A Complex Struggle

Madero became president of Mexico, but he turned out to be too liberal for conservatives and not radical enough for the revolutionaries. In 1913, he was murdered by one of his generals, Victoriano Huerta. Huerta ruled as a military dictator, but was quickly faced with rebellion.

During a long, complex power struggle, several radical leaders emerged. They sometimes joined forces but then fought each other. In southern Mexico, Emiliano Zapata led a peasant revolt. Zapata, an Indian peasant farmer, understood the misery of peasant villagers. The battle cry of the Zapatistas, as these rebels were called, was “Tierra y libertad!” which means “land and freedom.”

Francisco “Pancho” Villa, a hard-riding rebel from the north, fought mostly for personal power but won the intense loyalty of his peasant followers. Villa and Zapata formed an uneasy coaltion with Venustiano Carranza, a rich landowner who wanted political reform but opposed social change.

Photo of a man in a hat, field uniform, and boots, riding a horse in the western style, as other men observe. Inscription reads Madero at the head of his forces.

Francisco Madero served as president for less than two years before he was overthrown. Though he accomplished little, he remained an inspiration to revolutionaries.

Fighting flared across Mexico for a decade, killing as many as a million Mexicans. Peasants, small farmers, ranchers, and urban workers were drawn into the violent struggle. Soldaderas, women soldiers, cooked, tended the wounded, and even fought alongside men.

During the revolution, President Woodrow Wilson of the United States twice sent troops to Mexico. In 1914, U.S. forces helped depose, or remove, Huerta. In 1916, they tried to hunt down Pancho Villa, whose raid into New Mexico had killed 16 Americans. After the overthrow of Huerta, Carranza turned on Villa and Zapata and defeated them. In 1917, Carranza was elected president of Mexico. That year, he reluctantly signed a new constitution.

Economic and Social Reforms

Venustiano Carranza had called for a new constitution during the Mexican Revolution. But he did not like the one he had reluctantly signed in 1917 and did not institute its reforms. In 1920, rival revolutionaries arranged for his assassination. The constitution, however, survived. With some revisions, it is still in effect today.

Photo of men standing behind a series of desks. The men wear three-piece suits and military uniforms.

During the Constitutional Convention in Querétaro, Venustiano Carranza chaired the committee that drafted the Constitution of 1917. The Congress approved it on February 5, 1917.

The Constitution of 1917

The Constitution of 1917 addressed three major issues: land, religion, and labor. The constitution strengthened government control over the economy.


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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