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When Mexico celebrates Constitution Day it also honors an autocrat

Sunday, February 5, Constitution Day (now celebrated on the following Monday, February 6), is one of Mexico’s most important patriotic celebrations.

pg10And like many of this Republic’s significant historical observances, this patriotic fiesta embraces, especially for the foreigner, considerable contradiction. February 5 marks the ratification of the 1917 Constitution, which was the product of Mexico’s liberating and bloody civil war, the 1910-1924 Revolution. Welded to the Mexican “official” national perception of the 1917 Magna Carta is the name Venustiano Carranza, a stiff-necked, autocratic Revolutionary leader who, in actuality, was hostile to almost every feature of the new Constitution except those lines giving the presidency grander powers than its predecessor, the Constitution of 1857.


Carranza, a hacendado who had been a senator in the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, is considered by most hard-minded Mexican historians as an opportunist, a conservative who epitomized those things that most of the 1917 Constitution was written to eliminate from Mexican government.

Yet, as self-proclaimed “First Chief of the Constitutionalist Army,” the first leader to openly oppose (in 1913) the new dictator, Victoriano Huerta, who had killed the Revolution’s “father,” Francisco I. Madero, Carranza long commanded the rebel forces of Pancho Villa and Alvaro Obregon and, in the eyes of foreign diplomats, most responsibly represented the Mexican Revolution.

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