The Calles Presidency, 1924-28

The Calles Presidency, 1924-28

Calles was perhaps Mexico's strongest political figure since the Díaz dictatorship. Calles began seriously to implement agrarian reform by distributing some 3.2 million hectares of land during his term, in addition to developing agricultural credit and irrigation. Labor was still organized into one national union, CROM, run by Calles's crony Luis Morones, even though independent unions were emerging. Public education facilities continued to expand, and Calles's administration built another 2,000 schools.

A major crisis developed, however, between the government and the Roman Catholic Church. In 1926 the archbishop of Mexico City, José Mora y del Río, made public his view that Roman Catholics could not follow the religious provisions of the constitution of 1917. In defiance of the declaration by the archbishop, Calles decided to implement fully several of the constitutional provisions: religious processions were prohibited; the church's educational establishments, convents, and monasteries were closed; foreign priests and nuns were deported; and priests were required to register with the government before receiving permission to perform their religious duties. The church reacted by going on strike on July 31, 1926, and during the three years that followed, no sacraments were administered. Bloody revolts broke out in the states of Michoacán, Puebla, Oaxaca, Zacatecas, Jalisco, and Nayarit. To the call of "Viva Cristo Rey" (Long live Christ the King), bands of militant Roman Catholics, known as Cristeros, attacked government officials and facilities and burned public schools. The government responded with overwhelming force, using the army and its own partisan bands of Red Shirts to fight the Cristeros. The fighting was vicious, with both sides engaging in indiscriminate acts of terrorism against civilians and widespread destruction of property. By 1929 the revolt had been largely contained, and the Cristeros were compelled to lay down their arms and accept most of the government's terms.


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