The Constitution of 1917
After the fall of Huerta, Carranza, chief of the northern coalition, invited all revolutionary leaders to a military conference at Aguascalientes to determine the future course of Mexico. A split developed almost immediately: on one side were Carranza, Obregón, and supporters of the plans of San Luis Potosí and Guadalupe; on the other side were Zapata, Villa, and the supporters of the Plan of Ayala. The convention chose Eulalio Gutiérrez, who had the support of the Villistas and the Zapatistas, as provisional president, while Carranza, with Obregón's support, established a dissident government in Veracruz. The country went through another period of civil war and anarchy in which four governments claimed to represent the will of the people: Carranza in Veracruz, Obregón in Mexico City (after Gutiérrez had left the city and established his headquarters in Nuevo León), Roque González Garza (supported by the Zapatistas), and Villa in Guanajuato. Later that year, Carranza emerged as the victorious commander of the revolutionary forces. His government was soon recognized by the United States, and his troops were supplied by munitions abandoned when United States forces left Veracruz.
United States support for Carranza prompted an aggressive reaction from Villa. After 1916 Villa frequently raided United States border towns and then retreated to Mexico. United States General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing's troops crossed the border in pursuit of Villa several times during 1917. Despite Villa's "victories" over Pershing, the true victor was Carranza. To consolidate his power further and to institutionalize the Revolution, he called for a meeting at Querétaro, where the constitutionalists drew up a new supreme law for Mexico. The Congress of Querétaro met for the first time on December 1, 1916. In commemoration of that event, the inauguration of all Mexican constitutional presidents has taken place on December 1.
Carranza presented his draft of a constitution to the congress. The draft was similar in many ways to the constitution of 1857, but gave extensive powers to the executive. The final version of the constitution of 1917, however, gave additional rights to the Mexican people. It was the fruit of the Revolution--an expression of popular will that guaranteed civil liberties, no presidential succession, and protection from foreign and domestic exploitation to all Mexicans (see Constitutional History, ch. 4).
After formally accepting the constitution of 1917, Carranza won the presidential election and was sworn into office on May 1, 1917. Conditions in Mexico were again close to chaos: the economy had deteriorated during the years of civil war, communications had been seriously disrupted, and shortages had led to rampant inflation. Land and labor remained the basic issues for the Mexican people, but Carranza chose to overlook the constitutional provisions dealing with these issues and returned lands expropriated during the Revolution. Despite the president's opposition, public enthusiasm for the labor provisions of Article 123 led to the creation in 1918 of the Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederación Regional de Obreros Mexicanos--CROM), which would unify and lead the labor movement in the years ahead. Meanwhile, Mexico took advantage of United States involvement overseas in World War I, its attention and troops distant from any further intervention in Mexico.
In 1918 parts of the country still saw military action; the fighting was particularly fierce in Morelos. The Zapatistas in that area, who had very specific grievances, wanted more than a constitution. In March 1919, Zapata sent an open letter to Carranza, hoping by this means to bring the Zapatistas' demands before the whole population. Zapata expected that Carranza, once confronted by public pressure, would be willing to address the Zapatistas' grievances. Carranza's response was very different, however. Jesús M. Guajardo, a colonel in the federal army, was contracted to deceive Zapata by offering allegiance to the revolutionaries. Zapata's cautious acceptance of Guajardo's protests of loyalty led to a meeting on April 10, 1919, in Zapata's territory. As Zapata entered the meeting area, Guajardo's men appeared ready to fire a salute in his honor but instead they fired point-blank, killing the peasant leader and thereby eliminating the last significant military opposition.
In 1920 just as Carranza was about to nominate a loyal subordinate, Ignacio Bonilla, to serve as a puppet president, Adolfo de la Huerta and Plutarco Elías Calles rose in opposition. Under the Plan of Agua Prieta, they raised a constitutionalist army of northerners and marched to Mexico City. Carranza fled the capital and was assassinated in May while on the road to exile. De la Huerta served briefly as provisional president, but was replaced in November 1920 by Obregón, who was elected to a four-year term. Shortly thereafter, Villa accepted a peace offer from the federal government.
Data as of June 1996