Díaz, Porfirio

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Díaz, Porfirio

(pôrfē`ryō dē`äs), 1830–1915, Mexican statesman, a mestizo, christened José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz. He gained prominence by supporting Benito JuárezJuárez, Benito
, 1806–72, Mexican liberal statesman and national hero. Revered by Mexicans as one of their greatest political figures, Juárez, with great moral courage and honesty, upheld the civil law and opposed the privileges of the clericals and the army.
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 and the liberals in the War of the Reform and in the war against Emperor MaximilianMaximilian,
1832–67, emperor of Mexico (1864–67). As the Austrian archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, he was denied a share in the imperial government by his reactionary brother, Emperor Francis Joseph.
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 and the French (1861—67). Defeated by Juárez in the presidential election of 1871, Díaz charged fraud and led a revolt against the government, which was not suppressed until after the inauguration of Sebastián Lerdo de TejadaLerdo de Tejada, Miguel
, d. 1861, Mexican liberal statesman, a leader of the Revolution of Ayutla, cabinet member under Juan Álvarez. As minister under Comonfort, he initiated the Ley Lerdo (1856), a law providing for the forced sale of all real property of the Roman
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. Díaz again lost in the presidential race of 1876. He refused defeat, rose against Lerdo, and gained the presidency. Aside from a brief interregnum from 1880 to 1884 when he handpicked Manuel González as his temporary successor, he remained in power until 1911. His rule was ruthless and ultimately effective. Conspirators were crushed, and banditry was officially eliminated by incorporating marauders into a state police called the rurales. He shrewdly matched interest groups against each other, leaving the president supreme; elections were a mockery. Yet he also sought conciliation with previously hostile sectors, particularly the Catholic Church and the U.S. government. Díaz's policy encouraging foreign investment defused U.S. interventionism and led to U.S. recognition of his regime. Material prosperity under Díaz grew. Roads, railroads, and telegraph lines greatly increased. Díaz was influenced by positivism, the belief in the triumph of science and the scientific method. Positivists such as Jose Ives Limantour (1854–1935), the leader of the Científicos, reformed the fiscal system and gave Mexico financial stability. Mexico became a land of peace and prosperity, ruled in the interest of the few. Díaz sold three quarters of the nation's mineral resources to foreign interests and apportioned millions of acres among friendly hacendados. The peasants, far from obtaining social justice, lost more of their communal lands (see ejidoejido
[Span.,=common land], in Mexico, agricultural land expropriated from large private holdings and redistributed to communal farms. Communal ownership of land had been widely practiced by the Aztecs, but the institution was in decline before the Spanish arrived.
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); half of the entire rural population was bound to debt slavery. Opposition and discontent grew rapidly in the last decade of Díaz's rule. In 1909, Díaz declared his intention to restore democratic rule, yet his fraudulent reelection the following year demonstrated his promises empty, and sparked a revolution headed by Francisco I. MaderoMadero, Francisco Indalecio
, 1873–1913, Mexican statesman and president (1911–13). A champion of democracy and social reform, he established various humanitarian institutions for the peons on his family's vast estates in Coahuila.
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. In 1911, Díaz was forced to flee the country; he died in exile.


See studies by J. F. Godoy (1976), J. Coatsworth (1980), and P. J. Vanderwood (1981).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Díaz, Porfirio


Born Sept. 15, 1830, in Oaxaca; died July 2, 1915, in Paris. Mexican politician and statesman, general.

During the bourgeois revolution and civil war of 1854–60, Diaz fought on the side of the liberals against the conservatives. During the foreign intervention in Mexico (1861-67) he commanded large detachments of the patriotic army. He was president of Mexico from 1877 to 1880; after becoming president again in 1884, he established a despotic regime based on the clergy and landowners. Under Diaz’s dictatorship, Mexico’s economic dependence on Great Britain and the USA increased. The 1910–17 revolution put an end to his regime, and in May 1911 he fled to Europe.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.