Many people search their heart for the Meaning Of Life but I have a less ambitious goal: I’m searching for the meaning of the street names in Puerto Vallarta. Last week I wandered along Insurgentes from the Rio Cuale and came across the streets of 5th February and Aquiles Serdan and this week I meandered along the shaded sidewalks of the street named after Francisco Madero, the father of the Mexican Revolution.
Francisco Ignacio Madero González chose his parents carefully and so was born rich, in Parras, a small, agricultural town up in the hills in the state of Coahuila. He studied in the USA and in Paris in the 1890s and then returned to Mexico to manage farms owned by the family in San Pedro, Coahuila. So far, so good.
However, since 1876, when Madero was just three years old, the country had been in the iron grip of Portfirio Diaz, a dictator who was intolerant of political opponents and passed land reforms that stripped peasants of their land. The rich were getting richer and the poor poorer. Sounds familiar?
In the early 1900s, unrest among poorer Mexicans began to build. In 1903, a political demonstration against the Díaz regime was violently crushed and Francisco Madero and liberals like him began to call for a more democratic government. By 1908, Diaz started to feel the heat and promised that the 1910 elections would be free and fair and, at the same time, Madero became leader of a new political party. As Election Day in 1910 neared, it became clear that Madero would win so Díaz reneged on his promise of free elections, had Madero jailed, and won the fraudulent election.
Madero was soon bailed out of jail, escaped and called on his fellow Mexicans to revolt and overthrow Diaz. His plan called for an uprising starting on November 20, 1910, to restore the Constitution of 1857 and to replace dictator Díaz with a provisional government. Its main purpose was to establish a democratic republic.
Rebel armies organized by Emiliano Zapata, Pascual Orozco, Casulo Herrera and Pancho Villa rose up all over Mexico and, because these men were soldiers not politicians, they recognised Madero as the political leader of the revolution.
In May 1911, Díaz relinquished power and a provisional government was formed. Six months later, on November 6, 1911, Madero was elected president of Mexico. But he was pretty naïve as a politician and soon ran into serious political opposition from remnants of the old-guard regime and the military, especially Commanding General Victoriano Huerta. Huerta got together with the American Ambassador, Henry Lane Wilson, and the ex-president’s nephew, Felix Diaz, and engineered a coup d’etat. Madero was arrested and, four days later on 22nd February 1913, just fifteen months after he was elected president, he was shot.
Madero was a moderate. His policy of “fairness and honesty” would have worked in a perfect world but the dirty chaos of the Mexican Revolution favoured the less scrupulous. He is remembered as one of the few good guys of Mexican politics.
The “Calle”, which derives its name from President Francisco Madero, is an interesting one. On the western end is, of course, the Malecon. It was hot last Friday when I was there, so I bought myself a glass of tuba from the immaculately white-suited Concepcion, who has been pedalling his drinks from a gourd for ever, sat on a wall and watched a group of beach vendors playing cards next to me. Wandering up the street I checked out the barbacoa place, just half a block off the Malecon, where the proprietor sells his wares for just $12 pesos each. I could have had a choice of chorizo, bistec, alsada or “al pastor” but I was, as Winnie the Pooh would say, on an explore. I walked past Pelequeria Alex, a unisex hair place where a cut costs $70 pesos, Paula Boop, the dressmaker, and then crossed Insurgentes. Now I was into the hotel zone and saw signs for the Ana Liz, Cartegena de Indios, Azteca Economica and Villa del Mar hotels. At the far end of the street, in typical Mexican style, is a beautiful looking block of townhouses that fits elegantly into the landscape. Calle Fco. Maderos is a great mix of Mexican residential, commercial services and bedrooms for tourists. It’s a cool place to visit.