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Porfirio Díaz

Lifespan: (15 September 1830 – 2 July 1915)
Profession: President, Regular army officer


Porfirio Díaz (15 September 1830 – 2 July 1915) was born and grew up in Oaxaca and was of humble and mestizo heritage. Despite this Díaz became president of Mexico for more than 30 years. And although he was notorious and uncompromising during his period of office Mexico was modernized and became financially solvent. His childhood was one of financial and emotional hardship as his father died when Porfirio was three years old, leaving his mother to fend for herself with eight children. Nevertheless, she managed to send Porfirio to the seminary school. He had a liking for more temporal matters and moved over into the study of law and was a committed and conscientious student. He was actually taught by Benito Juárez who went on to be president and who initially inspired the young Porfirio Díaz with his liberalism and commitment to equality and justice. The upheaval in the latter half of nineteenth-century Mexico led Porfirio to leave his studies to become a soldier, at which he excelled. He became distinguished for his bravery and practical military intelligence. As a soldier during the Reform period his bravery was rewarded and he earned a reputation as a war hero due to his valiant military action at the Battle of Puebla 1862 under General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin. This famed battle is the reason 5 May Cinco de Mayo is celebrated to this day in Mexico as a national holiday. Porfirio endured further military challenges, being imprisoned and wounded but he escaped and fought courageously over again earning him the rank of General and the respect of his men. The ambitions of Porfirio led him to run for presidential office against his onetime mentor Juárez, and although he was defeated by Lerdo de Tejada, Porfirio was undeterred. After the failed pronunciamiento of La Noria, he led the successful Plan of Tuxtepec which led to the principal of one term of presidential office and no re-election. Porfirio won the following election becoming president in 1877. A puppet president Manuel González was placed in office after Porfirio’s first term and the consequent political disorder allowed Porfirio to take the presidential mantel and renege on his own principal of non re-election. The Porfiriato was the name given to the period of Mexican history between 1876 and 1911. Porfirio had a team of advisors called ‘los científicos’ who employed the rationalist reductionism of Comptean positivism and applied it to economic development no matter what the cost. The rationale justified its brutality by the tenet that only after economic stability is achieved could social justice be considered. The country flourished economically and the infrastructure of railways, electricity and factories were built up and the national debt was cleared. The price paid in social deprivation by various sectors of the population, led to a demand led by Francisco I Madero for Porfirio to adhere to his own tenet of re-election and the subsequent Revolution of1910 which forced Díaz into exile in France in 1911. He died in Paris on 2 July 1915.


Leader, author and signatory of
Plan de la Noria (9 November 1871; La Noria, Oaxaca)
Plan de Tuxtepec, proclamado en la Villa de Ojitlán (10 January 1876; Villa de Ojitlán, Tuxtepec, Oaxaca)