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Mexico: The Porfiriato, 1876-1910
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting > The Porfiriato, 1876-1910

THE PORFIRIATO, 1876-1910


Propitious economic conditions did not greet Porfirio Díaz upon his rise to power in 1876. Mexico remained saddled with a huge foreign debt and an empty treasury. An army of bureaucrats was owed back wages, the country had a poor international credit rating, and persistent current account deficits caused serious balance of payments problems. Investment, whether foreign or domestic, was scarce, and the mining industry had yet to recover from the revolutionary wars. The relatively few mines in operation in 1876 were exploited haphazardly, and extraction and smelting techniques were archaic. Only a few miles of rail had been laid, transportation and communications were rudimentary, and dock facilities were dilapidated and unsafe. Endemic rural violence further hindered commerce.

During his first four years in office, Díaz began to tackle economic backwardness. He first decreed stiff measures against contraband moving across the United States border. Smugglers and bandits crossed the border from both sides, but Díaz would not permit United States troops to enter Mexico in search of them. Instead, he enlarged the Mexican border patrol. In 1877 Díaz agreed to honor US$4 million in claims by United States citizens against Mexico.

In 1880 at the end of his term and despite his followers' wishes, Díaz left office. The next president, Manuel González, continued Diaz's modernization program. Telegraph lines began to operate, and railroad construction was kept apace. In an attempt to meet his foreign debt obligations, González withheld the salaries of government officials, a move that led to a harsh campaign against the president.

During González's tenure, Díaz gathered a large following that restored him to office in 1884. Mexican positivism, embodied in the slogan "order and progress," was the backbone of the modernization scheme supported by the científicos, intellectual followers of Barreda. Led by José Ives Limantour, who served as adviser to Díaz, the científicos developed a plan for economic recovery that was to be carried out through the next twenty-seven years of the Porfiriato.

Data as of June 1996




Last Updated: June 1996


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Mexico was first published in 1996. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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