A village street during the Mexican Revolution

A village street during the Mexican Revolution

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Title: Parade of armed men in the streets of a village

Creation date : 1911 -

Storage location: National Library of France (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © National Library of France

Picture reference: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b6915978r/f1.item

Parade of armed men in the streets of a village

© National Library of France

Publication date: November 2016

Historical context

The beginnings of a long revolution

After the Madero-led uprising in November 1910 to challenge a new re-election of the old dictator Porfirio Diaz, irremovable as President of Mexico since 1874, events precipitated. Social unrest is juxtaposed, especially around slogans aimed at breaking the hegemony of the large landowners and returning the land to the peasants, in Morelos.

After the opening of negotiations, Diaz resigned himself to resigning and taking the road to exile while Madero was elected to the presidency in October 1911. It should be noted that the Mexican revolution was one of the first wars to have been widely photographed and even filmed.

Image Analysis

A street scene between the ordinary and the exceptional

This scene was carefully framed. The entire central space is taken up by a street, bordered on either side by a row of houses, which rises towards the background. The houses and the few spectators (children, women, onlookers) who have lined up to the side reinforce the staging effect. They focus the spectator's gaze on the parade of a troop of armed men - we note the presence of rifles, saddlebags, cartridge belts - which some civilians (according to their costumes) seem to follow suit. A horseman goes down the street and goes towards the spectator, against the current of the march, while the parade goes up the street and the soldiers or militiamen turn their backs to him.

It should be noted that the street is not made of dirt but that it is paved, and shared in the middle by a ditch which is probably used for the flow of wastewater and rainwater. The presence of telegraph poles suggests that the village is electrified, at least in part. These elements thwart the impression of destitution suggested by the clothing, most often very sketchy, on the spectators and the actors.

Interpretation

The beginnings of a vast upheaval

The scene is tricky to interpret, especially as the photograph is not captioned at all. Who are precisely these armed men who march past, preceded by several standard bearers? The function of such a photographic testimony is to suggest to the viewer that it is all of Mexican society that is mobilized and politicized. The child dressed very simply in white cotton who stands barefoot on a doorstep, to the left, and the rider walking down the street perched on a mule, wearing a sombrero, serve to represent eternal Mexico.

But alongside this seemingly unchanging order, the militia march and the approval it seems to elicit among residents suggests that a major shift is underway. In fact, the events of 1911 were to lead to upheavals of much greater magnitude than a simple alternation at the top of power.

  • Mexico
  • revolutionary
  • army

Bibliography

Bernard OUDIN, Villa, Zapata and Mexico on fire, Paris, Gallimard, 1989.

François-Xavier GUERRA, Mexico from the Ancien Régime to the Revolution, 2 vols., Paris, L’Harmattan / Publications de la Sorbonne, 1985.

To cite this article

Nicolas BOURGUINAT, "A village street during the Mexican Revolution"


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