Mexican Presidents. Perhaps the most well known of the presidents of Mexico are those that ruled up to and during the Mexican Revolution.
Ever since gaining independence from the Spanish Empire in 1821, Mexico has seen many different heads of state take the reins of the country, some of which are now honored by the Mexican people, others hated. Since its founding as an independent country, Mexico has been ruled by emperors, presidents and regents, each with different ideas and objectives for their country. Since the end of the Mexican Revolution, within the framework of the Constitution of 1917, the Mexican presidency found stability. Today, the powers of the president have been clearly delimited along with one term limit of 6 years. All of this to try and avoid the dictatorship-like presidencies that Mexico experienced in the past.
Perhaps the most well known of the presidents of Mexico are those that ruled up to and during the Mexican Revolution. The Revolution began with the overthrow of Porfirio Díaz, who had been in power for almost 30 years. He was a very powerful leader (too powerful in most people's opinion) that counted on the full support of the military. He controlled everything in the country, including the courts and the media, and was accused of fraud. Diaz allowed the elite to become very rich while the poor became even poorer, particularly the indigenous Mexican people. Although today he is considered as a dictator, his time in office was marked by contrasts: he increased stability and modernization in the country as well as improving the economy significantly. All of this came at the cost of an enormous social divide between rich and poor which became unsustainable. By 1910, Mexico was ready for change, and it was Francisco I. Madero who helped bring it about.
After a short term by Francisco Léon de la Barra, Madero took the presidency, promising more rights and a better quality of life for the working class of Mexico, despite coming from a very wealthy family himself. Madero was elected as president in 1911 with more than 90% of the vote, however, what he had promised proved to be too difficult to put into practice. The allies of Díaz were against him for overthrowing the regime and now his former supporters were turning against him too, feeling that they had been let down. In 1913, he was assassinated in coup by Victoriano Huerta, who was a general and commander of the troops in Mexico City. Despite his relatively short and fruitless time in office, Madero will always be remembered as one of the main protagonists of the Revolution.
Huerta, however, is not held in high esteem. During his leadership he was ruthless towards his colleagues and enemies as well as a known alcoholic. He aimed to recreate the Porfirio Díaz years in the form of his own dictatorship, but there was soon opposition to his rule coming from all areas of Mexican society, particularly the revolutionaries. In 1914, Pancho Villa organized an attack on him, which Huerta lost, forcing him to resign and go into exile in 1915.
Afterwards, with continuing instability ruling the country, there was a series of weak presidents who were unable to establish firm control of the country. There were also various attempts to assassinate presidents further destabilizing the country. Finally, in 1934, Lázaro Cárdenas del Rio took office, a revolutionary with a clean reputation who would help Mexico unite Mexico once again. He was also granted asylum to many Spaniards who were escaping the civil war that ravaged Spain in the latter half of the 1930's. He was a very hardworking and honest president after whom many streets and schools in Mexico are now named in his honor.
Many decades later and Mexico's presidency has remained somewhat more stable than in the past due to the hegemony of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) party. From 1946 until 2000, PRI party members controlled the government through corruption, vote buying and favoritism. With the economic crisis of the 90's, international criticism and a more organized opposition, the PRI lost the 2000 elections and Vicente Fox became the first non-PRI president in over half a century.
The current president is Enrique Peña Nieto, a member of the PRI party and first PRI president since Ernesto Zedillo. When he won the election in 2012, there was controversy that there could have been fraud, but this was never proven and did not affect the results.
Shortly before the rule of Porfirio Díaz and the events of the Mexican Revolution, another of Mexico's most important presidents was Benito Juárez. He was a liberal who went to great lengths to attain power. He is known to have been a strong leader in difficult times, particularly during the French occupation of Mexico. The most interesting thing about his presidency however, is that he was the first indigenous president of Mexico. He was of Zapotec origin and had been orphaned as a toddler and had spent his youth working as a servant. For this he is highly regarded as a symbol of the indigenous people of Mexico, even in modern times. He was president for five terms between 1858 and 1872, dying of a heart attack before his last term ended.