Today thousands of Mexicans most likely sang a song of celebration that involved a cockroach. And the celebration was not because of any immigration policy changes issued by United States President Barack Obama, but because today marks the anniversary of the beginning of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, a national holiday in Mexico. It marks a time to celebrate one of the first revolutions of the 20th Century. The revolution began as an uprising against the dictatorial policies of the Mexican president General Porfirio Diaz. The revolution became a Mexican civil war that lasted ten years and pitted the forces of the wealthy landowners against those of the peasants, who lived in near-slavery conditions. In 1910 Mexico was virtually one big plantation. Ninety-five percent of the land was owned by only about 5% of the population. General Diaz had become a dictator and began making changes in the constitution that favored the wealthy while restricting the rights of the peasants. General Diaz promised political reform but instead, in 1910, had his political opponent, Francisco Madero, jailed. After massive voter fraud Diaz declared himself president. Madero escaped jail and fled to San Antonio, Texas where he planned the overthrow of the Diaz government. Madero called for an uprising and thousands revolted across Mexico. To escape the violence hundreds of thousands more Mexicans fled North across the United States border. Quite a few remained, never to return to Mexico. Two lasting legacies was born of the Mexican revolution: one was the break from the old feudal system to a more streamlined democratic government. The second: the popularization of an old folk song about a cockroach. “La Cucaracha” was a song that went through many lyrical transformations over time but the song that most people sing today was born from the Mexican Revolution. To hear that song click the Youtube link below. The video contains historical photographs from the Mexican Revolution era, and some of the photos contain images of violence from that bloody time.
Michael E. Palmer is a writer and photographer based in Alabama.
He can be reached at email@example.com