Unwanted Revolution: Cuba and the Challenges to Mexican Political Authority, 1958–60

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 11:40 AM
Columbia Hall 4 (Washington Hilton)
Eric Zolov, Stony Brook University
Mexico’s political relationship with the Cuban Revolution is traditionally viewed as one of lone support in the context of a US-driven diplomatic and economic embargo of the Castro regime.  That assessment, based on Mexico’s decision not to support a vote to expel Cuba from the Organization of American States, fails to take into account the initial impact of the Cuban revolution on Mexican political culture.  The Cuban Revolution, I argue in this presentation, was an unwelcomed event for newly elected President López Mateos, one that severely complicated the U.S.-Mexican relationship while providing a platform for the reemergence of former President Lázaro Cárdenas.  The “resurrection” of Cárdenas, as many on the left viewed his return to the political limelight, coincided with a radicalization of domestic politics linked to worker challenges to Mexico’s corporatist labor structure.  These challenges reflected a broader critique of an authoritarian political culture, one that characterized the traditional Left as well.  A “New Left” was in formation, abetted and shaped by the impact of the Cuban revolution, and Lázaro Cárdenas was strategically positioned to take its helm.   This presentation explores the strong anti-Castro discourse disseminated through the state-dominated press in the wake of the Cuban revolution and the ways in which the regime of López Mateos sought to contain (and repress) support for the revolution.  Ultimately, the revolution imposed itself on Mexican politics forcing López Mateos to try to stay ahead of the curve.