Juárez worked day and night at the double task of reconstruction and reform. He won reelection but died, exhausted, on July 18, 1872.
The death of Juárez, the stoic partisan of reform, signaled hope to Mexico’s conservatives. They soon got their wish: General Don Porfirio Díaz, the “Coming Man,” was elected president in 1876, initiating the Porfiriato, the long, virtually imperial, rule of Porfirio Diaz.
Don Porfirio is often remembered wistfully, as old Italians remember Mussolini: “He was a bit rough, but, dammit, at least he made the trains run on time.”
Although Porfirio Díaz’s humble Oaxaca mestizo origins were not unlike Juárez’s, Díaz was not a democrat: When he was a general, his officers took no captives; when he was president, his country police, the rurales, shot prisoners in the act of “trying to escape.”
Order and progress, in that sequence, ruled Mexico for 34 years. Foreign investment flowed into the country; new railroads brought the products of shiny factories, mines, and farms to modernized Gulf and Pacific ports. Mexico balanced its budget, repaid foreign debt, and became a respected member of the family of nations.
The human price was high. Don Porfirio allowed more than 100 million acres— one-fifth of Mexico’s land area (including most of the arable land)—to fall into the hands of his friends and foreigners. Poor Mexicans suffered the most. By 1910, 90 percent of the indígenas had lost their traditional communal land. In the spring of 1910, a smug, now-cultured, and elderly Don Porfirio anticipated with relish the centennial of Hidalgo’s Grito de Dolores.