7 junio, 2024

Social classes in the Porfiriato

What were the social classes in the Porfiriato?

The social classes in the porfiriato They were the social strata into which Mexican society was divided during the historical period known as the Porfiriato.

The Porfiriato corresponds to the stage in the history of Mexico between the years 1876 and 1911, during which General Porfirio Díaz ruled after overthrowing Lerdo de Tejada. The government of General Díaz was characterized by the repression of political and civil liberties, and the use of force when necessary.

More than 30 years in power, repression, lack of freedom and strong social inequality ended up unleashing the Mexican Revolution in 1911. However, the Porfiriato also marked the beginning of the nation’s economic progress.

The growth of the mining, industrial, commercial and export agriculture sectors, as well as the investment of foreign capital in the nation, led to the emergence of new social classes. These social classes were:

The semi-feudal aristocracy (high society)
the national bourgeoisie
The petty bourgeoisie (middle class)
proletarians and peasants

Next, we will describe each of these social classes and what their position was within the Mexican social structure of the time.

The semi-feudal aristocracy (high society)

During the Porfiriato, the highest class was made up of the politicians in power, as well as foreign and native capitalist investors.

It was a social class that lived surrounded by privileges and controlled most of the country’s wealth. It included a small group of personal friends of General Díaz who served as his advisers and were capable of enormously influencing the fate of the nation.

This group of friends included politicians, businessmen and even a group of intellectuals. This group of people who influenced the political decisions of the first decade of the 20th century were called «The Scientists».

the national bourgeoisie

This class was made up of the owners of the means of production and land. That is to say, it included the mine owners, the hacienda owners, landowners and latifundistas, who were the main exploiters of the working classes, and the owners of commercial houses.

This part of the upper class also includes businessmen involved in financial businesses, an economic activity that was beginning to flourish.

On the other hand, there was also a large group of English, French, Americans and other foreigners, who were not part of the aristocracy, but did enjoy privileges and benefits, since they were brought by foreign capitalists to occupy the highest positions in Mexican organizations.

Meanwhile, the Creoles who were not part of the leadership of power were relegated to the minor positions in which exploitation took place.

The petty bourgeoisie (middle class)

The Mexican middle class during the Porfiriato was almost non-existent compared to the lower class, representing barely 5% of the total population at the end of the 19th century.

It was made up mainly of small merchants, the owners of small businesses and minor industries, as well as teachers, bureaucrats, freelance professionals and journalists.

This was a class subservient to the ruling class and also participated in the exploitation and domination of the lower classes, although to a lesser degree than the former. Almost three quarters of the 670,000 petty bourgeois that existed in Mexico in 1895 lived in the cities.

Intellectuals and other members of the middle class or petty bourgeoisie played an important role in the development of new political ideologies in the country. This finally led to the revolutionary process that overthrew General Díaz and that spanned the period from 1910 to 1917.

In fact, the new political class that emerged during the revolutionary process was made up almost exclusively of people from the urban petty bourgeoisie, and to a lesser extent by the rural petty bourgeoisie. The latter was made up of small ranchers and owners of artisan workshops, among others.

proletarians and peasants

The lowest and most oppressed class during the Porfiriato was made up of workers or workers and peasants. As in most societies, the lower class was by far the largest.


At the turn of the century, more than 75% of the Mexican population lived in the countryside, while the other 25% lived in emerging cities. A good part of this population was made up of the proletariat, while only a small fraction was made up of the bourgeoisie.

The oppression of the peasantry arose as a consequence of the agrarian reform laws promulgated by the government of Porfirio Díaz. What at first seemed to be a benefit for the peasant lower classes and an act of social justice, soon became the greatest source of their misfortune.

With the promulgation of laws such as the Lerdo Law, peasants were given ownership of small plots of land. But far from benefiting them, this was counterproductive, since the peasants could not compete with the prices of the big capitalist farms.

As a consequence, the landowners took the opportunity to buy the land from the peasants in exchange for offering them work on the same farms that were theirs before. From this point on, the peasants were mercilessly exploited by the landowners through a scheme of unpayable loans.

The working class or the proletariat

For its part, the industrialization of the country that occurred during the Porfiriato also meant the emergence of a new social class made up of workers from different industries. This was characterized by including not only working men but also women and children.

In fact, one third of the country’s working class were women and in some industries, such as tobacco and clothing, more than 50% of the workforce was female. For its part, 12% of workers in the textile industry in 1896 were children.


Garcia, A. (2015). History II 9 Society, daily life and culture in the Porfiriato [Archivo de vídeo]. Taken from youtube.com.
Social Classes (2015). Taken from porfiriatolauramendoza.blogspot.com.
Martinez Mendoza, D.A. (2021). Social classes in the Porfiriato [Archivo de vídeo]. Taken from youtube.com.
Peña, JL (s/f). Historical bloc of the Porfiriato. Taken from cdigital.uv.mx.
Ministry of Economy – General Directorate of Statistics (1956). SOCIAL STATISTICS OF THE PORFIRIATE 1877–1910. Taken from internet.contenidos.inegi.org.mx.

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