Historical Context – Stability, Economic Growth, Inequality

Among Latin American countries, Mexico is considered to have had one of the most stable histories since its Revolutionary period ended in the late 1920’s, (Santiso, others). Unlike many other Latin American countries, for 90 years, Mexico has experienced a period without revolution, and a stable transition from one leader to the next. As a result, economic growth was greater than it might have been otherwise – though this does not mean that this growth was equitable or constant. In addition to its long history of “political stability”, Mexico’s growth is credited to some degree to its location next to the United States, a major trading partner and influence on Mexico’s policies and economy (Santiso, others).

Since 1994, Mexico has become even more dependent on its economic ties with the US, from the US’s bailout of the US after the 1994 liquidity crisis, to the implementation of NAFTA.   “The economy has slowly achieved a great transformation of its productive machinery,” and it’s risk premium has been delinked from other Latin American countries (Santiso, 154-155).  As a result of Mexico’s increasing ties to the U.S. market through NAFTA, Mexico grew it’s non-oil exports, helping it to escape the dependence on oil of other Latin American economies, and the “Dutch disease” of heavy reliance on global demand for commodities.  However, analysts say that much more needs to be done towards transforming Mexico’s oil industry to a market-driven one in which the state plays a significantly smaller role, and improving the government’s tax collection.

This stability and growth is not only due to Mexico’s relationship with the United States.  As the country has moved towards a more democratic system, it is also strengthening its institutions, including the federal election commission, and an autonomous central bank.

“At the beginning of the 1980’s, oil exports represented more than 2/3rds of Mexico’s exports, in 2005, slightly more than 1/10th.” (p156).  Increasingly high-technology manufacturing has become an important component of the country’s exports.

According to Santiso,, “In spite of belonging to the same partisan dynasty, for decades each new president tried to differentiate his new reign from his immediate predecessor in successive autonomous gestures in order to consolidate his authority not only over the state but also over the party” (pp 139-140) “alternating between interventionism and laissez faire policies” (p 140)


Mexican war of Independence

  • Started in 1810 by priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, who was captured and executed in 1811
  • Was in many ways a civil war between indigenous, criollos, and peninsulares.
  • José María Morelos assumed leadership of the rebel army
  • 1813 convened the Congress Chilpancingo, which issued the first official declaration of independence.
  • In 1821 a military coup in Spain led to conservative criollo forces in Mexico allying with rebel armies for independence.  The Treaty of Córdoba was signed with Spain, recognizing Mexican independence.  Iturbide was named “emperor”

First Mexican Republic – 1824-72.   Mexican American War took a large amount of northern territories from Mexico.  Conservatives and Liberals clashed over the role of the church in government, and of large landowners vs. workers and peasants.

1876-1911            Porifrio Diaz in power.  Diaz instituted land laws that restricted peasants from claiming land without formal legal title.  95% of Mexico’s land was owned by 5% of the population.

1910                       Mexican Revolution begins when Madero was jailed for running a campaign against Diaz. Madero wrote a letter from jail calling for “free suffrage and no re-election” and called for Diaz to be overthrown.

1911                       The federal army is defeated.  Madero signs the Treaty of Ciudad Juarez with Diaz.  Madero wins a new election.  Fighting continued when Madero failed to return lands to peasants and implement social reforms.

1913                       Madero forced to resign, and then assassinated in a coup led by Madero’s former commander in chief Victoriano Huerta.  Huerta installed as president.  Revolutionary groups led by Zapata and Pancho Villa continued fighting, and Woodrow Wilson refused to recognize Huerta’s government.

1914                       Huerta left office as fighting continued and US forces seized the port of Veracruz.  Venustiano Carranza took the presidency.

1917                       Mexican Constitution instituted many social reforms regarding agrarian land and labor.

1920                       Carranza assassinated under a revolt led by General Obregon and other military leaders.  General Álvaro Obregon elected president.

1928                        Obregon assasinated, marking the end of the violent “revolutionary period”

1929                       National Revolutionary Party begins (renamed PRI in 1946)

1934-1940           Lázaro Cárdenas president.  Instituted sweeping reforms returning land to peasants, and nationalized the oil industry.

1940-2000          Relatively peaceful succession of PRI presidents every 6 years.  In response to protests for meaningful elections (as opposed to handpicked successors of the outgoing president), presidents instituted various reforms, ultimately including mayoral elections where the PAN party won in Mexico City and Baja.

2000                       PAN candidate Vicente Fox won the election and took over the presidency from Ernesto Zedillo.  Fox was followed by PAN candidate Felipe Calderon, whose term expires in 2012.


Santiso, Javier, “Latin America’s Political Economy of the Possible”, MIT Press, 2006.  pp 139-164


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