Plan of San Luis Potosí


© History Oasis
"The plan proclaims the illegality of the last election of President Díaz and Vice-President Corral...and declares me as provisional president of the republic until new elections are held, as soon as peace has been established and all branches of government have resumed their normal functions."

—Francisco I. Madero

As 1910 dawned, Porfirio Díaz had held an iron grip on Mexico for over three decades.

The aging dictator had long since abandoned the progressive, reforming zeal of his early years, instead creating a repressive regime propped up by patronage and the blunt force of “los rurales".

After the fraudulent elections of 1910 delivered an eighth term to Díaz, Francisco Madero—a member of a wealthy Coahuila family—stepped forth to challenge the president's assumed right to perpetual re-election.

From exile over the northern border in San Antonio, Madero issued a call to action—The Plan of San Luis Potosí—that would ignite the fires of revolution and spell the end of Porfiriato.

The Plan, issued on October 5, 1910, was in essence a manifesto, one which laid bare Díaz's subversion of democracy for his own ends. Madero denounced the recent election as illegal, named himself provisional president, and made appeals to the Mexican people with promises of reform, including limits on presidential power.

The Plan outlined the manifold flaws of the Díaz regime and presented a competing vision, calling for the restoration of rights and liberties eroded over decades.

With the Plan, Madero issued a firm rejection of científico ideology and positivism, aligning himself with more radical elements and their opposition to Díaz's brand of "order and progress."

The document bore the imprint of intellectuals like Juan Sanchez Azcona, showing Madero's ability to synthesize progressive ideas.

The Plan proved decisive in transforming public disappointment with Díaz into action.

Its publication was the spark that lit the fire of revolution, as the people rallied to Madero's cause.

With the Plan of San Luis Potosí, the gears of history shifted and the Mexican Revolution was set irrevocably upon its course.


A rigged election in Mexico
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The elections of 1910 represented a point of no return for the Porfiriato.

Díaz, nearing eighty years old, insisted on claiming another term as president, essentially securing himself lifetime rule. To achieve this end, the flawed electoral process was warped beyond recognition, with Díaz's opponents harassed and jailed or simply banned from running.

The vote itself was an orchestrated sham, the predetermined outcome a foregone conclusion.

In the aftermath, Francisco I. Madero issued a bold condemnation—the Plan of San Luis Potosí.

The Plan pulled no punches, declaring the recent election outright illegal and unfair. Madero asserted his own claim as the rightful, legitimate president of Mexico. His justification was clear—the voice and will of the people had been stifled.

The Plan positioned him as the champion of democracy against Díaz's brand of phony, manipulated elections.

Beyond mere criticism, the Plan issued a rousing call to action.

Madero called upon Mexicans from all parts of society to rise up in revolt on a planned date, November 20, 1910.

This unveiled a coordinated plan for revolution on a national scale, moving beyond piecemeal opposition to the Díaz regime. The setting of a date for synchronized action lent a tone of inevitability to Madero's call for revolution.

By branding the election unconstitutional and placing himself at the head of the coming uprising, Madero's Plan presented a tangible alternative to the Porfirian dictatorship.

The Plan coalesced and crystallized the discontent with Díaz's perpetual rule, transforming it into immediate plans for an organized revolt. Though risky, Madero's bold gambit paid off, as the Mexican Revolution commenced in earnest on the date prescribed.


the beginning of the Mexican Revolution
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The Plan of San Luis Potosí represented a watershed moment, converting growing frustration with the Porfiriato into coordinated revolutionary action.

Madero's call to arms served as the catalyst that brought long-simmering tensions to a boil.

Through its wide circulation by Madero's allies, the Plan spread the spirit of rebellion to every corner of Mexico.

On the date prescribed, November 20, 1910, outbreaks of revolt erupted across the nation.

In the north, Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa mobilized bands of revolutionaries. Emiliano Zapata led an uprising of peasant farmers in the south.

The Plan had set the stage for revolt by fixing a date for simultaneous nationwide action. In this way, Madero cleverly maximized the Plan's impact and momentum.

Within months, the revolutionary fervor unleashed by the Plan had shaken the foundations of Díaz's power.

Defections within his Federal Army mounted as revolutionary forces gathered strength.

By May of 1911, Madero's Constitutional Army had defeated federal troops in a string of battles, leaving Díaz increasingly isolated in Mexico City. Realizing his weakening position, Díaz agreed to negotiate terms for his resignation.

After three decades of iron-fisted rule, the Porfiriato crumbled rapidly in the wake of the Plan of San Luis Potosí.

Fulfilling its central objective, the Plan had successfully coordinated and inspired revolutionary action on a national scale. Madero's bold manifesto proved to be the first shot that toppled a dictatorship and paved the way for Mexico's revolution.


the anti-reelectionist party march
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While Francisco I. Madero was the public face and voice behind the Plan of San Luis Potosí, its intellectual underpinnings derived from a circle of writers and political thinkers. Chief among them were Juan Sanchez Azcona and Antonio Diaz Soto y Gama, who helped craft the language and framework of the Plan.

Azcona and Soto y Gama were members of the Anti-Reelectionist Party, founded by Madero in 1909 as a vehicle to challenge Díaz's grip on power.

Their input shaped the Plan into a high-minded manifesto, articulating lofty ideals. The Anti-Reelectionists opposed Díaz's pattern of rigging elections to stay in office perpetually, instead favoring democracy and greater political pluralism.

The Plan's calls for restoring constitutional rule and limiting the power of the presidency clearly reflected the vision of Madero's party.

Azcona, Soto y Gama, and fellow intellectuals in the Anti-Reelectionist circle supplied the ideological foundation, which Madero then broadcast with his own formidable political talents.

Through their crucial contributions, these Progressive writers and activists left an indelible mark on one of the seminal documents of the Mexican Revolution.

The Anti-Reelectionist spirit embodied in the Plan of San Luis Potosí proved critical in establishing an intellectual and philosophical basis for the uprising against Díaz. Though Madero lent his name—the Plan owed much to the ideas of his politically engaged contemporaries.


An old Mexican train representing the Porfirian era
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The Plan of San Luis Potosí represented not just a rejection of Díaz's dictatorship, but also a repudiation of the governing philosophy that had propped it up.

Porfirian rule was heavily influenced by the ideology of positivism and its appeal to "order and progress."

Madero directly critiqued this establishment philosophy, stating in the Plan: "The nation is tired of this fraudulent positivist philosophy, which has only been profitable to the ambitious."

Instead, the Plan outlined an alternative vision centered on democratization and rights.

It called for "effective suffrage and no reelection," attacking Díaz's manipulated elections.

The Plan demanded restoration of the rights-oriented Constitution of 1857, which Díaz had long since gutted to concentrate power.

Significant reforms were proposed, including redistribution of land to peasants and workers. Madero pledged to make owners "divide up the excess land," enacting agrarian reform to aid the rural poor.

The progressive Plan also specifically called for the protection and fair treatment of indigenous communities victimized under the Díaz regime. Madero promised the indigenous would receive "consideration and justice," pointing to the systemic inequities they faced.

With these measures, Madero signaled a dramatic shift from the status quo of injustice and exploitation of marginalized groups.

By directly challenging the scientific, modernizing worldview of Díaz and the científicos, Madero put forward an alternative, reformist vision for Mexico's future.


A mah smuggler in Mexico
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While crafting the Plan of San Luis Potosí, Madero found himself across the border, driven into exile in San Antonio, Texas after a daring presidential campaign against Díaz.

This relative safety in the north provided Madero a haven from which to launch his call to action without immediately suffering the regime's wrath. However, it created the significant challenge of disseminating the Plan back within Mexico's borders.

To spread the word, Madero turned to his broad network of political allies, collaborators and sympathizers.

Through covert distribution channels, the Plan was successfully smuggled into Mexico under the nose of Díaz's security forces. Copies spread from town to town, hand to hand, distributed surreptitiously by Madero's supporters.

They often worked at great personal risk, violating censorship to spread seditious words.

Key allies like Emiliano Zapata helped transmit the Plan throughout the countryside. From his stronghold in Morelos, Zapata circulated the manifesto among the peasant networks he had cultivated through years of agrarian organizing.

Other revolutionary figures followed suit, sharing copies of the Plan across Mexico's vast terrain.

Despite distance and censorship, the Plan reached far and wide thanks to the collective efforts of Madero's underground political network.

By evading Díaz's apparatus of suppression, they ensured the Plan could inspire rebellion nationwide. \


A mexican revolt after reading the Plan of San Luis Potosi
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The Plan of San Luis Potosí stands as a landmark document that encapsulated the aspirations of Mexico's revolutionary movement in its early days. Madero presented the Plan as a foundational text expressing the values that would underpin the struggle against Díaz.

As he declared in its pages, "The principles that will guide the revolution will be: respect for the lives and interests of all, observing existing laws and introducing the reforms proclaimed in the Plan."

At its core, the Plan issued a call for genuine democracy to replace Díaz's brand of sham elections and perpetual re-election.

Madero demanded political rights be restored, stating the necessity for "effective suffrage and no reelection."

The Plan also introduced concepts of revolutionary reform, such as land redistribution to aid rural peasants. Its progressive vision aligned with quoted goals like "improvement to the condition of the working classes."

By articulating this reformist vision, Madero captured the mood of national dissatisfaction with the injustice and inequality of the Porfiriato.

The Plan provided a manifesto for revolutionary change, declaring the movement's commitment to higher ideals.

Madero proclaimed it "will not lay down its arms until it has overthrown the present governing powers."

The Plan helped coalesce Mexico's revolutionary factions around shared objectives expressed in its historic pages.