Porfirio Díaz

For the 2011 Colombian film, see Porfirio (film).
This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Díaz and the second or maternal family name is Mori.
Porfirio Díaz
29th President of Mexico
In office
1 December 1884  25 May 1911
Vice President Ramón Corral
Preceded by Manuel González
Succeeded by Francisco León de la Barra
In office
17 February 1877  1 December 1880
Preceded by Juan N. Méndez
Succeeded by Manuel González
In office
28 November 1876  6 December 1876
Preceded by José María Iglesias
Succeeded by Juan N. Méndez
Personal details
Born José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori
(1830-09-15)15 September 1830
Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico
Died 2 July 1915(1915-07-02) (aged 84)
Paris, France
Resting place Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris
Nationality Mexican
Political party National Porfirist Party
National Reelectionist Party (previously Liberal Party)
Spouse(s) Delfina Ortega Díaz (m. 1867–80); her death
Carmen Romero Rubio (m. 1881–1915); his death
Children Deodato Lucas Porfirio (1875–46)
Luz Aurora Victoria (1875–65)
Profession Military officer, politician.
Religion Roman Catholicism

José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori (Spanish pronunciation: [porˈfiɾjo ði.as]; 15 September 1830 – 2 July 1915) was a Mexican soldier and politician who served seven terms as President of Mexico, a total of three and a half decades from 1876 to 1911. A veteran of the Reform War and the French intervention in Mexico, Díaz rose to the rank of General, leading republican troops against the French-imposed Emperor Maximilian. Seizing power in a coup in 1876, Díaz and his allies ruled Mexico for the next thirty-five years, a period known as the Porfiriato.

Díaz is a controversial figure in Mexican history; while the Porfirian regime brought stability after decades of conflict, it grew unpopular due to civil repression and political stagnation. His economic policies largely benefitted his circle of allies as well as foreign investors, and helped a few wealthy estate owning hacendados acquire huge areas of land, leaving rural campesinos unable to make a living. Despite public statements favoring a return to democracy, Díaz declared himself the winner of an eighth term in office in 1910; his opponent, Francisco I. Madero, issued a call for armed rebellion against the regime, triggering the Mexican Revolution. After suffering a number of military defeats against Madero's forces, Díaz was forced to resign in May 1911 and went into exile in France, where he died four years later.

Early years

Birthplace of Díaz in Oaxaca city. It is now a primary school
María Mori Cortés, mother of Porfirio Díaz, in a photograph made around 1854 in Oaxaca.

Porfirio Díaz was the sixth of seven children, baptized on 15 September 1830, in Oaxaca, Mexico, but his actual date of birth is unknown.[1] September 15 is an important date in Mexican history, the eve of the date hero of independence Miguel Hidalgo issued his call for independence in 1810; when Díaz became president, the independence anniversary was commemorated on September 15 rather than the 16th, a practice that continues to the present era.[2] Díaz was a castizo (mostly European with some indigenous)[3] His mother, Petrona Mori (or Mory) was the daughter of a man whose father had immigrated from Spain and Tecla Cortés, an indigenous woman; Díaz's father was a Criollo.[3][4] There is confusion about his father's name, which is listed on the baptismal certificate as José de la Cruz Díaz, but is also known as José Faustino Díaz, who was a modest innkeeper and died of cholera when his son was three.[3][4]

Despite the family's difficult circumstances following Díaz's father's death in 1833, Díaz was sent to school at age 6.[5] In the early independence period, the choice of professions was narrow: lawyer, priest, physician, military. The Díaz family was devoutly religious, and Díaz began training for the priesthood at the age of fifteen when his mother, María Petrona Mori Cortés, sent him to the Colegio Seminario Conciliar de Oaxaca. He was offered a post as a priest in 1846, but important national events intervened. Seminary students volunteered as soldiers to repel the U.S. invasion during the Mexican–American War. Despite not seeing action, Díaz decided his future was in the military, not the priesthood.[5] Also in 1846, Díaz came into contact with a leading Oaxaca liberal, Marcos Pérez, who taught at the secular Institute of Arts and Sciences in Oaxaca. Another student there was had been Benito Juárez, who became governor of Oaxaca in 1847. Díaz met Juárez that year.[6] In 1849, over family objections Díaz abandoned his ecclesiastical career and entered the Instituto de Ciencias and studied law.[4][6] When Antonio López de Santa Anna returned to power via coup d'état in 1853, he suspended the 1824 constitution and persecuted liberals. At this point, Díaz had aligned himself with radical liberals (rojos), such as Benito Juárez. Juárez was forced into exile in New Orleans; Díaz supported the liberal Plan de Ayutla that called for the ouster of Santa Anna. Díaz evaded an arrest warrant and fled to the mountains of northern Oaxaca, where he joined the rebellion of Juan Álvarez.[7] In 1855, Díaz joined a band of liberal guerrillas who were fighting Santa Anna's government. After the ousting and exile of Santa Anna, Díaz was rewarded with a post in Ixtlán, Oaxaca that gave him valuable practical experience as an administrator.

Life as a military man and path to the presidency

The Third Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War, oil painting on canvas depicting an entrance of Porfirio Díaz to Puebla, April 2, 1867

Díaz’s military career is most noted for his service in the Reform War and the struggle against the French. By the time of the Battle of Puebla (5 May 1862), Mexico's great victory over the French when they first invaded, General Díaz had become the general in charge of an infantry brigade.[4][8]

During the Battle of Puebla, his brigade was placed in the center between the forts of Loreto and Guadalupe. From there, he successfully repelled a French infantry attack that was sent as a diversion to distract the Mexican commanders' attention from the forts that were the main target of the French army. In violation of the orders of General Ignacio Zaragoza, General Díaz and his unit fought off a larger French force and then chased after them. Despite Díaz’s inability to share control, General Zaragoza commended the actions of General Díaz during the battle as "brave and notable".

In 1863, Díaz was captured by the French Army. He escaped and was offered by President Benito Juárez the positions of secretary of defense or army commander in chief. He declined both, but took an appointment as commander of the Central Army. That same year, he was promoted to the position of Division General.

Colonel Porfirio Díaz, 1861. At this time, Díaz was a Federal Deputy and had participated in two wars, namely the Revolution of Ayutla (1854–55) and the War of the Reform (1857–1861).

In 1864, the conservatives supporting Emperor Maximilian asked him to join the Imperial cause. Díaz declined the offer. 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, Díaz formally declared loyalty. That same year, he earned victories in Nochixtlán, Miahuatlán, and La Carbonera, and once again captured Oaxaca. He was then promoted to general. Also in 1866, Marshal Bazaine, commander of the Imperial forces, offered to surrender Mexico City to Díaz if he withdrew support of Juárez. Díaz declined the offer. In 1867, Emperor Maximilian offered Díaz the command of the army and the imperial rendition to the liberal cause. Díaz refused both. Finally, on 2 April 1867, he went on to win the final battle for Puebla.

Five days later, Díaz married Delfina Ortega Díaz (1845–1880), the daughter of his sister Manuela Josefa Díaz Mori (1824–1856). Díaz and his niece would have seven children, but Delfina died due to complications of her seventh delivery.

When Juárez became the president of Mexico in 1868 and began to restore peace, Díaz resigned his military command and went home to Oaxaca. However, it did not take long before the energetic Díaz became unhappy with the Juárez administration.

In 1871, Díaz led a revolt against the re-election of Juárez. In March 1872, Díaz's forces were defeated in the battle of La Bufa in Zacatecas. Following Juárez's death on 9 July of that year, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada assumed the presidency and offered amnesty to the rebels. Díaz accepted in October and "retired" to the Hacienda de la Candelaria in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz. However, he remained very popular among the people of Mexico.

In 1874, he was elected to Congress from Veracruz. That year, Lerdo de Tejada's government faced civil and military unrest, and offered Díaz the position of ambassador to Germany, which he refused. In 1875, Díaz traveled to New Orleans and Brownsville, Texas to plan a rebellion, which was launched in Ojitlan, Oaxaca, on 10 January 1876 as the "Plan de Tuxtepec".

Díaz continued to be an outspoken citizen and led a second revolt against Lerdo de Tejada in 1876. This attempt also failed and Díaz fled to the United States of America.[4] His fight, however, was far from over.

Several months later, in November 1876, Díaz returned to Mexico and fought the Battle of Tecoac, where he defeated the government forces once and for all (on 16 November). Finally, on 12 May 1877, Díaz was elected president of Mexico for the first time.[4] His campaign of "no re-election", however, came to define his control over the state for more than thirty years.

The campaign of "no-reelection"

"Manifestación antireeleccionista" by José Guadalupe Posada

In 1870, Díaz ran as a presidential candidate against President Juárez and Vice President Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada. In 1871, he made claims of fraud in the July elections won by Juárez, who was confirmed as president by the Congress in October. In response, Díaz launched the Plan de la Noria on 8 November 1871, supported by a number of rebellions across the nation, including one by Manuel González of Tamaulipas, but this rebellion failed.[9] Following the death of Juárez in 1872, his vice president Lerdo became president. Lerdo offered amnesty to rebels, which Díaz accepted and took up residency in Veracruz.[9] In 1874, Díaz served in the legislature, representing Veracruz. Opposition to the presidency of Lerdo grew, particularly as anti-clericalism increased, labor unrest grew, and a major rebellion of the Yaqui in northwest Mexico under the leadership of Cajeme challenged central government rule there.[10]

Díaz saw an opportunity to plot a more successful rebellion, leaving Mexico in 1875 for New Orleans and Brownsville, Texas with his political ally Manuel González. In 1876, Díaz issued the Plan of Tuxtepec (a town in Oaxaca) as a call to arms against Lerdo, who was running for another presidential term. Lerdo was re-elected in July 1876, but rebellion and unrest both before and after the election forced Lerdo from office. In November 1876, Díaz occupied Mexico City, Lerdo left Mexico for exile in New York. Díaz did not take formal control of the presidency until the beginning of 1877, putting General Juan Méndez as provisional president, followed by new presidential elections in 1877 that gave Díaz the presidency. Ironically, one of his government's first amendments to the 1857 liberal constitution was to prevent re-election.[11]

Although the liberals had defeated the conservatives in the War of the Reform, the conservatives had been powerful enough still in the early 1860s to aid the imperial project of France that put Maximilian Habsburg as emperor of Mexico. With the fall of Maximilian, Mexican conservatives were cast as collaborators with foreign imperialists. With the return of the liberals under Benito Juárez, and following his death, liberals held power, but basic liberal goals of democracy, rule of law, and economic development were not reached.[12] Díaz saw his task in his term as president to create internal order so that economic development could be possible. As a military hero and astute politician, Díaz's eventual successful establishment of that peace (Pax Porfiriana) became "one of [Díaz's] principal achievements, and it became the main justification for successive re-elections after 1884."[12]

During his first term in office, Díaz developed a pragmatic and personalist approach to solve political conflicts. Although a political liberal who had stood with radical liberals in Oaxaca (rojos), he was not a liberal ideologue, preferring pragmatic approaches to issues. He was explicit about his pragmatism. He maintained control through generous patronage to political allies.[13] Although he was an authoritarian ruler, he maintained the structure of elections, so that there was the façade of liberal democracy. His administration became famous for their suppression of civil society and public revolts. One of the catch phrases of his later terms in office was the choice between "pan o palo", ("bread or the bludgeon")—that is, "benevolence or repression."[14] To secure U.S. government recognition of the Díaz regime, which had come to power by coup despite the later niceties of an election after Lerdo went into exile, Mexico paid $300,000 to settle claims by the U.S. In 1878, the U.S. government recognized the Díaz regime and former U.S. president and Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant visited Mexico.[15]

Díaz initially served only one term—having staunchly stood against Lerdo's re-election policy. Instead of running for a second term, he handpicked his successor, Manuel González, one of his trustworthy companions.[4] This side-step maneuver, however, did not mean that Díaz was stepping down from his powerful position. The four-year period that followed was marked by corruption and official incompetence, so that when Díaz stepped up in the election of 1884, he was welcomed by his people with open arms.[4] More importantly, very few people remembered his "No re-election" slogan that defined his previous campaign. 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" and changed it to "Sufragio Efectivo No, Reelección". In any case, Díaz had the constitution amended, first to allow two terms in office, and then to remove all restrictions on re-election.

Political career

Porfirio Díaz

Having created a band of military brothers, Díaz went on to construct a broad coalition.[16] 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 a beating" (literally "Bread or stick"), meaning that one could either accept what was given willingly (often a position of political power) or else face harsh consequences (often death). Either way, rising opposition to Díaz's administration was immediately quelled.[17]

Over the next twenty-six years as president, Díaz created a systematic and methodical regime with a staunch military mindset.[4] His first goal was to establish peace throughout Mexico. According to the late UCLA Spanish professor John A. Crow, Díaz "set out to establish a good strong paz porfiriana, or Porfirian peace, of such scope and firmness that it would redeem the country in the eyes of the world for its sixty-five years of revolution and anarchy."[17] His second goal was outlined in his motto – "little of politics and plenty of administration."[17]

Porfirio Díaz

In reality, he started a Mexican revolution; however, his fight for profits, control, and progress kept his people in a constant state of uncertainty. Díaz managed to dissolve all local authorities and all aspects of federalism that once existed. Not long after he became president, the leaders of Mexico were answering directly to him.[4] Those who held high positions of power, such as members of the legislature, were almost entirely his closest and most loyal friends. In his quest for even more political control, Díaz suppressed the media and controlled the court system.[4]

In order to secure his power, Díaz engaged in various forms of co-optation and coercion. He played his people like a board game – catering to the private desires of different interest groups and playing off one interest against another.[4] In order to satisfy any competing forces, such as the Mestizos and wealthier indigenous people, he gave them political positions of power that they could not refuse. He did the same thing with the elite Creole society by not interfering with their wealth and haciendas. Covering both pro and anti-clerical elements, Díaz was both the head of the Freemasons in Mexico and an important advisor to the Catholic bishops.[18] Díaz proved to be a different kind of Liberal than those of the past. He neither assaulted the Church (like most liberals) nor protected the Church.[16] As for the Native American population, who were historically repressed, they were almost completely depoliticized; neither put on a pedestal as the core of Mexican society nor suppressed, and were largely left to advance via their own means. In giving different groups with potential power a taste of what they wanted, Díaz created the illusion of democracy and quelled almost all competing forces.

Díaz knew that it was crucial for him to suppress banditry; he expanded the guardias rurales (countryside police), although it guarded chiefly only transport routes to major cities.[19] Díaz thus worked to enhance his control over the military and the police.[16]

From 1892 onwards, Díaz's perennial opponent was the eccentric Nicolás Zúñiga y Miranda, who lost every election but always claimed fraud and considered himself to be the legitimately elected president of Mexico.

Porfirio Díaz and the Catholic Church

Díaz came from a devoutly Catholic family; his uncle, José Agustín, was bishop of Oaxaca. Díaz had trained for the priesthood, and it seemed likely that was his career path. Oaxaca was a center of liberalism, and the founding of the Institute of Arts and Sciences, a secular institution, helped foster professional training for Oaxacan liberals, including Benito Juárez and Porfirio Díaz. Díaz was a Freemason, which did not necessarily put him at odds with the Catholic Church, but did give him access to a secret brotherhood of like-minded ambitious men.

Radical liberalism was anti-clerical, seeing the privileges of the Church as challenging the idea of equality before the law and individual, rather than corporate identity. The economic power of the Church was considered a detriment to modernization and development. The Church as a major corporate landowner and de facto banking institution shaped investments to conservative landed estates more than industry, infrastructure building, or exports. When Díaz abandoned his ecclesiastical career for one in the military, his powerful uncle disowned him.[20]

Unlike many doctrinaire liberals, Díaz was not virulently anti-clerical. However, powerful liberals following the ouster of Santa Anna had moved to implement legal measures to curtail the power of the Church. The Juárez Law abolished special privileges (fueros) of ecclesiastics and the military, and the lerdo law mandated disentailment of the property of corporations, specifically the Church and indigenous communities. The liberal constitution of 1857 removed the privileged position of the Catholic Church and opened the way to religious toleration, considering religious expression as freedom of speech. However, Catholic priests were ineligible for elective office, but could vote.[21] Conservatives fought back in the War of the Reform, under the banner of religión y fueros (that is, Catholicism and special privileges of corporate groups), but they were defeated in 1861. Conservatives unsuccessfully tried again with the French Intervention (1862–67) to reinstate the dominance of the Church.

Following the fall of the Second Empire in 1867, liberal presidents Benito Juárez and his successor Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada began implementing the anti-clerical measures of the constitution. Lerdo went further, extending the laws of the Reform to formalize: separation of Church and State; civil marriage as the only valid manner for State recognition; prohibitions of religious corporations to acquire real estate; elimination from legal oaths any religious element, but only a declaration to tell the truth; and the elimination of monastic vows as legally binding.[22] Further prohibitions on the Church in 1874 included: the exclusion of religion in public institutions; restriction of religious acts to church precincts; banning of religious garb in public except within churches; and prohibition of the ringing of church bells except to summon parishioners.[23]

Díaz was a political pragmatist and not an ideologue, likely seeing that the religious question re-opened political discord in Mexico. When he rebelled against Lerdo, Díaz had at least the tacit and perhaps even the explicit support of the Church.[24] When he came to power in 1877, Díaz left the anti-clerical laws in place, but no longer enforced them as state policy, leaving that to individual Mexican states. This led to the re-emergence of the Church in many areas, but in others a less full role. The Church flouted the Reform prohibitions against wearing clerical garb, there were open-air processions and Masses, and religious orders existed.[25] The Church also recovered its property, sometimes through intermediaries, and tithes were again collected.[25] The Church regained its role in education, with the complicity of the Díaz regime which did not put money into public education. The Church also regained its role in running charitable institutions.[26] Despite an increasingly visible role of the Catholic Church during the Porfiriato, the Vatican was unsuccessful in getting the reinstatement of a formal relationship between the papacy and Mexico, and the constitutional limitations of the Church as an institution remained the law of the land.[27]

In Díaz's personal life, it is clear that religion still mattered and that fierce anti-clericalism could have a high price. In 1870, his brother Félix, a fellow liberal, who was then governor of Oaxaca, had rigorously applied the anti-clerical laws of the Reform. In the rebellious and supposedly idolatrous town of Juchitán in Tehuantepec, Félix Díaz had "roped the image of the patron saint of Juchitán … to his horse and dragged it away, returning the saint days later with its feet cut off".[28] When Félix Díaz had to flee Oaxaca City in 1871 following Porfirio's failed coup against Juárez, Félix ended up in Juchitán, where the villagers killed him, doing to his body even worse than he did to their saint.[28] Having lost a brother to the fury of religious peasants, Díaz had a cautionary tale about the dangers of enforcing anti-clericalism. Even so, it is clear that Díaz wanted to remain in good standing with the Church. In 1879, when his wife died in childbirth, he wrote a private letter to Church officials renouncing the Laws of the Reform, which allowed his wife to be buried with Catholic rites on sacred ground.[29] When Díaz remarried in 1881, to Carmen Romero Rubio, the 17-year-old daughter of one of his advisors, Oaxaca cleric Father Eulogio Gillow gave his blessing. Gillow was later appointed archbishop of Oaxaca. Doña Carmen is credited with bringing Díaz into closer reconciliation with the Church, but Díaz was already inclined in that direction.[30]

This modus vivendi between Díaz and the Church had pragmatic and positive consequences. Díaz did not publicly renounce liberal anti-clericalism, meaning that the Constitution of 1857 remained in place, but neither did he enforce its anti-clerical measures. Conflict could reignite, but it was to the advantage of both Church and the Díaz government for this arrangement to continue. If the Church did counter Díaz, he had the constitutional means to rein in its power. The Church regained considerable economic power, with conservative intermediaries holding lands for it. The Church remained important in education and charitable institutions. Other important symbols of the normalization of religion in late 19th century Mexico included: the return of the Jesuits (expelled by the Bourbon monarchy in 1767); the crowning of the Virgin of Guadalupe as "Queen of Mexico"; and the support of Mexican bishops for Díaz's work as peacemaker.[30] Not surprisingly, when the Mexican Revolution broke out in 1910, the Catholic Church was a staunch supporter of Díaz.[31]

Economic development under Díaz

Crow states, "It was the golden age of Mexican economics, 3.2 dollars per peso. Mexico was compared economically to economic powers of the time such as France, Great Britain, and Germany. For some Mexicans, there was no money and the doors were thrown open to those who had."[17] Also, economic progress varied drastically from region to region. The north was defined by mining and ranching while the central valley became the home of large-scale farms for wheat and grain and large industrial centers.[16]

The Juárez Theatre.

One component of economic growth involved stimulating foreign investment in the Mexican mining sector. Through tax waivers and other incentives, investment and growth were effectively realized. The desolate region of Baja California Sur benefited from the establishment of an economic zone with the founding of the town of Santa Rosalía and the commercial development of the El Boleo copper mine. This came about when Díaz granted a French mining company a 70-year tax waiver in return for its substantial investment in the project. In a similar fashion, the city of Guanajuato realized substantial foreign investment in local silver mining ventures. The city subsequently experienced a period of prosperity, symbolized by the construction of numerous landmark buildings, most notably, the magnificent Juárez Theatre.

Because Díaz had created such an effective centralized government, he was able to concentrate decision-making and maintain control over the economic instability.[16] This instability arose largely as a result of the dispossession of hundreds of thousands of peasants of their land. Communal indigenous landholdings were privatized, subdivided, and sold. The Porfiriato thus generated a stark contrast between rapid economic growth and sudden, severe impoverishment of the rural masses, a situation that was to explode in the Mexican revolution of 1910.[32]

Collapse of the regime

Díaz – Creelman interview, Pearson's Magazine, 1908.

On 17 February 1908, in an interview with the U.S. journalist James Creelman of Pearson's Magazine, Díaz stated that Mexico was ready for democracy and elections and that he would retire and allow other candidates to compete for the presidency.[4] Without hesitation, several opposition and pro-government groups united to find suitable candidates who would represent them in the upcoming presidential elections. Many liberals formed clubs supporting the governor of Nuevo León, Bernardo Reyes, as a candidate for the presidency. Despite the fact that Reyes never formally announced his candidacy, Díaz continued to perceive him as a threat and sent him on a mission to Europe, so that he was not in the country for the elections.

I have no desire to continue in the Presidency. This nation is ready for her ultimate life of freedom.
 Díaz declarations to journalist James Creelman in 1908.[33]
Since I am responsible for bringing several billion dollars in foreign investments into my country, I think I should continue in my position until a competent successor is found.
 Díaz declarations to John Hays Hammond at the summit with Pres. Taft in 1909.[34]

In 1909, Díaz and William Taft, the then president of the United States, planned a summit in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a historic first meeting between a U.S. president and a Mexican president and also the first time an American president would cross the border into Mexico.[35] Díaz requested the meeting to show U.S. support for his planned eighth run as president, and Taft agreed to support Díaz in order to protect the several billion dollars of American capital then invested in Mexico.[36] Both sides agreed that the disputed Chamizal strip connecting El Paso to Ciudad Juárez would be considered neutral territory with no flags present during the summit, but the meeting focused attention on this territory and resulted in assassination threats and other serious security concerns.[37] The Texas Rangers, 4,000 U.S. and Mexican troops, U.S. Secret Service agents, FBI agents and U.S. marshals were all called in to provide security.[38] An additional 250 private security detail led by Frederick Russell Burnham, the celebrated scout, were hired by John Hays Hammond, a close friend of Taft from Yale and a former candidate for U.S. Vice-President in 1908 who, along with his business partner Burnham, held considerable mining interests in Mexico.[39][40][41] On October 16, the day of the summit, Burnham and Private C.R. Moore, a Texas Ranger, discovered a man holding a concealed palm pistol standing at the El Paso Chamber of Commerce building along the procession route.[42] Burnham and Moore captured and disarmed the assassin within only a few feet of Díaz and Taft.[43]

According to Crow, "A cautious but new breath entered the prostrate Mexican underground. Dark undercurrents rose to the top."[44] As groups began to settle on their presidential candidate, Díaz decided that he was not going to retire but rather allow Francisco Madero, an aristocratic but democratically leaning reformer, to run against him. Although Madero, a landowner, was very similar to Díaz in his ideology, he hoped for other elites in Mexico to rule alongside the president. Ultimately, however, Díaz did not approve of Madero and had him jailed during the election in 1910. Despite what he had formerly said about democracy and change, sameness seemed to be the only reality.

Porfirio Díaz and his wife Carmen Romero Rubio with other members of the Porfirian ruling faction

Despite this, the election went ahead. Madero had gathered much popular support, but when the government announced the official results, Díaz was proclaimed to have been re-elected almost unanimously, with Madero gathering only a minuscule number of votes. This case of massive electoral fraud aroused widespread anger throughout the Mexican citizenry.[4] Madero called for revolt against Díaz, and the Mexican Revolution began. Díaz was forced from office and fled the country for Spain on May 31, 1911.[45]

On 2 July 1915, Díaz died in exile in Paris. He is buried there in the Cimetière du Montparnasse (where Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir are also buried). He was survived by his second wife (María del Carmen Romero-Rubio Castelló, 1864–1944) and two of his children (Deodato Lucas Porfirio Díaz Ortega, 1873–1946, and Luz Aurora Victoria Díaz Ortega, 1875–1965). His other five children died as infants. His widow was allowed to return to Mexico in the 1940s under the presidency of Manuel Ávila Camacho.[46]

In 1938, the 430-piece collection of arms of the late General Porfirio Díaz was donated to the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario.[47]


Celebration of Mexico's first one hundred years of Independence in 1910, Porfirio Díaz (left) and Enrique Creel (center)

The legacy of Díaz has undergone revision since the 1990s. In Díaz's lifetime before his ouster, there was an adulatory literature, which has been named "Porfirismo". The vast literature that characterizes him as a ruthless tyrant and dictator has its origins in the late period of Díaz's rule and has continued to shape Díaz's historical image. In recent years, however, Díaz's legacy has been re-evaluated by Mexican historians, most prominently by Enrique Krauze, in what has been termed "Neo-Porfirismo".[48][49][50] As Mexico pursued a neoliberal path under President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the modernizing policies of Díaz that opened Mexico up to foreign investment fit with the new pragmatism of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Díaz was characterized as a far more benign figure for these revisionists.

With the wave of anti-Americanism in 2003, the following words of Diaz were recalled: "Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States.”[51]

Attempts to Return Remains to Mexico

There have been several attempts to bring back to Mexico the remains of Don Porfirio Díaz, since the 1920s to the 1980s. The most recent movement started in 2014 in Oaxaca by the Comisión Especial de los Festejos del Centenario Luctuoso de don Porfirio Díaz Mori, which is headed by Francisco Jiménez. According to some, the fact that Díaz's remains have not been returned to Mexico "symbolises the failure of the post-Revolutionary state to come to terms with the legacy of the Díaz regime."[46][52]

Orders and decorations

Porfirio Díaz with the Piedra del Sol.

List of notable foreign orders awarded to President Díaz:[53]

Country Awards
Austria-Hungary Austria-HungaryGrand Cross of the Royal Hungarian Order of St. Stephen
Belgium BelgiumGrand Cordon of the Order of Leopold
Qing dynasty Qing Dynasty (China) First Class Condecoration of the Imperial Order of the Double Dragon
France FranceNapoleon I's Austerlitz sword
Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour
Kingdom of Italy Kingdom of ItalyKnight of the Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus
Empire of Japan Empire of JapanGrand Cordon of the Order of the Chrysanthemum
Netherlands NetherlandsKnight Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion
Qajar Dynasty (Persia)First Class Condecoration with Grand Cordon of the Order of the Lion and the Sun
Kingdom of Prussia Kingdom of PrussiaGrand Cross of the Order of the Red Eagle
Portugal Kingdom of PortugalGrand Cross of the Order of the Tower and Sword
Russian Empire Russian EmpireStar of the Imperial Order of St. Alexander Nevsky
Spain SpainGrand Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic
Grand Cross of the Order of Military Merit
SwedenKnight of the Order of the Sword
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland United KingdomKnight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath
Venezuela VenezuelaFirst Class of the Order of the Liberator
Hawaii Kingdom of HawaiiGrand Cross of the Royal Order of Kalākaua I

In popular culture

The main Mexican holiday is the Day of Independence, celebrated on September 16. Americans are more familiar with the Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the date of the Battle of Puebla, in which Díaz participated, when a major victory was won against the French. Under the Porfiriato, the Mexican Consuls in the United States gave Cinco de Mayo more importance than the Day of Independence due to the President's personal involvement in the events. It is still widely celebrated in the United States, although largely due to cultural permeation.


See also

Further reading



  1. Garner (2001), pp. 25, 44, n.4
  2. Garner (2001), p. 21
  3. 1 2 3 Garner (2001), p. 25
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Britannica (1993), p. 70
  5. 1 2 Garner (2001), p. 26
  6. 1 2 Garner (2001), p. 27
  7. Garner (2001), pp. 35, 241
  8. Garza, James A., "Porfirio Díaz" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997, p. 406.
  9. 1 2 Garner (2001), p. 245
  10. Garner (2001), p. 246
  11. Garner (2001), p. 247
  12. 1 2 Garner (2001), p. 69
  13. Garner (2001), p. 70
  14. Krauze (1997), p. 212
  15. Garner (2001), pp. 247–248
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 Skidmore & Smith (1989)
  17. 1 2 3 4 Crow (1992)
  18. Zayas Enríquez, Rafael (1908). Porfirio Díaz. p. 31.
  19. Vanderwood (1970)
  20. Krauze (1997), p. 213
  21. Mecham (1934), p. 437
  22. Mecham (1934), p. 454
  23. Mecham (1934), pp. 454–455
  24. Mecham (1934), p. 456
  25. 1 2 Mecham (1934), p. 457
  26. Mecham (1934), pp. 457–459
  27. Mecham (1934), p. 459
  28. 1 2 Krauze (1997), p. 226
  29. Cited in Krauze (1997), p. 227
  30. 1 2 Krauze (1997), pp. 227–228
  31. Mecham (1934), p. 460
  32. Eakin (2007), p. 26
  33. Creelman, James. "President Díaz Hero of the Americas". Pearson's Magazine. p. 243. Retrieved December 16, 2008.
  34. López Obrador (2014)
  35. Harris & Sadler (2009), p. 1
  36. Harris & Sadler (2009), p. 2
  37. Harris & Sadler (2009), p. 14
  38. Harris & Sadler (2009), p. 15
  39. Hampton (1910)
  40. van Wyk (2003), pp. 440–446
  41. "Mr. Taft's Peril; Reported Plot to Kill Two Presidents". Daily Mail. London. October 16, 1909. ISSN 0307-7578.
  42. Hammond (1935), pp. 565-566
  43. Harris & Sadler (2009), p. 213
  44. Crow (1992), p. 673
  45. "Gen. Diaz Departs and Warns Mexico". New York Times. May 31, 1911. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
  46. 1 2 Garner (2001), p. 12
  47. http://www.rmcc.forces.gc.ca/cam/mus/collecti-eng.php Royal Military College of Canada arms of late General Porfirio Díaz
  48. Garner (2001), pp. 1–17
  49. Krauze (1987)
  50. Krauze (1997), Chapter 9, "The Triumph of the Mestizo", pp. 205-244
  51. Peter H. Merkl, The Distracted Eagle: The Rift between America and Old Europe, (Routeledge, London & New York, 2005), p 31.
  52. Krauze (1987), p. 150
  53. Porfirio Díaz el soldado más condecorado de México


  • Crow, John A. (1992). The Epic of Latin America. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-07723-7. 
  • Eakin, Marshall C. (2007). The History of Latin America. New York, NY: Palgrave. ISBN 1-4039-8081-0. 
  • Garner, Paul (2001). Porfirio Díaz. Pearson. 
  • Hammond, John Hays (1935). The Autobiography of John Hays Hammond. New York: Farrar & Rinehart. ISBN 978-0-405-05913-1. 
  • Hampton, Benjamin B. (April 1, 1910). "The Vast Riches of Alaska". Hampton's Magazine. 24 (1). 
  • Harris, Charles H. III; Sadler, Louis R. (2009). The Secret War in El Paso: Mexican Revolutionary Intrigue, 1906-1920. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 978-0-8263-4652-0. 
  • Keyes, Ralph (2006). The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When. New York, NY: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-34004-4. 
  • Krauze, Enrique (1987). Porfirio Díaz: Místico de la Autoridad. Mexico. 
  • Krauze, Enrique (1997). Mexico: Biography of Power, A History of Modern Mexico, 1810-1996. New York, NY: Harper Collins. 
  • Mecham, J. Lloyd (1934). Church and State in Latin America. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. 
  • López Obrador, Andrés Manuel (2014). Neoporfirismo: Hoy como ayer. Grijalbo. ISBN 9786073123266. 
  • Skidmore, Thomas; Smith, Peter H. (1989). Modern Latin America. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505534-9. 
  • Vanderwood, Paul (1970). "Genesis of the Rurales: Mexico's Early Struggle for Public Security". Hispanic American Historical Review. 50 (2): 323–344. JSTOR 2513029. 
  • van Wyk, Peter (2003). Burnham: King of Scouts. Victoria, B.C., Canada: Trafford Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4120-0901-0. 
  • "Porfirio Díaz". The New Encyclopædia Britannica (15th ed.). 1993. Retrieved March 15, 2012. 

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Porfirio Diaz.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Porfiriato.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Porfirio Díaz
Political offices
Preceded by
José María Iglesias
President of Mexico
28 November – 6 December 1876
Succeeded by
Juan N. Méndez
Preceded by
Juan N. Méndez
President of Mexico
17 February 1877 – 1 December 1880
Succeeded by
Manuel González Flores
Preceded by
Manuel González Flores
President of Mexico
1 December 1884 – 25 May 1911
Succeeded by
Francisco León de la Barra

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