Emilio Portes Gil: Biography And Government

Emilio Portes Gil (1890-1978) was a politician, diplomat, and provisional president of Mexico from December 1, 1928, after the assassination of President-elect Álvaro Obregón, until February 5, 1930.

At the end of 1914, Portes Gil worked for the revolutionary movement led by Venustiano Carranza, but supported Álvaro Obregón against Carranza in the 1920 elections. He became provisional governor of Tamaulipas, his hometown, until he was constitutionally governed between 1925 and 1928.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

He was governor during the entire presidential term of his predecessor Plutarco Elías Calles. His great skills, both as a lawyer and as an administrator, led him to quickly assume the position of interim president of Mexico.

As president, he was unable to freely exercise his presidential powers due to the influence of former President Calles. In fact, having Portes Gil in command was a political strategy he used to take over.

Even so, Emilio Portes Gil had the autonomy to carry out charitable works on behalf of Mexican peasants and workers.

Article index

  • one


    • 1.1

      Early years

    • 1.2

      Political career

    • 1.3


    • 1.4

      Last years

    • 1.5


  • two


    • 2.1

      Preparation for the Mexican elections

    • 2.2

      Fight for the power

    • 23

      Plan of Hermosillo

    • 2.4

      Resolution with the Catholic Church

    • 2.5

      Students strike

  • 3



Early years

Emilio Portes Gil was born on October 3, 1890 in Tamaulipas, Mexico. His grandfather was a prominent politician in his home state.

His father, Domingo Portes, died when Gil was only 3 years old. He was left alone with his mother, who had to face the family burden alone and overcome the financial problems they had at the time.

Portes attended all elementary and high school in Tamaulipas and thanks to the state grant, he was able to obtain certification as a school teacher. Later, he moved to Mexico City where he studied law at the Escuela Libre de Derecho in 1912. In 1915, he finally received his law degree.

Political career

At the time the Mexican Revolution broke out, he was studying law. At the same time, while he was studying, he allied himself with Venustiano Carranza and his cause in 1914.

That same year, the “First Chief” assumed the presidency of the country. As soon as he finished his law degree, he began his studies in public administration.

He then assumed the position in the Department of Military Justice from the faction of the Constitutionalists. When Álvaro Obregón defeated Pancho Villa’s forces, Portes belonged to the fraction of the northern leadership of the Constitutionalist Army.

In 1920, he collaborated in the Agua Prieta Revolution, being provisional governor of the State of Tamaulipas. Four years later he founded the Border Socialist Party, until he became the constitutional governor of Tamaulipas.

As governor, he promoted the organization in favor of the workers and peasants. He assumed the role of governor in his home state on two occasions, in 1920 and 1925. In addition, he was elected to be part of Congress in the years 1917, 1921 and 1923.

After Portes became involved with Plutarco Elías Calles, he rose through the ranks quickly. He demonstrated his ability as a lawyer and administrator, skills that led him to assume the presidency of Mexico.


For a time he was Minister of the Interior in the cabinet of Plutarco Elías Calles. After having elected Álvaro Obregón as president of the nation, a Catholic fanatic assassinated him on July 17, 1928.

After that event, the opponents of President Calles saw the need to calm the political crisis with the intention of not involving the former president again in the government.

However, with Calles’ consent and with a strategic move on his part, Portes assumed the position of provisional president for a period of 14 months, until new elections were called.

On December 1, 1928, Portes assumed the interim presidency of Mexico. Calles exercised his dominance as Chief Maximum, so while Portes was in power, the ideas of his predecessor were maintained: economic reconstruction in favor of the modernization of the country and the idea of ​​turning Mexico into a capitalist nation.

In addition, he promised to make effective the postulates of the constitution, as well as the hegemony of the State in Mexican society in order to achieve its economic benefits. It also favored the distribution of land for peasant organizations.

Last years

When his term as president ended, Portes, in addition to having held various positions in the government, held other positions in private organizations. He was ambassador of France and India, as well as Secretary of Foreign Relations.

During his tenure, the Federal Labor Law was created, which is why he remained in the position of director of the National Insurance Commission for the benefit of Mexican workers.

He was also president of the Mexican Academy of International Law and tried to return to the government of Tamaulipas, but failed immediately.

In recent years, he took charge of having a quiet and private life, so he only dedicated himself to writing testimonies of the experiences of his performance in Mexican public life.

Among his main works, it is possible to highlight  Autobiography of the Mexican Revolution and Raigambre of the Revolution of Tamaulipas .


A few days after turning 88, Portes died in Mexico City on December 10, 1978. He has been considered the former Mexican president who had the longest life after finishing his post as president of the country (48 years).


Preparation for the Mexican elections

Without Álvaro Obregón at the helm, the power of Plutarco Elías Calles grew significantly. Consequently, Portes became president thanks to the support of Calles.

By then, former Mexican President Calles was seen as the “Maximum Chief”, having all politicians as his subordinates, including Portes Gil himself.

As of December 1, 1928, a group of Mexican politicians thought about the formation of the National Revolutionary Party in order to move from a government of caudillos to a regime of institutions. The initiative was on the part of Plutarco Elías Calles, who as Chief Maximum had the initiative to create such a party.

With the publication of the Manifesto of the Nation , other organizations and political groups were invited to join the new party, so that all members could designate a candidate for the extraordinary elections of 1929.

The committee of the National Revolutionary Party, at that time, was made up of Plutarco Elías Calles, Aarón Sáenz and Luis León. His functions were to be in charge of all activities within the organization.

Fight for the power

The political situation was complicated when the National Revolutionary Party needed the support of the workers. However, the leader of the Mexican National Workers Confederation party, Luis Morones, prevented it.

Although Portes tried to fight for his preservation in power, Morones tried to prevent him. He took it upon himself to antagonize the workers with the provisional president due to the fact that the National Revolutionary Party needed them.

Morones ‘intention was to regain the political power that he lost during Calles’ presidency. For that reason, he tried to minimize the Portes presidency by standing up to him. Since Portes took office as president, both personal and political problems with Morones have increased significantly.

Many politicians accused Calles of being responsible for Morones’ hostile attitude, since Calles never supported Portes Gil. Otherwise, he stayed away throughout the conflict, leading to the interpretation that he actually agreed with Morones.

Plan of Hermosillo

At one of the National Revolutionary Party conventions, armed uprisings broke out in Sonora, Veracruz, Nuevo León, and Durango. Some rebel generals were against Calles’ control of politics, even after his presidency.

On March 3, the generals in charge of the uprising issued the Plan of Hermosillo in which they invited the people to rise up in arms against the cabinet of the Chief Maximum. Finally they ignored the presidency of Portes Gil and Calles as national leader.

The Hermosillo plan was headed by General José Gonzalo Escobar, who had the support of the Cristeros, interrupting the stable relationship between the Mexican Episcopate and the government.

Portes immediately made the decision to invite Calles to join his cabinet as Secretary of War to help him fight the rebellion. Despite the fact that various entities in Mexico joined the Escobar rebellion, Portes and the army achieved victory.

The result of the rebellion meant that Portes repositioned himself to his supremacy as president of Mexico.

Resolution with the Catholic Church

The country’s religious institutions reached an agreement with the government, after understanding that no sensible solution was reached with the armed struggle. For this reason, the clerics withdrew their support for the Cristeros and began to negotiate with the government.

On the other hand, the League for the Defense of Religious Freedoms opposed the agreement. Even so, both sides embarked on the path of reconciliation.

The government gave the church the concession to exercise all its spiritual rights in the Mexican population, on the condition that it permanently distance itself from political affairs.

On June 22, 1929, the conflict was resolved and ecclesiastical services were reestablished. A few days later, the first public mass was celebrated after a long time.

Students strike

Portes Gil had to resolve another conflict during his tenure, the student strike. Although it was not transcendental for their political stability, it would have overshadowed the government’s image of authority and harmed Pascual Ortiz’s presidential campaign.

For that reason, on May 28, 1929, autonomy was granted to the universities, resulting in the calm of student spirit.


  1. Emilio Portes Gil, Wikipedia in English, (nd). Taken from wikipedia.org
  2. Emilio Portes Gil, Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, (nd). Taken from britannica.com
  3. Emilio Portes Gil, Portal Wikimexico, (nd). Taken from wikimexico.com
  4. Emilio Portes Gil, Biographies and Lives, (nd). Taken from biografiasyvidas.com
  5. National Revolutionary Party Foundation, El Siglo de Torreón, (2014). Taken from elsiglodetorreon.com.mx

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