Here's why we are having a legal holiday and parades today:
The Mexican Revolution was intended to overthrow Porfirio Díaz, who had remained in office as President of Mexico for seven terms, over 30 years, by means of manipulating the law to serve his personal interests, and by electoral fraud in 1910. When all peaceful options seemed closed to the opposition, Francisco I. Madero called for the people to rise up in arms to oust the tyrant. However, the Revolution soon broadened into a many-faceted struggle which dragged on for years and attracted many men of high ideals and strong positions, especially regarding land and labor reforms. In May 1911, the Federal Army found itself on the verge of absolute defeat; Porfirio Díaz resigned, and, after a short interim Goverment, Madero was elected President and assumed power in November. Though he immediately set about reforming the laws, the various revolutionary leaders did not agree on how the new government was to be run, and fighting continued. In February 1913, Victoriano Huerta, a general from the Federal Army, taking advantage of the situation, at bayonet-point forced the President and the Vicepresident to resign, and the Congress to accept their resignations. Huerta promptly had the President and the Vicepresident assassinated, jailed members of Congress who opposed him and disregarded the law of the land.
Venustiano Carranza, then Governor of Coahuila, soon issued the Guadalupe Plan calling for respect for the Constitution and promising legal reforms. He raised an army known as Constitutionalist, because it was set up to defend the Constitution, and was joined by Alvaro Obregón, Francisco Villa, Pablo González, who commanded the main corps of that army, and by Emiliano Zapata, whose military force had been active since the beginning of the Revolution. The Constitutionalist movement was triumphant and a Sovereign Revolutionary Convention was held in 1914 to determine the course to be followed. However, Carranza disagreed with the decisions reached at this gathering and a split occurred between his followers and those of Villa and Zapata. From this point on, the Revolution turned into a civil war.
Carranza and Obregón achieved military victory over their adversaries and Carranza became President. He called for a Constitutional Congress to be held in Querétaro, deeming the previous legal instrument of "indisputable goodness … but insufficient to meet the public needs". The Congress was held from November 20th, 1916, through January 31st, 1917. It soon became apparent that the members were independent men with revolutionary political and social ideas, and with a knowledge of the problems facing Mexico, but that their views ranged from moderate to quite radical. Pastor Rouaix was one of the few delegates who managed not to become associated with either side, retaining the respect of both, and enabling him to make important contributions to two of the most important articles of the new Magna Charta, those dealing with agrarian and labor reform.
Article 27 established that ownership of land and waters belongs primarily to the nation, which can transfer direct control and set up private property, but stipulates that this shall remain subject to the public interest. It authorized confiscation of large estates to be divided into small properties; it distinguished between the land and subsoil rights pointing out that, though the first may be held as private property, the second is the exclusive, inalienable domain of the nation; it placed conditions on foreign ownership of land and excluded the Church from holding property. This article was passed unanimously and paved the way for the confiscation, years later, of foreign-owned lands and oil companies.
Article 123 also was largely the result of the efforts of Rouaix, Francisco J. Múgica and Heriberto J. Jara. It granted the right to professional association as a social guarantee for workers and employers to defend their interests. No such law had ever before been included in the constitution of any country. In addition, article 123 set limits to working hours, established a day of rest per week, equal pay for equal work, compensation for work-related accidents and injuries, comfortable and hygienic conditions. Article 123 also passed unanimously.
Article 3 called for lay education, paving the way for José Vasconcelos to set up the educational system in Mexico.
The Constitution of 1917 proved to be even more radical than Carranza's initial proposals. Nonetheless, it was signed on January 31st and published on February 5th. Carranza called for elections to be held the following month and the country to return to constitutional order. He won the election and took office as elected President on May 1, 1917.
The new Constitution encountered opposition, not only among the interest groups whose influence it was designed to limit: the Catholic Church, foreign and national estate owners and industrialists, but also among a minority of the people it attempted to satisfy, peasants and workers who had other ideas regarding how to achieve the necessary reforms. The states were not all equally eager to modify their own laws in accord with the new Constitution. The country was still reeling from the problems left behind in the wake of the Revolution: agrarian, political, labor, economic and other difficulties abounded. Nonetheless, a legal foundation had been laid that would be, for the rest of the century, the criterion for Government policies, and is still considered the guideline of the national project.
The Constitution of 1917, a document drafted by men of high ideals and legally adopted as the law of Mexico, has had to face hard obstacles to its full application. Over the years, it has been modified many a time to deal with both inherent and current problems, and to adapt to national and world changes, yet it remains the basis of our legal system today.