17.1 Revolution and Nationalism in Latin America

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.

Photo of Mexican men with rifles, gathered behind a stone wall.

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.


  • Identify causes and effects of the Mexican Revolution.
  • Analyze the effects of economic and political nationalism on Latin America.
  • Trace the changing relationship between Latin America and the United States.

Key Terms

  • Porfirio Díaz
  • hacienda
  • Emiliano Zapata
  • Venustiano Carranza
  • nationalization
  • Lázaro Cárdenas
  • economic nationalism
  • cultural nationalism
  • Good Neighbor Policy

The Mexican Revolution

Seeds of Discontent

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.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments