Lázaro Cardenas & Mexican Populism
The Early Years/ The Birth of Populism
Lázaro Cárdenas del Río (May 21, 1895 – October 19, 1970) was President of Mexico from 1934 to 1940. From Cárdenas plebian roots, in the lower-middle class he eked out a substantial, moving and largely successful leadership role in a reformative Mexico. Born in the village of Jiquilpan, Michoacán, Cárdenas supported his widowed mother and seven younger siblings from the age of sixteen. His many professional pursuits included a tax collector, a printer’s devil (apprentice to a printer) and a jail keeper, all by the age of eighteen. Cárdenas had very little formal education, leaving school at eleven to help support his family he often sought opportunities to further his own knowledge, as can be seen by his choices of profession before the age of eighteen, additionally Lázaro Cárdenas was a consummate student of history seeking to understand and learn about all the national and international historical underpinnings of Mexico and the world. When Cárdenas was young he sought to become a teacher but was fouled in his plan by being drawn fully into the politics and military of Mexico, at a time when Mexico was in serious transition. (Wikipedia 2009, “Lázaro Cárdenas”) The Mexican Revolution drew Cárdenas, as it did many others into service of the new government, after Victoriano Huerta overthrew the former President Francisco Madero. Cárdenas was a supporter of Plutarco Elías Calles as the new president of Mexico and was rewarded, after his successful bid, for appointment as the governor of his home province, Michoacán in 1928. (Fallow 2001, 11) His programs were popular and needed as he developed infrastructure with particular emphasis on road building, school building, and education promotion in general, land reform and universal social security. These days as governor, the acquisition of resources and development of his community, as well as his plebian roots all contributed to his development of populism, later as president. (Bantjes 1998, 11) The definition of Populism, which speaks to Cárdenas’ whole career as a politician: …a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people; a member of a … political party … primarily to represent agrarian interests and to advocate the free coinage of silver and government control of monopolies 2: a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people. (Merriam Webster Dictionary Online 2009, “Populism”) Though, Becker contends that the revolutionary actions of Cárdenas do not necessarily hold true to the contention that he was godlike or mythical in his roving meeting and listening to campesinos (peasants) all over Mexico his works and the relationships he slowly forged with these people worked together to build a better Mexico. A Mexico where land redistribution and other public social security issues answered many questions about the extreme disparity, between the rich and poor, that existed in Mexico prior to this time, and just as importantly the redistribution of power and elimination of much of the political corruption that dominated and plagued the post-revolutionary nation. (Becker 1995, 1-2) Presidential Years/ Populism From Theory to Action
President Calles, who Cárdenas had supported in the early post-revolutionary period and whom had supported his bid for the governor of Michoacán, dominated the politics in Mexico even after the close of his presidential career. The administration was largely populated by Calles, controllable cronies. He dominated on who became the successor of two presidential elections, and first supported Manuel Pérez Treviño for the presidential candidacy in 1934. Yet, his demands went unheard as the dominant political party supported Cárdenas’ candidacy, instead. Calles eventually capitulated and supported the choice as he felt, that having once held the man’s favor he would be able to influence Cárdenas as he had...
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