In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Era of Porfirio Díaz, 1876–1911

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Introductory Works
  • Ideologies and Technologies of Modernism
  • Society, Class, and Foreign Communities
  • Gender Identities and Relationships
  • Land and Labor

Latin American Studies The Era of Porfirio Díaz, 1876–1911
William Beezley
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0035


Porfirio Díaz (b. 1830–d. 1915) had a brilliant military career that included participating in the Mexican victory over the French at the battle of Puebla, now celebrated as the Cinco de Mayo (5 May 1862) holiday, and in driving the Emperor Maximilian’s troops out of Mexico City in 1867. The latter victory helped restore the Liberal regime, and with peace, Díaz turned to politics. He was largely unsuccessful until 1876, when his uprising, called the Revolution of Tuxtepec, enabled him to win the presidency. He dominated Mexico for the next thirty-five years until forced into exile in Paris by revolutionaries in 1911. His successful political regime accounts for naming the era for him. The telenovela (television soap opera series) El Vuelo del Águila (1994), with 140 thirty-minute episodes, created tremendous popular interest in this era. Enrique Krauze, Mexico’s premier public historian, created the project for national television; it was directed by Jorge Fons and Gonzalo Martínez and starred Manuel Ojeda as Porfirio. The telenovela caused a sensation and excited great curiosity about the era on its own terms, rather than as the cause of the revolution. Historians have to some extent responded to this curiosity about the era. The published evaluations of the Porfirian regime have gone through three major phases, from the appearance of panegyrics during the era itself, to studies of its policies as provocations for the revolution of 1910, to the appearance of professional scholarship evaluating the period and its successes and failures. The last phase, dating from the 1950s, has benefitted in the 1990s and 2000s from the availability of major archival collections, notably the archive of Porfirio Díaz; the archive of Rafael Chousal, his personal secretary while president; and the archive of José Limantour, his successful secretary of the treasury. More recently, many scholars have undertaken analyses using the methodologies of cultural history, focusing on crime, ethnicity, gender, civic celebrations, and public diversions as a way to discuss everyday life and to incorporate the women, Indians, and working people of the era into the historical narrative. As of 2011 a number of these significant investigations are only available as unpublished dissertations; this will likely change in the near future.

General Overviews

The modern professional scholarship on the era of Porfirio Díaz (called the Porfiriato) began with Cosío Villegas 1955–1972, the multivolume analysis of the regime. Ortoll and Piccato 2011 is the first-ever investigation of how this now-classic publication came to be and how it was funded. The project inspired Moisés González to compile the first reliable volume of social statistics for the period that complements the texts, Estadísticas sociales del porfiriato, 1877–1910. Biographies of the long-time president have, by necessity, offered general examinations of his regime. The best two examples are Beals 1932 and the more recent and excellent Garner 2001. Coerver 1979 adds a significant biography of Manuel González, who served one term during the Díaz presidential era. Tenorio Trillo and Gómez Galvarriato 2008 is the best available survey of the historiography of the era.

  • Beals, Carleton. Porfirio Díaz: Dictator of Mexico. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1932.

    This journalist, who formed part of the international intellectual community in Mexico City in the 1920s and 1930s, unfortunately provides no sources for his narrative. Beals sees Díaz as a dictator whose regime provided the principal cause of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, and he offers a good deal of general information in a well-written biography.

  • Coerver, Don. The Porfirian Interregnum: The Presidency of Manuel González of Mexico, 1880–1884. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1979.

    The standard biography of the only president other than Porfirio Díaz during the thirty-five year regime that spanned from 1876 to 1911. Coerver provides a detailed discussion of the developmental programs González pushed through the national legislature, such as the promotion of mining, railroads, and commercial agriculture, that reshaped the country’s economy.

  • Cosío Villegas, Daniel. Historia Moderna de México. 9 vols. Mexico City: Editorial Hermes, 1955–1972.

    This classic remains the standard work on the Porfirian regime. It includes three volumes on Benito Juárez’s restoration of national government in 1867 after the French occupation, through the Liberal regimes until 1876. The seven volumes devoted to the Porfirian government examine politics, economics, foreign relations, and social life.

  • Garner, Paul. Díaz: Profile in Power Series. New York: Longman, 2001.

    Best available one-volume biography of Díaz and analysis of his regime. Garner also provides an insightful commentary on the historiography of the man and his regime. Available in both English and Spanish.

  • González Navarro, Moisés, ed. Estadísticas sociales del porfiriato, 1877–1910. Mexico City: Secretaría de Economía, Dirección General de Estadística, 1956.

    This is the essential compilation of statistics for the Porfirian years. The editor also wrote the volume on the Porfirian economy in the Cosío Villegas multivolume history.

  • Ortoll, Servando, and Pablo Piccato. “A Brief History of the Historia Moderna de México.” In A Companion to Mexican History and Culture. Edited by William H. Beezley, 339–360. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781444340600

    A valuable analysis of the conception, writing, and funding by the Rockefeller Foundation of Historia Moderna de México.

  • Tenorio Trillo, Mauricio, and Aurora Gómez Galvarriato. El Porfiriato. Mexico: Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, 2008.

    One of the historiographies in a series titled Herramientas para la historia. This is the most current and analytical of available bibliographies and includes a valuable discussion of archives.

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