|Name||José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori|
, Oaxaca , Mexico
|| September 15, 1830
|Died||July 02, 1915
Sep 15, 2021 12:46am
|Info||José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori (15 September 1830 – 2 July 1915), Mexican war hero and President (later considered a dictator), ruled Mexico from 1876 until 1911 (with the exception of a single four-year period). |
Porfirio Díaz was born in 1830 in the city of Oaxaca, Oaxaca. He was a Mestizo, of Mixtec (a Mesoamerican tribe) ancestry. His father, José de la Cruz Díaz, died when he was 3 years old. His mother, Patrona Mori de Díaz, was an innkeeper until that business failed. She sent young Porfirio to the Seminario Pontifical in 1843, but he was not cut out for the priesthood. He joined the local militia in 1846, dreaming of defending the country from a threatened United States invasion.
Díaz soon became a prominent local activist in the liberal opposition to the conservative Santa Anna dictatorship.
In 1858 during the War of the Reform he participated in the occupation of Oaxaca. In April of that year the state Governor appointed Diaz Military Commander and Governor of the Department of Tehuantepec. That same year he was promoted to Major. In 1859 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
In 1860 following his victory in Ixtepeji, north of Oaxaca, he was promoted to Colonel. In 1861 in recognition to his victory in Jalatlaco he was promoted to Brigadier General.
In 1862 during the French intervention he led the cavalry in the celebrated Battle of Puebla of 1862. In 1863 Diaz was captured by the French Army. He escaped and was offered by President Benito Juarez, the positions of Secretary of Defense or Army's Commander in Chief. He declined both but took an appointment as Commander of the Central Army. That same year he was promoted to Divisional General.
In 1864 the conservatives supporting Emperor Maximilian ask him to join the imperial cause. Diaz refused. In 1865 he was captured by the Imperial forces in Oaxaca. He escaped and fought the battles of Tehuitzingo, Piaxtla, Tulcingo and Comitlipa. In 1866 Diaz formally declared his loyalty to Juarez. That same year he earned victories in Nochixtlan, Miahuatlan, la Carbonera and once again captures Oaxaca. He was then promoted to General. Also in 1866, Marshal Bezaine commander of the Imperial forces offered to surrender Mexico City him if Diaz withdrew support to Juarez. The offer was declined.
In 1867, Emperor Maximilian, offered Diaz the command of the Army and the imperial rendition to the liberal cause. Diaz refused both. He went on to win the final battle for Puebla on April 2, 1867.
He remained popular well after the defeat of the French and the death of Juarez in 1872.
In 1870 Diaz runs as presidential candidate against Juarez and Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada. In 1871 he claims fraud on the July elections won by Juarez who is confirmed as President by the Congress in October. In response, Diaz launches the Plan de la Noria (November 8th) supported by a number of rebellions across the country. In March of 1872 Diaz forces are defeated in the battle of La Bufa in Zacatecas. Following Juarez death on July 9th of that year Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada assumes the presidency and offers amnesty to the rebels. Diaz accepts in October and "retires" to the Hacienda de la Candelaria in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz.
In 1874 he is elected to congress for Veracruz. That year Lerdo de Tejada's government faces civil and military unrest, and offers Diaz the position as Ambassador to Germany which he refuses. In 1875 Diaz travels to New Orleans and Brownsville to plan a rebelion which is launched in Ojitlan, Oaxaca on January 10th, 1876 as the Plan de Tuxtepec.
After appointing himself President on November 29, 1876, he served one term and then dutifully stepped down in favor of Manuel González, one of his underlings. The four-year period that followed was marked by corruption and official incompetence, so that when Díaz stepped up in the next election he was a welcome replacement, and there was no remembrance of his "No Re-election" slogan. During this period the Mexican underground Political newspapers spread the new ironic slogan for the Porfirian times, based on the slogan "Sufragio Efectivo, No Reelección" (Effective votes, no re-election) and changed it to "Sufragio Efectivo No, Reelección" (Non-Effective votes, Re-election). In any case Díaz had the constitution amended, first to allow two terms in office, and then to remove all restrictions on re-elections.
He maintained power through manipulation of votes, but also through simple violence and assassination of his opponents, which consequently were small in number. He was a cunning politician and knew very well how to manipulate people to his advantage. A phrase used to describe the order of his rule was "Pan, o palo" ("Bread, or the stick"), meaning that one could either accept what was willing to be given, or face harsh consequences.
In 1899 he faced some small opposition from Bernardo Reyes, an official in his government, who decided to run for president after Díaz gave an interview in which he said he would allow the next election to be freely contested. In the end the attempt failed and Díaz forced Reyes into exile.
Díaz embarked on a program of modernization, attempting to bring Mexico up to the level of a modern state. His principal advisers were of a type called científicos, akin to modern economists, because they espoused a program of "scientific" modernization. These included the building of railroad and telegraph lines across the country, including the first Mexican railway between Veracruz and Mexico City. Under his rule the amount of track in Mexico increased tenfold; many of these rails remain in operation today without remodelling. He introduced the idea of steam machines and technological appliances in industry and invited and welcomed foreign investment in Mexico. He also encouraged the construction of factories in Mexico City. This resulted in the rise of an urban proletariat and the influx of foreign capital (principally from the United States).
The growing influence of U.S. businessmen, already a sore point in a Mexico that had lost much land to the United States, was a constant problem for Díaz. His modernization program was also at odds with the owners of the large plantations (haciendas) that had spread across much of Mexico. These rich plantation owners wanted to maintain their existing feudal system (peonage), and were reluctant to transform into the capitalist economy Díaz was pushing towards because it meant competing in a global market and contending with the monetary influence of businessmen from the United States.
Though he wished to modernize the country, Díaz by no means opposed the existence of the haciendas, and in fact supported them strongly throughout his rule. He appointed sympathetic governors and allowed the plantation owners to proceed with a slow campaign of encroachment onto collectively-owned village land, and enforced such seizure through his well-equipped rural police (rurales).
In a 1908 interview with the U.S. journalist James Creelman, Díaz stated that Mexico was ready for democracy and elections and that he would step down and allow other candidates to compete for the presidency. Francisco I. Madero answered the call for candidates. Although Madero was very similar to Díaz in his ideology, he hoped for other elites in Mexico to rule alongside the President, unlike Díaz. Díaz, however, did not approve of Madero and had him jailed during the election in 1910.
Despite this, the election went ahead. Madero had gathered much popular support, but when the official results were announced by the government, Díaz was proclaimed to have been reelected almost unanimously, with Madero gathering only a minuscule number of votes. This undisputable case of massive electoral fraud aroused widespread anger. Madero called for revolt against Díaz, and the Mexican Revolution began. Díaz was forced from office and fled the country for France in 1911.
In 1915, Díaz died in exile in Paris; he is buried there in the Cimetière du Montparnasse.