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reason that the Constitutionalists appear too radical to those who would like to find a way of pacifying Mexico at once. The Constitutionalists mean to begin immediately such economic reforms and specially such agrarian reforms as are necessary to offer to the lower classes an opportunity of improving their conditions: division of large estates, equalization of taxation, and in places where it would be necessary, the reëstablishment of the "egidos" or communal land system.
THE JOURNAL OF RACE DEVELOPMENT, VOL. 4, NO. 3, 1914
THE FUNDAMENTAL CAUSES OF THE
By Nevin O. Winter, Author of "Mexico and Her People of To-day"
The life insurance company, before passing upon an application for insurance, requires the applicant to give not only the facts concerning himself, but also certain information regarding his progenitors. If it is necessary to look to the ancestors of the individual, in order to be able to judge him and his possible ills correctly, how much more important it is when attempting to treat of the conditions existing in a nation to go back and see from whom the nation have descended, what traditions may have been inherited, and what environment has surrounded it.
In an attempt to analyze the troubles of Mexico, it is not enough to say that the land question, or labor for debt, or even social evolution is at the bottom of it all. Some great injustice or inequality might explain the spontaneous uprising of a people in revolution, but it does not satisfactorily account for a series of detached revolutions under leaders who would be just as ready to fight each other as the central government against which the efforts of each and all are aimed. There are other underlying causes which must not be overlooked, for they help to elucidate a situation that is almost inexplicable to the average North American.
The apparently dormant condition of some of the countries to the south of us in the New World for so long a period, was undoubtedly due to the different conditions under which they were colonized. Unlike the Cavaliers who settled in Virginia and sought political freedom, the Puritans who took possession of the New England coast for both political and religious freedom, and the broad-minded, tolerant Roman Catholics who settled in Maryland under the concession granted to Lord Baltimore, the early colonists
of South and Central America sought those shores to secure wealth and the means of an easy existence. They brought with them the spirit of the Middle Ages; instead of seeking religious freedom, they transferred the narrowness of creed that characterized Spain in the time of Ferdinand and Isabella to the New World. The natives were enslaved, as the Conquistadores did not look upon labor with favor. Looking upon the natives as an inferior race, it soon became unpopular among the Spaniards to perform any labor which might be considered menial. The Inquisition was established with all its bigotry and disregard of the God-given human rights.
With the union of the crowns of Castile and Aragon, by the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella, and by the overwhelming defeat of the dark-complexioned Moors, Spain had become a nation filled with soldiers and adventurers. The long wars with the alien invaders had bred a race inured to and in love with the profession of arms. With the discovery of the New World Spain had suddenly leaped to the front and had become for a time, at least, the greatest nation of the day. Ships were constructed in great numbers and sent out filled with voyagers "toward that part of the horizon where the sun set.' In the sixteenth century Spain had practically become the mistress of the seas and the most powerful nation in the world. Her soldiers were brave and the acknowledged leaders of chivalry. One is lost in admiration of the undaunted courage of such men as Cortez and Pizarro, and of the lesser-known heroes Pedro de Alvarado, who made a successful expedition against the powerful Quiché tribes in Guatemala, and Pedro de Valdivia, who resolutely marched across the great nitrate deserts of Tarapacá and Atacama, and added Chile to the Spanish crown.
When Cortez and his band of adventurers came to the court of Montezuma, and saw the lavish display of vessels and ornaments made of the precious metal, they thought that they had discovered the land of gold for which they were searching. Attracted by the glowing reports of untold wealth, thousands of Spaniards soon followed the first
band of Conquistadores, and they rapidly spread over the entire country occupied by the Aztecs, ever searching for the mines from whence this golden harvest came. A little later Pizarro made his wonderful find of the Inca civilization in Peru, and his reports were confirmatory of the almost unbelievable wealth told by Cortez and his followers of the wonders of the New World. Then the leaders began their policy of imprisoning and torturing the Aztec and Inca chieftains to force them to give up the hiding places of their treasures. New bands of adventurers were attracted to the New World, and ship after ship set sail toward the setting sun loaded with adventurers and their followers, and ever ringing in the ears of all was the refrain:
Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!
Bright and yellow, hard and cold.
Shortly after the Conquest all the desirable lands were parcelled out among the invaders, and the few Indian caciques who had helped, with their powerful influence, in their subjugation. The Spaniards rapidly pacified the country, for the Aztec masses, however warlike they may have been before the coming of the Spaniards, were subdued by one blow. There were soon convinced that opposition to the power of Spain was useless. The priests, also, through their quickly acquired influence, taught submission to those whom God, in His infinite wisdom, had placed over them. Chiefs who would not yield otherwise were bribed to use their power over their vassals in favor of the Spaniards. Thus by force, bribery, intrigue, diplomacy, treachery and even religion, the Indians were reconciled and the spirit of opposition to the Spaniards broken. The result was a new and upstart nobility who ruled the country with an iron hand in the course of a few decades; and the natives, with the exception of the chiefs, were made vassals of these newly-made nobles.
The Church is a delicate subject upon which to touch, but the ecclesiastical authorities worked hand in hand with the civil authorities. Pope Alexander VI issued the following bull:
We give, concede, and assign them (lands in the New World) in perpetuity to you and the Kings of Castile and of Leon, your heirs and successors; and we make, constitute and depute you and your heirs and successors, the aforesaid, lords of these lands, with free, full and absolute power, authority and jurisdiction.
This absolute power and union of the church with civil authorities worked great harm in the colonies, and Mexico had more than her full share. It is simply another illustration of the fact that special privileges are difficult to eradicate when established by long usage, and those enjoying them yield only to force. The Church, which had imposed on the people such a vast number of priests, friars and nuns, and had acquired most of the wealth of the country, clung with the grip of death to its privileges and property. Brazil is the only country of South America where the two forces have been separated, and Mexico is the most conspicuous of the North American Latin republics.
If we, as citizens of the United States, in reading our early colonial history, think that our forefathers had reason to feel aggrieved against the mother country, and if we believe that the events of the Boston Tea Party and other disturbances which antedated the Revolutionary War were justified, how much more reason the colonists of the Spanish American colonies had to be indignant toward their mother country. Our forefathers had not one-tenth of the grievances to complain of that could be found in the treatment of Mexico, Peru, Chile and the other Spanish provinces because of their misrule by Spain. The entire colonial system of Spain in South and Central America was one of selfishness, cruelty and tyranny.
The policy actuating Spain and dictating her treatment of her New World provinces was well expressed by one of the Mexican viceroys as follows:
Let the people of these dominions learn once for all that they were born to be silent and to obey, and not to discuss or to have opinions in political affairs.
As a consequence of its narrow and almost inhuman policy, local human rights were not recognized by the