Polo and Poblanas: Goodwill Diplomacy and Mexican and Cuban State Formation

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 11:20 AM
Columbia Hall 4 (Washington Hilton)
Amelia M. Kiddle, University of Calgary
In 1938 and 1939 the Mexican and Cuban governments exchanged goodwill missions that contributed to the strengthening of diplomatic, cultural, and commercial relations between the two Caribbean countries.  The visits also had the intended goal and effect of legitimating the two governments, both domestically and internationally. In 1938, the Brigada Mexicana arrived in Havana, dazzling the port city with artistic and military displays. The visit coincided with an enormous popular demonstration held on July 12 at the stadium El Polar in support of the Mexican oil expropriation. Colonel Fulgencio Batista repaid this visit the following year with a well-received military mission, the highlights of which were the Cuban strongman’s speech in the Mexican Congress and a polo match between Cuban and Mexican equestrians. These two high-profile goodwill missions gave the Mexican and Cuban governments the opportunity to court international approval for the reform programs both countries were in the process of adopting. The ample publicity they received in their home countries also helped to legitimate the regimes in the eyes of their own citizens. The Mexican and Cuban goodwill missions of 1938 and 1939 were both diplomatic and domestic exercises in state formation.