Obregon lost his right arm after the Battle of Santa Rosa (1915)


Álvaro Obregón was born in Alamos, Sonora on February 17, 1880. When his father died, his family moved to Huatabampo, an area populated mostly by Mayo Indians. There he became fluent in their language and a strong defender of Indian rights. When Obregón rose in the military ranks, his most devoted followers were Mayo and Yaqui Indians. He assumed presidency in November 1920, he sought for a national capitalism, realizing the need of a national consciousness which requires the integration of the indigenous. The indigenismo movement encouraged the study of indigenous culture and heritage to understand their past and present conditions. The movement not only valued the greatness of native arts, but also rejected the French and Spanish academicism. This sudden recognition of native art sparked a whole new movement in art. The new Mexican artistic renaissance consisted of artists such as Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco. Obregón's new secretary of education, José Vasconcelos belived that "a heroic art could fortify the will to reconstruct," so he offered buildings as canvases for murals that glorified the natives, past and present.

Jose Clemente Orozco: Gods of the Modern World (1932)

The need for Revolutionary Rhetoric

Through many years of revolution the bulk of the Mexican workers were beginning to understand radical ideas such as socialism, and anti-imperialism. Aware of that Obregón used revolutionary rhetoric to control them and gain their support for social change. He accepted exiles, radical intellectuals, and he allowed rich generals, landlords and capitalists to form the ruling class. In reality, he secured the rights of private property essential for foreign investment and capitalist growth.

Agrarian Reform

Agrarian reform was a tool to satisfy the land hungry peasant mass. With opposition coming from both hacendados and the church, Obregón could only distribute some land to the pueblos. Among the 3 million acres out of the 320 in private hands, prospects for success were very low due to the lack of government support.

Labor Reform

Obregón realized the usefulness of trade unions to stabilize the labor-capitalist relationships. In 1918, he formed the Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana (CROM). The head of the trade union organization was Luis Morones. Because of his personal negotiations, wages could barely keep up with the standard of living.


The program for educational reform was one of Obregón's most successful. Education, he believed was an important element to unify the country. The main leader of the program José Vasconcelos said that "to educate was to redeem." His program's aim was to bring literacy and health to indigenous villages. Over 4000 rural teachers were trained to spread the gospel of literacy and sanitation. Vasconcelos is also recognized for the founding of colleges, agricultural schools and other specialized schools.


The new secular and nationialist schools angered the clergy for it challenged and replaced the religious view of the Catholic Church with a scientific world view. Priests began to threaten parents who sent their children to state schools with excommunication. In some villages teachers were killed in extreme opposition. Article 3 of the Constitution, which banned religious primary schools, was withheld by Obregón because he thought that the instructions from priests were much better than to keep them illiterate.


Keen, Benjamin and Haynes, Keith A History of Latin America Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. pgs. (295-297)
Álvaro Obregón above: http://www.uncg.edu/rom/courses/lachesak/107/mexrev.htm
José Clemente Orozco below: http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/dept/history/lavender/701.html