The Aftermath of the French Empire


In the last history video we posted, we talked about the French intervention and the Second Empire with Maximilian of Hapsburg and that Juarez ordered to execute him in 1867. Juarez, the president, returned to Mexico City, the Republic had achieved a triumph, annulling Mexico’s Monarchists option. Still, many disorders were coming from the liberals, whose ambition for power took them to take arms.

Juarez immediately convened elections. The conservative party had disappeared, and three liberals ran for office: Juarez, Lerdo de Tejada, and Porfirio Diaz. Juarez won the elections, but his enemies multiplied because he favored the constitution’s reform, and many resentedthe punishments that the conservatives received.

Despite all this, Juarez started a restoration period; Mexico needed to boost the economy, re-organize the public estate, and obtain the necessary funds to promote development.

He favored foreign investment in communications and recognized the contract that the empire had signed to build the railroad from Veracruz to Mexico. He also gave priority to education, considering that it was the only way to achieve progress.

The transformation into a Republic was very slow; there were many problems to solve. Equality was just a dream because there was overwhelming miseryin the country. Very shameful in front of an ostentatious luxury of a minority who held all the wealth.

Disorder and insecurity on the roads caused commercial losses and unproductivity to the haciendas. The owners of the mines finally sold their mines to foreign capitals.
The church lost its properties and rents. However, ten bishops still lived in luxury, while 3500 clergymen lived terrible hardships. Due to lack of financing, the army reduced its contingent from 70,000 soldiers to 30,000, insufficient to protect such an extensive territory.

However, various positive changes occurred at the ports and the capital, with the arrival of foreigners. The arrival of big passenger ships brought merchandise, inventions, fashion, and novelties. The new stagecoaches company reduced time to travel to the northern border and other trips within Mexico. One could travel from Mexico to Veracruz and vice versa in 7 days.

There were enormous hopes for progress, considering that education would solve the problems of the country. Newspapers circulated and helped people be aware of the political scene of the country. Town criers would read the newspapers to the illiterate, and intellectual liberals analyzed national problems and critical social matters.

One of the French empire positive legacies was to create a nationalism that permeated all cultural forms of art, literature, and music. The National Lottery financed the renovation of the Academy of San Carlos of Plastic Arts. Juarez re-christened the Academy with the name of The National School of Fine Arts.
There is no doubt that Jose Maria Velasco, with his beautiful Mexican landscapes, was the most prominent figure. (Next week we will talk about this great artist)
Sculpting also benefited from the many orders of statues of remarkable Mexicans.

The sculptures still adornnowadays the Paseo de la Reforma Avenue in Mexico City. Music saw its best times with the founding of the Philharmonic Orchestra.
Scientific investigation benefited from the formation of the Scientific Commission of Mexico. Society was distrustful and cautious but at the same time hopeful of achieving progress.

Liberalism and the Republic’s triumph gave Mexicans hopes to conquest a peace that would provide them with material development, that would assure order and progress. President Juarez worked tirelessly for six years, but his health was fragile, and he died in 1872.

Lerdo de Tejada, who was the President of the Supreme Court, assumed the executive. He convened for elections, which he won against Porfirio Diaz. He made several positive changes, but he also made some bad decisions, which caused discord. Porfirio Diaz decided that it was his time to take advantage. He accused Lerdo of violating the constitution. Then offered titles and military honors to his supporters. There were many uprisings in different parts of the country, another contender appeared named Iglesias, but Diaz took a drastic decision. He occupied Mexico City with the army backing him.

A week later, he was sitting on the presidential chair. It was the year 1877, and he was president until 1911. These thirty-four years is the period known as THE PORFIRIATO.
Don’t miss our next video, THE PORFIRIATO


Fragments of:
From the Independence of Mexico to the Consolidation of the Republic.
From the book: Nueva Historia Minima de México.
Published by the Colegio de Mexico.