Expert opinion
The Chromolithograph of the Constituent Assembly of 1916-1917

The building on Río Lerma no. 35, which is home to the Carranza House Museum, was designed as an upper-middle class residence during the regime of Porfirio Díaz. It was built and first owned by a civil engineer called Manuel Luis Stampa Ortigoza, who was involved in constructions in the Cuauhtémoc and Juárez neighborhoods in the final stages of Díaz’s rule.

In 1919, Stampa rented the house to President Venustiano Carranza, who lived there from November that year until May 1920. After Huerta’s rebellion, in which most of the army rebelled in support of General Álvaro Obregón, Carranza was forced to flee Mexico City for Veracruz, where he planned to install his government. However, Don Venustiano never arrived at his destination, because his convoy of trains was hounded by rebels all along the way; Carranza ended up having to travel on horseback to seek refuge in the mountains of Puebla, before eventually being assassinated in the rural settlement of Tlaxcalantongo, in the morning of May 21. Carranza’s remains were brought back to his house on Río Lerma 35 for a wake, and they were subsequently interred in the Civil Pantheon of Dolores on May 24, 1920.

Venustiano Carranza is one of Mexico’s most illustrious historical figures due to his role as a leader during the Mexican Revolution. After the assassination of President Francisco I. Madero, he was put in command of the fight against the usurper Victoriano Huerta and charged with restoring the rule of law. To this end he published the Plan of Guadalupe, and become the “First Chief” of the Constitutionalist Army. Subsequently he was the man responsible for ensuring that the revolutionary movement crystallized into a strong and stable government, pitting him against other rebel leaders such as Francisco Villa and Emiliano Zapata.

But perhaps Carranza’s most abiding legacy was equipping the country with a new political Constitution, laying the legal foundations for the fulfillment of the Revolution’s social and political aims. Carranza therefore supported the Constituent Assembly in the city of Querétaro, between December 1916 and January 1917.

Therefore, although the Museo Casa de Carranza is primarily focused on preserving the memory of the life and historic achievements of Don Venustiano, from its beginnings it also sought to draw people’s attention to the work of the Constituent Assembly of 1916-1917, as can be seen in many of its commemorative exhibits, such as the large-format chromolithograph (2.20 m x 1.72 m or 7.2 x 5.6 feet), created by the photographers Pedro and José Mendoza.

The Mendoza brothers served Carranza as official photographers, and hence they covered many of his public and private functions. In the 1950s they helped enrich the museum’s collection by donating the aforesaid chromolithograph, a collage of the photographic portraits of the 217 Constitutionalist deputies, as well as Venustiano Carranza himself, in the central-upper part of the composition. These images are framed by a series of decorations, including some allegories representing the “Patria” or nation, surrounded by Justice, Law (enshrined in the 1857 and 1917 Constitutions) and Labor.

Apart from the portraits, the chromolithograph also includes eight photographs of the most important moments of the Assembly in its lower section, as well as the fountain pen used to sign the Constitution and the signatures of every deputy. This exhibit is complemented by another picture behind it, with the names of each member of the Constituent Assembly. Both pictures have their respective wooden frames, in different styles, and rest on a base of the same material.

This chromolithograph is a unique work. Although it forms part of a series of works by Carranza’s photographers to commemorate the Assembly, it has a number of other special characteristics. There are at least two others in existence. Apart from its historical importance, the work is also technically interesting since it represents the most ambitious work carried out by the Mendoza brothers, and is an example of mid-twentieth century photographic techniques.

This work and others help keep alive the memory of the men who, like Carranza and the Constitutionalist deputies, rose up in arms to defeat a dictatorship with the aim of establishing a fairer system.

Museo Casa de Carranza
The Chromolithograph of the Constituent Assembly of 1916-1917

  • Barrón, Luis, 2009, Carranza: el último reformista porfiriano, México, Tusquets.
  • Río Cañedo, Lorenza del y Gabriela Pulido Llano (coords.), 2013, Vida y obra de Venustiano Carranza, México, LXII Legislatura / INAH / Museo Casa de Carranza / Conaculta / CARSO.
  • Krauze, Enrique, 1987, Venustiano Carranza. Puente entre siglos, investigación iconográfica de Aurelio de los Reyes, México, FCE.
  • Matute, Álvaro, 1995, Historia de la Revolución Mexicana, 1917-1924: las dificultades del nuevo estado, México, Colmex / CEH.
  • Plana, Manuel, 2011, Venustiano Carranza 1911-1914: el ascenso del dirigente político y el proceso revolucionario en Coahuila, México, Colmex / Gobierno del Estado de Coahuila de Zaragoza / Universidad de Alcalá de Henares / Instituto de Estudios Latinoamericanos.


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