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Mexico’s History Between 1940 and 1960

Mexico’s historical development between 1940-1960 received different and opposite accounts of its meaning and significance for national and its further growth. In his book, The Making of Modern Mexico Brandenburg sees this period as a great step towards social change and “social justice for all Mexicans” (Brandenburg 3). In contrast to this view, Daniel Cosío Villegas and Tanalís Padilla propose an opposing approach to historical change and underline the inevitability of the social transformations and great resistance to the state policies and strategies.

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The period of 1940-1960 was marked by economic growth and development as a result of nationalization policies and new approach to the social welfare. Brandenburg idealizes this historical period seeing it as a miracle. He assigned a favorable and leading role to the Mexican elite and underlines its profound impact on the state growth and economic prosperity of the country. “Mexico is ruled by the elite. … The Revolutionary Family is com[posed by the men who have run Mexico for over half a century, who have laid policy lines of the Revolution” (Brandenburg 3). The advantage of this argument is that it describes a real state of the matters and gives a detailed analysis of the ruling class and elite. The main weakness and limitation of this approach is lack of objectivity and isolation form the historical context and political development of Mexico.

Following these contemporary and historical accounts and interpretations of the 1940s and 1960s, it is important to mention certain assumptions about the economy. Similar to Brandenburg, Tanalís Padilla and Daniel Cosío Villegas belive that the prosperity of Mexico was exploited and expropriated in so many ways that regional and local barriers to such economic invasion and interventions were increasingly breached. Tanalís Padilla adds that such intrusion and penetration were expected, perhaps even accepted, within the colonial system that had evolved over the last two centuries (Padilla 5). But authors question the economic and political system of Mexico and the relations that grew up around it because the economy and the rule that governed that economy had changed during the middle of the 20 the century. Tanalís Padilla has described a social system (despite reforms) that left individuals, groups, localities, or regions worse off economically than before. Tanalís Padilla pays a special attention to agrarian mobilization in Mexico and problems faced by rural communities and farmers. The author underlines that part of the economic problem, of course, is to determine what is meant by “before.” Still, without knowing precisely what “past” means, it is impossible to examine the economic implications that such a view contains. In contrast to Brandenburg, Tanalís Padilla sees this historical period as a struggle of peasants and rural communities against the industrial elite and exploitation of their lands, natural resources and themselves (Padilla 76).

The main difference between the three historical accounts is that Brandenburg omits the importance and problem of social inequalities while Daniel Cosío Villegas and Tanalís Padilla pay a special attention to social differentiation and protests against the government and its policies. In Mexico’s Crisis Cosío Villegas underlines that the period of 1940-1960 was a crisis of nation identity and low social classes living in total poverty and under the pressure of political and economic elites (Villegas 15). Prosperity and wealth of the nation was achieved with the help of exploitation of low social classes (in cities) and rural populations. In contrast to Cosío Villegas, Brandenburg states that Mexican cities had full agendas in trying to provide public service for and to maintain public order among growing populations, and they lacked the financial and structural base to perform these duties well in the late 1950s or early 1960s century. Whether factors had reached the stage where uprisings against the state authorities, local or colonial, were warranted is not yet demonstrated by Brandenburg. Following Cosío Villegas, dissatisfaction was often evident, but the transposition of dissatisfaction into uprisings that seriously threatened social authority remained unrealized. Village and rural uprisings and struggle in central and southern regions vividly portray that rural villages and local communities had a fairly well developed sense of their political and legal standing and self-0dentification (Meyer and Beezley 43).

It is important to note that the period of 1940-1960 was a period of transformation and great changes in all spheres of life. During this period, a new social order was established, and new relations were maintained by the state. In contrast to Brandenburg, Daniel Cosío Villegas and Tanalís Padilla show that Mexico was faced with a series of internal and external upheavals that left both the economy and government in confusion. To assume that the state could accommodate these uprisings without adverse effects on social policy or economic growth would be unrealistic. In recent years historians (Miller, Meyer, Hamnett) have more and more linked the economic growth with the national uprisings and struggle against the elite and its policies. Whatever the similarities between national economic structures, independence removed Mexico from the elite control even though it may have placed Mexico in a new social scheme. To understand how severe or profound the dislocations were, the reconstruction of the economic performance was used by Tanalís Padilla. In his book, he vividly portrays that economy of Mexico was based on rural and agrarian industries rather than industrial production (Miller 87).

All historians agree that 1940-1960 was a great step in the economic development of the country. The key to advancement for reformers inside or outside the government was economic growth. To stimulate the Mexican economy to produce more not only enhanced the welfare of the society but also restored solvency to the elite. Over time, restoring solvency became so important that stimulating manufacture lost whatever force it had. For all historians, the size of the economy was of interest and relevance. Daniel Cosío Villegas and Tanalís Padilla underline that in spite of some important agricultural advances–e.g., from capital development to crop diversification–the farming sector proved highly resistant to change. Tanalís Padilla states that agriculture provided the income for more people than any other economic industry. Yet not only did wages remain comparatively low during the 1950s, they were more and more paid with goods rather than with cash. The largest wage-earning social class could have influenced the shape of the national market but did not because it lacked a medium of exchange through which to exert that power (Hamnett 23).

In contrast to Brandenburg, Tanalís Padilla explains that large farming producers, who served primarily the large towns, understood that economic change to the extent that they tried to limit grain supplies and equally to boost grain prices. Over the long run, the loss of family production was compensated for in the more formal market construction sphere because of other economic changes. Tanalís Padilla states that the larger issue was whether developments in the agricultural industry contributed to advances in the general Mexican economy. It is clear that since hunger was not a common or constant condition, the agricultural industry and rural communities in Mexico were capable of raising output.

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In the process of adding or converting land to farming; of building barns; and of normally upgrading facilities, local farmers incurred heavy debts. Some farmers made money, but the majority of them could barely cover all expenses. In his historical analysis, Brandenburg omits such details as the impact of church and religion on local communities and their values. Daniel Cosío Villegas states that suspending or delaying main payments (and in some cases interests) resulted over time in a decrease pool of loanable funds and a growing network of minor producers. Although land resources were sold, consolidated, and even abandoned in response to indebtedness by farmers. By the end of the 1960s, land in Mexico was so heavily encumbered that a chief component of the state stock could no longer be used to maintain or expand economic development (Villegas 23).

In sum, Brandenburg sees economic development and prosperity of Mexico as an effective rule of political and industrial elite. In contrast to view, Daniel Cosío Villegas and Tanalís Padilla underline the importance of rural communities and working classes exploited by the Revolution Family. They prove that inequalities and poverty were the main factors and causes of uprisings and struggle against the government and its policies. In spite of the dominant role of the elite, the growth was largely extensive rather than intensive. The changing economic situation itself began to draw local and regional markets into larger places and to confront whatever autonomy they had known, although a more integrated economic structure was just beginning to emerge. In spite of all positive changes and transformations described by Brandenburg, rural populations suffered from inequalities and unequal distribution of resources influenced the shape of the further economic growth. The period of 1940-1960 was influenced by great social transformations and dominance of the old elite, but it was marked by new social ideas and values of rural and local communities.

Works Cited

Brandenburg, F.R. The Making of Modern Mexico. Prentice-Hall, 1964.

Cosío Villegas, Daniel. Mexico’s Crisis. Clio; 1. ed edition, 1997.

Hamnett, A. B. A Concise History of Mexico. Cambridge University Press; 2 edition, 2006.

Meyer, M.C., Beezley, W.H. Oxford University Press, USA, 2000.

Miller, R.R> History of Mexico. University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.

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Padilla, Tanalís. Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata. Duke University Press, 2008.

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