Article

Cárdenas and Cardenismo

Benjamin T. Smith

in Latin American Studies

ISBN: 9780199766581
Published online March 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0058
Cárdenas and Cardenismo

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The presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas was characterized by far-reaching socioeconomic, political, and cultural reforms. In the cities, Cárdenas championed the right to strike and the implementation of a strict interpretation of the 1931 Law of Work. In the countryside, he enforced the tenets of the Agrarian Code of 1934, allowing hacienda workers to apply for government land grants (ejidos) for the first time. In February 1936, he gave his support to the peasants’ armed defense of their territorial gains, announcing that the government should “give them the Mausers with which they made the Revolution . . . so they can defend the ejido and the school” and allowing them to join the official army reserve (Raquel Sosa Elízaga, Los códigos ocultos del cardenismo: Un estudio de la violencia política, el cambio social y la continuidad institucional [Mexico, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México: Plaza y Valdés Editores, 1996], 109). Finally, he increased the number of land grants exponentially. Between 1930 and 1940, the proportion of cultivated land held as ejidos increased from 15 to 50 percent. At the same time, social reform fed into political restructuring. He supported the creation of a major peasant union (the National Peasant Confederation, or CNC) and a major workers’ confederation (the Confederation of Mexican Workers, or CTM). Although these confederations came into conflict over which organization had the right to control Mexico’s rural masses, by 1937 Cárdenas had disciplined their leaders and delineated their national roles. The following year, he changed the name of the national party (the National Revolutionary Party) to the Party of the Mexican Revolution and permitted members of the CNC and the CTM automatic membership of the organization. At the same time, structural changes paralleled and overlapped with large-scale cultural reforms as Mexican intellectuals and bureaucrats continued their revolutionary campaigns to create “new men” and “new women.” Schools continued to be the linchpins of these crusades. In late 1934, legislators changed Article 3 of the Constitution, introducing “socialist education” and “exclud[ing] all religious doctrine” from school syllabi. Outside the classroom, state administrators and cultural entrepreneurs attempted to instill ideas of anticlericalism, labor, hygiene, nationalism, and gender and race relations through music, radio, cinema, health programs, monuments, and civic festivals. Large-scale changes generated considerable opposition, especially on the right, where shifting, regional alliances of large landowners, ranchers, sharecroppers, Catholics, and industrialists tried to waylay the Cardenista project, through voting, demonstrations, and targeted terror.

Article.  12112 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies ; History of the Americas

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