Venustiano Carranza was born in Cuatro Ciénagas, Coahuila. He was the eleventh son of liberal Colonel Jesús Carranza, who had been a close collaborator of Benito Juárez Garza. He therefore grew up within a fairly wealthy middle class family that owned cattle ranches and was characterized by a great liberal tradition. Carranza firmly believed in state and municipal sovereignty, and he participated in various struggles against the Porfirian dictatorship, so as to uphold the right of each zone to make its own decisions. He became interim state Governor in 1908, and supported Madero in the rebellion of 1910.

Carranza was appointed Secretary of War and of the Navy in the cabinet formed by Madero, as well as Governor elect of Coahuila. In 1913, Huerta's betrayal of Madero led him to draw up the Plan of Guadalupe, in which he refused to accept the powers of the dictator.

He formed the Constitutionalist Army to lead a rebellion that would restore the constitutional order defined by the Constitution of 1857. Venustiano Carranza assumed the presidency on May 1st, 1915.

Carranza continued the Mexican liberal tradition; he was also a great reader of works containing liberal ideas such as Mexico over the centuries, by Riva Palacio, as well as the books written by Dr. Mora, Manuel Payno and Justo Sierra. He wished to steer the revolutionary movement towards legality, and to recover the liberal heritage of the Constitution of 1857.

This struggle to restore the constitutional order was later set down in the 2nd Article of his additions to the Plan of Guadalupe.


Carranza in a train.
Centro de la Imagen.

"The Head of the Revolution and of the Executive Branch shall issue and put into effect, during the struggle, all the laws, provisions and measures required to satisfy the economic, social and political needs of the country, and shall implement all reforms deemed indispensable for the reestablishment of a regime guaranteeing the equality of all Mexicans; agrarian laws to favor the formation of small properties, through the dissolution of the large estates, to return the land that was unjustly taken from the people; fiscal laws to promote an equitable property tax; legislation to improve the condition of rural workers, workers, miners, and the proletarian classes as a whole; the establishment of municipal freedom as a constitutional institution; the bases for a new system for the organization of independent Federal ans state Legislative   branches; a review of the laws governing marriage and the marital status of the people; legal provisions to guarantee strict compliance with the Reform Laws; a review of the Civil, Penal and Commercial codes; the reform of judicial proceedings, so as to make the administration of justice more opportune and effective; a review of the laws governing the exploitation of mines, oil, water, the forests, and other natural resources in the country, and to prevent their future misuse; political reforms to guarantee the authentic application of the Constitution of the Republic, and all other laws required to allow all the inhabitants of the country to effectively and fully exercise their rights, and to ensure their equality before the law".

These points clearly demonstrate the continuity of liberal ideas, especially those concerning municipal freedom, the independence of the Judicial branch and equality in the eyes of the law.

In 1915 and 1916, the need for reforms in seven fundamental areas of Mexican life became extremely apparent: the agrarian sector, labor, sovereignty over natural resources, the relationship between the Church and the State, the role of the State in the economy, education and the political structure.

In 1915, Carranza issued the Law of January 6th, which conceived the ejido (collective farm) as compensation for injustice, rather than as a new system of land ownership. The ejido was intended to restore the territorial heritage of the dispossessed villages and to create new units with the land surrounding the villages; land would be expropriated for this purpose.

In September 1916, in an act of great political importance, Carranza summoned a new Constituent Congress.

"Despite the indisputable goodness of the principles upon which it rests (...) (the Constitution) will still be insufficient to meet public needs, and very suitable for the enthronement of another tyranny like or similar to those that have so frequently plagued the country, through the complete absorption of all powers by the Executive; or others, which through their Legislative skills, due to the regular and ordered functioning of their administration, have become a permanent obstacle". Carranza recalled the continuity of the constitutions of 1824 and of 1857, and foresaw a similar spirit for the future Constitution: "the liberal spirit of that Constitution will be scrupulously respected, and only the defects derived from contradiction or caused by the obscurity of some of its precepts, which, whether through omission or through the deliberate intention of past dictatorships to distort their original and democratic spirit, will be purged".

On November 1st, 1918, the Carranza Doctrine was issued; this document upholds the equality between the states and condemns all intervention in the internal affairs of other nations; it also covers the equivalent of the rights of nationals and of foreigners in the eyes of the law of a given country. Carranza was assassinated in Tlaxcaltongo, Puebla in 1920.


Source: Instituto Nacional de Solidaridad, Microbiografías. Personajes en la historia de México. Venustiano Carranza, México 1993. (Micro-biographies, Figures in Mexican History. Venustiano Carranza), México, 1993.

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