Mexico in the 1920s

The Obregon Presidency 1920 - 24


Alvaro Obregon, lost his right arm in 1915 in the battle of Santa Rosa


Obregon was elected president in 1920 and set to work to implement the 1917 Constitution. The beginning of his administration coincided with the economic slump that followed WWI . Unemployment was high in the vital mining industries and there was widespread hunger . The price of oil remained stable and by 1921 Mexico was the worlds third largest producer of petroleum which was a large source of government revenue .


Jose Vasconcelos


To implement reforms in education, Obregon named Jose Vasconcelos as secretary of education. Vasconcelos open many rural school and tried to integrate Indians into mainstream Mexican society .Under Vasconcelos Diego Rivera, Jose Orozco and David Siqueiros began painting their famous murals to educate the public on the reforms of the Revolution .Under Article 3 of  the new Constitution , education was to be secular and free at the primary level . This was difficult to do since the state did not have the funds or educators to educate all Mexican children , and even though Vasconcelos and Obregon were anti-clerical, they allowed some church schools since they were better than no education at all .


Man Masters the elements Diego Riveria 1927 Fresco at Chapingo



 Diego Rivera " Man At The Crossroads" Produced by James Ayala & John Riveaux

Diego's work depict the past oppression of Indians and the lower classes. The works of Siqueiros are also leftist in nature, depicting the oppressors in an ugly manner .

Union membership also grew greatly during the Obregon administration . The main labor union, CROM rose from 50,000 members in 1920 to an estimated 1,2000,000 by 1924 .


Obregon  started a modest land redistribution of the haciendas in order not to stall the fragile economy and by 1924 had redistributed about 3,000,000 acres .



Americans and especially the American oil interests were upset by Article 27 of the new constitution that specified that only Mexicans or Foreigners who declared themselves Mexicans could have sub-soil and land rights . Because of this, President Harding withheld recognition to Mexico from 1920 to 1923 .In 1923 Obregon and the Mexican senate were able to make a 'work-around' to relieve American concerns and recognition was extended in 1923 .




Adolfo de la Huerta


The political landscape had not completely calmed down since the Revolution and the question of the 1924 presidential election as Obregon  chose Plutarco Calles as his successor . Callas, a known radical caused the conservatives, military men and church groups to launch a revolt led by Adolfo de la Huerta which only lasted a few months. Calles won the election of 1924 and was to remain Mexico's president until 1934 .


President Plutarco Callas


Plutarco Callas


Callas had a radical reputation and landowners feared for their land, church leaders feared a greater lost of power and the industrialists feared higher workers wages .From the beginning Callas let it be known that he would not follow the cautious and moderate policy of Obregon. He was the most strong willed president since Diaz and became more dictatorial over time, not afraid to use the army against enemies and to jail them .The world economy was over the postwar slump and the Mexican economy revived as well .Callas redistributed 8,000,000 acres between 1924 and 1928 and instituted agrarian reforms and irrigation projects to boost agriculture .Wages rose through Callas' support of unions. Callas continued Obregon's educational policies and stressed teaching Spanish to Indians to bring them into Mexican society .A Department of Public Health was started  to improve sanitation ,  give out vaccinations and inspect markets and restaurants .


The Cristero Rebellion






Unlike Obregon, who decided not to strongly enforce the anti-clerical articles of the Constitution of 1917, Callas decided to do so which had violent consequences .In 1926 , the archbishop of Mexico, Jose Mora y del Rio, declared Catholics could not accept the Constitution of 1917. Angered, Callas struck back by outlawing religious processions and closing church schools , monasteries and convents . On July 31, 1926 the archbishop declared a religious strike which lasted 3 years .Catholic leaders in Jalisco, Oaxaca, Zacatecas and Michoacan began to organize the faithful against the government will the rallying cry of Viva Cristo Rey ! .government outposts were attacked, government teachers were killed and government schools were burned down .In April a train was dynamited by the Cristeros killing over a hundred .The war became more violent as soldiers declared they would kill one priest for each teacher killed  and looted churches .The rebellion weakened and gradually wound down, but there were still some outbreaks as late as 1928 .In 1929 a peace was worked out with the church agreeing to stop religious instruction in schools and to register priests. The government agreed that it would respect the integrity of the Church and not try to outlaw it .Between 1926 and 1934 at least 40 priests were killed. There were 4,500 priests before the rebellion,by 1934 there were only 334 priests licensed by the government .


l.A film on Pres. Callas by

his great grand-daughter.

Featured on NPRs's POV.


 "Viva Cristo Rey! Viva la Virgin de Guadalupe!" was the war cry. Actual eye witness descriptions of the persecution of Catholics and the Church in Mexico (circa 1917-1926), especially of the Blessed Sacrament, priests and religious, by the Federales (Mexican Federal Police). The REAL revolutionaries were not the Cristeros but the anti-Catholic, Masonic regime. USA government support. The Vatican's interdict was a protective effort because the persecution was so vicious. In the countryside the war of the Cristiada began on August 3, 1924.The women were instrumental. When the war was declared ended the persecution escalated and the remaining Cristeros were hunted.



An inside look at the new motion picture "For Greater Glory." This special chronicles the history of the Cristero War with interviews from leading historians, several cast members, and Catholic leaders.


The Assassination of Obregon


The Constitution of 1917 had recently been revised to provide for a six year presidential term and legal re-election .Under these circumstances, Obregon ran again and won the election of 1928, however, he was never to assume office. He was assassinated on July 17, 1928 by Jose de Leon Total, a Cristero supporter who considered the assassination to be divinely inspired .There was great public interest in his trial and he was sentenced to death .


1928 - 34 , Callas the Maximato


There were three presidents after the assassination, but they were puppets of Callas , who named himself the Supreme Boss ( Jefe Maximo ) to keep order. Callas created an  political party the PNR ( Partido Nacional Revolutionario ) which would control Mexican politics for years to come and today is known as  Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). In the election of 1928, former education secretary Jose Vasconcelos ran against the Callas puppet Pascual Ortiz Rubio. Vasconcelos  ran under the old 'no re-election' banner, but Rubio won under allegations of fraud .Callas gave the military great power within the PNR, in order to forestall future coups against the civilian government . Callas became more conservative as time wore on, by 1928 there was much less land redistribution and rural school openings .The government withdrew its support for unions. The Red Scare reached Mexico in the late 20s and early 30s.. After a large demonstration The Communist Party was outlawed in 1930 and the Gold Shirts,supported by Callas,  a fascist group attacked Jews , Communists and Chinese. There were widespread accusations of corruption in the government and many former radicals were disgusted by the 'millionaire socialists' who lived in luxury .







Cardenas and

Oil Nationalization 1934-40