Porfiriato – Concept, causes, characteristics and culture

We explain what the Porfiriato is, its history and the characteristics of this period. What were its causes, what was its culture and politics like.

José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori - porfiriato
The Porfiriato was under the control of the military José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori.

What is the Porfiriato?

It is known as the porfiriato or porfirismo a a period in the political history of Mexico during which the nation was under the iron and authoritarian control of the Oaxacan military man José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori (1830-1915). This period was key in the historical evolution of Mexico, especially as a prelude to the famous Mexican Revolution, and lasted between November 28, 1876 and May 25, 1911: dates in which the leader Porfirio Díaz began his first presidential term and in that he left the power fleeing towards France, respectively.

The Porfiriato was a particularly difficult period in Mexican political life, since a single political leader ruled the nation with an iron fist. Even when the presidency of the nation was occupied for four years by another military man, General Manuel González, it was Porfirio Díaz who pulled the strings of power, openly retaking the mandate right away.

History of the Porfiriato

Porfiriato - José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori
Porfirio Díaz’s dictatorship lasted 31 years.

Porfirio Díaz had been a prominent military man during the War of the Reform (1858-1861) and the Second French Intervention in Mexico (1862-1867), especially in the latter, where he received honors as a hero after recovering Mexico City and Puebla from foreign rule. Thanks to this he had access to politics, competing against Benito Juárez in 1867 and 1871, defeated on both occasions, and later also defeated by Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, after the death of Juárez, against whom he rebelled militarily in a context of extreme unpopularity. . Thanks to this coup, he reached the presidency of the nation in 1876, and except for the five years in which Manuel González ruled nominally, he has been in charge of the Mexican government ever since.

The Díaz dictatorship lasted 31 years. In his later days he reiterated that the country was already ready for democracy, but he never made any real attempt to leave power. When in 1910, at the age of 80, he again presented his candidacy for the presidencyThe discontent of these actions unleashed the rebellion of Francisco I. Madero on November 20 of that year, thus lighting the fuse of the coming Mexican Revolution. Having been defeated militarily and politically, Porfirio Díaz resigned the presidency the following year and left the country forever, thus ending the period of the porfirate.

Characteristics of the porfiriato

The porfirate was a dictatorship, and as such, it centralized power in the figure of Porfirio Díaz, whose will supplanted the guarantees established in the Constitution of the time, becoming the engine and steering wheel of the entire country. This it was possible because it was extremely popular with the military classSo he reformed the army at will and subordinated them to the federal police and a rural police with which he maintained order throughout the country. This did not prevent rebellions, uprisings, protests and conflicts, but none succeeded in shaking the government.

The continuity of the Porfiriato was translated into a material boom, the result of considerable advances in the economic field, the result of the opening to foreign investment and the liquidation of idle lands, sold to the highest bidder, generally to those who least needed them. . Crops (coffee, sugar, cotton) increased considerably, although not as much as mining activity (iron, copper, lead) and oil exploitation. At the same time, the government insisted on modernizing the country, investing in public works and expanding the railway network, for example, whose dimensions reached 23,000 km (compared to 617 km in 1876).

Causes of porfiriato

The Porfirio Díaz regime It had as its main cause the Tuxtepec Rebellion of 1876, in which the caudillo opposed the reelection of Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, motivated in part by the frustrations accumulated by Díaz in his successive electoral defeats, as well as by the reigning unpopularity of President Lerdo, derived from the grab of power by Juárez and his followers during the reinstatement of the Republic.

Culture during the Porfiriato

Education - porfiriato
Literature was one of the privileged arts during the Porfiriato.

During the Porfiriato in Mexico ruled a positivist philosophy, which stimulated the study of history, partly as a speech that allowed the national union. Díaz and González invested enormously in national education, in very modern terms: secular, free and compulsory, as established by the Regulatory Law of Education promulgated in 1891. The law was also presented to create the National University of Mexico, moving away from the influence of the Catholic Church and the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico, considered a viceregal symbol. Many of these changes were actually deepening of the previous administration of Benito Juárez.

Literature was one of the privileged arts during the Porfiriato. The foundation of the Liceo Miguel Hidalgo was, in this sense, decisive for the formation of young authors, influenced by Romanticism. What’s more, in 1867 the “Literary Evenings” had begun to be established. that they were groups of writers with a common aesthetic project, such as Guillermo Prieto, Manuel Payno, Ignacio Ramírez, Vicente Riva Palacio, Luis G. Urbina, Justo Sierra and Juan de Dios Peza.

On the other hand, the Teatro Chico Mexicano appeared, a form of popular theater that, along with muralism, would play an important role in the times of the Mexican Revolution.

Politics during the Porfiriato

As we have said, politics during the Porfiriato was a complicated issue, centralized in the will of the dictator and in his alliance with the military. Despite the fact that his arrival to power had taken place within the framework of an uprising against the reelection of Lerdo, in 1890 the Díaz government abolished all limitations on indefinite reelection, which was not well received by the sectors that opposed him.

The repression it was a common weapon of the state in those days, especially in the period from 1890 to 1908, in which his centralism, paternalism and authoritarianism were accentuated, all in favor of the forced pacification of the country.

The foreign policy of the Porfiriato always sought the recognition of foreign instances, being the last to admit its mandate Great Britain (1884), since Mexico had broken diplomatic relations with many of them during the signing of the London Convention, which caused the war of intervention. Interestingly, British and American capital were the most abundant in foreign investment during the Porfiriato.

How long did the Porfiriato last?

The Porfirio Díaz regime began in 1876 and formally culminated in his resignation in 1911. In total, the caudillo lasted 31 years formally in power and 35 directing the destiny of Mexico, 5 of which corresponded to the puppet government of Manuel González.