Week 8: Signs of Crisis in a Gilded Age

Having never learned or heard of Porfirio Diaz before last week’s reading, I genuinely thought he was a good leader and human being. In some respects, Diaz was a good leader, he was able to “modernize” Mexico and stabilize the economy. However, his government was anything but a democracy, it was a dictatorship with its own oppressive military. To add to Diaz’s blunders, he made a significant mistake in the Creelman interview by “impl[ying] that he was not going to run for re-election…declaring that the country was ready for a democracy”. But having already read this, millions of middle-class Mexicans wanted to take advantage of new opportunities in their political landscape. On the other hand, Diaz had other plans, he eventually threw his hat into the ring and won a rigged election by jailing and exiling the opposition leader, Francisco Madero. These series of events threw Mexico into turmoil with civil wars that had no end in sight.

Francisco (Pancho) Villa and Emiliano Zapata eventually took Mexico City with their peasant armies causing a social inversion between the rich and the poor. Dawson points out in Figure 5.1 and Figure 5.2, the “hint of discomfort” in Zapata’s eyes and that the “Zapatistas drinking chocolate seem nervous”. I thought these comments were unfair because they are only photographs. The reasoning that the Zapatistas left of their own accord through these two pictures is shoddy evidence. Although Dawson may be historically correct, using another human’s photogenic ability as evidence is unwarranted and unreasonable. Was there no better evidence than these two photographs?

Reading of the Buenos Aires general strike brings back distinct memories of social studies eleven and learning about the Winnipeg General Strike (coincidentally enough, both strikes happened in the same year, 1919). But what really struck me was the remarkably similar grievances that both workers really wanted, less hours, better working conditions, better wages, a union, and Sundays off. I see a real human connection looking at these two distinct situations, where workers in two completely different parts of the world, are asking for the exact same things. However, it must be said that the Buenos Aires general strike had far more tragic results than the Winnipeg General Strike.



2 thoughts on “Week 8: Signs of Crisis in a Gilded Age

  1. The Buenos Aires strike reminded me of the Winnipeg general strike too! It’s so interesting that both populations were fighting for similar basic rights (at the same time!) I also agree that the photographs aren’t the best supporting evidence for why the Zapatistas left the city, but they are strong symbols of the struggle going on during this period.

  2. I totally agree with you, the worst mistake of Porfirio Diaz was accepting that interview with Creelman. I think he accepted because he wanted to be seen as a true leader and a hero in front of many business men and investors from other countries, specially from the U.S.A. In those years, the Mexican government ruled by Diaz started to build many railroads, mines, agricultural spaces, among many others. It was obvious that he wanted to show everyone that the economy was stable and that people in Mexico were growing, for a simple reason: to attract the foreign investment.

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