Cárdenas and Cardenismo
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 19 March 2013
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0058
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 19 March 2013
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0058
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.
Although standalone Biographies of Lázaro Cárdenas are fairly rare, general overviews of the period are plentiful. Over the past fifty years, opinions on Cárdenas and his raft of socioeconomic, political, and cultural initiatives have reflected and stood in for general opinions on the revolutionary regime. Early overviews, especially those of US journalists and political scientists, praised the president’s efforts. However, following the massacre of students in Tlatelolco in 1968, “revisionist” scholars of the 1970s and 1980s were less generous. Historians like Córdova 1974, Hernández Chávez 1979, and Ianni 1977 viewed the mass mobilizations and concomitant reforms of Cárdenas’s presidency as designed to co-opt the popular forces of the Revolution and establish the groundwork for the expansion of the Mexican state and the dominance of the capitalist class. Although the political prominence of Lázaro Cárdenas’s son, Cuauhtemoc, has encouraged a revival of earlier more reverential treatments (Gilly 1994), most recent overviews have sought to balance appreciations of Cardenismo’s major achievements with acknowledgments of its limitations and problems (Hamilton 1982, Knight 1990, Knight 1994, Shulgosky 1981, Sosa Elizaga 1996).
Córdova, Arnaldo. La política de masas del cardenismo. Mexico City: Ediciones Era, 1974.
The classic revisionist work on Cárdenas’s presidency. Concludes that Cárdenas’s land and labor reforms were designed to co-opt the Mexican poor into the governing party and allow the creation of a powerful “Leviathan” state.
Gilly, Adolfo. El cardenismo: Una utopia mexicana. Mexico City: Cal y Arena, 1994.
In this work, the left-wing historian Adolfo Gilly restates his argument that Lázaro Cárdenas was the sole Mexican president to act on the agrarian and labor demands of the Revolution. Written from an overtly political perspective, Gilly concludes that this period of intense mobilization and reform was as close to revolutionary utopia as Mexico had ever achieved.
Hamilton, Nora. The Limits of State Autonomy: Post-Revolutionary Mexico. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982.
An interesting, well-researched, and ambivalent reading of Cardenismo and its long-term effects. The author views Cardenismo as part of a broad, progressive alliance, prepared to employ quasisocialist forms of ownership in order to phase out feudal conditions and achieve a degree of justice within the capitalist system. Despite this, the book ends on a pessimistic note, concluding that right-wing opposition eventually curtailed Cárdenas’s plans.
Hernández Chávez, Alicia. Historia de la Revolución Mexicana. Vol. 16, Periodo 1934–1940: La mecánica cardenista. Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 1979.
Another of the classic revisionist interpretations of Cardenismo. Although the work plays down Cárdenas’s achievements, there are some excellent sections on the relationship between the presidency and regional forces.
Ianni, Octavio. El estado capitalista en la epoca de Cárdenas. Mexico City: Ediciones Era, 1977.
A critical, Marxist appreciation of the Cardenista regime. Although Ianni restates Córdova’s claims on the expansion of the Mexican state, he also emphasizes how the Cardenista regime, by stimulating an internal market for consumer goods, also encouraged the strengthening of the bourgeoisie.
Knight, Alan. “Mexico c. 1930–1946.” In The Cambridge History of Latin America. Vol. 7, 1930 to the Present. Edited by Leslie Bethell, 3–82. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
The best overall interpretation of the Cárdenas’s years. Building on the regional studies of the 1980s, the work offers a broad, polyphonic view of the regime, which balances discussion of top-down policies with a sweeping appreciation for popular responses and local variations.
Knight, Alan. “Cardenismo: Juggernaut or Jalopy?” Journal of Latin American Studies 26 (1994): 73–107.
Another excellent work on Cardenismo. Beautifully written and well argued, the article takes apart previous revisionist interpretations, demonstrating both the achievements of the regime and the constraints on the expansion of the state. Available online for purchase or by subscription.
Shulgosky, Anatoli. Mexico en la encrucijada de su historia. Mexico City: El Caballito, 1981.
An interesting, well-researched piece of Marxist history, which contextualizes Cárdenas’s presidency within the broad narrative of postrevolutionary Mexico. He sees Cárdenas’s agrarian and labor reforms as a genuinely radical break with the rhetorically reformist, but broadly ineffective, social engineering of the preceding decade.
Sosa Elizaga, Raquel. Los códigos ocultos del Cardenismo: Un estudio de la violencia politica, el cambio social y la continuidad institucional. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1996.
An interesting alternative view of Cardenismo, which dispenses with deep analysis of state motivations and instead concentrates on the unintended consequences. In doing so, the author portrays the Cardenista state as perpetually waylaid by a series of armed, often right-wing, groups.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Agricultural Technologies
- Ancient Andean Textiles
- Andean Contributions to Rethinking the State and the Natio...
- Antislavery Narratives
- Arab Diaspora in Latin America, The
- Argentina in the Era of Mass Immigration
- Argentina, Slavery in
- Argentine Literature
- Army of Chile in the 19th Century
- Asian Art and Its Impact in the Americas, 1565–1840
- Asian-Peruvian Literature
- Atlantic Creoles
- Baroque and Neo-baroque Literary Tradition
- Bello, Andrés
- Black Experience in Colonial Latin America, The
- Black Experience in Modern Latin America, The
- Borderlands in Latin America, Conquest of
- Bourbon Reforms, The
- Brazilian Northeast, History of the
- Buenos Aires
- Caribbean Philosophical Association, The
- Caribbean, The Archaeology of the
- Cartagena de Indias
- Caste War of Yucatán, The
- Caudillos, 19th Century
- Cádiz Constitution and Liberalism, The
- Chaco War
- Children, History of
- Chile's Struggle for Independence
- Chronicle, The
- Church in Colonial Latin America, The
- Chávez, Hugo, and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela
- Cinema, Contemporary Brazilian
- Cinema, Latin American
- Colonial Central America
- Colonial New Granada
- Colonial Portuguese Amazon Region, from the 17th to 18th C...
- Contemporary Maya, The
- Costa Rica
- Cárdenas and Cardenismo
- Cuban Revolution, The
- Dependency Theory in Latin American History
- Development of Architecture in New Spain, 1500–1810, The
- Development of Painting in Peru, 1520–1820, The
- Drug Trades in Latin America
- Dutch in South America and the Caribbean, The
- Early Colonial Forms of Native Expression in Mexico and Pe...
- Economies from Independence to Industrialization
- Ecuador, La Generación del 30 in
- El Salvador
- Enlightenment and its Visual Manifestations in Spanish Ame...
- Environmental History
- Era of Porfirio Díaz, 1876–1911, The
- Family History
- Film, Science Fiction
- Football (Soccer) in Latin America
- Gaucho Literature
- Gender in Colonial Brazil
- Gender in Postcolonial Latin America
- Guatemala and Yucatan, Conquest of
- Guatemala City
- Guatemala (Colonial Period)
- Guatemala (Modern & National Period)
- Haitian Revolution, The
- Health and Disease in Modern Latin America, History of
- History, Cultural
- History, Food
- Honor in Latin America to 1900
- Horror in Literature and Film in Latin America
- Human Rights in Latin America
- Immigration in Latin America
- Indigenous Elites in the Colonial Andes
- Indigenous Population and Justice System in Central Mexico...
- Indigenous Voices in Literature
- Japanese Presence in Latin America
- Jewish Presence in Latin America, The
- José María Arguedas and Early 21st Century Cultural and Po...
- Las Casas, Bartolomé de
- Latin American Independence
- Latin American Urbanism, 1850-1950
- Law and Society in Latin America since 1800
- Legal History of New Spain, 16th-17th Centuries
- Legal History of the State and Church in 18th Century New ...
- Literature, Argentinian
- Machado de Assis
- Magical Realism
- Maroon Societies in Latin America
- Martí, José, and Cuba
- Mestizaje and the Legacy of José María Arguedas
- Mexican Nationalism
- Mexican Revolution, 1910–1940, The
- Mexican-US Relations
- Mexico, Conquest of
- Mexico, Education in
- Migration to the United States
- Military and Modern Latin America, The
- Military Government in Latin America, 1959–1990
- Military Institution in Colonial Latin America, The
- Modern Decorative Arts and Design, 1900–2000
- Modern Populism in Latin America
- Modernity and Decoloniality
- Musical Tradition in Latin America, The
- Native Presence in Postconquest Central Peru
- New Conquest History and the New Philology in Colonial Mes...
- New Left in Latin America, The
- Novel, Chronology of the Venezuelan
- Novel of the Mexican Revolution, The
- Novel, 19th Century Haitian
- Novel, The Colombian
- Oaxaca, Conquest and Colonial
- Painting in New Spain, 1521–1820
- Paraguayan War (War of the Triple Alliance)
- Pastoralism in the Andes
- Paz, Octavio
- Perón and Peronism
- Peru, Colonial
- Peru, Conquest of
- Peru, Slavery in
- Philippines Under Spanish Rule, 1571-1898
- Photography in the History of Race and Nation
- Political Exile in Latin America
- Popular Culture and Globalization
- Popular Movements in 19th-Century Latin America
- Post Conquest Aztecs
- Post-Conquest Demographic Collapse
- Poverty in Latin America
- Preconquest Incas
- Pre-conquest Mesoamerican States, The
- Pre-Revolutionary Mexico, State and Nation Formation in
- Printing and the Book
- Prints and the Circulation of Colonial Images
- Protestantism in Latin America
- Religions in Latin America
- Revolution and Reaction in Central America
- Rosas, Juan Manuel de
- Sandinista Revolution and the FSLN, The
- Santo Domingo
- Science and Empire in the Iberian Atlantic
- Sexualities in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Slavery in Brazil
- São Paulo
- Spanish and Portuguese Trade, 1500–1750
- Spanish Caribbean In The Colonial Period, The
- Spanish Colonial Decorative Arts, 1500-1825
- Spanish Florida
- Telenovelas and Melodrama in Latin America
- Textile Traditions of the Andes
- 16th-Century New Spain
- Transculturation and Literature
- Trujillo, Rafael
- Tupac Amaru Rebellion, The
- United States and Castro's Cuba in the Cold War, The
- United States and the Guatemalan Revolution, The
- United States Invasion of the Dominican Republic, 1961–196...
- Urban History
- Urbanization in the 20th Century, Latin America’s
- U.S.-Latin American Relations During the Cold War
- Vargas, Getúlio
- Venezuelan Literature
- Women and Labor in 20th-Century Latin America
- Women in Colonial Latin American History
- Women in Modern Latin American History
- Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas