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The Constitution of 1917

Constituent Congress

“The Constitution of 1917,” Latin American Studies website, edited by Antonio de la Cova, Indiana University, 2004,

 Although fighting still continued for several more years, the Constitution of 1917 became the basis of the government that has ruled Mexico since the revolution ended. The representatives of the constitutional congress who met in Querétaro, Mexico, in 1917 knew that they had to address the concerns of rural peasants and workers who had refused to end their revolt. Article 27 provides the legal basis for land reform, or redistribution of land. Based on this passage, how would you explain land reform in your own words? Article 123 provides protections for workers and was very progressive for that time. 



thereof: of them; in this case, communities would get grants of land and water taken from the large estates

adjacent: next to, next door

contravening: going against

formulate: form, make up


compulsory: required


 Formulated at a constitutional congress convened in Querétaro, Mexico, the revolutionary Constitution of 1917 responded to the insurrectionary power of the popular classes. In the two selected articles, the new approach of the government is apparent in its focus on land reform and empowering the labor sector. In article 27 the state establishes its power to redistribute land away from the small, powerful group of elites to the popular classes. In article 123 the state creates a minimum wage and baseline worker protections, an ambitious plan that was ahead of its time. The Mexican Constitution of 1917 included some of what each group wanted, and so created a rather stable system. There has been no widespread revolution in Mexico since 1920, although the struggle over land continues for some groups, such as the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas in the 1990s.

Article 27: … The Nation shall at all times have the right to impose on private property such limitations as the public interest may demand … in order to conserve them and to ensure a more equitable distribution of public wealth. With this end in view, necessary measures shall be taken to divide up large landed estates; to develop small landed holdings in operation; to create new agricultural centers, with necessary lands and waters. … Centers of population which at present either have no lands or water or which do not possess them in sufficient quantities for the needs of their inhabitants, shall be entitled to grants thereof, which shall be taken from adjacent properties, the rights of small landed holdings in operation being respected at all times. …
Article 123: The Congress of the Union, without contravening the following basic principles, shall formulate labor laws which shall apply to:
A. Workers, day laborers, domestic servants, artisans and in a general way to all labor contracts:
I. The maximum duration of work for one day shall be eight hours …
III. The use of labor of minors under fourteen years of age is prohibited. Persons above that age and less than sixteen shall have a maximum work day of six hours.
IV. For every six days of work a worker must have at least one day of rest.
V. During the three months prior to childbirth, women shall not perform physical labor that requires excessive material effort. In the month following childbirth they shall necessarily enjoy the benefit of rest and shall receive their full wages and retain their employment and the rights acquired under their labor contract. During the nursing period they shall have two special rest periods each day, of a half hour each, for nursing their infants.
VI. The minimum wage to be received by a worker shall be general or according to occupation. … The general minimum wage must be sufficient to satisfy the normal material, social, and cultural needs of the head of a family and to provide for the compulsory education of his children.