings of the states of the Southeast during the 20th century benefited immeasurably from the regionalized turn in the historiography of modern Mexico, as a collection of seminal books were published on the modern histories of individual southeastern states. The most important of these are Gilbert M. Joseph’s classic history of revolutionary Yucatán, Revolution from Without: Yucatán, Mexico and the United States, 1880–1924 (1982), Thomas Benjamin’s A Rich Land, A Poor People: Politics and Society in Modern Chiapas (1989; new edition published in 1996), and Carlos Martínez Assad’s study of postrevolutionary Tabasco during the governorships of Tomás Garrido Canabal, El laboratorio de la revolución: el Tabasco garridista (1979; new edition published in 2004). Enrique Canudas’s multivolume collection, Trópico rojo (1989), is another important primer on the history of Tabasco. Antonio García de Léon’s five-hundred-year history of Chiapas, Resistencia y utopía (1997), is an indispensable text for the study of that state. José A. Abud has also published two excellent monographs on revolutionary and postrevolutionary Campeche, Campeche: revolución y movimiento social, 1911–1923 (1992), and a later companion volume, Después de la revolución: los caciques y el nuevo estado, Campeche 1923–1943 (2012).20

Yucatán remains the most studied of all of the states of the Southeast by far. Over the past fifteen years, historian Ben Fallaw has published some of the most important work on the state in the first half of the 20th century, particularly his book on Yucatán in the 1930s and the Cardenista reform efforts there, Cárdenas Compromised: The Failure of Reform in Postrevolutionary Yucatán (2001). He has also co-edited a volume on the history of Yucatán in the 19th and 20th centuries entitled Peripheral Visions: Politics, Society, and the Challenges of Modernity in Yucatan (2014). Historian and anthropologist Paul Eiss has also published important work on the histories of indigenous communities in Yucatán in the revolutionary and postrevolutionary periods, particularly his book In the Name of el Pueblo: Place, Community, and the Politics of History in Yucatán (2010). Stephanie Smith has also published research on the important precedents in women’s rights set during Salvador Alvarado’s governorship of Yucatán in the mid-1910s, including her book entitled Gender and the Mexican Revolution: Yucatán Women and the Realities of Patriarchy (2014).21

Chiapas has not received as much attention from historians as Yucatán, but it has received a great deal more than the other states of the Southeast. One of the best studies of the postrevolutionary period in the state is Daniela Spenser’s monograph on Socialism in Chiapas in the 1920s, El Partido Socialista Chiapaneco: Rescate y reconstrucción de su historia (1988). Anthropologist and ethnohistorian Jan Rus has published several important books and articles that focus on the histories of indigenous communities in the highlands of Chiapas and an edited volume entitled Mayan Lives, Mayan Utopias (2003) that provides historical, economic, and cultural context for the emergence of the EZLN in 1994. Building on the body of historical work on postrevolutionary Mexico that focused on culture as an essential part of state consolidation, Stephen Lewis’s book on public education in the state, The Ambivalent Revolution: Forging State and Nation in Chiapas, 1910–1945 (2005), sheds important light on how the work of the federal Ministry of Education (SEP) played out in practice in Chiapas, particularly in the 1930s. In it, he argues that the relatively limited impact of revolutionary and postrevolutionary reform in Chiapas directly contributed to the rise of the EZLN in the 1980s and 1990s. Aaron Bobrow Strain’s book Intimate Enemies: Landowners, Power and Violence in Chiapas (2007) provides critical details and perspective on the fraught politics of land in 20th-century Chiapas by focusing on landowners.22

In the 21st century, historians have begun to study states of the Southeast in comparison with other Mexican states outside of the region. Ben Fallaw’s book Religion and State Formation in Postrevolutionary Mexico (2013) compares Catholic resistance to postrevolutionary reform initiatives and their decisive influence on processes of state formation in Campeche, Guanajuato, Guerrero, and Hidalgo.23 Sarah Osten has examined the national political implications of a persistent pattern of failed gubernatorial elections in Mexico in the 1920s, comparing the cases of Chiapas and San Luis Potosí.24 In both cases, southeastern states are presented as important case studies for understanding larger, national political trends, rather than as isolated exceptions to national political narratives.

Primary Sources

Much of the best archival material for studying the Southeast in the 20th century resides in archives in Mexico City. In particular, there is a wealth of material on the states of the region at the Archivo General de la Nacíon (AGN) in Gallery 2 (Public Administration and Political and Social Investigations [DGIPS]), Gallery 3 (Presidents), and Gallery 7, which houses collections of personal papers, including those of governors Tomás Garrido Canabal of Tabasco and Carlos A. Vidal of Chiapas. A quick guide to the AGN’s galleries, contents, and hours is available here.

For the politics of Mexico’s revolutionary and early postrevolutionary periods, the best archive in all of Mexico is the Calles Archive (formally known as the Trust Archive of Plutarco Elías Calles and Fernando Torreblanca [FAPECFT]), located in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City. It houses the papers of Plutarco Elías Calles, Alvaro Obregón, and several other prominent politicians of the era, including Joaquín Amaro, Adolfo de la Huerta, and Abelardo Rodríguez. The wealth of political correspondence between national political leaders and state and local politicians and everyday citizens in all regions, including the Southeast, that are contained in those collections is unmatched. The archive also has a fascinating collection of documents from the United States embassy in Mexico City, and a very large and fully digitalized and keyword-searchable photographic archive.

In the Southeast, state and local archives also provide a wealth of valuable sources. In particular, the Archivo General del Estado de Yucatán (AGEY) in Mérida and the Archivo Histórico de Chiapas, housed at the University of Sciences and the Arts of Chiapas (UNICACH) in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, hold several important collections for researchers of the 20th century but also earlier periods. The archive also has an extensive collection of state and local newspapers. The Archivo Histórico Diocesano de San Cristóbal de Las Casas in Chiapas is another valuable resource.

There are also collections of published primary sources that are important for the history of the Southeast in the revolutionary and postrevolutionary periods. General Salvador Alvarado published several books on his political philosophy and proposals that provide valuable insight into his political programs in Yucatán. Published account of the congresses of the Socialist Party of the Southeast were published by the party itself and by Juan Rico of the Mexican Regional Labor Confederation (CROM), and they provide crucial insider accounts of the inner workings of the most important of the southeastern Socialist parties. A memoir by a friend and collaborator of Carlos Vidal’s provides important perspectives and data on revolutionary and postrevolutionary Chiapas. The Calles Archive has published a three-volume set of selected documents from Plutarco Elías Calles’s papers, one of which is comprised of correspondence with local politicians, organized by state, and includes important sources for state and local politics in all of Mexico, including the Southeast.25

The historical archive of Chiapas has digitalized a large number of archival newspapers from that state, which are available online. A collection of Mexican national and regional newspapers is also available through the Hemeroteca Nacional Digital de México (HNDM) of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).

A valuable resource for all historical and political research on 20th-century Mexico is the word-searchable online collection of Diarios de los Debates of the federal legislature (Chamber of Deputies), 1917–present. The Mexican Senate also has digitalized copies of its debates available online, 1875–1984.

Further Reading

Abud, José A.Campeche: Revolución y movimiento social, 1911–1923. Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma de Campeche, 1992.Find this resource:

Abud, José A.Después de la revolución: Los caciques y el nuevo Estado, Campeche, 1923–1943. Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, 2012.Find this resource:

Benjamin, Thomas. A Rich Land, a Poor People: Politics and Society in Modern Chiapas. Rev. ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Bobrow-Strain, Aaron. Intimate Enemies: Landowners, Power, and Violence in Chiapas. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Canudas, Enrique. Tropico rojo: Historia politica y social de Tabasco los años garridistas, 1919–1934. 2 vols. Villahermosa, Mexico: Gobierno del Estado de Tabasco, Instituto de Cultura de Tabasco, 1989.Find this resource:

Eiss, Paul K.In the Name of el Pueblo: Place, Community, and the Politics of History in Yucatán. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Fallaw, Ben. Cárdenas Compromised: The Failure of Reform in Postrevolutionary Yucatán. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Fallaw, Ben. “Bartolomé García Correa and the Politics of Maya Identity in Postrevolutionary Yucatán, 1911–1933.” Ethnohistory 55.4 (2008): 553–578.Find this resource:

Fallaw, Ben. Religion and State Formation in Postrevolutionary Mexico. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Fenner, Justus, and Miguel Lisbona, eds. La Revolución mexicana en Chiapas un siglo después: Nuevos aportes, 1910–1940. San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico: Programa de Investigaciones Multidisciplinarias sobre Mesoamérica y el Sureste 2010.Find this resource:

García de León, Antonio. Resistencia y utopía: Memorial de agravios y crónicas de revueltas y profecías acaecidas en la Provincia de Chiapas durante los últimos quinientos años de su historia. 2d ed. Mexico City: Ediciones Era, 2002.Find this resource:

Harper, Kristin A. “Revolutionary Tabasco in the Time of Tomas Garrido Canabal, 1922–1935: A Mexican House Divided.” PhD Diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2004.Find this resource:

Harvey, Neil. The Chiapas Rebellion: The Struggle for Land and Democracy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

Joseph, Gilbert M.Revolution from Without: Yucatán, Mexico, and the United States, 1880–1924. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1988.Find this resource:

Justo Sierra, Carlos, Fausta Gantús Inurreta, and Laura Villanueva. Breve historia de Campeche. 2d ed. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2011.Find this resource:

Lewis, Stephen. The Ambivalent Revolution: Forging State and Nation in Chiapas, 1910–1945. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Martínez Assad, Carlos R.El laboratorio de la revolución: El Tabasco garridista. 5th ed. Mexico City: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2004.Find this resource:

Martínez Assad. Breve historia de Tabasco. 2d ed. Mexico City: Colegio de Mexico Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2006.Find this resource:

Quezada, Sergio. Breve historia de Yucatán. Mexico City: Colegio de México, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2001.Find this resource:

Ridgeway, Stan. “Monoculture, Monopoly, and the Mexican Revolution: Tomás Garrido Canabal and the Standard Fruit Company in Tabasco (1920–1935).” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 17.1 (2001): 143–169.Find this resource:

Rus, Jan. “Revoluciones contenidas: Los indígenas y la lucha por Los Altos de Chiapas, 1910–1925.” Mesoamérica 46 (2004): 57–85.Find this resource:

Rus, Jan, Rosalva Aída Hernández Castillo, and Shannan L. Mattiace, eds. Mayan Lives, Mayan Utopias: The Indigenous Peoples of Chiapas and the Zapatista Rebellion. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.Find this resource:

Smith, Stephanie J.Gender and the Mexican Revolution: Yucatán Women and the Realities of Patriarchy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Terry, Edward Davis, Ben Fallaw, Gilbert M. Joseph, and Edward H. Moseley, eds. Peripheral Visions: Politics, Society, and the Challenges of Modernity in Yucatan. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Tostado Gutiérrez, Marcela. El intento de liberar a un pueblo: Educación y magisterio tabasqueño con Garrido Canabal, 1924–1935. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1991.Find this resource:

Wells, Allen, and Gilbert M. Joseph. Summer of Discontent, Seasons of Upheaval: Elite Politics and Rural Insurgency in Yucatán, 1876–1915. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Womack, John. Rebellion in Chiapas: An Historical Reader. New York: New Press, 1999.Find this resource:

Zebadúa, Emilio. Breve historia de Chiapas. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1999.Find this resource:


(1.) The most important history of Yucatán in this period is Gilbert M. Joseph’s classic study of the state in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gilbert M. Joseph, Revolution from Without: Yucatán, Mexico, and the United States, 1880–1924 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1988). On Yucatán on the revolutionary and postrevolutionary periods, see also Ben Fallaw, “Felipe Carrillo Puerto of Revolutionary-Era Yucatán: Popular Leader, Caesar, or Martyr?,” in Heroes and Hero Cults in Latin America, eds. Samuel Brunk and Ben Fallaw (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006), 124–148; Ben Fallaw, “Los Límites de la Revolución: Plutarco Elías Calles, Felipe Carrillo Puerto y el Socialismo Yucateco, 1921–1924,” Boletín 52 (2006): 1–32; Paul K. Eiss, In the Name of el Pueblo: Place, Community, and the Politics of History in Yucatán (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010); and Sergio Quezada, Breve historia de Yucatán (Mexico City: Colegio de México, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2001). Much of the data on Yucatán’s history in this article comes from these sources.

(2.) Salvador Alvarado, Actuación revolucionaria del General Salvador Alvarado en Yucatán (Mexico City: B. Costa-Amic, 1918; repr., 1965); Salvador Alvarado, La reconstrucción de México: Un mensaje a los pueblos de America, 3 vols. (Mexico City: Partido Revolucionario Institucional, 1982).

(3.) On Alvarado’s labor reforms, see in particular Paul K. Eiss, “A Measure of Liberty: The Politics of Labor in Revolutionary Yucatán, 1915–1918,” in Peripheral Visions: Politics, Society, and the Challenges of Modernity in Yucatan, eds. Edward Davis Terry, Ben Fallaw, Gilbert M. Joseph, and Edward H. Moseley (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2010), 54–78.

(4.) On women’s rights in this period in Yucatán, see in particular Stephanie J. Smith, Gender and the Mexican Revolution: Yucatán Women and the Realities of Patriarchy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009); Stephanie Smith, “Salvador Alvarado of Yucatán: Revolutionary Reforms, Revolutionary Women,” in State Governors in the Mexican Revolution, 1910–1952: Portraits in Conflict, Courage, and Corruption, eds. Jürgen Buchenau and William H. Beezley (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), 43–58; and Stephanie Smith, “‘If Love Enslaves … Love Be Damned!’: Divorce and Revolutionary State Formation in Yucatán,” in Sex in Revolution: Gender, Politics, and Power in Modern Mexico, eds. Jocelyn Olcott, Mary K. Vaughan, and Gabriela Cano (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 99–111.

(5.) On Tabasco in the revolutionary and postrevolutionary periods, see Carlos R. Martínez Assad, El laboratorio de la revolución: El Tabasco garridista, 5th ed. (Mexico City: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2004); Carlos R. Martínez Assad, Breve historia de Tabasco, 2d ed. (Mexico City: Colegio de Mexico Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2006); Enrique Canudas, Tropico rojo: Historia politica y social de Tabasco los años garridistas, 1919–1934, 2 vols. (Villahermosa, Mexico: Gobierno del Estado de Tabasco, Instituto de Cultura de Tabasco, 1989); and Kristin A. Harper, “Revolutionary Tabasco in the Time of Tomas Garrido Canabal, 1922–1935: A Mexican House Divided” (PhD Diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2004). Much of the data on Tabasco’s history in this article comes from these sources.

(6.) On Campeche in the revolutionary and postrevolutionary periods, see José A. Abud, Campeche: Revolución y movimiento social, 1911–1923 (Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma de Campeche, 1992); Abud, Después de la revolución: Los caciques y el nuevo Estado, Campeche, 1923–1943 (Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, 2012); and Carlos Justo Sierra, Fausta Gantús Inurreta, and Laura Villanueva, Breve historia de Campeche, 2d ed. (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2011). Much of the data on Campeche’s history in this article comes from these sources.

(7.) On Chiapas in the revolutionary and postrevolutionary periods, see in particular Benjamin, Rich Land. See also Antonio García de León, Resistencia y utopía: Memorial de agravios y crónicas de revueltas y profecías acaecidas en la Provincia de Chiapas durante los últimos quinientos años de su historia, 2d ed. (Mexico City: Ediciones Era), 2002, 3; Emilio Zebadúa, Breve historia de Chiapas (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1999); and Justus Fenner and Miguel Lisbona, eds., La Revolución mexicana en Chiapas un siglo después: Nuevos aportes, 1910–1940 (San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico: Programa de Investigaciones Multidisciplinarias sobre Mesoamérica y el Sureste, 2010). Much of the data on Chiapas’s history in this article comes from these sources.

(8.) On the Mapaches, see Benjamín Lorenzana Cruz, Del maderismo al mapachismo en Chiapas: La Revolución Mexicana en la región de Tonalá, Biblioteca Chiapas: Investigación del patrimonio cultural (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico: CONACULTA/CONECULTA, 2013).

(9.) On the Campeche railroad strike, see Silvia Teresa Marcial Gutiérrez, Los tranvías: Un medio de transporte y su importancia social, económica, cultural, política y en la traza urbana de la ciudad de Campeche, 1883–1938 (Campeche, Mexico: Universidad Autónoma de Campeche, 2002).

(10.) On the life, politics and career of Carlos Vidal, see Sarah Osten, “Vida y muerte del general Carlos A. Vidal: Significado e interpretación regional y nacional, 1915–1927,” in La Revolución mexicana en Chiapas, eds. Fenner and Lisbona. See also Hipólito Rébora, Memorias de un chiapaneco (Mexico City: Editorial Katún, 1982).

(11.) On the De la Huerta rebellion, see Alonso Capetillo, La rebelión sin cabeza: Génesis y desarrollo del movimiento delahuertista (Mexico City: Imprenta Botas, 1925); David Allen Brush, “The De la Huerta Rebellion in Mexico, 1923–1924” (PhD Diss., Syracuse University, 1975); Pedro Castro Martínez, Adolfo de la Huerta y la Revolución Mexicana (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Estudios Históricos de la Revolución Mexicana y la Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Unidad Iztapalapa, 1992); Pedro Castro Martínez, Adolfo de la Huerta: La integridad como arma de la revolución (Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Iztapalapa, Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 1998); and Adolfo de la Huerta and Roberto Guzmán Esparza, Memorias de don Adolfo de la Huerta, según su propio dictado, 2d ed. (Mexico City: Ediciones Guzmán, 1958).

(12.) On education as a key element of Socialist reform in Tabasco, see Marcela Tostado Gutiérrez, El intento de liberar a un pueblo: Educación y magisterio tabasqueño con Garrido Canabal, 1924–1935 (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1991).

(13.) On economic reform in Tabasco in this period, see Stan Ridgeway, “Monoculture, Monopoly, and the Mexican Revolution: Tomás Garrido Canabal and the Standard Fruit Company in Tabasco (1920–1935),” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 17.1 (2001): 143–169.

(14.) On the national influence of state-level women’s suffrage measures in the Southeast, see Sarah Osten, “A Crooked Path to the Franchise: The Historical Legacies of Mexico’s Failed 1937 Women’s Suffrage Amendment,” Latin Americanist 58.2 (2014): 97–117. On suffrage in Chiapas, see Sarah Osten, “The Implications and Legacies of Chiapas’ 1925 Women’s Suffrage Decree,” Pueblos y Fronteras 3 (2007). On women’s suffrage and women’s politics in postrevolutionary Mexico, see Ward M. Morton, Woman Suffrage in Mexico (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1962); and Jocelyn Olcott, Revolutionary Women in Postrevolutionary Mexico (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005).

(15.) Much of the data on Cardenismo in Yucatán in this article is based on Fallaw’s Cárdenas Compromised and other work on the subject. See also Ben Fallaw, “Cárdenas and the Caste War That Wasn’t: State Power and Indigenismo in Post-Revolutionary Yucatán,” Americas 53.4 (1997): 551–577; Ben Fallaw, “The Southeast Was Red: Left-State Alliances and Popular Mobilizations in Yucatan, 1930–1940,” Social Science History 23.2 (1999): 241–268; Ben Fallaw, “Bartolomé García Correa and the Politics of Maya Identity in Postrevolutionary Yucatán, 1911–1933,” Ethnohistory 55.4 (2008): 553–578; and Ben Fallaw, “The Crusade of the Mayab: Cardenista Modernization and Contestation in the Yucatán: 1935–1940,” in Terry et al., Peripheral Visions, 101–127. On Cardenismo in Yucatán, see also Quezada, Breve historia de Yucatán.

(16.) On Cardenismo in Tabasco, see Martínez Assad, El laboratorio de la revolución; and Martínez Assad, Breve historia de Tabasco. Most of the data on this period in Tabasco in this article comes from these two books.

(17.) On Cardenismo in Chiapas, see in particular Benjamin, Rich Land; and Stephen Lewis, The Ambivalent Revolution: Forging State and Nation in Chiapas, 1910–1945 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005). Most of the data on this period in Chiapas in this article comes from these two books.

(18.) For historical context of the Zapatista movement and uprising, see in particular Neil Harvey, The Chiapas Rebellion: The Struggle for Land and Democracy (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998); Jan Rus, Rosalva Aída Hernández Castillo, and Shannan L. Mattiace, eds., Mayan Lives, Mayan Utopias: The Indigenous Peoples of Chiapas and the Zapatista Rebellion (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003); and John Womack, Rebellion in Chiapas: An Historical Reader (New York: New Press, 1999).

(19.) For the Southeast, see Justo Sierra, Gantús Inurreta, and Villanueva, Breve historia de Campeche; Martínez Assad, Breve historia de Tabasco; and Zebadúa, Breve historia de Chiapas.

(20.) Abud, Campeche; Abud, Después de la revolución; Benjamin, Rich Land; Canudas, Tropico rojo; García de León, Resistencia y utopí; Joseph, Revolution from Without; and Martínez Assad, El laboratorio de la revolución.

(21.) Eiss, In the Name of el Pueblo; Eiss, “A Measure of Liberty”; Paul K. Eiss, “‘El Pueblo Mestizo’: Modernity, Tradition, and Statecraft in Yucatán, 1870–1907,” Ethnohistory 55.4 (2008): 525–552; Fallaw, Cárdenas Compromised; Fallaw, “Felipe Carrillo Puerto”; Fallaw, “Cárdenas and the Caste War”; Ben Fallaw, “Dry Law, Wet Politics: Drinking and Prohibition in Post-Revolutionary Yucatan, 1915–1935,” Latin American Research Review 37.2 (2002): 37–64; Fallaw, “Southeast Was Red”; Fallaw, “Bartolomé García Correa”; Fallaw, “Crusade of the Mayab”; Smith, “If Love Enslaves”; Smith, “Salvador Alvarado of Yucatán”; and Smith, Gender and the Mexican Revolution.

(22.) Aaron Bobrow-Strain, Intimate Enemies: Landowners, Power, and Violence in Chiapas (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007); Jan Rus, “Revoluciones contenidas: Los indígenas y la lucha por Los Altos de Chiapas, 1910–1925,” Mesoamérica 46 (2004): 57–85; Jan Rus, El ocaso de las fincas y la transformación de la sociedad indígena de los altos de Chiapas, 1974–2009 (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico: Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas, 2012); Rus, Hernández Castillo, and Mattiace, Mayan Lives, Mayan Utopias; Lewis, Ambivalent Revolution; and Daniela Spenser, El partido socialista chiapaneco: Rescate y reconstrucción de su historia (Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, 1988).

(23.) Ben Fallaw, Religion and State Formation in Postrevolutionary Mexico (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013).

(24.) Sarah Osten, “Trials by Fire: National Political Lessons from Failed State Elections in Post-Revolutionary Mexico, 1920–1925,” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 29.1 (2013): 238–279.

(25.) Alvarado, Actuación revolucionaria del General Salvador Alvarado; Alvarado, La reconstrucción de México; Juan Rico, Yucatán: La huelga de junio, 2 vols. (Mérida, Mexico, 1922); Felipe Carrillo Puerto and El Partido Socialista del Sureste, Primer Congreso Obrero Socialista celebrado en Motul, Estado de Yucatán: Bases que se discutieron y aprobaron, 2d ed. (Mexico City: Centro de Estudios Históricos del Movimiento Obrero Mexicano, 1977); Rébora, Memorias de un chiapaneco; Plutarco Elías Calles, Correspondencia personal, 1919–1945, ed. Carlos Macias, 2 vols. (Mexico City: Fideicomiso Archivos Plutarco Elías Calles y Fernando Torreblanca, 1991); and Elías Calles, Pensamiento político y social: Antología, 1913–1936, ed. Carlos Macias (Mexico City: Fideicomiso Archivos Plutarco Elías Calles y Fernando Torreblanca, 1994).