THIS book would not be complete without a chapter on the great President of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz, whom I consider the greatest man on earth today and one of the greatest men who ever lived. He is every inch not only a king but the highest type of man.
To judge him as he is, one must understand Mexico and its history, must see as I have seen the wonderful changes taking place every year.
When General Diaz assumed the office as President, it was a few years after Maximilian's reign, when the state was just freed from the church after years of turmoil. All nations have to go through this struggle -- Italy, France and Portugal have and now Spain is at work on the same task.
There were numerous scars left from this struggle; the country was overrun with bandits -- men who had taken up this profession, not from choice, but because they had to in order to live. Business was ruined after all the years of turmoil, there was only one bank in Mexico and only 300 miles of railroad. There were thirty different dialects spoken and no attempt was made at educating the masses. To get up an insurrection had always been as easy in the past as to pick up a fishing rod and go fishing. The precious metals mined amounted to only about $30,000,000 per year.
This was the condition then, when he undertook one of the greatest tasks any man on earth ever faced, and remember this was only thirty-four years ago.
National credit there was none. The great arid plains north of Zacatecas, for 500 miles or more, supported no one and separated central Mexico from the northern part, only long, dusty roads connecting the two sections. The great Sierra Madre mountains formed an almost impassable barrier between the west coast and the capital, and were full of bandits.
The first thing President Diaz did was to arouse the patriotism of these bandits, and presto! these men who had been the terror of all sections were transferred into the Rurales of Mexico, and from that day to this they have been one of the greatest police forces any country ever had. At once all parts of Mexico under their patrol became peaceful and all disturbance ended.
In place of armed guards once in six months taking the precious metals to market, mines at any time shipped their output in silver and gold dust or concentrates, guarded only by one or two peons. Day after day these trains would wind around the mountains, cross the valleys and plains and always arrive safely. Year after year this increased in volume and value and it is almost impossible to hear of a case where a train did not arrive in safety.
Education was taken up for the masses, foreign trade was established, the great plains at the north were crossed by railroads, banks were started, commercial Mexico was born. Foreign capital prospected in a small way and then came in bunches. National credit started on a rock foundation -- honesty.
Then came the slump in silver. The bankers of the world licked their chops as they saw a readjustment of the debt with its attending juicy commission. But no, Diaz refused to default or repudiate. He said, "We owe it, and we will pay it, just as the bond is written, no matter where the silver goes." Retrenchment was made, leading officials refused to accept salaries while Mexico suffered. And behold! a wonder burst on the financial world, a nation with every reason for compromising its debts refused to do so. This was the birth of a new era for Mexico and the world.
The bankers lost, but the world gained. Then President Diaz began to be understood. Here was not a freebooter, here was a patriot, a man. National credit after the explosion of this bomb of honesty on a startled world, jumped by leaps and bounds. Honest Mexico took the place in the world of festering Mexico.
Great railroad development took place, mines were opened and now the precious metals output is $110,000,000 per year and there are 16,000 miles of railroad.
In 1896 the railroad laws were revised and when Mexico undertakes anything, it is done will. The new railroad law is the best on earth; the people are guarded but so is capital. Roads are given fixed rates and capital has assurance of being allowed fair returns. This law will do much for the progress of Mexico. It is impossible to predict what the development in the United States would be with such a law.
A few years ago, as soon as Mexico was on a sure foundation, it began internal improvements, splendid streets, asphalt pavements, good sewage systems, fine buildings, beautiful parks, city markets were built in all cities, models of neatness. Splendid hospitals were installed in each city. Good schools were opened and in thirty-four years Mexico came from the low ranks of nations to the top.
Great men were found to take the different positions of trust, until now the cabinet and governors will rank with similar officials in any land. When it is understood that only ten per cent. of the population of Mexico belong to the governing class, it will be seen that it was not easy to find proper men, but President Diaz has found them.
The peon is being lifted up year by year, taught better ways of living, and in a few generations he will be as resourceful and enterprising as he was in the days of Cortez before he had the manhood crushed out of him by years of oppression.
It is true that now and then you will read of socialists attempting to stir up the people, as always happen when people first grasp education, but that will be handled as the last attempt was. For remember that ninety-nine per cent. of Mexico is grateful for the great man at its head, and that while one per cent. may now and then make a big noise, noise does not run the world; it is results which count.
The peaceful way, blazed by the great Diaz, will be followed by the Mexican nation and this path leads to prosperity and greatness. The whole world is under a debt of gratitude to Porfirio Diaz.