The confrontation between federalists and centralists in the 19th century Mexico was the primary cause of political turmoil. The instability started as the old elites, i.e. the centralists, in the Mexico City made every effort to concentrate state power in their hands. The opposition from the regional centers, i.e. the federalists, attempted to accumulate power in their regional centers and get rid of the centralized rule of the Mexico City. The efforts of the federalist group were successful to a certain degree, when, for instance, the early Republic saw the 1824 constitution which legally fixed a de jure federalist system. At the same time, the constitutionally established federalist state structure did not last for more than five years, because centralism proved very deeply rooted, with strong Spanish-elite base. Federalists, supported mostly impoverished local populations, were largely disunited and never operated in concert against the center; they failed to garner the support of the clerical and military circles and were supported only be weak state militias, which were unable to successfully confront the army of the central government.
Psychologically, the tendency to rely on the power of a single person was also very strong. Hence, the Mexican state was characterized by a paradoxical situation in politics throughout the 19th century: whereas it was constitutionally federalist (the Constitution adopted in 1857 also embodied the federalist system as did another one in 1917), there was constantly an effort to centralize political power within the Mexican national government and, particularly, presidency. This tendency is still evident in modern Mexico: even though communication and transportation between the states and regions have significantly improved, regionalism remains an outstanding political factor despite the government’s efforts to promote the idea of nationalism. Likewise, presidentialism, as a feature of modern Mexican politics, has its roots in colonialism and post-colonial influence of the centralists (Coerver, Pasztor, & Buffington 204).

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  • Coerver, Don, Pasztor, Suzanne, & Robert Buffington. Mexico: An Encyclopedia of
    Contemporary Culture and History. ABC-CLIO, 2004.