By 1910, the dictator Porfirio Díaz had ruled Mexico for almost 35 years, winning re-election as president again and again. On the surface, Mexico enjoyed peace and economic growth. Díaz welcomed foreign investors who developed mines, built railroads, and drilled for oil.
Peasants joined the Mexican revolution in the hopes of improving their lives. Most were untrained and had few supplies, but they continued to fight for social, political, and economic change.
However, underneath the surface, discontent rippled through Mexico. The country's prosperity benefited only a small group. The majority of Mexicans were mestizos or Indian peasants who lived in desperate poverty. Most of these peasants worked on haciendas, or large plantations, controlled by the landowning elite.
Some peasants moved to cities, where they found jobs in factories, or worked in mines. Everywhere, they earned meager wages. In Mexican cities, middle-class liberals, who embraced the ideals of democracy, opposed the Díaz dictatorship.
The unrest boiled over in 1910 when Francisco Madero, a liberal reformer from an elite family, demanded free elections. After being imprisoned by Diaz, he hoisted the flag of revolution. Soon, revolutionaries all across Mexico joined Madero's cause. Faced with rebellion in several parts of the country, Díaz resigned in 1911.