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Generational Country Study: Mexico

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Map of Mexico
Map of Mexico

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Generational Crisis Wars

-- Mexico: War of Independence -- 1810-1821
-- Mexico: Mexican Revolution -- 1910-1921

Brief Generational History - updated 7-June-2008

(Note: The following timeline has to be reworked to focus more sharply on the fault line between the "Conservatives" (European descendants) and the "Liberals" (descendants of indigenous Aztec and Mayan groups).)

1808-1829: War of Independence (Crisis Era)

Encouraged by growing instability in Spain stemming from a Madrid revolt, pro-independence forces in Mexico began mobilizing for a massive rebellion. In 1810 Father Miguel Hidalgo launched the uprising, and despite his execution a year later, the struggle repeatedly found new champions during the next decade. Independence was finally achieved when General Agustín de Iturbide, a former pro-Spanish royalist, signed an 1821 compromise by which Mexico would gain self-rule as a limited monarchy with relative class equality. Iturbide ruled as emperor for just a year before being forced to abdicate to Guadalupe Victoria as the first President of the Republic. Gray Champion: Miguel Hidalgo Child Generation: The Reform Generation (Artist) of 1857-1872 President Benito Juárez grew up watching colonial rule fall and a new republic struggle with an extraordinarily rough post-independence. Later in life they broke free from a painful coming-of-age to become the great reformers of the liberal era, helping dislodge the European monarchy and always working to improve Mexican society for the masses.

1829-1855: Divisions & Mexican-American War (Recovery Era)

In one of the world’s most troubled Recovery eras of all time, Mexico found itself immediately confronted with daunting challenges, including an anemic economy, deep and ever-worsening political fault lines, and a northern rebellion originating in Texas. War with the United States was further disastrous for the new nation, though it did have a temporary unifying effect in reconfirming Mexico’s independence and reviving feelings of national pride. Child Generation: The Porfirio Generation (Prophet) is so named because of its most famous member, longtime President Díaz. They were raised with unusual protection for a Prophet generation due to the harsh conditions of Mexico’s first Recovery, and came of age with passionate pro-individual politics. As youth they fought in both the Reform War and against Maximilian’s European monarchy, and later became the great moralists of the Porfiriato, debating with staunch conviction the merits of Díaz’s dictatorship and the state of the nation.

1855-1884: Era of Reform (Awakening Era)

This Awakening began with the overthrow (in the Revolution of Ayutla) of longtime on-again, off-again President Antonio López de Santa Anna by liberals and the subsequent Reform War which prompted European intervention. The overthrow of the short-lived Maximilian monarchy in 1862 ushered in a new era of liberal dominance and social reforms. The mood began to soften when General Porfirio Díaz won power in an 1876 rebellion, and ended when he re-won power (this time for good) in 1884. Child Generation: The Revolutionary Generation (Nomad) was nearly abandoned as children as internal ideological wars dominated Mexican life. They came of age seen by their elders as undereducated and under-civilized ruffians, and later in life produced the key figures of the Mexican Revolution, from the populist Francisco Madero to the ruthless Victoriano Huerta, the radical Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, and the pragmatic Plutarco Elías Calles.

1884-1910: The Porfiriato (Unraveling Era)

Díaz’s long hold on the presidency is known as the Porfiriato era. While he presided over prosperity, peace, and strong economic growth, his business-friendly policies widened class divisions and income gaps, as well as badly hurting rural agricultural workers. By the end of the Porfiriato, dissatisfaction with Díaz’s dictatorial regime was fomenting an underground revolutionary movement. Child Generation: The PRI Generation (Hero) of Lázaro Cárdenas and Adolfo Ruiz Cortines grew up with increasing protection while class, racial, and ideological tensions rose steadily within an anxious populace and an eerie political calm. They came of age as determined foot soldiers for battling camps in the Revolution; later in life, they were the hubristic and ambitious leaders of one-party Mexico, popular during the PRI’s peacetime heyday but attacked as student activity grew and ubiquitous corruption was challenged.

1910-1929: Mexican Revolution (Crisis Era)

In 1910, Díaz allowed the first election since retaking power in 1884. When his nearly unanimous (and likely fraudulent) victory against challenger Francisco Madero was announced, Madero organized a revolt which brought him to power. The next decade brought repeated coups and constant instability and bloodshed as different factions – radicals, liberals, and otherwise – fought for power. Then the Cristero War violently reintroduced the role of the Catholic Church as a fundamental question. Finally the mood eased when Plutarco Elías Calles managed to create a new political system which would ensure stability and peace through “puppet presidents” and a new party machine. Gray Champion / Defining Leader: ? Child Generation: The Stifled Generation (Artist) was overprotected as Mexico endured a bloody and destructive period of civil war and thorough national upheaval. They came of age while leaders confidently pursued a popular agenda and the country witnessed its most agreeable economy since independence. Later in life, as some remained technocrats and apologists, many broke free from a stilted and quiet youth to become the most articulate and impassioned advocates of reform.

1929-1946: El Milagro Mexicano (Recovery Era)

In 1929 Calles founded the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), which would govern Mexico for seven full decades. Under the reformist leadership of early PRI presidents, society saw impressive economic growth and grand government projects which sought to improve life for the common people. At the same time, the PRI machine grew entrenched and corrupt through infiltration of local bureaucracy. Child Generation: The Protest Generation (Prophet) was raised with increasing looseness during a Recovery which has sometimes been called the Mexican Renaissance. Coming of age, however, they rebelled as students against the corruption and perceived amorality of Mexican society under the PRI. Later in life, they became the first generation in 71 years to elect leaders of other parties, and are today seen as moralists (Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas), stabilizers (Vicente Fox), and unwitting visionaries (Miguel de la Madrid).

1946-1968: Tlatelolco Awakening (Awakening Era)

Resistance to the establishment grew slowly as local riots and student protests mounted and spread. Major reforms were passed under the presidency of Adolfo Ruiz Cortines, who not only passed women’s suffrage but attempted to clean up his party and root out corruption (such as la mordida, the custom of small bribes paid by ordinary citizens to “keep the engine running”) before it became insurmountable. His agenda was eroded by successive presidents, allowing popular furor to reach a traumatic climax when thousands of students were shot at in a 1968 protest at Tlatelolco Square. Child Generation: The Resistance Generation (Nomad) was underprotected while young, and came of age being called, variably, lazy, disengaged, apathetic, and even stupid. In midlife they became the impetus for political change (as the heart of 1990s resistance to the PRI), and as leaders – whether tough-on-crime conservatives or neo-revolutionaries – they have retained reputations both (positively) as shrewd and gritty pragmatists, and (negatively) as demagogues.

1968-1988: The Malaise (Unraveling Era)

The tragedy at Tlatelolco killed organized resistance and allowed PRI rule to continue by default. Economic crisis became standard every six years when one PRI president would be succeeded by another. While leaders struggled with complex demographic challenges and widening class divisions, apathy surged; even the discovery of oil could not shake the public’s mounting pessimism. By the late 1980s, the PRI was clearly beginning to fracture, and a mandate for change was becoming apparent. Child Generation: The ? Generation (Hero) grew up with increasing protection in an era of gradual social decay as elections were conducted without opposition, economic issues postponed for the next president, and an omnipresent pessimism stagnated Mexican society from advancing. The disastrous 1985 Mexico City Earthquake, hitting as this generation was finishing its childhood, influenced them enormously, and catalyzed the public pressure for reform in the late 1980s. As the youth vote in the 2000 election, they helped overthrow the PRI and radically reshape Mexican politics.

1988-present?: Fall of the PRI (Limbo Era)

The 1988 election, the first true multiparty contest since the Revolution, was marred by fraud, and the official victory of yet another PRI candidate did nothing to slake a growing hunger for change. 1994 was marked by an armed rebellion by radicals in Chiapas, a peso collapse, and another tense election. By the late 1990s, opposition parties were winning significant minorities in Congress, and 2000 was the first election in a saeculum to produce a non-PRI president – Vicente Fox of the conservative PAN. An election no less contentious than 1988 occurred in 2006 between the PAN’s Felipe Calderón and Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the leftist PRD. Calderón’s narrow victory in a regionally and ethnically divided vote has served to raise tensions, while the new leader pursues an aggressive agenda of cracking down on drugs, crime, and insurrections. It is not clear whether this turning has been a continued Unraveling or a Crisis. -- Nathaniel Ament-Stone

Article Cross-References

-- Teen "emo subculture" creating violent fault line in Mexico City: The depressive 'emotive' music style is also being blamed for suicides in Europe. (25-May-2008)
-- UN World Food Program to institute food rationing: Surging food prices are causing food riots around the world. (26-Feb-08)
-- Immigration: Xenophobia and paranoia growing rapidly as "Great American Boycott" approaches: In what appears to be a sea change in public attitude, (30-Apr-06)
-- Mass Latino demonstrations protest proposed immigration bill: The fury between Latinos and non-Latinos has substantially increased in the last few months, (28-Mar-06)
-- Violence increases throughout Mexico as illegals pour across U.S. border: It's been 85 years since the end of the Mexican Revolution, (25-Aug-05)

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