By Pablo De Sainz
In a way, the Mexican Revolution keeps repeating, without fail, every weekend in the Tijuana clubs on Revolution Avenue. All the drinking, noisy, and dancing college students, with their beer-pucked shirts, remind us of the bunch of drinking, noisy, and dancing little generals and soldiers who made, according to them, the so-called Mexican Revolution.
This Wednesday November 20th, Mexico will “celebrate” another anniversary of the beginning of the revolutionary armed struggle. In Tijuana, like in the rest of the country, many, if not all, government offices will be closed. Banks, too. The mayor will deliver a speech. Children won’t go to school. Instead, they’ll join the street parade to the sound of La Marcha de Zacatecas, played by a local high school’s banda de guerra. Everything will be a revolutionary celebration.
Everybody against everybody: A little bit of history
In 1910, things in Mexico weren’t good. The injustices against the vast majority of poor Mexicans (peasants, factory workers) on behalf of dictator Porfirio Díaz’s regime were getting worst everyday. Wealth in the bank accounts of the few. Hunger in the stomachs of many.
On November 20th of that year, Francisco I. Madero, a mellow short guy who was against Díaz and his injustices, organized a political movement that overthrew the dictator out of the country by force. (Little note: The “I” in Madero stands for Indalecio.)
That’s how the Mexican Revolution started.
A year later, in 1911, Madero was named president of the Republic, but there was little change. The movement had overthrown Díaz, but not his cabinet. All of his collaborators, assistants, and advisors, remained intact. And if that wasn’t enough, became part of Madero’s own cabinet.
The different revolutionary groups that helped Madero’s initial movement didn’t like that. To them, the little fellow wasn’t as radical. He was conforming with a half way change. That’s why he was taken out of office in 1913.
What came next was a real mess: revolutionary leaders like Victoriano Huerta and Venustiano Carranza got greedy with power and began killing off everybody who didn’t agree with them. Both became presidents of Mexico. Both were killed by bullets.
People would change parties like nothing. The revolutionaries would form a bunch that destroyed entire towns; the soldiers raped women, robed cattle and chickens, emptied houses. Everything in name of the little Revolution. And of their beloved generals.
Without a doubt, the most popular were Francisco Villa and his División del Norte, and Emiliano Zapata in the South. Men of complex character, today many opposite things are said about the two. On one side is Villa, the drunken northerner who “invaded” the United States; and on the other side is Zapata, the great Indigenous leader who fought for the peasants’ rights. Neither of the two became president. Both were killed by bullets.
The armed phase of the Revolution ended in 1920, or 10 years after it began.
For some Mexicans today, the Mexican revolution was a waste of time, money, and human lives. Many who think this way are intellectuals who’ve carefully and above all- critically studied Mexico’s history before and after the Revolution. Others, the majority, are common people who aren’t brainwashed and clearly see the reality: today a great number of Mexicans are suffering injustices and hunger, just like in don Porfirio’s times.
Larousse Dictionary defines revolución as “a violent change in the political, social or economic structures of a State.” If we go by this definition, it’s obvious that there was a revolution in Mexico, since changes did take place in politics, society and the economy after all this armed thing.
But the question many Mexicans ask is: Who did these changes benefit? The 1994 Zapatista Movement is a clear example that the ones who benefited were not the working classes.
Was it worth it: Cultural expression during and after the Revolution
But not everything was bullets and massacres during the Revolution. There are many cultural representations that reflect what has lived during and after the Mexican Revolution. Here are some of them:
*The Novel of the Revolution is a genre in Mexican Literature that has received much critical attention for its literary value. Mariano Azuela’s Los de abajo is a classic example of the great novel of the Revolution. It is still read with enthusiasm in U.S. universities.
*Corridos during the Revolution functioned as newspapers for the illiterate masses. Through their lines, people who didn’t know how to read, learned about battles.
*During the Golden Era in Mexican cinema, many movies had the Revolution as background. Pedro Infante, Maria Felix, Jorge Negrete, Pedro Armendariz, Antonio and Luis Aguilar: all of them were actors who starred in films filled with bullets and horses.
The Revolution (Avenue) Today
The streets of Tijuana everyday remind us of the heroes and villains of the Revolution: La Madero, la Constitución, la Zapata, la Flores Magón, la Cardenas…
But no other street in TJ reminds us so much of all the mess, the battles, the corridos, and the drunkenness on horse like Revolution Avenue.
La Revu, this November 20th and every weekend, will be a constant bunch of intoxicated little soldiers.