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Carranzista rebels near Chihuahua

Posing with rifles during the Mexican revolution

Mutual Film Co.
Library of Congress

Carranzista rebels near Chihuahua. , 1912. Photograph.

This photograph shows four soldiers from Chihuahua, one of the northern states where the rebellion against Díaz was very fierce. They were in the army of Venustiano Carranza, who was the leader of the northern army in 1912. Because the climate is drier in northern Mexico, there were fewer farms and more ranches in this area. But the same pattern of huge haciendas (large estates) owned by wealthy landowners existed here as in the southern farming region. Most of the vaqueros (cowboys) who worked on those haciendas owned no land and they worked for very low wages. What do you observe about these soldiers? To what social group do you think they belong? What perspective do you think these Carranzistas (fighters in Carranza’s army) had on the revolution and on what needed to change in Mexico?

Venustiano Carranza was the head of the northern army, later called the Constitutionalists. They were the most powerful rebel army, especially under the guidance of one leader, Pancho Villa. Soldiers in the Mexican Revolution came from many different social and ethnic backgrounds, and the quality of their uniforms and weaponry varied greatly. Students should recognize that the soldiers range in age, and one is very young. They don’t wear uniforms, and their dress suggests that they were poor rural laborers before they joined the army. Their perspective would likely have been pro-revolution and anti-Díaz, because rich landowners and Díaz’s officials were exploiting them. They were focused on economic issues and wanted to own enough land to live comfortably. When Carranza took over the presidency in 1914, he refused to support land reform. In response, the Northern Division army, under Pancho Villa, split away from Carranza’s army and fought against Carranza’s government. The men in this photo would have been more likely to follow Villa than Carranza at that point.

Rebel soldiers, Chihuahua