The term “bad Mexicans” (malos Mexicanos) was not coined by Anglos from the United States, instead it originated with President Porfirio Díaz, the authoritarian President of Mexico who ruled for almost three decades beginning in 1876. It was a derogatory name for any person or group who opposed him. At the expense of his own citizens and to the advantage of American investors, he encouraged and facilitated the investments to take place, which resulted in those American investors having control over major Mexican industries. Because of this situation, there developed a revolutionary movement, the magonistas, led by Ricardo Flores Magón, who established a political party, the Partido Liberal Mexicano, that challenged those corrupt practices and abuse of native Mexicans and their resources. Ricardo Flores Magón inspired and led groups of poor men and women, farmworkers, mine workers and other manual laborers, who had been forced to cross the border to the United States, seeking work because of being displaced from Mexico by the actions by President Díaz. The Partido Liberal Mexicano was a direct confrontation to the regime of Porfirio Díaz.
There was another person who was opposed to the President's regime, and that was Franciso Madero, a very wealthy Mexican, who had challenged Díaz in a presidential election. This did not bode well for Díaz, who had Madero arrested on false charges and kept in prison until Díaz secured his seventh term. Released from prison, Madero fled across the border to Texas and “ … committed his personal fortune to stockpiling guns and recruiting an insurgent army to force Díaz from power." Despite the fact that Díaz tried to paint a picture of Madero as some type of radical who was agitating for trouble, there were Americans and Mexicans who did not see him that way. Madero and his supporters were known as maderistas, who wanted reform, and were in sharp contrast to Ricardo Flores Magón and his magonistas who wanted Díaz and the American investors out. The magonistas wanted a political and economic revolution, which was very threatening to Americans and Mexicans who could see the value of foreign investments that were monitored, regulated and did not rob Mexicans of their land and/or their ability to find work at home. There were more reasons why there were Americans who were supportive of Madero's objectives, and historian Kelly Lytle Hernández meticulously documents the complexities that were part of this very troubling situation.
The history of the magonistas has, until now, not been fully documented and, in part, that is what this important work of history does. Kelly Lytle Hernández anaylyzes the importance of how and why this history was hidden away; what effects this had on future relations between Mexico and the United States; how the long-term residual effects have changed the lives of Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and others; how it has affected the economies of the United States, Mexico and other countries. She presents us with a fascinating and distressing history that requires and demands our full attention.