The world economic depression invaded Mexico between the years of 1929 to 1934 and it was a major contributor to Mexico's falling economy as foreign trade declined and unemployment rose. The people, especially the radicals pointed fingers at the government and demanded reform. Lazaro Cardenas born in Michoacán, Mexico in 1895, seemed like the best candidate to achieve this reform. Cardenas was president of Mexico from 1934 to 1940, a period characterized by peasant and labor mobilizations (Hamilton, 192). The PNR (National Revolutionary Party) elected Cardenas as their president in the early 1930's; Cardenas was one of the best suited candidates. He was a strong believer in creating a powerful, unified state and soon became the leader of a radical agrarista faction. These characteristics helped in his nomination. As soon as he achieved the presidency, he began by promoting labor organization and the establishment of a national labor confederation; he went as far as encouraging labor strikes (Hamilton, 192).
Cardenas made laws that changed Mexico forever. Cardenas preferred the method of consolidated land holding rather than private ownership. He seized millions of acres of privately owned land and distributed it as ejidos, which are peasant communities in which land was individually worked or collectively farmed (Knight, 554). Cardenas also tried to implement a socialist education but that came to an end soon after his presidency, since it was opposed by the Catholic Church as well as many peasants. Above all Cardenas achievements under the agrarian reform were remarkable, noting how he distributed land to many peasants therefore enlarging the agricultural land which then gave way to high levels of cultivation.
A major event that took place during Cardenas's presidency was the expropriation of the Mexican petroleum companies as they shifted from foreign to state management. This occurred because the workers were complaining of having no contracts and insufficient wages and benefits. This transition helped give Mexico the advantage, as it became the major economic player. Cardenas established a state oil company, PEMEX, and removed the American companies out from controlling the oil. This change loosened the alliance between Mexico and many countries including Britain, it harmed Mexico's economy, but above all it was the first significant appropriation of oil capital by a country and the people of Mexico agreed with the reform. When WWII came into play the Mexican oil industry began to flourish again giving Mexico major prosperity.
Above all Cardenas's presidency was a time of great economic change as infrastructures were promoted and irrigation advanced. The achievements of the Cardenas presidency are remarkable as hundreds of peasants received land as a way to earn a living and the nationalization of petroleum gave Mexico economic relations with other foreign countries this led the way to success not only for the individual but the for whole country as well. Soon after the end of Cardenas's presidency the government of Mexico became more conservative and by 1940 the priority became to modernize the country by industrialization, soon the agricultural revolution ended (Miller, 323).
Hamilton, Nora, “Cardenas, Lazaro” Encyclopedia of Mexico (Chicago, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997), Vol 1, pp.192-195.
Knight, Alan, “Cardenas Del Rio, Lazaro” Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture (New York, Charles Scribner's sons, 1996), Vol 1, pp. 553-555.
Miller, Robert, Mexico: A History (Oklahoma; University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), pp.316-323.
Researched and Written
HIST 2260: Modern World History
September 17, 2003
© 2003 by David W. Koeller. All rights reserved.