MEXICO CITY (AP) — Reviled former dictator Porfirio Diaz is getting some unexpected respect in Mexico a century after he died in exile.
The government of Diaz’s home state of Oaxaca planned concerts, readings and art installations starting Thursday to mark the anniversary of his death on July 2, 1915, in Paris, and some people are asking that his remains be returned with honors to the country he ruled for most of the period from 1877 to 1910.
Margarita Toledo Garcia, who leads a committee aimed at repatriating the remains, said Diaz was practically the founder of modern Mexico. “We still see today many of the things he started,” Toledo Garcia said.
But many Mexicans say that there is no need to honor, or even re-evaluate, the man whose brutal rule sparked the Mexican Revolution.
“The Mexicans who admire him pardoned him a century ago, and those who don’t never will,” the cartoonist known as “Calderon” wrote in the newspaper Reforma. “Why bring him back? … Let the dead rest in peace.”
Diaz was a military hero, and later as president he was recognized as being a modernizer. His government brought rail, energy and foreign investment projects to Mexico.
But his regime brutally repressed and exploited industrial workers, Indians and peasant groups. A small group of immensely wealthy magnates treated impoverished, illiterate Mexicans as slave labor or peons on vast plantations.
In 1910, riots broke out after elections widely believed to be rigged gave another term to Diaz, who had already ruled Mexico for about 30 years with an iron fist.
His opponent, Francisco I. Madero, called on the Mexican people to take up arms and fight against the government, launching the Mexican Revolution. In 1911, Diaz resigned and fled to France, never to return.
The revolution brought a new constitution in 1917, but sporadic fighting continued into the early 1920s. About 1 million people are estimated to have been killed during the conflict.