Today, the 20th of November 2009, marks the 99th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. Being that this date commemorates 10 years of constant bloodshed and civil war, it seems in my mind a strange day to celebrate. Nevertheless, throughout the country, the day is held sacred on the civil calendar. City dwellers spent the morning watching military reviews, and yesterday schoolchildren paraded patriotically around their neighborhoods or school patios, bugles blaring. The 20th of November is much more important than Cinco de Mayo.
The Mexican Revolution gets complicated to explain, but I'll take a stab at it anyway (no pun intended). Like most Latin American countries, Mexico has been ruled by a slew of dictators, broken up now and again by a democratic government (or, simply under the guise of a democratic government). Sometime in the 1870s up until 1910, Mexico was ruled by a dictator named Porfirio Diaz. Not having to deal with the democratic process, dictators do have the advantage of being able to get things done. And, during Diaz's reign, Mexico did modernize considerably. However, quite a few citizens preferred modernization along with a democratic government. The first phase of the Mexican Revolution involved those who rallied behind Francisco I. Madero, a presidential hopeful for the 1910 elections.
The second phase involved poor farmers in the southren part of the country. Since colonial times, Mexican agriculture had been centred around haciendas, or plantations. The majority of Mexico's productive land was controlled by only a handful of fabulously wealthy landowners. Those fieldhands who actually worked the land had no rights, no land, and very few means for supporting themselves and their families. After centuries of oppresion, these campesinos rose up, famously rallying around Emiliano Zapata, to take control of the land. Politically, these peasants, representing the majority of Mexicans at the time, were in favor of drastic land reform.
The third phase I'm not very knowledgable about, but revolves around the legendary Pancho Villa. Unlike Zapata, he was from the north (Chihuahua), but I believe he and his followers were also in favor of agrarian reform. Both Zapata and Villa fought their armies towards Mexico City and joined up there, but I believe that there were some serious differences of opinion between these two factions.
To make a long war short, Madero was elected president and Diaz was forced to give up power and flee to Europe in exile. Villa's and Zapata's armies "liberated" countless haciendas over the 10 years of the revolution, and eventually a government that was a bit more centrist came to power, and did indeed inact land reforms (although not necessarily the kind of reforms that Zapata's followers were hoping for). This government (or political party) that emerged after the revolution eventually began to call itself the Instutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and ruled Mexico for 70 years until 2000.
Did the revolution achieve its aims? Yes and no. I'm sure lots of people wanted more drastic changes--the majority of the country's wealth is still concentrated in the hands of a small minority. However, I believe that a stronger middle class exists than existed 100 years ago. Furthermore, political power is shared by 3 main political parties. While they all love buracracy, it can't be denied that the system is democratic.
So while the dream of equality got a bit thwarted along the way, it still remains a dream--one that didn't get squashed. Therefore, there must have been enough successes to keep that dream of equality going. Perhaps this is the difference of pre-Revolution Mexico and post-Revolution Mexico--like in feudal Europe, people years ago were born in a certain caste and died in that same caste. Perhaps the aftermath of the Revolution made it sightly more possible for people to rise above poverty and join the middle class. If this really is the case, it's clear to see why Revolution Day is so celebrated.