Hearts and minds

Material Information

Hearts and minds an analysis of Mexico's cultivated international image for promotion in the United States
Gilmore, Jason Arthur
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
iii, 137 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
International relations ( fast )
Public opinion, American ( fast )
Relations -- Mexico -- United States ( lcsh )
Relations -- United States -- Mexico ( lcsh )
Foreign public opinion, American -- Mexico ( lcsh )
Mexico ( fast )
United States ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 127-137).
General Note:
International Studies Program
Statement of Responsibility:
by Jason Arthur Gilmore.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
166421352 ( OCLC )
LD1193.L65 2007m G55 ( lcc )

Full Text
Jason Arthur Gilmore
B.A., University of Colorado, 1999
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver and Heath and Sciences Center
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Social Science
International Studies

This thesis for Master of Social Science
degree by
Jason Arthur Gilmore
has been approved by

Gilmore, Jason Arthur (MSS, International Studies)
Hearts and Minds: An Analysis of Mexicos Cultivated International Image for
Promotion in the United States
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Michael Ducey
This paper studies both the images of Mexico that the Mexican ruling elites have
sought to promote in the United States as well as the image cultivation strategies they
have employed to accomplish this. First, it explores the history of bilateral relations
in order to discover how certain events conditioned how Mexico was perceived in the
United States as well as how the Mexican ruling elite would thereafter approach
relations with their neighbor to the north. The study then looks at what images of
Mexico the post revolutionary administrations of the Institutional Revolutionary Party
(Partido Revolucionario Institucional or PRI) sought to cultivate in the United States.
It addresses each administrations concept of Mexicos images as well as the
strategies they employed to attempt to promote those images in the United States.
The two final administrations of the PRI are treated separately in this study to show
how their reformation of Mexicos political and economic orientation also changed
how they sought to be perceived in the United States. Finally, this project explores
the two most recent Mexican presidencies under opposition control to illustrate their
own distinct vision for Mexicos images in the United States as well as how their
image cultivations strategies have changed since the fall of the PRI. Because a
concrete theory for image cultivation by states has yet to be established, this study
uses a grounded theory approach in order to allow for themes and theory to emerge
from the data collected.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis.
___ I recommend its publication.
Michael Ducej

I dedicate this thesis to my loving and precious wife Zaira whose patience and
support were vital to my ability to finish my graduate work and this thesis. I would
not have been able to accomplish this without her.

I want to extend my most sincere appreciation to my chair advisor, Micheal Ducey,
who has served as both friend and academic mentor throughout my graduate studies.
I would also like to thank both professors Joel Edelstein and Barbara Walkosz for
their guidance and inspiration throughout the thesis process. In addition, I would like
to thank my mother Pam, my brother Roger and my stepfather Ed for their support
and patience throughout my graduate work.

AND REAFFIRMED.............................................6
The Big Bang: The United States and Mexico in Armed Conflict.7
Image Cultivation in Porfirian Mexico..................12
The Mexican Revolution: Images Reaffirmed..............18
3. THEPRIERA.................................................23
Strong Posturing and Mixed Signals:
Calles, Cardenas and Mexicos New Image................24
Plutarco Elias Calles................................24
Lazaro Cardenas......................................29
Emerging Images......................................32
The Mexican Miracle and the Cold War Era.............34
Avilacamachismo 1940-1946............................34
The Honeymoon Begins: U.S. Mexico Relations and the Cold War...39
Miguel Aleman Valdes.................................39
The Honeymoon Ends: Heating Tensions during the 1960s..42

Adolfo Lopez Mateos......................................42
Gustavo Diaz Ordaz.......................................44
Emerging Images..........................................52
The Decline of the Miracle.................................53
Luis Echeverria..........................................53
Jose Lopez Portillo.................................... 55
Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado..............................58
Emerging Images..........................................61
4. THE BACKWARDS TRANSITION........................................62
Carlos Salinas de Gortari:
The PR Mastermind and the Birth of NAFTA.....................64
1988 Presidential Elections..............................66
Its the Economy Stupid................................67
Building the Image for Free Trade......................68
Keeping it Cool in Foreign Policy........................70
NAFTA and the Salinas PR Machine.........................72
Free Trade PR at Home.................................73
Free Trade PR in the United States....................76
Fast Track......................................76

1994 From Rock Star to Exile.......................87
Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon:
The Sexenio of Many Voices...............................88
Emerging Images..........................................94
5. NATIONAL ACTION AND THE NEW MILENIUM........................96
Vicente Fox Quesada......................................97
The Castaneda Effect..................................99
Nine Eleven..........................................102
The Consequences of War:
Youre either with us, or against us...............105
Too Little, Too Late.................................107
Felipe Calderon Hinojosa................................112
Jan. 9,2007 speech by President Felipe Calderon
at the XVIII Reunion with Ambassadors and Consuls....115
6. CONCLUSION: IMAGES EMERGED.................................118

Image cultivation by countries is a diversely influenced, difficult and
sometimes accidental endeavor. Although it rarely is the primary goal of policy, it is
almost always a consideration in the decision making process of most world leaders.
This is the case primarily because when a country is perceived positively by another
country, there is a greater probability of bilateral cooperation, and therefore beneficial
returns, than when it is perceived neutrally or negatively. This is heightened more for
countries that are dealing with the United States because of its international economic
and political hegemony. For this same reason, more countries focus a proportionately
larger portion of their diplomatic, foreign policy and public relations efforts in the
United States than in any other country. This is heightened still more when the image
cultivator is a developing state, as is Mexico, seeking the means by which it can
increase its own political and economic strength through the bilateral relationship.
Perhaps an even more important factor in the case of Mexico and the United States is
their geographic proximity and therefore their heightened interaction by default.
The study of U.S.-Mexico relations is as old as the historic interaction it seeks
to interpret. Scholars from varying disciplines have historically been attracted to the
relationship because of the economic disparities as well as the cultural and political

distinctions that separate these two neighbors. The study of image as a contributing
factor in this historic relationship, however, is rarely considered. In 1989 the
Bilateral Commission on the Future of United States-Mexican Relations published a
multi-author study entitled Images of Mexico in the United States and while it shed
extensive light on the perceptions of Mexico inside the United States it did not factor
in any of Mexicos efforts to shape its own image. Equally, Mexican political
scientist Sergio Aguayo published in 1998 his analysis on how American decision-
makers perceive their counterparts in Mexico. While the study briefly addresses
certain image cultivation efforts by the Mexican ruling elite, it focuses primarily on
illustrating how the United States had historically sought to influence Mexicos
domestic and foreign policy. In both studies we find robust descriptions of American
perceptions, yet little recognition of how Mexican image cultivation efforts attempted
to, or may have, influenced those perceptions. In fact, the study of image as a
concept in the field of international relations as a whole is only now in its infancy, yet
as political scientist Hongying Wang points out, in todays world, where
democratisation and the telecommunications revolution have greatly expanded the
flow of information, governments everywhere have become especially attentive to
their national images. (Wang 2003) Even the global hegemon of the United States
has begun to understand the need for image cultivation as it attempts to win over the
hearts and minds of the Iraqi people through extensive public relations, diplomatic
and policy-based campaigns in Iraq. Scholars in the field of communications,

however, have already begun to attempt to fill the gap in political science research.
In his book Images of Nations and International Public Relations, Michael Kunczik,
a leading communications scholar, explores how states have employed international
public relations practices that are normally identified with companies and
organizations to stage image cultivation campaigns in foreign states. Kunczik,
however, focuses on image cultivation as a an target of public relations achieved
through the planned and continuous distribution of interest-bound information by a
state aimed (mostly) at improving a countrys image abroad. (Kunczik 1997: 12)
While Kunczik recognizes the multitude of influencial factors to a states image (i.e.
diplomacy, cultural interchange, etc.), his focus is on describing how focused
international public relations campaigns can be used by states to change those images.
His research, therefore, accounts little for how diplomacy as well as domestic and
foreign policy also affect a states image abroad or how they are also used, in and of
themselves, as image cultivation tools.
This research project will attempt to help fill in the gaps in research in both
U.S.-Mexico relations as well as in the emerging study of image cultivation by states
by doing an interdisciplinary case study of Mexicos image in its historic relationship
with die United States. It will attempt to fill in these gaps through exploring the
following questions: What images have the Mexican ruling elite attempted to
cultivate for Mexico in the United States? What strategies of image cultivation have
they employed to promote these images and how have they changed? What images

have emerged as direct or indirect consequences of the ruling elites domestic and
foreign policies as well as from their focused image cultivation efforts in the United
States? As the purpose of this study is to contribute to the underdeveloped study of
image cultivation from an interdisciplinary angle, I will employ a Grounded Theory
approach to the data collection, analysis and redaction processes of this project.
According to John Creswell what most differentiates grounded theory from much
other research is that it does not test a hypothesis but allows for the theory to emerge
from the data collected. (Creswell 2005)
Before I delve into how Mexico has sought to mold its international image in
the United States, however, I will include a brief chapter (2) exploring the historic
roots of Mexicos image in the United States as well as the perceptions held by
Mexicos ruling elite that shaped their own interpretation of how to relate to their
northern neighbor. I will also include a section describing Mexicos first formal
international image cultivation campaign under President Porfirio Diaz.
In Chapter 3,1 will explore how Mexico, under the control of the Institutional
Revolutionary Party (PRI), sought to change how Mexico, a country emerging from a
decade long civil war, was to be perceived in the United States. This chapter will
focus on three phases of the PRI authoritarian rule, including the period of power
consolidation under Plutarco Elias Calles and Lazaro Cardenas, the period of the
Mexican Miracle that lasted from 1940 through 1970 and the eighteen years of
declining political and economic stability that followed.

In Chapter 4,1 will explore the presidencies of Carlos Salinas de Gortari and
Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon to show how Mexicos shift in economic policy
directly affected how it sought to be perceived in the United States. In this chapter I
will also pay special attention to the historically unprecedented campaigns of
diplomacy, lobbying and public relations employed by President Salinas to sell the
idea of a free trade agreement to the United States. I will then turn to explore how
President Zedillo implemented substantive domestic reforms to illustrate
internationally that Mexico was, in fact, becoming a more modem state.
Finally, Chapter 5 will focus on the first two democratically elected
opposition governments of Vicente Fox Quesada and Felipe Calderon Hinojosa of the
National Action Party (PAN). The first section will explore how the Fox
administration sought to improve Mexicos image in the United States in order to
reach an agreement on immigration reform with the George W. Bush administration
despite the changing and increasingly tense international environment that emerged
after September 11, 2001. The second section will be briefer as I will attempt to
uncover President Calderons vision for Mexicos image in the United States as he
begins his first year as president.

Images and stereotypes of other countries are not conceived of in the absence
of some sort of interaction or experience. In fact, Michael Kunczik argues that
images of nations... can be understood as hardened prejudices; they are not suddenly
there but often have grown in long historical processes of interaction (Kunczik
1997). These images, in turn, are likely to become more entrenched and longer
lasting if the two parties have engaged in a traumatic interchange of force or even
tense diplomatic relations. In the case of Mexico, no single event in its history of
interaction with the United States better helped define both countries images of each
other as did the Mexican American War of 1846-1848. Because the images that were
produced during this bellicose interchange have been and continue to be -
influential in how these two states interact, it is important to uncover how they were
This chapter will focus not only on the Mexican American War and the
images and stereotypes that emerged from it, yet also on how they were reaffirmed
and solidified during the Mexican Revolution. In addition, we will look at Mexicos
first consolidated and formal image cultivation campaign under President Porfirio
Diaz whose efforts to cultivate a rejuvenated image of Mexico in the wake of half of a

century of instability and foreign intervention including the war with the United
States fell victim to the revolution waged against his regime.
The Big Bang:
The United States and Mexico in Armed Conflict
I liken the Mexican American War to the Big Bang because from it emerged
two defining stereotypes that would affect both Mexicos foreign policy and its image
cultivation campaigns throughout its history with the United States. On the one hand,
Mexico would emerge stripped of the image of strength and power it had inherited in
part from its victory in the war of independence from Spain one of the worlds most
powerful states and in part from the myth held in the United States that General
Santa Annas army was a force not easily defeated. On the other hand, the United
States would gain the image in Mexico of an imperialistic power that was only
interested in taking advantage of Mexicos instability and vulnerability as a
developing state to advance its own national interests.
The war as an historic artifact played completely different roles in the
development of national identity and mindset for these very different countries.
While the United States walked away with a clear victory, the war lost prominence in
the American national mindset quickly thereafter as the country fell to the throws of a
civil war, making the role of the Mexican American War into little more than a
training camp for the soldiers who would participate in the more impacting civil war
that followed shortly thereafter. To date, few Americans learn much about the

conflict that would plague the Mexican mindset and condition Mexican foreign policy
for over a century. What Americans do learn comes in the form of two myths, that
the United States was the underdog in the conflict and that Mexico was the initial
aggressor. It has come to light over the years as historians have delved deeper into
the archives of this conflict that in fact American General Zachary Taylor had pushed
his army uncontested all the way into the Mexican city of Matamoros in order to bait
Mexico into war as a way to acquire the territory north of the Rio Bravo (Rio Grande)
in presidents Jackson and Polks fulfillment of manifest destiny. Mexico did not turn
out to be the dominating force that Americans first thought. In fact, since
independence, Mexico had suffered from an ongoing internal conflict between
ideological factions who had repeatedly overthrown each other. These conflicts
provided for a climate of political instability and depleted military strength. If faced
with an external threat, such as that of the invading American forces, the federal army
would have to request support from the states and provinces many of which stood
on opposing sides of the ideological conflict as they retained control over their own
militias. (Johannsen 1985)
The U.S. military forces were, in fact, outnumbered in their initial encounter
with Mexican forces. However, as historian Robert W. Johannsen points out, the
U.S. forces quickly received large numbers of reinforcements in spite of initial
concerns in the U.S. that it would be difficult to raise a volunteer force after so long
a period of peace quickly evaporated when each state produced thousands of

volunteers to be pressed into immediate service. (Johanssen 1985: 10) Only sixteen
months after the war began the United States controlled Mexico City and had
negotiated the purchase of all Mexican territory north of the Rio Bravo in the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. What had begun as a campaign of a small U.S. army
inciting its larger Mexican counterpart turned out to be a dominating effort of a
cohesive and unified American military to persuade its internally conflicted and
factionalized neighbor to the south to sell its northern territory. As Robert A. Pastor
points out, the war is not generally viewed as against Mexico, but rather as
completing the expansion of the [American] republic. (Pastor 1988: 43)
The war was a demoralizing defeat for all factions in Mexico. Not only had
they been forced to sell some of the most prosperous regions in their union, but they
were also proven easily dominated by a foreign force. The discoveries of large gold
reserves only a year later in previously Mexican owned California could only have
made the defeat that much worse. To make things more bitter still, Mexicos image
as a strong national entity was damaged not only in the United States, yet also in the
international arena. Countries such as Great Britain and France took new notice and
interest in the countrys government and in the possibility of putting in its place a new
Mexican monarchy from abroad, something that only ten short years later would
become a reality as conservatives in Mexico aided the arrival of Maximiliano as the
new foreign monarch of that country.

As we will see, the image that many Americans hold of Mexicans today has
changed little from how many viewed them following the Mexican American War.
Robert Johannsen, in his work on the Mexican War in the American Imagination,
points out that while the American public feared the power and experience of the
Mexican state at the outset of the war, their view quickly changed as they
encountered (as stated above) a wholly divided and unorganized state in Mexico. The
legitimacy that the Spanish monarchy had brought to colonies and the defeat of said
internationally renowned power had brought to the independent state of Mexico
quickly evaporated as the American invaders pressed further into the country and
reports of their endeavors reached both the U.S. government and the American
public. The more reports of American victories reached the U.S., the notion among
Americans that they represented a racially superior stock (Johanssen 1988: 21)
followed suit. It became obvious to the American officers and soldiers alike that the
country was in disarray and while these were more likely signs of an emerging state
attempting to organize the administration of a diverse population and an incredibly
large land mass their interpretation was clear. Mexicans were treacherous, cruel,
indolent and selfish and their encounter with the United States could only teach
Mexico the advantages of [the] firm, stable, and prudent government (Johanssen
1988: 288-289) exemplified by their American counterparts. While the United States
sought to use the war as a pretext to expand the nations territory it quickly turned
into a moral venture, a way to spread the influence and importance of the republican

model of government on the world stage. According to the Americans Mexico had
become a reproach to republicanism as the people had, since colonization, been held
in ignorance by the selfishness of its rulers and the lust of a bloated priesthood
(Johanssen 1988: 289) and it was Americas moral obligation to not allow Mexico to
follow their current self-defeating path. Racial superiority, however, continued to
underline the American view. Although many argued that the backwardness of the
Mexican nation was simply a disease that the presence of American occupation could
cure, many believed that the war confirmed the innate superiority of the Anglo-Saxon
race and their resulting superiority of governance. While many Americans began to
have designs on the government of the Mexican state, the tensions at home that would
culminate in a civil war quickly drew them back and left a militarily and politically
depleted Mexico again to fend for itself.
The growing American sense of superiority as a nation and as a race had its
inverse effects in Mexico as well and would play a key role in how Mexico has
historically interpreted how the United States develops its foreign policy. For
Mexico, the war had shown the real face of American intentions and would lead to a
deep-seeded distrust of its northern neighbor, showing us the foundation of what has
evolved into the cultural and political relations today. As for the American
government, in spite of its harbored belief that Mexico was simply a nation of racially
inferior individuals who knew little of modem government stability, it would begin to
look past those stereotypes of its southern neighbor when the government of Porfirio

Diaz took power in 1876 with open arms to foreign investment. And in spite of his
distrust of the interests of the American government, Diaz recognized the importance
of involving the United States in his new plan to achieve the stability and growth that
had eluded Mexico for the first six decades since independence.
Image Cultivation in Porfirian Mexico
Porfirio Diaz (1876-1880 and 1884-1911) took office as president of Mexico
at a time when the country was still comprised of many opposing, and at times
warring, factions and when many citizens were still organizing to wage more of the
rebellions that had characterized and plagued Mexico since its independence. Having
extensive military experience, he was well aware of the potential for further outbreaks
even under his presidency. Diaz, however, had a different vision for Mexico; a vision
that could not be achieved with an unstable union. He believed that for Mexico to
grow and progress, he would have to engage the international community and
convince them that Mexico was not the unstable country of the past, but a land of
wide-open potential and untapped resources for the taking. Faced with the negative
images that Mexico had maintained since the Mexican American War, Diaz
recognized that his administration would have to create at least a certain level of
stability and modernity (in his conception) nationally before he would be able to
promote Mexico abroad and attract the foreign investment necessary to further
stabilize and modernize the country.

In his first term in office Diaz was largely employed in discouraging
banditry, and quelling the numerous revolutions which formed themselves
spontaneously and continuously out of the abounding elements of disorder.
(OShaughnessy 1920: 21) Because Mexicos government was centered in Mexico
City, Diaz was confronted with the same problem that had plagued his predecessors,
principally that it was difficult to quell any rebellions that formed in Mexicos rural
areas. Diazs traditional political rival, Benito Juarez, had also recognized this
problem and in an attempt to extend the political arm of the central government into
rural Mexico he established a national police-like force called the rurales to work at
discouraging political dissention as well as criminal conduct in Mexicos vast rural
sector. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding and the forces own tendencies toward
criminal misconduct, the rurales became more part of the problem than an answer for
it. Once in power, however, Diaz recognized the potential that having an effective
rural police force promised, yet knew that the rurales would have to be reformed. As
a former military general, Diaz was experienced in creating forces of disciplined and
loyal subjects and turned this experience toward organizing the new rurales forces.
Diaz was also an astute administrator and recognized that the rurales would quickly
return to their old behavior if he did not offer them reason to stay loyal. Thus by
1880 Diaz had increased funding to the rurales by 400% and personnel by 90%,
effectively turning the force into a loyal cornerstone of the Porfirian disciplinary
apparatus. (Oxford, 2000)

Not only loyal, but effective, the rurales quickly made a name as a force to be
reckoned with for themselves throughout Mexico. To begin with the Diaz regime
would publicize successful confrontations with famous Mexican bandits to further
instill fear in those who might ponder similar illegal activity. Although their numbers
had increased and they were now better armed, the rurales were not as present in the
Mexican countryside as the Diaz administration claimed. In fact, the rurales were
still relatively small in number, yet were strategically placed throughout the
countryside to promote the illusion of being larger and more present than they were.
Their threatening image was also fueled by their sometimes-brutal behavior. As
Porfirio Diaz himself admitted in an interview with an American journalist, We were
harsh. Sometimes we were harsh to the point of cruelty. But it was all necessary then
to the life and progress of the nation. If there was cruelty, results have justified it.
(Gil 1997: 81)
While the rurales were not able to quell all potential threats, they had achieved
the highest level of security that Mexicos countryside had seen in decades. In
addition, Diaz would deploy rurales to areas that had heavy foreign commercial or
industrial presences in order to ensure that foreigners were not subject to the
instability that he was trying to quell. While the levels of rural control that the Diaz
regime publicized were inflated, the illusion of stability made a real difference as
the rurales became the Diaz regimes symbol of social stability and security. This was
possible as Diaz was also very effective in publicizing the rurales, both domestically

and internationally. Dressed in their traditional charro garb, the rurales would
participate in both domestic and international parades and rodeos as a way to promote
both their talent and presence as an effective security force (Oxford 2000: 406).
These efforts to strengthen security in Mexico and to build confidence in
foreign investors were not exclusive to national forces. Because Mexico City was the
center of all political activity and one of the main attractions for foreign visitors and
immigrants, Diaz paid close attention to establishing order there. Shortly after he
took office, he created a police force of uniformed officers exclusively for the capital
city. In fact, the police force that Diaz built was larger, in manpower, than the entire
forces of the rurales. For the first time since Mexicos independence the police
officers were all guaranteed pay and provided with sufficient equipment to carry out
their duties. As with the rurales, the police force grew throughout the Porfiriato and
came to be recognized domestically and abroad as professional and modem. In
addition to the police force, porfirian elites also demanded that Mexico City should
also have a modem fire department. While the average amount of fires in Mexico
City was about fifty per year, Diaz insisted on the creation of the department as it
formed part of the ideal that constituted the modem cosmopolitan city, even if it was
based in smoke and mirrors. (Beezley 2004)
While Diaz and his administration sought to promote Mexicos progress and
modernization through extensive networks of foreign statesmen and business
communities, nowhere was there a more coordinated effort to construct a modem

image than in Mexicos participation in the worlds fairs of the era. While the
primary function of worlds fairs is for the propagation of national images, the Paris
Exposition of 1889 provided the ideal stage for promoting the image of Mexico that
Diaz had spent over a decade creating. With foreign investment in mind, Diaz and
his worlds fair designers set out to include examples of the successes in
consolidating power and securing the countrys rural areas that had acquired a
reputation as unstable and dangerous. They hired a variety of Mexican and foreign
artists to paint pictures of Mexicos natural resources and to play on the exotic nature
of the country. In fact, most every Mexican intellectual, artist, elite and politician
was involved in some aspect or another in Mexicos participation in the fair as it
represented Mexicos categorical petition to enter the modem world. (Tenorio-
Trillo 1996: 65)
International networking and propaganda were the primary focuses of the
porfirian representatives at the fair. There was no doubt that the fair should serve to
attract both foreign investment as well as immigrants into Mexico, so that the process
of modernization could continue. Thus, while the porfirian elite invested extensive
resources in the package of information, images and exhibits to be sent to the fair,
they also spent a substantial amount on propaganda based in the reasoning that
Mexicos image could look as modem and attractive as that of any nation provided
the appropriate prices were paid. (Tenorio-Trillo 1996:58) To begin with, they hired
a team of Mexican writers to put together various pamphlets, books and fliers to be

distributed in Paris. The Diaz regime did not stop at contracting only national writers.
In fact, various journalists and publicists in Paris were paid to write articles
highlighting Mexicos Aztec Palace pavilion at the fair as well as to provide data of
interest to capitalists, industrialists, and businessmen. (Tenorio-Trillo 1996: 59)
With the propaganda machine ready for production, the Mexican organizers
focused on the initial image of Mexico that visitors would see at the fair. Thus, the
culminating symbol of Mexicos progress and modernity, as seen by the porfirian
elite, came in the design of the pavilion Mexicos exhibits would be homed in. After
little deliberation, Diaz decided on J.M. de Alvas design of an Aztec palace. While
this traditional design may have seemed contrary to the porfirian emphasis on
modernity, it was chosen for its traditional qualities that represented Mexicos
acceptance of its history, yet also as a call to the exotic curiosity of the Europeans.
Those taken by its majestic exterior, however, would find a different focus on the
interior. Historian Mauricio Tenorio Trillo describes the Aztec palace as:
an experimental synthesis of Mexican perceptions of the European
commercial, industrial, and exotic appetite for the non-European; it
was an effort to achieve the proper combination of particularism
and universalism; and it was an overall essay on the modernity of
the Mexican nation. (Tenorio-Trillo 1996: 64)
In the end, the worlds fairs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
served the Diaz regime as a stage upon which Mexicos new modem image could
be displayed. They also epitomized the evolution and progression common in all
states and therefore provided a place at the table for Mexico.

Diazs success and praise internationally, however, would eventually be
surpassed by the discontent with his administration at home, resulting in an all out
revolution that would not only drive Diaz from Mexico, but would also halt the
progress he had made in changing Mexicos international image. In fact, as well will
see, it simply reaffirmed the image of Mexicos instability and of its peoples inability
to formulate and maintain a successful and modem form of government.
The Mexican Revolution: Images Reaffirmed
The outbreak of the Mexican Revolution would deal yet another blow to
Mexicos image in the eye of the United States as the country spent years in turmoil
and uncovered what was hidden behind the illusory image of stability and order that
Diaz had constructed of Mexico. This renewed image would be made worse when
the American investors who had been attracted by the Diaz administration were
caught in the middle of a heated civil war and targeted by the revolutionary factions.
As historian Friedrich Katz explains, many of the same Mexicans that had been
displaced by the Diaz administration to make way for the American immigrants had
since joined revolutionary factions and turned their resentment toward the Americans.
This resentment was exacerbated by the fact that many of these lands remained
sparsely settled, were frequently not cultivated, and largely used for speculative
purposes (Katz 1981: 45) and so many revolutionaries sought to take back what they
believed to be rightfully theirs.

The revolutionaries themselves played a large role in reconditioning Mexicos
image in the United States as they quickly became known as uneducated and
unlawful. Pancho Villa stood at the forefront of the American imagination as
exemplifying the Mexican revolutionary because of his proximity to the border,
history of arms trade with Americans and one fateful invasion into Columbus, New
Mexico in 1916 that would immortalize him as a brute and a merciless bandito in the
American memory.
Villa and his lawless revolutionaries were not the only negative contributors
to Mexicos image during the revolution. President Victoriano Huerta (1913-1914),
whose brutal tactics in quelling the revolution that continued to rage during his
presidency, did not impress the United States government either. In fact, President
Woodrow Wilson refuse to recognize Huerta as Mexicos legitimate president even
when sixteen other countries, including Great Britain, had done so. In reaction to
Huerta, Wilson was quoted as saying, I will not recognize a government of butchers
and quickly dismissed the standing ambassador to Mexico for aiding the despotic
leader (Quoted in Welsome 2006: 64)
The Mexican Revolution would also reaffirm the classification of the United
States as an imperialistic meddler in Mexican affairs at that countrys most vulnerable
moments. In addition, the image of Mexico as distrusting and resistant to American
intervention of any kind would begin to take hold. With increasing tensions on the
world stage the United States had little time to become involved in the Mexican

Revolution as a whole. As long as it did not spill north over the border, the United
States did not have to become directly involved. This is not to say, however, that it
did not recognize and act upon specific aspects that posed threats to American
economic interests in the country. As stated above, the Porfiriato was a period of
increased foreign investment in Mexico in which investment from the United States
constituted more than half. This meant that the revolutionary movement challenging
Diazs rule was perceived in the United States as a challenge also to their own
investment. The first manifestation for American intervention came when the U.S.
ambassador to Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson, became involved with the overthrow and
possible assassination of Diazs adversary, Francisco Madero, in the first year of the
latters presidency. Granted, Wilson took advantage of the transitional period
between outgoing and incoming presidents in the United States to become involved
without direction from Washington. In fact, incoming president Woodrow Wilson
was so horrified by the coup and the murder that he refused to recognize the Huerta
government (Robert Pastor, 1988: 44) that Henry Wilson conspired with against
Madero. Although President Wilson had condemned the conspiracy between the
ambassador and Mexican generals, the government of Venustiano Carranza that
emerged out of the revolution would claim that it was yet another attempt by the
American government to wield its own influence in Mexican politics. This was most
likely conditioned, Pastor argues, by the later American intervention in the state of

In 1914 Wilson, in a further attempt to defend short-term American business
interests in Mexico by attempting to bring a quick end to the revolution, sent a
squadron of American Marines to fight the Huerta forces in the port city of Veracruz.
While it was a show of support to the legitimacy of the opposition movement,
Carranza refused Wilsons help. Jorge Castaneda points out that Carranza not only
saw the intervention as an invasion from a foreign power yet also as a way of
indebting him to American interests once the revolution was won. In short, while
Woodrow Wilson did want to get rid of Huerta and did contribute to his downfall,
Carranza was able to claim independence from the U.S. as he never asked for the help
nor accepted it once it came. For Carranza American Intervention was, as it is with
many politicians to date, more of a liability than an advantage, a formidable kiss
of death to many political careers in Mexico. However detrimental these relations
can be, either to politicians or the country as a whole, they are many times
unavoidable. This is most evident in the humiliating Bucareli Agreements signed
with the United States in 1923 regulating the application of the 1917 Constitution to
American claims on properties in Mexico (Castaneda 1988: 59) used by the post-
revolutionary government of Alvaro Obregon to reestablish relations with the United
As we will explore in the next chapter, the PRI (Mexicos post-revolutionary
ruling party) was quick to use the countrys remorse from the Mexican Revolution as
well as from the Mexican American War and the Porfiriato to promote a unified

Mexican nationalism based in the idea that Mexico is lost, easily falling prey to
American domination, when it is divided and that the divisions of the past stand
proof that if Mexico forget[s] [its] nationalism, the nations very existence is in
danger. (Castaneda 1988: 28) This emphasis on nationalism, unity and the rejection
of the American intervention, we will see later, conditioned the Mexican filos on
relations with the United States for decades to follow and would end up becoming a
defining element of Mexicos image as perceived by that country.

Image cultivation during the rule of Mexicos Institutional Revolutionary
Party (PRI) was not consistent in its entirety as each incoming president brought his
own distinct interpretation of how the country should be perceived by the United
States and the international community as a whole. This is not to say, however, that
Mexicos image cultivation would drastically change at the end of every sexenio (six
year presidential term). In fact, the institutionalization of the revolution, based in the
philosophy of the 1917 Constitution and the lessons learned from the Mexican
American War and the Porfiriato, would ensure that certain elements of Mexicos
international image would remain unchanged regardless of who was in power.
The era of the PRI is generally thought to have spanned seventy-one years
from the partys inception in 1929 until its loss of the executive branch to the
opposition National Action Party (PAN) and Vicente Fox in 2000. This, however,
does not account for the four-year presidential administration of one of the partys
main architects, General Plutarco Elias Calles in which many of the foundations of
the PRIs domestic and foreign policies were set.

This chapter will be broken into three sections that will mark the distinct
phases of the PRI rule leading up to the break from traditional PRI foreign and
economic policies by the PRI administrations of Salinas de Gortari and Zedillo Ponce
de Leon that will be discussed in the following chapter. The first phase discussed will
start with the Calles administration and include the internationally controversial years
under Lazaro Cardenas as both men played fundamental roles in designing how the
Mexican government sought for Mexico to be viewed by the United States for
decades to follow. The second phase has come to be known as the years of the
Mexican Miracle in which Mexicos presidents focused on promoting Mexico as a
stable and prosperous country focused heavily on its own industrialization and
modernization. The final phase will focus on the decline of the so-called miracle
and of Mexicos introspective international image from the Echeverria through the de
la Madrid administrations of the 1980s and 90s.
Strong Posturing and Mixed Signals:
Calles, Cardenas and Mexicos New Image
Plutarco Elias Calles
Plutarco Elias Calles (1924-1928) would become Mexicos third post-
revolutionary president at a time when Mexico was still recovering domestically
and internationally from the effects of almost a decade of violent and destructive
civil war. Calles would inherit an already heated relationship with the United States.
His two predecessors had vacillated on the issue of American and other foreign

companies claim on oil rights in the post-revolutionary government. Venustiano
Carranza, Mexicos first post revolution president, was a staunch supporter of
applying heavy restrictions on foreign oil claims as stated in Article 27 of the
Mexican Constitution of 1917. Three years later, however, Carranzas successor
Alvaro Obregon, in an attempt to consolidate Mexicos foreign debt and stabilize the
economy, decided to make exceptions to Article 27 for American oil companies in his
signing of the aforementioned Bucarelli Agreements of 1923. Only two years later,
Calles would swing the pendulum back in the other direction.
Calles Began his administration ambitiously hoping to solidify Mexicos
image as an independent state with a stable form of government that was capable of
dealing with its own affairs and of defending its sovereignty against foreign
investments and aggressions. Within the first year of his administration Calles
decided to begin the preparations of the oil laws according to the strict guidelines set
by Article 27 of the constitution with little regard for the exceptions agreed upon by
Obregon two years earlier in the Bucarelli Conference. Calles would justify this
repeal in a 1926 interview with the New York Times by stating:
It may be said that, according to every viewpoint, it would be
unjust and immoral, in Mexico or any other country, to enact
laws and not enforce them of to apply them unequally,
according to the nationality of the persons or companies
affected by them. (Calles 1927: 80)
Many factions in the United States, including the interested oil companies, did
not respond well to Calles stance. In fact, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, James R.

Sheffield, began to raise the possibility of armed intervention or all out war with
Mexico as a just alternative to complying with the new Calles laws. While the
argument for war began to gain momentum in some sectors in the United States,
Calles held his ground sending the message that Mexico would no longer be
intimidated by its larger neighbor to the north (Camin & Meyer, 1993). In his third
Informe de gobiemo (State of the Union Address) Calles firmly stated that while
Mexico was open to any and all friendly cooperation with the United States he would
reject any attempt at employing aggressive measures for the maintenance of good
relations with [Mexicos] neighbors. (Calles, 1927: 171)
Relations became even worse when Calles, in yet another attempt to solidify
Mexicos image as independent of American influence, decided publicly to support
the Nicaraguan liberal leader Juan B. Sacasa in that countrys civil war in spite of the
already publicized U.S. support of the conservative leader Adolfo Diaz. As a result,
the already enraged elements in the United States, including the Secretary of State
Frank B. Kellog, began to liken the Calles administration to the Bolsheviks. Faced
with increasingly negative international publicity and the possibility of yet another
foreign intervention Calles made an unexpected yet effective diplomatic move by
proposing that the conflict with the United States be arbitrated by the International
Court at the Hague. That same year Calles stated to a group of representative
Americans in Mexico on a good will mission that:

Mexico wishes the people of the United States to know that it
is clear as noonday that Mexico in the present crisis had justice
with her; that the trouble is not between the people of the
United States and the people of Mexico, but between the
people of Mexico and a small group of American capitalists
who are trying to induce the Department of State to aid them
by force. (Calles 1927: 152)
Calles recognized, however, that in spite of his firm nationalistic stance
against the United States, Mexicos image and position as a sovereign state were not
as solid as he hoped and that sooner or later the two countries would have to negotiate
a mutually beneficial solution to the conflict. That solution would come sooner than
later, however. In fact, Calles proposition of international mediation, in concert with
growing support in the U.S. Congress, began to put the fires of possible intervention
in Mexico out. In October of 1927, President Calvin Coolidge initiated direct
communications with Calles and quickly replaced Ambassador Sheffield with Dwight
Morrow with instructions to keep the United States out of war with Mexico (Krause
With Morrow began a new era of U.S. Mexico relations that, according to
Mexican Political Scientist Sergio Aguayo, would set a precedent that had governed
the relationship ever since. (Aguayo, 1998: 37) Morrow understood at the outset
that he was not dealing with a Bolshevik style government as had been publicized in
the United States, but with a government that was heavily motivated by nationalism
and that it was imperative for Mexicos ruling elite to maintain that image for both
domestic political and international reasons. It was, in turn, this fundamental

understanding that allowed Morrow to get close to and negotiate with Calles. The
first order of business concerned the issue of highest tension between the two
countries, oil. Morrow quickly convinced Calles that his 1925 oil laws would have to
be changed and suggested that Calles instruct the Supreme Court to find them
unconstitutional. This way Calles would not have to personally make the concession
that would, in turn, damage Mexicos image as nationalistic and independent of U.S.
influence (Aguayo 1998). This agreement, however, benefited Calles in more than
one way. To begin with, he gained the image nationally of a leader who would not
back down from threats from the United States as the issue of American intervention
in Mexico disappeared as fast as it had appeared and the image of a soviet Mexico
inside the United States also quickly dissolved. Calles also realized that Morrow was
willing to overlook and play down in the American media the issues of harsh and
sometimes violent governance by the Calles administration (as in the case of the
Cristero uprisings) as well as the states tight control of the national media for the
sake of reaching agreements between the two countries. This style of diplomacy
between the United States and Mexico would later be deemed the Morrow Doctrine
in which the United States would turn a blind eye on the PRIs authoritarian control
of the country and its nationalistic posturing in order to make back door agreements
with the Mexican ruling elite (Krause 1997).
Although Calles presidential term would end only one short year after
Morrows arrival, he quickly positioned himself to retain much of his presidential

power through the following six years and three presidents (two interim and one who
didnt serve a complete term). Calles would become known as the Jefe Maximo de la
Revolucion as he was either president or the man behind the president for a total of
ten years (otherwise known as the Maximato). To ensure retention of power in the
hands of Calles revolutionary elite he actively promoted the formation in 1929 of the
National Revolutionary Party (Partido Nacional Revolucionario, PNR) which would
become Mexicos ruling party for the next seventy-one years and later take on its
current name of PRI. The party would serve to create the image or illusion that
Mexico was governed by a liberal democracy as every six years a new party
candidate who was selected by his predecessor would campaign for election to
office. And so when the Mexican democratic system required the election of a new
president in 1934, Calles handpicked his first true successor and political ally, Lazaro
Cardenas (Camin & Meyer 1993).
Lazaro Cardenas
In his 1933 inaugural address, President Franklin Roosevelt promised to
instate a Good Neighbor Policy with the countries of Latin America. It came in
response to increasing dissatisfaction in the United States with the use of military
intervention, or the threat of it, to promote American economic interests in that
region. In essence, the new policy meant that the United States would respect the
sovereignty of states as long as they extended that same courtesy to other states.
Mexico, however, was already well versed in the doctrine of non-intervention as it

was an integral part of its constitutional delineations for foreign relations. In addition,
the doctrine would become known as the Estrada Doctrine after its formal creator,
Mexican Minister of Foreign Relations Don Genaro Estrada, and would become an
issue of foremost importance to incoming Mexican President General Lazaro
Cardenas. (Fabela 1975) In fact, when Roosevelt suggested another Pan American
Conference to be held in Buenos Aires in 1936, Cardenas and his diplomatic
representatives to the conference set out to propose a protocol which would
definitely outlaw the intervention of one country in the internal affairs of another in
order to see if Roosevelt was willing to replace rhetoric with action. (Townsend 1952:
180) Cardenas seized this specific opportunity because if signed the protocol would
carry extra legitimacy because Roosevelt was making a personal appearance at the
conference. When the American delegation willingly helped pass the protocol,
Cardenas felt he had won a major victory in preserving the countrys independence in
domestic and foreign policymaking. Cardenas did not stop there, however, as he
decided to further build Mexicos image internationally and specifically in the United
States as one of the worlds foremost supporters of non-intervention. According to
Mexican Historian Enrique Krauze:
Every action Cardenas took in foreign policy was inspired by
this moral attitude: his condemnation of the Italian Fascist
invasion of Ethiopia; the censure of Japan in the Sino-Japanese
conflict; his condemnation of Hitlers Austrian Anschluss', his
order to Mexicos permanent delegation to the League of
Nations in Geneva to condemn the Nazi persecution of the
Jews; his protest against the German invasion of

Czechoslovakia, Belgium, and Holland and against the Soviet
invasion of Finland. (Krauze1997: 476)
Cardenas, however, also saw domestic possibilities emerge from the newly
bolstered Estrada Doctrine in which Mexico would again sound its loud horn of
nationalism at the United States. A short two years after the conference in Buenos
Aires, Cardenas made the historically controversial decision to nationalize the
Mexican oil industry. His decision was mostly based in reaction to both the rising
conflicts between the oil trade unions and the foreign oil companies, as well as the
latters refusal to respect a Supreme Court decision that required them to pay a
twenty-six million peso raise to its workers, yet many believed that Cardenas had
been looking for an opportune moment since he had taken office. Regardless of his
intentions, however, the decision angered many in Washington despite the fact that
Cardenas was offering to pay the oil companies for the expropriation. Only ten years
earlier, Washingtons reaction to a lesser offense was to threaten intervention, and
while the oil companies were again pushing for it, Roosevelt decided to stick with the
promises of his Good Neighbor Policy and opted instead for limited diplomatic and
economic pressure that would fade as the tensions on the international stage began to
rise. As historian Robert A. Pastor points out, the United States anger over the oil
problem was quickly overshadowed by the fear of losing Mexican sympathy to the
Germans who were offering to help Mexico work around American imposed
sanctions. (Pastor & Castaneda 1988) Given the global situation, the U.S.

government decided to accept Cardenas decision as its national interest demanded
the respect of Mexican sovereignty even if it meant sacrificing the interests of some
powerful oil companies. (Camin & Meyer 1993:155)
Cardenas, however, was not completely defiant of the United States. In fact,
apart from the conflict over oil, he tried to fall in line with the Morrow Doctrine of
the Calles era. As mentioned previously, Cardenas openly sided with the United
States against fascist and interventionist regimes on the world stage. In regard to
other divisive domestic issues, he decided not to nationalize the mining industry
where the United States also had extensive interests invested. In addition, Cardenas
choice of conservative Manuel Avila Camacho over Francisco Mugica, a cardenista
and political friend, as his successor was, according to Sergio Aguayo, perhaps the
clearest evidence of Cardenas pragmatism and understanding of the unwritten
rules established by U.S. interests. (Aguayo 1998: 39)
Emerging Images
From the sixteen years under the Maximato of Calles (1924-1934) and what
many have called the Cardenista utopia (1934-1940) we begin to see how the post-
revolutionary elite, in their attempt to build Mexicos first lasting form of
government, wanted Mexico to be perceived internationally and, specifically, in the
United States. As we have seen, Mexicos history of foreign intervention and civil
strife heavily influenced the ruling elites insistence on Mexico being seen as a
sovereign state whose laws and internal and foreign affairs could not be dictated by

foreign interests. For this same reason, both Calles and Cardenas spent considerable
time highlighting the institutional version of the revolution and the democratic
structure of the government to the international community in order to prove the
legitimacy of their claim to power and the sovereignty of Mexico as a state. This era
also produced the nationalistic tendencies of the new regime and the party that would
retain power for the next sixty years.
Mexico would also acquire some negative image from this era that would
prove difficult to dispel in the decades to follow. As we saw, Calles fought off the
growing perception in Washington that Mexico was sympathetic to the growing
communist influence in the world. While Calles was successful in diminishing it at
the time, Cardenas expropriation of the oil industry and his granting of asylum to
Leon Trotsky and other international communist exiles would restoke the fires of that
image in Washington.
The transition from Cardenas to Avila Camacho would also mark a change in
which sectors of Mexican society most influenced the policies of the government and
the party. While both Calles and Cardenas had begun their administrations with
considerable focus on the plight of the masses, both men would gradually give way
to the influences of the private sector by the end of their terms. This shift, as we will
see, would become even more evident during the era of the Mexican miracle, a
subject to be further discussed in the next sections.

The Mexican Miracle and the Cold War Era
Avilacamachismo 1940-1946
Many historians cite the incoming presidency of Manuel Avila Camacho as
the end of the concept of an institutionalized revolution where the government stood
as a voice of the masses and the beginning of a more financial and political elite-
oriented approach to state economics. It was believed by Camacho and the new
conservative ruling elite that in the wake of the economic instability brought on by
the revolution, in concert with Mexicos wavering economic situation of the 19th
Century, that wealth must first be generated in order for the masses to later benefit.
This new plan, then, meant that the government would focus heavily on the
industrialization and modernization of the country. The new conservative elite also
understood that Mexico would need to attract foreign investment to help fuel this new
plan. In order to accomplish this, however, Camacho realized that he would have to
change the way the international community viewed Mexico and to restore their trust
in the country in the wake of the Cardenas expropriation conflict. This effort to
change Mexicos international image would come in two distinct ways. In order to be
attractive to foreign investors, Camacho understood that Mexico would have to
actively create a modem national image that showed that the country was no longer
one of revolutionaries, leftists and banditos but one of a modem, yet nationalistic,
citizenry. (Miller 1998) First, however, Camacho would have to patch up the shaky
relations Mexico had with the United States.

As we have discussed, Lazaro Cardenas was content with maintaining
lukewarm relations with the United States as long as he was able to continue building
his vision of Mexico once the possibility of armed American intervention was taken
off the table. In return, Washington was willing to tolerate Mexicos nationalistic
domestic and foreign policies as long as they could count on Cardenas international
alliance against the emerging influences of fascism and communism. President Avila
Camacho, in contrast, saw tense relations with the United States as detrimental to his
plan of industrialization. It would not take long, however, to command the attention
of the United States. In fact, in a 1940 article of Time magazine Camacho was
praised for stating in his inaugural address:
Nothing divides us in this America of ours. Any differences that
may exist between our peoples are overcome by a lofty desire to
secure the permanence of a continental life of friendliness based on
mutual respect and on the victory of reason over brute force, of
peaceful cooperation over mechanized destruction. (Quoted in
Time Magazine, Dec. 9,1940)
Once in office, Camacho bided his time for an opportunity to prove his
intentions and when the opportunity arose with the outbreak of World War II, he was
quick to seize it. Better relations with the United States, however, was not
Camachos sole motivation. He also felt it necessary to prove to the western
industrialized countries that Mexicos relatively new government had a similar
political and economic orientation to the west despite the rumors of communist
influences Camachos government had inherited form his predecessors. Even though

Mexico remained neutral at the outset of the war, by 1941 it was clear that its stance
was definitely opposed to the Axis powers and that Mexico was openly collaborating
with the United States. (Krause 1997: 503) That same year Camacho would break all
diplomatic and economic ties with Germany and Pearl Harbor would open up yet
another facet of Mexican cooperation as Camacho immediately moved to grant the
Allied forces open access to the use of Mexicos ports and harbors. In addition, he
informed the Allies that if petitioned in a case of emergency, he would use his
executive power to allow allied troops to cross the Mexican territory. Camachos
intentions and loyalties became even clearer when Mexico formally entered the war
effort on the coattails of the United States in 1942. Although Mexicos military
contribution was small, sending only a few squadrons of soldiers and pilots
throughout the entire war, it served to effectively as a gesture of Mexicos unabashed
support of the causes of democracy, economic liberty and non-interventionism to the
international community.
Camacho also counted on the fact that by supporting the Allied forces in the
war would gain reciprocal support for his economic plan of industrialization. In order
to take full advantage of this special wartime relationship, still inspired by
Roosevelts good neighbor policy, Camacho sought frequent negotiations with
Washington. Under Camachos astute diplomacy, Mexico quickly became a
preferred provider of strategic materials needed for the war effort and was also able to
negotiate a fixed and heavily discounted buyout of the debt still owed to the oil

companies still uncompensated from the Cardenas expropriation. In addition,
Camacho was able to negotiate loans for Mexico in excess of $95 million from the
American government in order to both stabilize the peso and to help build Mexicos
infrastructure and reduced the countrys foreign debt by almost ninety percent. This
was achieved through negotiated deals with a generous wartime American
administration as well as though Eduardo Suarezs (Mexicos finance minister)
unchallenged decision that Hitlers complete control over Europe warranted the
cancellation of most of Mexicos European debt. (Oxford 2000: 537) As a result,
Camachos industrialization plan was boosted and Mexicos economy began the
steady growth rate it would enjoy for the next three decades.
With a healthy influx of capital resulting from Mexicos active collaboration
with the war effort, Camacho would be able to focus on Mexicos domestic progress
and on building the countrys image as a united and modem society. The
presidency of Manuel Avila Camacho stands out in the history of the PRI era
specifically because of his international orientation and his motivation to build an
image of what historian Michael Nelson Miller has deemed a modem Mexicanidad.
While the concept of modernity has been defined distinctly by politicians and
historians alike, Miller argues that Camachos understanding of it was not only
equated with industrial and economic progress, but also with cultural progress and
that when combined would help attract the foreign investment needed for further
progress of the country. This international orientation would not, however, change

the governments nationalistic tendencies. In fact, the national image that Camacho
sought to build was distinctly Mexican and fought to promote the strength of the
countrys sovereignty and its unique qualities as an equal participant in the
international community through building a strong sense of unity and identity at
Shortly after taking office, Camacho worked to build a robust state-funded
cultural complex that would eventually produce some of the most treasured music,
film and art in Mexicos history. Michael Miller points out that between 1940 and
1946, the Mexican state would also help to fund, among other endeavors,
a national film industry, a national ballet, a national symphony
orchestra, open air art, the mural tradition ... art exhibitions, new
museums, a national program to eliminate illiteracy, the
publication of inexpensive books, the creation of a respected
publishing industry, the founding journals in art and music, the
development of a recording industry that had worldwide sales, and
the formation of a dynamic graphic arts industry. (Miller 1998: 3)
The Americans quickly took notice of Camachos new program and began to
invest, through both private and public funds, in Mexicos growing film and music
industry. By 1942 Camachos cultural programs had effectively recruited investment
from the U.S. state department, Twentieth Century Fox and RKO and others to help
create a booming film industry that eventually produce what has become known as
Mexicos golden age of film. Camacho also worked to boost Mexicos image as an
attractive destination for tourism. With both state and private domestic and foreign
capital, Camacho spearheaded the development of Mexicos sprawling coastlines. By

the end of the war Mexican beaches had become havens of large hotels and resorts
that began to attract even the most exclusive of Hollywood stars and would make
Mexico one of the most attractive tourist destinations for Americans.
Camacho himself also proved to be an effective symbol of Mexican modernity
and progress in the United States, appearing on the cover of Time Magazine twice in
the span of his presidency and praised for his great friendliness to the U.S. and [his]
strong swing toward conservatism. (Time Magazine 1940) Avilacamachismo,
however, would prove to be a unique island of internationalism in the vast sea of
pragmatism and suspicion of the United States that dominated the PRI era until, as we
will see in the next chapter, the arrival of Carlos Salinas de Gortari in 1988. With the
death of Roosevelt in 1945, the beginning of the Cold War and the entrance of
Camachos successor, Miguel Aleman, in 1946 began the gradual change in how
Mexico sought to be perceived by its northern neighbor.
The Honeymoon Begins:
U.S. Mexico Relations and the Cold War
Miguel Aleman Valdes.
The Cold War marked the beginning of the simplified political relationship
with the United States that Jorge Castaneda has deemed the honeymoon period of
U.S. Mexico relations; a honeymoon that would last until the early 1960s. This
meant that the United States government would prudently refrain from engaging in
high-profile political and diplomatic interactions with Mexico while in their

economic dealings rich Americans and Mexicans united to a degree (Oxford 2000:
582) unlike ever seen in Mexicos history thanks to the business orientation of
incoming president, Miguel Aleman Valdes (1946-1952). Mexicos new
businessman president, in contrast to his predecessor, was less interested in
promoting Mexicos cultural sophistication as he was in creating and promoting the
countrys increasing prosperity brought on by industrialization. Instead of courting
politicians in Washington, Aleman focused on diversifying his contacts with
American businessmen who were eager to invest in Mexicos budding economy.
There was only on major obstacle, however, to attracting said foreign investment. In
1944 Avila Camacho had passed a law that stated that enterprises operating in
Mexico were required to have at least fifty-one percent Mexican ownership. Aleman,
in turn, saw this limitation as an opportunity for Mexicos elite business sector to
form beneficial partnerships with American investors as a way to increase the
retention of capital inside Mexico. As a result, Mexicos elite businessmen and PRI
party members (Aleman included) would accrue mass amounts of wealth throughout
Alemans six year administration (Aguayo 1998).
Progress and prosperity would become Alemans two favorite descriptive
terms for Mexico. To exemplify this he would use the fruits of Mexicos growing
industrial sector combined with the steady influx of foreign capital to build up
Mexicos major cities and its transportation infrastructure. Aleman saw these two
areas of growth as integral to both the facilitation of commerce and industry as well

as to making Mexicos tourist destinations more accessible and attractive to
foreigners. Under Alemans direction, large highways and roads were built
connecting Mexicos largest cities with each other as well as with the most prominent
border cities to the north and airports were built or expanded to meet the increasing
demand for access to Mexico. While Mexicos two largest cities, Mexico City and
Guadalajara, received the bulk of urban development during the period, Aleman paid
special attention to Acapulco. Before Aleman took notice, Acapulco had been a
small coastal city that catered to a small rich clientele that would arrive mostly by
yacht. By the end of his administration, and after investing heavily in property there,
Acapulco had its own airport, was connected to Mexico City by a four lane highway
and was characterized by its plush high-rises clustered along the seashore, hosting
many of the worlds rich and famous, including Hollywood personalities such as Rita
Hayworth, Errol Flynn, Carry Grant, and John Wayne. (Oxford 2000: 586)
Washington, in turn, could not have asked for a better political relationship
with its southern neighbor in a time of cold international conflict than that provided
by Aleman and his successors, Aldolfo Ruiz Cortinez and Adolfo Lopez Mateos. The
serenity of this honeymoon period allowed for both the United States and Mexico
to focus on more immediate issues and to put off any substantial bilateral
involvement for when the global climate cooled. It was when the global climate was
at its hottest, however, when the United States and Mexico would again find each
other on the international stage.

The Honeymoon Ends:
Heating Tensions during the 1960s
Adolfo Lopez Mateos.
The Mexican foreign policy that emerged at the beginning of the 1960s was a
dramatic change to that of the decades following the end of the revolution and a quick
shock to the United States. In the final two years of his administration, Lopez Mateos
began to show signs of disapproval of the increasing role of the United States in Latin
America as a part of what he interpreted as the application of the Monroe Doctrine to
justify increased American intervention in the region. In recognition of its increased
role as an important political actor in the region and to the dismay of the United
States, Mexico began to diversify its international connections throughout the 1960s.
This proved a delicate matter for Mexico to balance as it needed to maintain at least
lukewarm relations with the United States at the same time as it continued relations
with both Moscow and Beijing. The new objective was to be seen as neutral to the
ongoing East-West problems and so even at the request of international figures,
Lopez Mateos refused the opportunity for Mexico to retake the seat on the UN
Security Council it had left in 1946 (Riding 1989).
Because of its new international role, and in reaction to the increased
American interest in intervening in Latin America, Mexico began to reassert on the
international stage its image as a sovereign state with a foreign policy independent
from American influences. One of its most influential tools in Lopez Mateos arsenal

would come in the form of the Organization of American States (Hereinafter the
OAS). Mexico, under president Ruiz Cortines, had already begun using the OAS to
voice its disapproval of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America in 1954 when it allied
with Argentina against an American backed resolution condemning Guatemalas
president Jacobo Arbenz that would lead to his ousting later that year. Ten years later
Lopez Mateos would again voice his discontent by opposing the OASs creation of
an Inter-American Peace Force to legitimize post facto the U.S. invasion of the
Dominican Republic while simultaneously sponsoring a resolution at the United
Nations calling for the withdrawal of the American Marines from that country. The
spark that ignited the fire, however, came when Lopez Mateos became the only leader
in the Americas that refused to abide by the 1964 mandate by the OAS that all
members break relations with the controversial revolutionary Cuban government of
Fidel Castro (Riding 1989).
Lopez Mateos intentions, however, were not necessarily antagonistic. They
were more in tune with his belief that Mexico should become a more vociferous
contributor to the international community as a representative of the principles of
non-intervention, self-determination and the peaceful resolution of conflicts as
described in the countrys constitution. He was also interested in showcasing
Mexicos prosperity on the international stage as many had already begun to consider
Mexico as a leader in Latin America and a shining example of progress that other
developing countries could follow. Lopez Mateos intentions to showcase Mexico to

the world were nowhere more evident than in his bid for Mexico City to host the 1968
Olympic Games, a responsibility he would pass on to his successor Gustavo Diaz
Gustavo Diaz Ordaz.
President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz (1964-1970) inherited the Mexican Miracle
with fervor. Unlike his predecessors, Diaz Ordaz was more interested in maintaining
and furthering Mexicos industrialization and prosperity then he was in promoting it
to the international community. In fact, his most important decision in regards to
Mexican foreign policy came during the Cuban Missile Crisis when he was Minister
of the Interior for then President Lopez Mateos. At the time of crisis, the president
was traveling in the Pacific and American ambassador to Mexico Thomas Mann
approached Diaz Ordaz to ask what Mexicos position was on the crisis. Without
flinching, or for that matter consulting with the president, Diaz Ordaz answered that,
Mexico had always supported Cubas right to have defensive weapons but that these
missiles were clearly offensive weapons, controlled by the Russians, which could
threaten the United States or Mexico. (Krauze 1997: 674) This matter of fact style
of foreign policy would continue throughout the Diaz Ordaz sexenio although the
opportunities were rare. Diaz Ordaz believed that if something was not broken it
should not be fixed and so while Mexico continued to promote the traditional issues
of Mexican foreign policy (respect of sovereignty, self-determinations and nuclear
nonproliferation of Latin America) through international organizations, he did not

seek opportunities to grandstand these positions. (SRE 1985) In essence, if Mexico
was growing and prospering, Diaz Ordaz was content.
For a man who was a reluctant international actor, Diaz Ordaz would oversee
one of Mexicos most internationally active sexenios. In his six years he would
oversee Mexicos participation in Expo67 worlds fair in Montreal, he would be in
charge of Latin Americas first ever hosting of the Olympic games in 1968 and he
would also host the World Cup just prior to leaving office in 1970. Although the PRI
government had participated in many different forums for international relations and
image promotion, it typically had to construct the image it wanted to promote and
then pack it up and send it abroad. 1968 would be the first time Mexico would play
host to an event as monumental and prestigious as the summer Olympic games. This
meant that regardless of how much Mexico prepared for the arrival of the games,
certain social, political and developmental aspects of the country would be on stage
for the world to see. Unfortunately president Diaz Ordaz only thought he understood
this, and his commitment to creating the illusion of social order for the visiting
international audience backfired with the historic decision to put down the student
movement with one swift stroke at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas on October 2,1968.
While civic unrest would have, in fact, damaged the regimes image while hosting die
Olympics, official repression and brutality had worse effects, and so the governments
decision to carry out the tragic events of Tlatelolco was successful only in calming
the student protests that Diaz Ordaz had come to classify as not only a threat to the

games but to Mexicos progress and prosperity. He didnt understand, however, the
repercussions that these acts of state repression would have on Mexicos international
image in the years to follow.
Ironically, Diaz Ordaz was originally opposed to Mexicos bid to host the
Olympic games as Minister of the Interior to president Adolfo Lopez Mateos as he
was doubtful about the benefits it would supposedly bring to Mexico. (Krausel997:
681) The stage was already set, however, and once elected president he would be in
charge of overseeing the organization and implementation of the games. Diaz Ordaz
quickly hired nationally acclaimed architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez to head the
Mexican Olympic Committee (MOC) with the expressed specification that the
Mexico City Olympic games would have to be built on the budget of a developing
state and not in an attempt to match the amount Japan was planning on spending in
the winter Olympics in Tokyo (Zolov 2002).
To compensate, Vazquez set out with a plan to respect the ancient traditions
of the Olympics and celebrate not only sports, but culture and the arts as well to
create a Fiesta of the Whole Man, and so was bom the idea to celebrate the parallel
Olympics (Olympics 68 1968: 9) that would come to be known as the Cultural
Olympiad. This secondary attraction would serve to help take the attention off of
Mexicos limited budget as well as to promote the countrys innovative nature. It was
also argued that it gave those countries without an athletic represented in the
Olympics a chance to participate. Diaz Ordaz commented, the cultural program

provided a way for nations to enter the Olympics on a more equal footing,
particularly since it was cheaper to send an item or two for an exhibition than an
entire athletic team and its entourage. (Bass 2002: 112)
The program in its final form celebrated over 2,000 events in various Mexican
cities and included the participation of artists and intellectuals from all over the
world. The twenty different spheres of activity that represented the same number of
athletic categories in the games were intended to include elements for spectators from
varying age groups and nationalities. Vazquez made good use of Mexico Citys many
museums as exemplified by two exhibits dedicated to the peaceful applications of
nuclear energy and modem architecture at the two Museums at the National
Polytechnic Institute as well as the Exhibition of Representative Masterpieces that
was so large it had to be housed in both the Museum of Anthropology and the
Museum of Modem Art of Mexico City. The Cultural Olympiad also offered
programs for children such as the Festival of Childrens Paintings held at the
Chapultepec Park and the special encampment set up in the Olympic Village to
accommodate the world youth who had come to enjoy the games. (01ympics68
Another aspect of the Cultural Olympiad consisted of graphic artists and
intellectuals hired to create the image and theme for the entire Olympic experience.
In keeping with the image of modernity Vazquez pushed for the creation of an official
logo that departed from the traditional images that had been associated with the

country. To accomplish this, however, Vazquez would have to resort to giving the
task to two foreign graphic designers who in the end created a logo ostensively
rooted in Huichol indigenous design, yet at the same time clearly influence by the
avant-garde Op Art aesthetic then in vogue, the MEXICO68 logo achieved a truly
unique fusion of cultural sensibilities. (Zolov 2002: 173) Soon thereafter the poster
began to appear throughout Mexico City with the Olympic games slogan
Everything is Possible in Peace created to parallel Mexicos rhetoric on the
international stage for the peaceful solution of conflicts and non-interventionism.
Vazquez was also interested in involving women in the Cultural Olympiad
and quickly found way to incorporate a large number of young women in the program
other than those participating in the arts aspect of the program. Vazquez employed
hundreds of women to work as edecanes (event hostesses) throughout the Olympic
venues. This presence of the modem Mexican woman was also accentuated by
Mexicos choice of Mexican hurdler Norma Enriqueta Basilio de Sotela as the first
woman in the history of the games to light the Olympic flame; a selection that
Vazquez played an influential role in deciding. (Chronicles 1996)
Hosting the Olympics was also a prime opportunity for Diaz Ordaz to further
his partys focus on urban modernization as Mexico Citys existing facilities would
have to undergo extensive renovations and new venues would have to be built. The
University City Stadium at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)
was quickly chosen as the central venue in which both the Opening and Closing

Ceremonies and all track and field events would be held. The stadium (thereafter
known as the Estadio OUmpico) was expanded and adapted for the track and field
events with a new capacity of 80,000. The Palacio de Deportes, a large sports
complex, was designed and constructed specifically for the games and, once
completed, held a capacity of 24,000 with the option of removing 8,000 seats if an
event needed more space. In addition, the Olympic Village was built only a short
distance from the UNAM. It was a self contained community provided with all
training and recreational, as well as dining and living, facilities. (Olympics 68 1968:
10) Other signs of urban renewal grew throughout the two years leading up to the
Olympics as well, such as the new hotels, restaurants and cafes that quickly emerged
in proximity to the sports venues and along the route that led visitors between venues.
For months leading to the Games the international community took notice and
began to compliment the efforts made by Vazquez and the COM in preparing Mexico
for the Olympic games. He was specifically praised for the innovative creation and
implementation of the Cultural Olympiad. In fact, prior to October of that year,
Mexico in all preparations for the upcoming games seemed to be exceeding the
expectations of the international community and dispelling the image it had acquired
as the Land of Manana and trading it for that of the Land of Tomorrow.
Only in the past few years have scholars begun to examine the 1968 Olympics
in search of a more detailed understanding of the period. At the forefront are
historians Eric Zolov and Ariel Rodriguez Kuri who have only begun to uncover what

has historically been buried in the popular memory of Tlatelolco. Both scholars have
focused on the preparations for the games, including the yearlong Cultural Olympiad
mentioned above, and what they meant in the larger context of Mexicos quest for
modernity. Their interpretations, although for the most part complimentary, differ on
one fundamental element about the period. Kuri has argued that the preparations and
execution of the Olympics symbolized Mexicos emergence as a self-confident state
whose actions on the international stage were no longer attempts to convince the
developed states of Europe and North America of its modernization. He further
suggests that the aesthetic and discursive aspects of preparation for the Olympics
suggested a matured modernity (Zolov 2002: 160) in Mexico achieved by the stable
government of the PRI. While this argument may account for a portion of the
motivations that underlined the extensive preparations for the Olympics, Mexicos
own traditionally defiant foreign policy that continues even today may suggest
otherwise. Eric Zolov, in contrast, approaches this issue differently. He argues that
Vazquez and the COM were very aware of Mexicos image as an underdeveloped
state and that they specifically sought to control the terms of discourse for foreign
consumption. (Zolov 2002: 162) While it is evident that the organizers sought to
highlight Mexicos positive attributes, as do even developed states in similar
situations, it is also true that Mexico would have more to cover up as economic
disparities, civil dissent and the many tattered buildings lined Mexico Citys streets
stood out for all foreigners to see. One of the more obvious manifestations of their

deliberate attempts to cover up negative aspects with positive facades come in the
twelve-mile Friendship Route that led athletes between the sporting venues and
back to the Olympic Village. This route not only led foreigners through a passage
adorned with multicolored Olympics advertisements, event staff and eighteen
sculptures by commissioned artists from around the world, but also kept them from
straying into Mexico Citys poorer neighborhoods (Bass 2002). Thus it was evident
that Mexico was still engaged in the same struggle against its reputation as an
underdeveloped country.
It is hard to imagine, however, that Diaz Ordaz and Vazquez were not aware
of this unique opportunity to gain significant ground in dispelling that image as
Mexicos participation in worlds fairs as the "Mexico City Olympics of 1968, should
be understood as among other things massive ad campaigns to sell Mexico to the
world. (Oxford 2000: 659) In addition, the Mexico games provided Mexico with
opportunities unlike those of any other host country in the history of the games as
media coverage would reach monumental levels. ABC alone broadcast forty-four
horns of coverage of the sixteen-day event; an unprecedented amount for the time
period. In fact, Mexico City was the stage for the the largest live remote telecast in
TV history, greater in size than the tremendous undertaking at Grenoble
(01ympics68 1968: 119) as well as the first satellite broadcast of an event that size,
thus changing the way the world had traditionally experienced the event. For its part,
Japan financed a $6.4 million communication station that included four live channels

as well as 12,000 telephone lines for journalists so as to not rely on the local phone
network. (Jennings & Simon 1992) With this overwhelming international presence,
there was no room for doubt that the world, in effect, had its gaze fixed intently on
Mexico City.
It is therefore difficult to decipher how anyone in the Diaz Ordaz
administration could have thought that brutal repression of the student protests at
Tlatelolco could really escape international perception. Although Diaz Ordaz may
have been presented with what he perceived as a catch 22 in dealing with the student
movement, his decision in the end all but destroyed one of the most important and
influential international public relations opportunities available to any state on the
international stage. For many historians 1968 marked the turning point for the
Mexican miracle where the international community began to take notice of the
countrys increasingly corrupt political system under the PRI. As we will see in the
next section it is easier to acquire negative international images than it is to promote
positive ones, specifically with the counter-defensive foreign policies that would
characterize Diaz Ordazs successors.
Emerging Images
The images that Mexico acquired and promoted throughout the Mexican
miracle were, for the most part, consistent. Each president of the era understood
that in order to change Mexicos image in the United States, they would first have to
focus on building domestic elements worthy of promotion. Once Mexico began to

experience steady economic growth from industrialization these miracle presidents
began to promote Mexico as a prosperous, modernizing and democratic state. And
while the democracy they promoted was, for the most part, an illusion, Mexicos
stability and economic success were enough to detract attention from the issue. Even
when Mexico began to speak out on international issues, including the Cold War,
Washington was content to let its neighbor speak its mind. Mexicos recognition and
defense of Cuba would reawaken the rumors in Washington of communist tendencies
in the Mexican government; however, they did not last long as Mexicos capitalist
oriented economic plan never wavered. In fact, it was not until 1968, once social
repression and political corruption had spilled into international attention, that
Mexicos image began to change for the worse in the United States. As we will
explore in the next section, it was just the beginning of the deterioration of Mexicos
image in the eyes of the United States.
The Decline of the Miracle
Luis Echeverria
By 1970, in the wake of Tlatelolco and the Olympic games, Mexicos
attempts to feign democracy and political stability were beginning to come under
international scrutiny. The arrival of President Luis Echeverrias (1970-1976) at Los
Pinos (Mexicos presidential palace) in December of 1970, however, was welcomed
by the United States as they believed him to be a reform-minded candidate who
would work to streamline Mexicos increasingly controversial political system. In

fact, during the first two years of his administration, Echeverria focused on
maintaining relatively calm relations with the United States while attempting to
implement liberal reforms domestically that would improve Mexicos growing image
of corruption. His first policy was to loosen the traditionally tight reigns the PRI had
on the press and by 1971 two of Mexicos largest newspapers freely reported on
government corruption and injustice. In addition, he attempted to implement new
income and capital gains taxes on the rich to lessen the disparities that were becoming
evident to the international community. These efforts, however, did not last long.
By 1972, Echeverria changed course and resorted back to the nationalistic
grandstanding typical of his predecessors, using Latin America, the UN and the O AS
as his stage. His about face in foreign policy was neither subtle nor gradual in its
open antagonism toward the United States. By the end of 1974 Echeverria had
embarked upon a campaign against American imperialism by seeking to create a
united Latin America against the influences of the United States. That same year he
worked closely with his counterpart in Venezuela to create the Latin American
Economic System (SELA) in order to defend trade relations with countries in the
region and the United States. In addition he visited various countries in an effort to
convince their governments to lift their economic blockade against Cuba (Aguayo
1998: 162) and to directly defy U.S. pressures to the contrary. In 1976 Echeverria, in
a swift act of defiance to the United States, openly supported the newly elected
socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile and when the U.S. backed a

military overthrow of Allende, Echeverria instructed the Mexican embassy in Chile to
accept all political refugees seeking asylum from what he called the imposition of
Pinochet by the United States. He also cut all relations with the Pinochet regime and
gave exile to ousted Allende ministers who quickly found jobs in both the Mexican
government and the national universities. Mexico had become the main center of
propaganda activities against the dictatorship of Pinochet, and in turn invited other
South American liberals and leftists to find refuge in Mexico from the dictatorships in
their own countries. (Riding 1989: 345)
While stirring up global antagonisms against the U.S. abroad, Echeverria was
struggling at home to manage the economic miracle he had inherited from his
predecessors. By the end of his administration, the foreign debt had grown six times
and the buying power of the average income was halved. To top it off, Echeverria
had put off the inevitable devaluation of the peso until late into the last year of his
administration triggering a deeper recession than had been necessary leaving his
successor with volatile situations both domestically and internationally.
Jose Lopez Portillo
President Jose Lopez Portillo's (1976-1982) ascent to power was very similar
to his predecessors. Before taking office in 1976, in a gesture of reconciliation,
Portillo made his plans for governance available to the United States. He had little
choice, however, as he would be taking charge of a country that was heavily
dependent on international loans, the bulk of which were from the United States. His

first two years on office would be characterized by his attempts to woo back foreign
capital and to use Mexicos newly discovered deposits of oil and natural gas to help
bail out the economy. It would not take long, however, for Portillo to restore
Mexicos antagonism toward the United States on the international stage. What he
did not understand was that President Carters policies on Latin America and Mexico
specifically, were nowhere near as aggressive as those of his predecessors and that
despite the United States efforts to improve the relationship, Mexico pursued a path
of independence (Aguayo 1998: 179) yet again. Like Echeverria, Portillo would use
Mexicos foreign policy to challenge the United States, yet in contrast to his
predecessor, he openly chastised Mexicos northern neighbor. In no instance was this
more clear as when Portillo used the February 1979 presidential summit with Jimmy
Carter as an opportunity to openly show his contempt for the United States. Upon
arrival to Mexico City in 1979, Carter found that Portillo had prepared none of the
traditional celebrations typically arranged for visiting heads of state. He was met
simply by a somber looking Portillo who had refused to walk across the tarmac to
meet his counterpart half way (Aguayo 1998). The summit itself was not much better
for Carter as Portillo was quoted during the proceedings to have expressed that he
resented [the United States] mistrust, hostility and disdain (Aguayo 1998: 180)
toward his country and that the only reason Carter had renewed interest in Mexico
was because of its oil. Portillos animosities were clear as day and America had taken
notice. In fact, later that year Time Magazine published a portrait of Portillo on the

Cover of its October 8 issue with the caption Mexico: An Angry Neighbor? (Time
Archive 1979) illustrating the new image Mexico was acquiring.
When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981 hope was renewed that relations
between the two countries may improve. This hope, however, was short-lived.
Reagans swift policy change on Nicaragua, officially ending U.S. support of the
Sandinistas, proved to be another controversial fight Portillo was willing to pick with
its northern neighbor as an expression of its own independent foreign policy and its
consternation with American Latin American policy. Like his predecessor Portillo
had decided that Mexico should defend Latin American states against the intervening
forces of the United States and Nicaragua presented him with the perfect
battleground. When Venezuela, under pressure by the United States, cut off oil
exports to the regime, the Sandinista government quickly looked to Mexico for help.
Lopez Portillo responded by providing Nicaragua with a full supply of Mexican oil
on credit. Mexico also provided monetary support, reported to have been in the one
billion dollar range, to the Sandinistas in spite of the United States stance on the
issue. It was becoming obvious that Lopez Portillos foreign policy was largely
dedicated to opposing the United States in the region, much to the irritation to
officials in Washington. (Ridingl989: 351)
In 1981 alone Ronald Reagan met with Lopez Portillo four times as tensions
over Central America worsened, yet no bilateral conclusions were reached. By that
time, however, Reagan began to understand that any commitments by Portillo, then in

the last two years of his administration, would be unreliable and subject to change
once the next president elect took office. This proved to be true at the end of 1982, a
year marked by another two devaluations of the peso, when President Elect Miguel
del la Madrid took office.
Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado
By the time incoming president Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado (1982-1988)
took office, Mexicos economic and political shortfalls were already under extensive
scrutiny in the United States. The issues of corruption and the antidemocratic
practice of the PRI that had once been overshadowed by the Mexican miracle were
now out in the open for de la Madrid to deal with. On the other side of the coin,
President Reagan still had a sour taste in his mouth from dealing with Portillos
antaganistic policies and, in turn, began implementing even more aggressive policies
toward Mexico. Although the issues of drug trafficking and illegal immigration had
been growing throughout the 1970s, Reagan would bring them to the forefront of
bilateral relations in the mid 1980s. His administration, along with leading
Republicans in congress, quickly began work on tougher policies on both these issues
that, although universal in reach, were evidently directed at Mexico. The irony of the
situation this time around was that de la Madrid had already implemented the most
conservative, most pro-U.S. set of economic [and diplomatic] policies that any
Mexican president could realistically be expected to promote; yet he continue[d] to
find himself under fire from the United States. (Cornelius 1986: 48) For example,

de la Madrid had inherited none of Lopez Portillos emotional ties to Nicaragua and
once in office had begun scaling back, and in some cases eliminating, previous aid to
the region. (Riding 1989: 358) His hope was to improve relations over the matter
with the U.S. and to begin negotiating some kind of an accord on Central American
issues and on increased economic ties. Reagans hard line policies, however, that not
only addressed drug and immigration issues, yet also issues of Mexicos internal
political and economic situation, quickly quieted de la Madrids friendly attitude to
the United States. In reaction, de la Madrid openly accused the Reagan
administration of infringing on Mexicos sovereignty; sparking the animosity that
would characterize their relationship through the remainder of their time in office
Perceptions and interpretations can sometimes be decisive factors in
diplomacy, especially when two countries are as highly sensitive to one another as are
the United States and Mexico. In 1984 De la Madrid and Reagan had decided to meet
in Washington to discuss the increasing tensions between the two countries as well as
the future of foreign policy on Central America. When De la Madrid arrived at the
airport he was welcomed, to his dismay, by the then acting Secretary of State,
Kenneth Dam. Carlos Castaneda argues that De la Madrid felt slighted by the
American government when he was not welcomed by someone of higher stature in
the government as the treatment a countrys leader receives abroad is considered a
reflection of that countrys standing with the host country (Castaneda 1988: pg. 64).

In contrast, Robert Pastor argues that it is not customary for the president of the
United States to meet with foreign leaders at the airport and that in fact the State
Department had prepared a list of leaders who had been met at the airport by the
Deputy Secretary of State, including the British and West German Prime Ministers
in order to prove that Mexicos president was being received in a respectful and
traditional maimer (Pastor 1988: 80). De la Madrid, however, was not consoled.
Alan Riding argues that by reacting to Reagans less than satisfactory reception, De
la Madrid was exercising one of Mexicos classic defense mechanisms of using
lesser political issues as loudspeakers for its nationalism and the reiteration of its
independence from the United States. (Riding 1989: 336)
One issue that did make it through the strained relations in the mid 1980s was
that of economic integration. Under De la Madrid, Mexico began to open its
economy more to American investment. By 1986 U.S. investment had grown to $9.6
billion, up drastically from the 1950 total of $414 million. Although investment had
increased, de la Madrid was careful not to open Mexico too fast because he was still
suspicious of the possible U.S. interests behind it and while the two governments
continued to fight over increasingly important issues such as immigration and drug
trafficking, the debate over further economic integration was placed on the
backbumer for the next presidents to deal with. (Riding 1989)

Emerging Images
With repetitive devaluations of the peso and antagonistic policies toward the
United States, Mexico emerged in 1988 with a plethora of negative images defining it
in the eyes of the American government; effectively squandering most all of the
advances made dining the Mexican miracle. Mexico was now categorized in the
American eye by rampant corruption, economic disparities, antidemocratic practices,
a weakness in quelling drug and illegal immigrant traffic and a loud nationalistic
antagonism toward the United States. Even with the more friendly efforts of Miguel
de la Madrid, Mexico had already fallen from confidence with Washington. As stated
earlier, negative images acquired by states tend to be difficult to dispel and require
long concerted campaigns focused decisively on changing them. An in 1988, Mexico
would elect a candidate with that specific focus, drastically changing how Mexico
sought to be perceived by its northern neighbor. As we will see in the next chapter,
Carlos Salinas de Gortari would attempt to revolutionize Mexicos image, with
considerable success, while hoping that economic growth would yet again (in the
style of the miracle presidents) detract attention from Mexicos corruption and
antidemocratic political system.

The final twelve years of PRI authoritarian control of Mexico brought about
significant economic, political and democratic transformations implemented by
presidents Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) and Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon
(1994-2000). These transformations, however, came about in an unorthodox fashion.
Most liberal democracy theorists argue that states should first implement democratic
reforms before opening up to the global economy, ensuring that more elements of
society are represented in the political and economic reforms to follow. As we will
discuss in this chapter, President Salinas inspired by the miracle presidents -
decided to press for economic transformations while only ceding enough influence to
opposition parties to feign democratic change to the United States, yet not enough for
them to affect significant national policy change at the time. Zedillo, in turn, would
argue that Salinas had put the cart of economic reform before the horse of democratic
change and quickly began working against the judgment of his party to remedy this.
Both presidents of this period were strong proponents of globalization. They
understood that Mexicos image had been severely damaged by the antagonistic
foreign policy and the economic rollercoaster ride that had characterized Mexico in

the 1970s and 80s and that as the international community became more entrenched
in globalization, Mexico had to find a way to compete. The most viable avenue,
according to Salinas, was through the opening of Mexico to the global economy
through a strong trade relationship with its historic adversary, the United States.
Jorge Castaneda points out that significant changes would be needed in Mexicos
traditional approach to relations with Washington as:
it made no sense, on the one hand, to put all of Mexicos eggs in
one basket (namely the one that held foreign financing, business
confidence, and U.S. support) and then proceed to kick and quarrel
with the owners of the basket (Quoted in Russell 1994: 313)
This meant that Mexicos diplomacy would have to become friendlier to its northern
neighbor and that the government would have to work hard to sell Mexico again as a
prosperous state that was implementing domestic policy changes that would remedy,
or at least seem to be in the process of remedying, its political and economic
The first section of this chapter will focus on the changing face of Mexicos
foreign and domestic policy under President Salinas. It will also focus on the
evolving political situation in Mexico throughout the period, including the slowly
increasing influence of opposition parties and the changing role of the executive
branch. I will then pay special attention to Salinas campaigns, both nationally and in
the United States, to rally support for the passage of the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA). Finally, I will discuss the events of Salinas final year in

office that would yet again challenge the stability of Mexicos image in the United
The second section will focus on the sexenio of Ernesto Zedillo in which
Mexicos image would have to be rebuilt again in the United States. As we will see,
however, even though Zedillo did not have Salinas talent for public relations he was
effective, in his own style, in gaining the respect of the American government as well
as the international community through his democratic reforms and stable economic
Carlos Salinas de Gortari:
The PR Mastermind and the Birth of NAFTA
President Salinas, not unlike his predecessors, was an active participant in the
federal government before stepping down to run for the presidency. In contrast,
however, Salinas was part of a new faction of the PRI comprised of American (Ivy
League) educated and liberal economic minded party members that had come to
prominence under president de la Madrid. This group of relatively young technocrats
(as they have become known) argued against the partys traditional protectionist
economic policies and for Mexicos gradual integration in the global economy
through increasing the countrys participation in the trading blocs that were becoming
prominent throughout the international community. The influence of their ideas, as
we have seen, was evident in president de la Madrids economic policies, yet would
become even more pronounced once Salinas became president. For its part,

Washington quickly expressed interest in the reforms being proposed by these
technocrats as they promised economic policies similar to those of the United States
as well as better access for American investors and businessmen to Mexicos market.
For these reasons, Washington paid close attention to Salinas campaign for
The arrival of the technocrats also marked a split in the traditional
cohesiveness of the PRI during the 1980s, resulting in three movements with distinct
visions for the party. One movement split in favor of democratic reforms in both the
party and in Mexicos national government and by the mid 1980s would sever ties
with the PRI to form an opposition movement (and eventually a party) to contest the
PRIs stronghold on Mexicos government. Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, son of president
Lazaro Cardenas, led the movement with other party leaders and eventually ran as a
leftist candidate against Salinas in the 1988 presidential elections. Only the
technocrats and the traditionalists (or dinosaurs as they have come to be known)
remained in the PRI and therefore in the different branches of the government. These
divisions, along with other factors that will be discussed later, meant that the
traditional decree of the president would no longer be accepted without debate from a
rubberstamp congress, as had been the tradition throughout the PRI era, and that
Salinas would increasingly have to seek support for his policies. The support he
sought, however, was mostly symbolic as the PRI was not quite ready to let go of the
stronghold on power that it had enjoyed for most of the century.

1988 Presidential Elections
Carlos Salinas was aware of the damaged image that his predecessors had
earned and acquired for Mexico as he began his campaign for president. He therefore
ran on a pro free trade platform and spoke regularly of improving relations with the
United States. Salinas also knew that the United States would be closely following
the race because of the popular support that had grown for the leftist candidate,
Cuauhtemoc Cardenas. In order to be perceived as a proponent of democracy during
the campaign, both at home and for international viewers, Salinas called publicly for
fair and clean elections. Even when the elections produced the most contested and
fraudulent results in the history of Mexico, he was able to position himself as an
idealist reformer stuck in a corrupt party. It followed that his election was not as
controversial in the United States as it was in Mexico. In fact, Sergio Aguayo points
out that American government spokespersons and journalists alike repeatedly argued
that despite some problems, Mexico was advancing toward democracy, thanks to
Carlos Salinas, who was explicitly disassociated from the corruption of the party.
The fact that opposition parties for the first time had won a small amount of seats in
the two houses of congress and that Cardenas had won more votes than any
opposition candidate in the history of the PRI also helped Salinas in the eyes of the
United States because the election results validated his democratic and reformist
credentials. (Aguayo 1998: 233) In contrast, while the opposition did not win

enough seats to affect any significant changes in policy, they were assured a voice in
all national debates.
Its the Economy, Stupid
Once elected, Salinas focused quickly on improving relations with the United
States as an imperative step toward economic rebound in Mexico. Unlike his
predecessor, however, Salinas was warmly welcomed by president-elect George H.
W. Bush when the two men met on November 22, 1988 prior to taking their
respective offices. The meeting at Houstons NASA Center had been highly
publicized in both countries for a week prior. Inspired by Salinas campaign rhetoric,
Bushs objective in the meeting was to discuss the possibility of a free-trade
agreement with Mexico that would emulate the agreement that the United States had
recently signed with Canada. Salinas, however, had a different objective. While
liberal economic reforms were high on his list of priorities, he understood that if
Mexico were to join in any trade agreement, he would first have to address the
stagnating economy at home. Salinas therefore approached the meeting as an
opportunity to negotiate the reduction of Mexicos $106 billion foreign debt as a
preliminary step toward renewed economic growth in Mexico; a necessary condition
needed before even broaching the topic of a trade agreement (Boston Globe, Nov. 23,
1988). Bush later proved to be supportive of Salinas requests and once in office
worked closely with his Mexican counterpart to help with a plan to renegotiate loans
with private lending institutions as well as with the World Bank and the IMF. In the

meeting Bush also expressed concern about other domestic problems in Mexico that
had, in turn, damaged that countrys image with many Washington lawmakers and
government officials. On the top of the list were the growing problems of illegal
immigration, drug trafficking and Mexicos still restrictive policies on foreign
investment. It was clear that these issues would have to be addressed in order for any
substantial trade agreements to be successfully sold to the United States Congress. In
essence, Salinas would have to build an image of Mexico that could effectively
change how it was perceived in the United States.
Building the Image for Free Trade
Salinas first year in office was for the most part occupied with the long and
ongoing negotiations for Mexicos debt reduction. They served him well, however,
as the changes he would make in domestic and foreign policy to please the countrys
debtors turned out to be the same needed to appease the United States. The agenda
pushed by the international banks focused on furthering the economic opening of
Mexicos market. Although much had changed since the 1970s, Mexico still held
significant restrictions on foreign investment. In response, Salinas moved to privatize
state owned companies like Telefonos de Mexico (TELMEX) as well as a large
portion of the banks that had been nationalized under de la Madrid. He also began to
allow more access to foreign companies that had previously been restricted because
they posed potential competitive threats to Mexican companies.

As mentioned above, it was also necessary that Salinas take steps toward
quelling the two major disputes that the United States had with Mexico, drug
trafficking and illegal immigration. Only a short four months into his administration
Salinas was faced with an opportunity to show his efforts on the drug trafficking
problem. In March of 1989 Mexico would be evaluated by the United States
Congress under the 1986 Omnibus Anti-drug Bill that established a certification
process for countries deemed as involved in drug-producing and/or trafficking to
make sure they were cooperating with U.S. drug-enforcement efforts. If Mexico did
not receive certification it would lose access to American economic aid and trade
preferences, placing the possibility of a trade agreement in jeopardy. Salinas
understood the importance of certification and just before it would be debated in
Congress he used his public relations savvy (Russell 1994: 319) to organize and
promote a joint U.S.-Mexico border sweep near Tijuana in late February of 1989. At
the same time he announced that Mexico had increased drug traffic combating funds
by 174 percent and that in the first eighty-eight days of his administration 780
kilograms of cocaine and 80,000 kilograms of marijuana had been seized and that
1,700 individuals had been arrested. (Russell 1994: 320) Mexicos certification
passed with little debate in the Congress.
Salinas also began an effort to catch and deport citizens of other countries that
were in Mexico only as a gateway to the United States. He also stepped up state
spending on environmental issues by $2.5 billion arid had signed agreements with

Mexicos largest manufacturing companies to reduce pollution by the end of 1989. In
addition, he solicited support from President Bush when they met in October of 1989
to work on reducing the pollution levels in Mexico City and to boost investment and
development of Mexicos tourist destinations where eighty-seven percent of the
visitors were American. (Boston Globe, Oct. 4,1989)
Keeping it Cool in Foreign Policy
In addition to the domestic policies enacted to improve Mexicos image for
the sale of NAFTA to the U.S. Congress, Salinas moved to depoliticize Mexicos
foreign policy toward the United States. This meant, amongst other factors, that
Mexico would no longer stand as the great defender of Latin America in the face of
the hegemonic giant of the north. Nowhere was this more evident than in the U.S.
offensive in Panama in 1989 that led to the overthrow and incarceration of President
Manuel Noriega. Where previous presidents would have made huge waves of protest,
Salinas quickly downplayed Mexicos objection to the situation. While Mexican
representatives in both the OAS and the UN General Assembly were required to
condemn the invasion, they did not persist in making it into a larger issue. (Russell
Once the negotiations for NAFTA began Salinas would find it even more
difficult to voice his discontent in bilateral relations. Shortly after the negotiations
started American DEA agents kidnapped Mexican doctor Humberto Alvarez
Machdin, who was suspected in the torture of fellow DEA agent Enrique Camarena in

1985, and forcefully extradited him to the United States. Salinas was faced with a
difficult situation. On the one hand, the United States had blatantly violated
Mexicos sovereignty (a traditional sore spot as we have seen) and on the other, an
offensive reaction from the Mexican president could damage ground already made in
the trade negotiations. In his book Mexico Salinas commented that it was
incomprehensible that members of a U.S. agency should create tension in the bilateral
relationship, precisely when Mexico was about to begin a strategic revision in our
policy regarding the United States. (Salinas 2000) In the end Salinas resorted to
protesting directly to the Bush administration and the U.S. Supreme Court while
speaking little of it publicly.
Salinas final test of loyalty came at the beginning of 1991 with the outbreak
of the Gulf War. Although Salinas publicly condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait,
he refused to send Mexican troops to aid the U.S. led effort. In response to American
critics Salinas responded, Mexico, traditionally and out of conviction, has always
condemned the use of force, and it has always defended the peaceful solution of
controversies. (Quoted in St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 4, 1991) He did not,
however, squander the opportunity for cooperation and bilateral economic benefit.
As soon as the conflict began, Salinas agreed to step up oil shipments to the United
States by an increase of 100,000 barrels a day and continued that level of supply
throughout the conflict. By the middle of Salinas term bilateral relations had become
so smooth that [they] disconcerted those accustomed to the old beware-the-gringo

orthodoxy (Russell 1994: 314) that had been so common in the previous PRI
administrations. And while Salinas reactions to the international disputes were
subtle in order to favor the implementation of NAFTA, other factions of the
opposition were outraged and were no longer afraid to voice their concern. These
opposition factions, now representing a wider base of Mexican society and
emboldened by the illusion of democracy that Salinas was trying to maintain, began
to express their discontent not only at home yet also where it would hurt Salinas the
most, in the United States. (Aguayo 1998) This internationalization of domestic
disputes by the opposition would, in turn, force Salinas to create and maintain a
domestic campaign for support of his policies throughout the NAFTA negotiations.
NAFTA and the Salinas PR Machine
1990 marked the beginning of negotiations for a free trade agreement between
Mexico and the United States (Canada would join later) and would last until late 1993
when the legislative branches of all three governments ratified the treaty. This mean
that all four heads of state (Bush and Clinton both participated) would have to sell the
agreement to their respective constituencies and for Mexico and Canada it meant they
would also have to sell the benefits of a trade agreement with their respective
countries to the United States where there was more legislative resistance. For
Canada, this process was not as painstaking because they already shared a trade
agreement with the United States. For Salinas, however, the process would consume
the next four years of his presidency because unity in favor of the agreement

domestically was an important selling point in the United States. The public relations
elements of the Salinas administration therefore were threefold. On the one hand,
Salinas would have to sell a trade agreement with Mexicos historic adversary to a
traditionally nationalistic population and a growing political opposition. On the other
hand, Mexico would have to spend extensive time and money on public and
diplomatic relations throughout the two phases of legislative consideration in the
United States: fast track and ratification.
Free Trade PR at Home.
As stated above, Mexican presidents under the PRI traditionally had little to
no opposition from within their party and therefore fought very little to pass their
policies through the legislative branch. Salinas, however, was not so lucky. Not only
would he have to deal with the opposition from within his party, and therefore within
the legislature as all treaties have to be ratified by the senate, he would also have to
attempt to convince the leaders of the increasingly influential parties of the
opposition. Ironically Salinas would have to overcome the same nationalism and
protectionist sentiment that his very party had worked so hard to create decades prior.
Public sentiment was also mixed, yet as Mexican historian Paulino Ernesto Arrellano
Jimenez points out many people had grown tired of the economic instability that
Mexico suffered through the previous two decades and so accepted Salinas reforms
as the only remaining option, or as they say in Mexico Ya no le quedaba de otra.
(Arrellano Jimenez 2000: 98)

Salinas most harsh criticism came from the newly formed Partido de la
Revolucion Democratica (Party of the Democratic Revolution or PRD) under the
direction of Cuauhtemoc Cardenas. His foremost concern was that Washington was
self-serving and that it would seek to gain more than it would cede in the negotiations
and would, in turn, infringe upon Mexicos sovereignty. He was also concerned that
Salinas would negotiate Mexicos nationalized oil reserves away to American
interests. In response, Salinas initiated various public information campaigns
throughout Mexico to inform people of what was involved in the negotiations and to
assure people that he had made it clear to the Americans that oil was not a negotiable
item in NAFTA. In 1992, once the negotiations were well underway, Salinas initiated
a concerted public relations campaign targeted at responding to the negative
accusations from the PRD and at promoting the benefits that the trade agreement
would bring. The campaign included television and periodical advertisements
inspired by the campaigns slogan With the Free Trade Agreement, One More Step.
(Salinas 2000: 123) Another facet of the campaign included public discussions and
forums held at various public universities with the directive to inform people of the
governments reasons for negotiating with the United States. At these forums
government representatives were available for questions and to pass out official
informational pamphlets and brochures about NAFTA. Salinas would initiate a
similar campaign once NAFTA had been drafted and ready for signature by all three
heads of state.

Despite constant criticism and doubt, Salinas was successful in winning the
support of more than enough senators to ratify the treaty and enough public support to
satisfy his own expectations. Along the way, he would also win the public support of
Diego de Cevallos Fernandez, the top political figure of Mexicos oldest and largest
opposition party, the Partido de Action Nacional (National Action Party or PAN).
Opposition from the PRD, however, never wavered. In fact, as Sergio Aguayo points
out, top PRD members as well as a growing number of Mexican actors incorporated
the external factor into their tactical and strategic thinking (Aguayo 1998: 239) and
soon were crossing the same nationalistic lines that Salinas had and began voicing
their discontent toward an American audience. Cardenas and the PRD led this
movement and traveled to the United States on various occasions to protest NAFTA.
In fact, two of his most vocal supporters, Jorge Castaneda and Adolfo Zinser who
would later serve under President Vicente Fox in 2000, testified before the U.S.
Congress twice during the negotiations to argue the PRDs position. Their main
objective was to convince the United States that the negotiations should be stopped
until Mexico had implemented true democratic reforms, yet they also used the
opportunity to complain that their party had not been considered in the negotiations
and that as a result NAFTA, if implemented, would not represent the interests of all
Mexicans. While their efforts were not successful in the long term, they did serve to
place another hurdle for the Salinas public relations machine to jump over in selling
Mexico to the United States. Their efforts restoked the fires of concern with

American lawmakers about the legitimacy of the democratic reforms that Salinas
celebrated so adamantly.
Free Trade PR in the United States.
As previously stated Mexicos public relations campaign in the United States
during the NAFTA negotiations came in two separate efforts. First Salinas would
have to devise a campaign of image cultivation in order to help the Bush
administration to convince both houses of congress to grant president Bush fast track
authorization for the treaty negotiations and drafting. If granted, fast track privileges
meant that the Bush team could draft and sign the treaty and once it was submitted for
consideration to the congress no changes could be made to it. It also meant that the
debate would have to be swift and that there could be no filibuster. The second effort,
albeit shorter, focused on the period between the end of the treaty negotiations and
the ratification vote in congress when Salinas would be working with the newly
elected Clinton administration.
Fast Track. The enormous public relations and diplomatic campaign created
by the Salinas administration leading up to the fast track vote was, and continues to
be, unparalleled by any similar effort in the history of U.S.-Mexico relations. The
Salinas NAFTA team, as we will see, left very few elements of American society
untouched by their propaganda. They targeted lawmakers and citizens alike, as well
as everyone in between. By the late 1990s the Salinas PR machine was quickly
heating up and kicked off with a highly publicized trip by the Mexican president to

the United States. While the official reason for the trip was NAFTA related, Salinas
also took advantage of the occasion to make personal appearances at strategic events
to promote Mexico. The most widely publicized was the opening of the art exhibit
Mexico: Splendor of Thirty Centuries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New
York City. The exhibit was a joint U.S.-Mexico effort to showcase Mexico as a
culturally profound, diverse and complex country. In retrospect Salines reflected, In
view of the coming economic integration, that exhibition was the best proof of the
strength of our culture and that it stood indicative of the fact that Mexico had
become a cultural, commercial, and political topic of the first importance within the
United States. (Salinas 2000: 75) The exhibit, however, was only one element of a
larger initiative by the Mexican government to promote the richness of Mexican
culture throughout the United States. During the period, Mexico also opened more
than fifteen cultural institutes in major American cities as well as promoted cultural
and artistic interchange extensively between the two countries. The intention was to
better inform Americans from all backgrounds about Mexicos changing image.
The Salinas administration also stepped up involvement with American
universities through academic interchange as well as through targeting leading Latin
American scholars with an information campaign that promoted the Salinas vision of
Mexico through NAFTA. The campaign focused on providing academics with both
official government propaganda and information pamphlets sent through government-
supported groups such as the Mexican Investment Board. In addition, Salinas and his

NAFTA team traveled extensively to give speeches and to engage professors and
students at American universities in exchanges of information about the reforms in
Mexico and the importance of the trade agreement. They also gained extensive
support in data gathering and information dissemination from the Center for U.S.-
Mexico Studies at the University of California at San Diego as well as at the Heritage
Foundation and the Center for Strategic Studies in Washington. (Salinas 2000)
The Salinas team also identified the American business community as one of
the best potential sources of support and sought to expand relations with it throughout
the NAFTA process. This community was targeted the most, however, during the
process leading up to the fast track vote. In order to gain allies in the community
quickly, the Salinas team worked closely with organizations like the Business
Roundtable, a business-lobbying firm that represented over two hundred large
American corporations including Kodak and American Express. This type of
cooperation was important because it showed the business communitys support for
NAFTA and because it already had an established network of direct influence in the
U.S. Congress. (Washington Post, Feb. 6,1991) Salinas also focused on establishing
ties with the various Chambers of Commerce throughout the United States including
those representing the Hispanic community. In April of 1991 Salinas visited Chicago
to meet with representatives from the business community, yet with the specific
agenda to meet with the Hispanic business and community leaders. During the trip he
met with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, attended events planned by the

Mexican-American community (the second largest in the United States) and gave a
speech to promote the benefits of NAFTA at the Mexican American Legal Defense
Fund. (Associated Press, April 5, 1991)
The proponents of NAFTA on both sides of the border had long since
recognized the potential involved in gaining the support of the increasingly influential
American Hispanic community. The Salinas team took this potential seriously and
focused an extensive portion of their public relations campaign on strengthening ties
with the over twenty million Americans of Hispanic origin. To coordinate the effort,
the Foreign Relations Ministry set up the General Directorship for Mexican
Communities Abroad to promote understanding and interchange between Mexican
Americans and native Mexicans. The Salinas team also sought to rally support
through ties with leading figures in the Hispanic community including the Executive
Director of the National Council of La Raza, Raul Yzaguirre and famed Hispanic
labor leader and head of the United Farm Workers of America, Cezar Chavez.
Salinas also gave the Aztec Eagle award, Mexicos highest award, to leading Mexican
American community activists who had contributed to helping the Mexican
community in the United States. (Salinas 2000)
Even though the NAFTA campaign was a concerted effort, Salinas alone
worked wonders in winning over American doubters. Having received both a masters
and a doctorate from Harvard University, Salinas was comfortable rubbing elbows
with the American elite and spent extensive time wooing them to his cause. In the

short eight months of lead-up to the fast track vote Salinas spent extensive time either
in the United States or giving interviews to American journalists. He made one
strategic seven-day tour to the United States a month before the vote in congress to
firm up support. The visit was highly publicized as a campaign by the Mexican
president to reassure business executives and officials in regions that have expressed
concern about the potential effect of the agreement. (New York Times, April 7,
1991) During the trip Salinas visited with both President Bush and Prime Minister
Mulroney and then made his way to the eastern United States including a trip to
Boston where he gave the keynote speech at a conference of the American Society of
Newspaper Editors at his Alma matter Harvard University. He used the event to
attempt to dispel the growing concerns many Americans were having about a trade
agreement with a country with as many problems as Mexico had. In response Salinas
told the audience:
Every year nearly 2 million more Mexicans are demanding
services, jobs, a clean environment, and opportunities to develop
their capabilities. They want to have all those things, and to have
them in Mexico, not beyond its borders. They want to accomplish
this while preserving their traditions, their pride in their culture,
and their sense of identity. (Christian Science Monitor, April 17,
Salinas ended his trip in Austin Texas where he met with Governor Ann Richards and
gave a speech to the Texas State Legislature in which he reiterated the
accomplishments made through Mexicos new reforms and the importance of forming

an economic alliance in order to compete with the emerging trading blocs on the
global stage. (Federal News Service, April 12, 1991)
Although Salinas himself served as a charismatic symbol of the new image of
Mexico, the NAFTA team as a whole worked just as hard. By January of 1991 they
recognized the need for a more consolidated and focused effort in the United States
and so they set up the Mexican NAFTA office. This central command station
coordinated not only the Mexicos efforts nationally, yet also in the U.S. Congress.
The team quickly hired the international public relations firm Burson-Marstetler to
take charge of the overall communications strategy and to publicize and plan events
including the April trip by President Salinas mentioned above, as well as a five city
trip made by U.S. Commerce Secretary Rober Mosbacher and his Mexican
counterpart Jaime Serra to engage the American business community. With the
services of Burson-Marstetler, Salinas NAFTA team would have access to four-to-
five professionals who [would] be spending at least part of their time thinking about
free trade, image-building and media contacts for Mexico. (Finanical Post, Feb. 13,
1991) In addition, and for the first time in the countrys history, Mexico hired two
high-powered lobbying firms, both headed by former government officials, to
represent its interests in congress. On the one hand, Mexico hired a former
undersecretary of the treasury under President Nixon to lobby on the Republican side
and for political balance it hired Joe ONeill, former Chief of Staff for Democratic
Senator Lloyd Bentsen.

While critics remained fervent, the joint effort of the Bush administration and
Salinas NAFTA team paid off as both houses of congress granted fast track
authorization to the trade agreement and turned these allies quickly into adversaries
that would meet under different circumstances at the negotiation table. Even though
the need for public relations and lobbying would be quieted during this period, the
Salinas team understood that it would be only a matter of time until they would be
selling Mexico again to the United States. The difference would be in who their allies
were on the American side.
Ratification. With fast track authorization under their belts, all three countries
focused their entire efforts on the negotiation and drafting of NAFTA. One year and
five months later the treaty was finished and signed at an event in San Antonio on
October 7, 1992 attended by U.S. President George Bush, Canadian Prime Minster
Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas. This would prove to be the
easy part as all three men would have to take NAFTA back to their respective
legislatures to be ratified. While there was little doubt about it passing in Mexico and
Canada, there was serious doubt about how the U.S. Congress would vote. The
outcome, however, would have to wait as the Bush administration was in the middle
of a hotly contested reelection campaign. Months prior to the signing, however, the
Salmas public relations machine (calculating for a possible Bush loss) fired back up
to reach out to the Clinton campaign to discuss the Democratic candidates position
on NAFTA. Throughout the presidential campaigns the trade agreement had been at

the forefront of the debate, yet Clinton had managed to remain ambivalent on the
issue. While the Salinas and Clinton teams had spoken a number of times, it was not
until October, only one month before the election, that Clinton finally announced his
support for NAFTA. To the delight of the Salinas team, Clinton also made it publicly
known that he would not seek to renegotiate the treaty that had already been drafted
and signed and that the few issues he had with NAFTA could be dealt with in parallel
To Salinas dismay, NAFTA itself had become a casualty of the presidential
campaigns because of the millions of dollars spent by independent candidate Ross
Perot on trying to defeat the treaty, an effort he would continue even after the
elections were over. This, coupled with the continued opposition of the PRD in the
United States, meant that wile the Salinas image cultivation campaign had been the
largest and most concerted effort by any Mexican administration it would for the first
time be met with an equal and corresponding campaign against it.
Once Clinton and the newly elected congress took office in January of 1993,
the Salinas PR machine began to prepare for the long road that would wind through a
seven month long negotiation process over the parallel agreements into a three month
run-up to the definative vote in congress. The campaign would be as diverse and far-
reaching as the previous one with only a few exceptions. With a new congress, the
Salinas team (including the hired public relations and lobbying firms) quickly
narrowed down the field to focus on the key one hundred house representatives who

could determine the entire fate of NAFTA as the senate was already, for the most
part, tipped in favor of the treaty. During the period from January until August the
Salinas camp implemented and maintained a public relations and lobbying campaign
that, according to Salinas, would steadily raise awareness of the modernization
occurring in Mexico (Salinas 2000: 154) yet they were reserving their big guns for
the short period of debate leading up to the vote in congress.
Once the parallel agreement negotiations concluded the date for the vote was
set for November 17 and the Salinas team immediately stepped up their campaign.
The team had concluded from their experience leading up to the fast track vote that
Salinas himself had been the most effective spokesperson in the campaign and so he
quickly blocked off every Thursday and Friday exclusively for travel to the United
States to work on the campaign. It was evident that Salinas had gained somewhat of
a reputation for his adeptness at creating images that the United States was
predisposed to accept. (Aguayo 1998: 237) He plunged ahead into the task, giving
speeches, attending high profile events and granting interviews to a wide range of
national and international media sources. His message this time, however, had
Where previously he had simply promoted Mexicos process of modernization
as well as the reforms his administration had implemented, he now focused
explaining the importance of NAFTA to all three countries and the negative,
according to Salinas, effects involved in the failure of the U.S. congress to pass the

treaty. In an October interview with Tim Golden of the New York Times he likened
the failure of the treaty to a squandered historic opportunity to improve relations not
only with Mexico, but also with the rest of Latin America. He went on to explain that
the majority of Latin America saw the ratification of NAFTA by the United States as
an opportunity to show that it was turning over a new leaf in policy toward the region
that would therefore position the United States for great opportunities for cooperation
in the future. (New York Times, Oct. 19, 1993) In another interview, this time with
David Frost of PBS, Salinas used a different pressure tactic as he played up the need
for a regional trade alliance because, according to him, no single nation alone, no
matter how powerful its economy, will be able to sustain competition coming from a
unified Europe or from the huge Asian-Pacific region. (Quoted in the Houston
Chronicle, Oct. 29,1993) Many journalists cited Salinas new pressuring approach as
a product of how imperative NAFTA had become to the future of the Mexican
economy. As a result, however, Salinas interviews began to sound of damage
control as he began to backpedal, explaining in subsequent interviews that while the
treaty would be a beneficial step in strengthening the trading power of the region and
therefore of the three countries involved, Mexico was prepared for either outcome. It
was at that point that Salinas began stepping back from the limelight to allow for his
team to concentrate on lobbying the legislators that were still on the fence.
There was one forum left, however, that he could not avoid and that the
American press would pay close attention to, Salinas fifth Informe de gobiemo

(Mexicos equivalent to a state of the union address). To the disappointment of
NAFTA supporters in the United States, Salinas continued with the same line of
rhetoric as before claiming, ...with or without the agreement, the evolution of our
economy will not be substantially altered in the immediate future. (Quoted in
Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 3, 1993) With the impending presidential elections
in Mexico set for the next year, coupled with a resurging criticism in the United
States of Mexicos limited democratic reforms, Salinas also sought to use his speech
to pledge his administrations determination to hold fair and transparent elections the
following year. The majority of the speech, however, was dedicated to domestic
issues and once finished, Salinas had few other options but to wait for the outcome of
the vote in the U.S. Congress.
The day of the vote finally arrived, yet no one was sure how it would turn out
because various legislators had still not publicly declared their positions. Political
analysts and journalists alike argued that the votes could tally in favor of either side.
In the end, however, the votes went in favor of ratifying the treaty. It was official,
NAFTA would go into effect only a short month and a half later on January 1, 1994.
It would enter with a big bang and Salinas would quickly realize that one of the most
dangerous practices in public relations is to promote an image that is not completely

1994 From Rock Star to Exile
From the first day of 1994 when NAFTA went into effect it quickly became
apparent that the image (Mexico as a modernizing country with political and
economic stability) that the Salinas team had sold to the United States and Canada
was more inflated than the true product (Mexico, warts and all) that they were selling.
With the Zapatista uprising on the first of January, the assassination of Salinas hand-
picked successor Luis Donaldo Colosio in March and the devaluiation of the peso
immediately implemented by Colosios replacement and new president Ernesto
Zedillo, as well as corruption scandals tied to Salinas bubbling to the surface, 1994
proved to be the year that took Salinas from rock star to exile. This also meant that
most all of the headway he and his team had made in changing U.S. perceptions of
Mexico would take a hard hit. In the United States journalists, politicians and
business leaders all wondered at how Salinas had pulled the wool over their eyes.
Even leading Latin American scholars had to backpedal to explain how they too had
been fooled. Newsweek correspondent Tim Padgett called Salinas a public relations
maestro who had succeeded in changing the image but not the substance of
Mexico. (Quoted in Aguayo 1998: 243)
The gauntlet had already been passed by the time Salinas attempted to defend
his actions and he quickly found that his once enormous pool of public relations
capital was now exhausted and he quickly went into exile. As a consequence, his
successor Ernesto Zedillo would have to build from the ground up.

Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon:
The Sexertio of Many Voices
Ernesto Zedillos decision to devalue the peso immediately after taking office
placed Mexicos image back into ambiguity in the United States. Image cultivation,
however, was not a high priority for Zedillo as he had inherited none of Salinas
public relations savvy. Zedillos approach was to reform and build up Mexicos
internal political and economic structure and that as a result a more representative
image of Mexico and its government would gradually emerge into prominence both
nationally and in the United States. He spared little time before publicly stating his
intentions to implement extensive democratic reforms because of their intrinsic value
to the success of Mexicos new economic structure. The problem was that both the
Americans and Mexicans had heard that same rhetoric before as the PRI had been
promoting its democracy and its intentions for reform for decades. For many,
Zedillo was simply perpetuating the same rhetoric needed to maintain Mexicos one
party system intact.
The cycle with the United States had also been broken as few instilled as
much hope in his presidency as they had in his predecessors. This was most evident
when he turned to the United States requesting financial aid to help pull Mexico out
of its economic crisis only to be met with strong opposition in the U.S. Congress.
Zedillo did find one ally, however, in his American counterpart. Although Bill
Clinton fails to mention Mexico more than a sparse number of times in his memoirs

for the reforms, but that he was more open to democratic change than any of his
predecessors. In fact, in the second month of his administration and during the worst
days of the economic crisis he called a meeting at Los Pinos with the leaders of all the
opposition parties. The purpose of the meeting was to make clear his intention to
bring about substantive democratic reforms and to solicit the cooperation of the
opposition to achieve them. By the end of the meeting Zedillo and the party leaders
signed the Pacto de Los Pinos (The Pact of Los Pinos) in which they agreed to
collaborate in bringing about said reforms.
Zedillo, however, was already consumed by the economic crisis and was
unable to dedicate substantial time to the reforms. In fact, he had already failed in his
first attempt when he tried to remedy the conflict over a gubernatorial race in the state
of Tabasco by telling the PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo, who had clearly spent over
the legal limit to win his race, to cede the office to the PRD candidate Manuel Lopez
Obrador who had come in a close second place. With the old PRI electoral system in
place, however, Madrazo simply refused (Preston and Dillon 2004). This conflict
between Zedillo and Madrazo only served to widen the rift that had started in the PRI
in the 1980s between the technocrats (i.e. Salinas and Zedillo) and the traditionalist
dinosaurs of the party; a rift that threatened to widen even more if Zedillo truly
intended to implement democratic reforms. This was mainly due to the fact that the
dinosaurs stood to lose the most in the process because they continued to represent,
and were active participants in, the class of Mexicans that have since become known

as the nomenklatura who had accumulated and maintained their wealth and influence
through a tight relationship with the PRI authoritarian regime. The electoral reforms,
however, were not the only threats Zedillo posed to the old system. During his term
in office he also tried to reform the Supreme Court by releasing all the then current
justices and reducing the courts size to eleven members. Under the new structure all
justices would still be nominated by the president yet would have to be passed by two
thirds of the Senate. The most significant blow dealt to the PRI outside of the
reforms at the national level, however, came when Zedillo refused to name his partys
candidate for the 2000 presidential elections arguing that the PRI, like the other
parties, should set up an internal system for democratically selecting candidates
(Oxford 2000). Neither of these initiatives was well received by the PRI and as a
result, the partys core leadership, as well as the nomenklatura, distanced themselves
from Zedillo.
It was not the Zedillo administration, however, that initiated the first definitive
steps toward electoral reform. That credit goes to Santiago Creel, a former citizen
councilor at the Instituto Federal Electoral (Federal Electoral Institute or IFE) during
the 1994 elections, and a group of multipartisan leaders and citizens who held
meetings at the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City beginning in mid 1995. The
purpose of these meetings was to discuss electoral reforms and to produce a step-by-
step explanation to the Mexican government on how to implement them. The
meetings lasted until January of 1996 when the group produced a sixty-point

document that detailed proposals in every area of electoral reform and some others
not directly related to elections. (Preston and Dillon 2004: 274) The document was
presented to the president and both houses of congress for review.
By November of that same year the congress voted in favor of passing a
package of laws and constitutional amendments based on the proposals of the
Chapultepec group including an increase in state provided campaign funds that
Zedillo himself had initiated and promoted to reduce private backing of candidates.
Ironically, this issue alone was the most hotly contested in congress with only the PRI
backing it even though it was aimed at limiting the very influence of the
nomenklatura interest groups that the party traditionally represented. In the end, the
package was passed by the PRI alone in congress, yet was historic in changing the
fundamental structure of the electoral system in Mexico with reforms including the
autonomization of both the IFE and the Tibunal Federal Electoral (Federal Electoral
Tribunal or TRIFE) ensuring that elections would no longer be conducted, certified or
investigated by the Mexican government, but by a multipartisan and independent
council appointed by a congress that would soon be even more diverse. Although
national and foreign observers alike celebrated the reforms, many were still skeptical
of their effectiveness leading up to the federal elections on July 6, 1997. (Oxford
2000) The skeptics, however, were quickly and pleasantly surprised. Under the
direction of Jose Woldenburg the IFE conducted the most fair and transparent
elections in the countrys history where opposition party candidates won an

unprecedented amount of elections at the local, state and federal level including the
election won by Cuauhtemoc Cardenas for the new position as mayor of Mexico City.
The opposition also managed to win over half of the seats in the lower house of the
Mexican Congress as well as forty percent of the seats in the Senate. In the elections
of 1988 only three percent of the Mexican population lived in areas governed by
opposition leaders whereas in the 1997 the figure had risen to 44%. (Preston and
Dillon 2004: 353) The presidents traditionally unchecked power had finally been
significantly weakened and the PRI itself would, for the first time in its history of
power, have to work with the opposition on an increasingly wide range of federal and
local issues. The success of the election was also widely publicized and celebrated in
the United States as Mexicos first substantial step toward being a truly democratic
society. President Clinton publicly celebrated the achievement while on a trip across
Europe and added, These elections, insofar as they gave the Mexican people an
opportunity for the open, free expression of their will, are good for (the U.S.-Mexico)
relationship and good for the future. (Quoted in the Houston Chronicle, July 8,1997)
The oppositions unprecedented showing in the 1997 elections also started a
buzz in Mexico and the United States about whether or not the reforms were
sufficiently entrenched, and the system removed enough from PRI manipulation, to
allow for an opposition candidate to win the presidency. The answer came only a
short three years later when the presidential candidate form the National Action Party,
Vicente Fox Quesada, enjoyed a significant victory over his PRI and PRD rivals. As