Unit 3: Revolutions and Reaction
Lesson D: The Americas — Land of Revolutionary Opportunity
Activity 5: Democracy in Early Mexico
By 1821, South American countries were breaking free of the Spanish colonial system and by 1833, many countries were becoming independent states. However, the ideals of the Enlightenment did not take hold in most Latin American countries. For countries in South America, republics and democracies failed and gave way to military dictatorships and oligarchs. The criollos or the Creole elite in South America became the dominant class, replacing the peninsulares, and the lessons and dreams of the Enlightenment were only applied to the wealthy class. The only exception to this was that slavery was abolished. Inequalities remained among the different classes.
In Central America, there were more mestizos and Native Americans than in many South American countries, but their respective governments, too, largely ignored them. Constitutions were created and largely ignored by the ruling peoples. Slavery was abolished, but the leaders, although called presidents, were nothing more than dictators with the support of the military. Here too, the Enlightenment was only applied to those people with land and wealth.
Mexico, in particular, had difficulties deciding on leaders and policies. From their declaration of independence in 1821, the decisions of who would rule, how to rule, and how to redistribute wealth were fundamental issues that were decided by the wealthy, land-owning class.
Directions: For this activity, open the student resource titled "Early Mexico — The Extent of Democracy." Use the documents to determine the extent to which democracy was successful in Mexico’s first century as a country. The first one has been done for you as an example.
Submit your answers to the completed student resource to your teacher as instructed.
Now that you have measured the success of democracy in Mexico, move on to the next activity to learn about similar events in another area of Latin America.