Adolfo López Mateos

Institutional Revolutionary Party President of Mexico Adolfo Ruiz Cortines

Adolfo López Mateos
Retrato de Adolfo López Mateos.png
Adolfo López Mateos in 1963
48th President of Mexico
In office
1 December 1958 (1958-12-01) – 30 November 1964 (1964-11-30)
Preceded byAdolfo Ruiz Cortines
Succeeded byGustavo Díaz Ordaz
Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare
In office
1 December 1952 – 17 November 1957
PresidentAdolfo Ruiz Cortines
Preceded byManuel Ramírez Vázquez
Succeeded bySalomón González Blanco
Senator of Congress of the Union
from the State of Mexico
In office
1 September 1946 – 31 August 1952
Preceded byAlfonso Flores
Succeeded byAlfredo del Mazo Vélez
Personal details
Born(1909-05-26)26 May 1909
Atizapán de Zaragoza, State of Mexico, Mexico
Died22 September 1969(1969-09-22) (aged 60)
Mexico City, Mexico
Political partyInstitutional Revolutionary Party
Angelina Gutiérrez
(m. 1934; div. 1937)

(m. 1937)
RelativesEsperanza López Mateos (sister)
Alma materScientific and Literary Institute of Toluca

Adolfo López Mateos (Spanish pronunciation: [aˈðolfo ˈlopes maˈteos] (About this soundlisten); 26 May 1909 – 22 September 1969[1]) was a Mexican politician who became a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), after earlier opposing its precursor in 1929.[2] He was elected President of Mexico, serving from 1958 to 1964.

As president, he nationalized electric companies, created the National Commission for Free Textbooks (1959), settled the Chamizal dispute, and opened important museums such as the Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Declaring his political philosophy to be "left within the Constitution", López Mateos was the first self-declared left-wing politician to hold the presidency since Lázaro Cárdenas. López Mateos was well known for being very popular among the Mexican people; alongside Cárdenas and Adolfo Ruiz Cortines, he is usually considered one of the most popular Mexican presidents of the 20th century,[3][4][5] despite acts of repression during his administration such as the arrest of union leaders Demetrio Vallejo and Valentín Campa, and the murder of peasant leader Rubén Jaramillo and his family by the Mexican army.

Early life and education

López Mateos was born, according to official records, in Atizapán de Zaragoza – a small town in the state of México, now called Ciudad López Mateos – to Mariano Gerardo López y Sánchez Roman, a dentist, and Elena Mateos y Vega, a teacher. His family moved to Mexico City upon his father's death when López Mateos was still young. However, there exists a birth certificate and several testimonies archived at El Colegio de México that place his birth on 10 September 1909, in Patzicía, Guatemala.[6]

In 1929, he graduated from the Scientific and Literary Institute of Toluca, where he was a delegate and student leader of the anti-re-electionist campaign of former Minister of Education José Vasconcelos, who ran in opposition to Pascual Ortiz Rubio, handpicked by former President Plutarco Elías Calles. Calles had founded the Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR) in the wake of the assassination of President-elect Alvaro Obregón. After Vasconcelos's defeat, López Mateos attended law school at UNAM and shifted his political allegiance to the PNR.[7]


Political career

Early in his career, he served as the private secretary to Col. Filiberto Gómez, the governor of the state of Mexico.[8] In 1934, he became the private secretary of the president of the Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR), Carlos Riva Palacio.[9]

He filled a number of bureaucratic positions from then until 1941, when he met Isidro Fabela. Fabela helped him into a position as the director of the Literary Institute of Toluca[9] after Fabela resigned the post to join the International Court of Justice. López Mateos became a senator of the state of Mexico in 1946, while at the same time serving as Secretary General of the PRI. He organized the presidential campaign of PRI candidate Adolfo Ruiz Cortines and was subsequently appointed Secretary of Labor in his new cabinet. He did an exemplary job, and for the first and only time, a Secretary of Labor was tapped to be the PRI's candidate for the presidency.[10] As the candidate for the dominant party with only weak opposition, López Mateos easily won election, serving as president until 1964.


As president of Mexico, along with his predecessor Ruiz Cortines (1952–1958), López Mateos continued the outline of policies by President Miguel Alemán (1946–1952), who set Mexico's post-World War II strategy. Alemán favored industrialization and the interests of capital over labor.[11] All three were heirs to the legacy of the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), but all were too young to have participated directly. In the sphere of foreign policy, López Mateos charted a course of independence from the U.S., but cooperation on some issues and opposition to the hostile U.S. policy toward the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

Domestic policy


López Mateos sought the continuation of industrial growth in Mexico, often characterized as the Mexican Miracle, but this required the cooperation of organized labor. Organized labor was increasingly restive. It was a sector of the Institutional Revolutionary Party and controlled through the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), led by Fidel Velázquez. Increasingly, however, unions pushed back against government control and sought gains in wages, working conditions, and more independence from so-called charro union leaders, who followed government and party dictates. Although López Mateos had mainly had success when served as his predecessor's Secretary of Labor, as president, he was faced with major labor unrest. The previous strategy of playing off one labor organization against another, such as the CTM, the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants (CROC), and the General Union of Workers and Peasants of Mexico (UGOCM) fell apart.[12]

In July 1958, the militant railway workers' union, under the leadership of Demetrio Vallejo and Valentín Campa, began a series of strikes for better wages, culminating in an major strike during Holy Week 1959. The Easter holiday was when many Mexicans traveled by train, so the choice of the date was designed for maximum impact on the general public. López Mateos depended on his forceful cabinet minister Gustavo Díaz Ordaz to deal with the striking railway workers. The government arrested all the leaders of the union and filled Lecumberri Penitentiary.[9][13] Valentín Campa and Demetrio Vallejo were given lengthy prison sentences for violating Article 145 of the Mexican Constitution for the crime of "social dissolution". The article empowered the government to imprison "whomever it decided to consider an enemy of Mexico." Also imprisoned for that crime was Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, who remained in Lecumberri Penitentiary until the end of López Mateos's presidential term.[14] López Mateos's depended on Díaz Ordaz as the enforcer of political and labor peace, so that the president was able to attend to other matters. "Throughout the years of López Mateos, in every situation of conflict, Díaz Ordaz was directly involved."[15]

The government attempted to reduce labor unrest by setting up a National Commission for the Implementation of Profit Sharing which apportioned between 5% to 10% of each company's profits to organized labor. In 1960, Article 123 of the Constitution of 1917 was amended. There were guarantees written into the constitution concerning salaries, paid holidays, vacations, overtime, and bonuses to government civil servants. However, government workers were required to join the Federation of Union Workers in Service to the State (FSTSE) and forbidden to join any other union.[16] Tight price controls and sharp increases in the minimum wage also ensured that the workers' real minimum wage index reached its highest level since the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas.

Conflict with Lázaro Cárdenas

Although Cárdenas had set the precedent for the ex-president turning over complete government control to his successor, Cárdenas re-emerged from political retirement to push the López Mateos government more toward leftist stances. The January 1959 taking of power by Fidel Castro gave Latin America another example of revolution. Cárdenas went to Cuba in July 1959 and was with Castro at a huge rally where Castro declared himself premier of Cuba. Cárdenas returned to Mexico with the hope that the ideals of the Mexican Revolution could be revived, with land reform, support for agriculture, and an expansion of education and health services to Mexicans. He also directly appealed to López Mateos to free jailed union leaders. López Mateos became increasingly hostile to Cárdenas, who was explicitly and implicitly rebuking him. To Cárdenas he said, "They say the Communists are weaving a dangerous web around you."[17] Cárdenas oversaw the creation of a new pressure group, the National Liberation Movement (MLN), composed of a wide variety of leftists, which participants considered a way to defend the Mexican Revolution was to defend the Cuban Revolution.[18]

López Mateos found a way to counter Cárdenas's criticisms, that is, to emulate his policies.[19] The president nationalized the electric industry in 1960.[20] It was not as dramatic event as Cárdenas's expropriation of the oil industry in 1938, but it was nonetheless economic nationalism and the government could claim it as a victory for Mexico.[21] Other reformist policies of his presidency can be seen as ways to counter the left's criticism, such as land reform, education reform, and social programs to alleviate poverty in Mexico. Cárdenas came back into the political fold of the PRI, when he supported López Mateos's choice for his successor in 1964, his enforcer, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz.[22]

Land reform

A wide range of social reforms were carried out during his presidency. Land reform was implemented vigorously, with 16 million hectares of land redistributed.[23] It was the most significant amount of land distributed since the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas. The government also sought to improve the lives of ejidatarios.[24] The government expropriated land owned by U.S. interests in the extreme south,[25] which helped to reduce land tension in that part of the country.

Public health and social welfare programs

Public health campaigns were also launched to combat diseases such as polio, malaria, and tuberculosis. Typhus, smallpox, and yellow fever were eradicated, and malaria was significantly reduced.

Tackling poverty became one of the priorities of his government, and social welfare spending reached a historical peak of 19.2% of total spending. A number of social-welfare programs for the poor were set up, and the existing social-welfare programs were improved. Health care and pensions were increased, new hospitals and clinics were built, and the IMSS programme for rural Mexico was expanded. A social security institute was established, the Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores al Servicio del Estado (ISSSTE), to provide childcare, medical services, and other social services to workers, especially state employees.[26] A 1959 amendment to the Social Security Law also brought part-time workers within the auspices of social security. He established the National Institute for the Protection of Children to provide medical services and other aid to children.[26]

A food distribution system was established to provide affordable staples for poor Mexicans and a market for farm produce. The government entered the housing business on a large scale for the first time in Mexican history, with a major program being initiated to build low-cost housing in major industrial cities, with over 50,000 units of low-income housing constructed between 1958 and 1964. One of the largest housing developments in Mexico City housed 100,000 people and contained several nurseries, four clinics, and several schools.[citation needed]

Museums and historical memory

National Museum of Anthropology building opened in 1964

López Mateos opened a number of major museums during his presidency, the most spectacular of which was the National Museum of Anthropology in Chapultepec Park.[27] Also opened in Chapultepec Park was the Museum of Modern Art.[28] His Minister of Education Jaime Torres Bodet had played a major role in realizing the projects. Works from the colonial era were moved from the Historic Center of Mexico City to north of the capital in the former Jesuit colegio in Tepozotlan, creating the Museo del Virreinato. The Historical Museum of Mexico City was situated in Mexico City.

Educational reform

In an effort to reduce illiteracy, the idea of adult education classes was revived, and a system of free and compulsory school textbooks was launched. In 1959, the National Commission of Free Textbooks (Comisión Nacional de Libros de Textos Gratuitos) was created.[29] The textbook program was controversial, since the content would be created by the government and the textbooks' use would be obligatory in schools. It was opposed by the Unión Nacional de Padres de Familia, a conservative organization, and the Roman Catholic Church, which also saw education as a private family matter.[30][26] Education had become the largest single item in the federal budget by 1963, and there was a renewed emphasis on school construction. Almost every village was assisted in the construction of schools and provided with teachers and textbooks. Free student breakfasts for primary-school pupils were also restored.[citation needed]

Student activism

Increasingly students were becoming politically engaged beyond limited demands that affected them personally. The triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 captured leftist students' imagination. However, the government's repression of union and peasant activists was soon replicated against students. Students at the National University (UNAM) and the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) became more politicized, and their participation in demonstrations was met with government repression.[31] The scale of this phenomenon would become much larger in the later 1960s, when Díaz Ordaz became president, but the early 1960s marked the beginnings of the antagonism.

Electoral reform

An attempt was made at political liberalization, with an amendment to the constitution that altered the electoral procedures in the Chamber of Deputies by encouraging greater representation for opposition candidates in Congress. The electoral reform of 1963 introduced so-called "party deputies" (diputados del partido), in which opposition parties were granted five seats in the Chamber of Deputies if they received at least 2.5 percent of the national vote and one more seat for each additional 0.5 percent (up to 20 party deputies).[32][33] In the 1964 elections, for instance, the Popular Socialist Party (PPS) won 10 seats, and the National Action Party (PAN) won 20. By giving opposition political parties a greater voice in government, the country, controlled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, could have the appearance and greater legitimacy as a democracy.[citation needed]

Armed forces

The army was the enforcer of government policy and intervened to break strikes. López Mateos created more social security benefits for the military in 1961.[34] The army had been incorporated as a sector into the Party of the Mexican Revolution (PRM) under Lázaro Cárdenas, and when the Institutional Revolutionary Party was formed in 1946, the army was no longer sector, but remained loyal to the government and enforced order. During the presidency of López Mateos, peasant leader Rubén Jaramillo, ideological heir to peasant revolutionary Emiliano Zapata was murdered along with his family in 1962, "apparently at the instigation or with the foreknowledge of General Gómez Huerta, chief of the Presidential General Staff" under the president's personal command. Young writer and intellectual, Carlos Fuentes wrote a report of the murder for the magazine Siempre!, recording for an urban readership the grief of the peasant residents of Jojutla. The use of the army against a government opponent and the concern of a young urban intellectual about such an act being committed in his name was an indicator marking a change in the political climate in Mexico.[35]

Foreign policy

President Adolfo López Mateos next to the First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and the President John F. Kennedy, diring their visit to Mexico in 1962
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson (left) and Mexican President Adolfo López Mateos (right) unveil the new boundary marker signaling the peaceful end of the Chamizal dispute.

An important position for López Mateos's foreign policy was its stance on the Cuban Revolution. As that revolution moved leftward and as the U.S. pressured all Latin America to join it to isolate Cuba, Mexican foreign policy was to respect Cuba's independence. The U.S. had imposed an economic blockade on Cuba and organized Cuba's expulsion from the Organization of American States (OAS). Mexico took on principle the "nonintervention in the internal affairs of countries" and the "respect for the self-determination of nations."[36] Mexico did support some foreign policy positions of the U.S., such as barring China (as opposed to China-Taiwan) from holding a seat in the United Nations. During the Cuban Missile crisis in October 1962, when the Soviet Union placed missiles on Cuban territory, Mexico voted in favor of an OAS resolution for the removal of the weapons, but it also called for a ban on invading Cuba.[37] Although Mexico supported Cuba's sovereignty, the government began cracking down on demonstrations at home in solidarity with Cuba. Cuba had begun fomenting revolutionary movements outside of Cuba, in Latin America and Africa, and Mexico could potentially have been fertile ground. Recently released documentation shows that Mexico's stance toward Cuba allowed it to claim solidarity with another Latin American revolution, raise its profile in the hemisphere with other Latin American countries, but its overall support for revolution was weak, fearing destabilization at home.[38]

López Mateos welcomed U.S. President John F. Kennedy to Mexico for a highly successful visit in July 1962, when Mexico's relationship with Cuba differed from what U.S. policy sought.[23] Mexico's firm stance on Cuba's independence despite U.S. pressure meant that Mexico had bargaining power with the U.S., which did not want to alienate Mexico, with which it had a long land border. At this juncture, the Chamizal conflict with the United States was resolved and a majority of the Chamizal area was granted to Mexico. Negotiating the successful conclusion of the Chamizal dispute, which had festered since the aftermath of the mid-nineteenth century Mexican–American War, was a success for the López Mateos government.[39]

Post-presidency and death

López Mateos was the first chairman of the Organization Committee of the 1968 Summer Olympics and called the meeting that led to the creation of the World Boxing Council.

Plagued with migraines during his adult life, he was diagnosed with several cerebral aneurysms, and, after several years in a coma, he died in 1969 of an aneurysm.[26] His wife Eva Sámano was buried next to him, in the Panteón Jardín in Mexico City, following her death in 1984.

In the last year of his presidency, López Mateos was visibly unwell. He looked worn-out and increasingly thin. On his very last months as president, a friend, Víctor Manuel Villegas, went to see him and remembers asking him how he was; he replied that he was "screwed up". It turned out that López Mateos had seven aneurysms.[40] After finishing his presidential term, he briefly served as head of the Olympic Committee, responsible for the organization of the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968. He had to resign due to his failing health. Manuel Velasco Suárez quotes him as saying, "In every way, life has smiled at me. Now I must accept whatever may come."[40]

He rapidly became an invalid, being unable to walk, and after an emergency tracheotomy, he lost his voice. Enrique Krauze exclaimed in one of his books, "Gone was the voice of a once great orator."[40]

López Mateos died in 1969 in Mexico City.[41]

Postmortem exile

When Carlos Salinas de Gortari became president of Mexico (1988-1994), he had the remains of López Mateos and his wife exhumed and moved to López Mateos's birthplace in Mexico State. A monument to the late president was erected there.[42] This unusual step was likely due to Salinas' family animus toward López Mateos. Salinas's father Raúl Salinas Lozano had been a cabinet minister in López Mateos's government and was passed over for the party nomination to be the next president of Mexico.[43] The town is now formally named Ciudad López Mateos.

See also


  1. ^ Aniversario del nacimiento en Atizapán de Zaragoza, de Adolfo López Mateos Archived 1 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine,, and "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 July 2011. Retrieved 3 July 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) give a birth date of 26 May 1910. However, several other sources give a birth date of 26 May 1909: [1].
  2. ^ Roderic Ai Camp, "Adolfo López Mateos" in Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, vol. 3, p. 459. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1996.
  3. ^ Amador Tello, Judith. "Adolfo López Mateos: ¿El mejor presidente?". Proceso. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  4. ^ de Anda, Alejandro. "Claroscuro. La histórica popularidad". SDP Noticias. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  5. ^ Guia. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  6. ^ Loaeza, Soledad (6 July 2009). "El guatemalteco que gobernó México". Nexos (in Spanish). Mexico City. Retrieved 26 October 2009.
  7. ^ Camp, "Adolfo López Mateos", pp. 459–60.
  8. ^ Lainé, Cecilia Greaves. "Adolfo López Mateos" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 1, p. 758. Chicago: Fitzroy and Dearborn 1997.
  9. ^ a b c Lainé, "Adolfo López Mateos", p. 758.
  10. ^ Camp, "Adolfo López Mateos", p. 460
  11. ^ John W. Sherman. "The 'Mexican Miracle' and Its Collapse" in The Oxford History of Mexico, Michael C. Meyer and William H. Beezley, eds. New York: Oxford University Press 2000, p. 586.
  12. ^ Sherman, "The Mexican 'Miracle'", pp. 587–88
  13. ^ Delgado de Cantú, Gloria M. (2003). Historia de México, Legado Histórico y Pasado Reciente. Pearson Educación.
  14. ^ Enrique Krauze,Mexico: Biography of Power. New York: HarperCollins 1997, p. 637.
  15. ^ Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, p. 674.
  16. ^ Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, p. 639.
  17. ^ quoted in Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, p. 650.
  18. ^ Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, p. 652.
  19. ^ Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, p. 657
  20. ^ "Adolfo López Mateos 2". Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  21. ^ Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, p. 657.
  22. ^ Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power,pp. 658–660
  23. ^ a b Delgado de Cantú, Gloria M. (2004). Historia de México, Legado Histórico y Pasado Reciente. Pearson Educación. p. 418.
  24. ^ Jensen, J. Granville. "Notes on Ejido Development During the Presidency of Lopez Mateos". Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers, vol. 27, 1965, pp. 59–66. JSTOR, accessed 11 March 2019.
  25. ^ Lissner, Will. "Land Reform in Mexico". The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, vol. 20, no. 4, 1961, pp. 448. JSTOR, accessed 11 March 2019
  26. ^ a b c d Lainé, "Adolfo López Mateos", p. 759.
  27. ^ Arnaiz y Freg, Arturo. "Los Nuevos museos y las restauraciones realizados por el Presidente López Mateos." Artes de México, no. 179/180, 1974, pp. 62–67. JSTOR, accessed 11 March 2019
  28. ^ Barreda, Carmen. "The History of the Museum / Histoire du Musée." Artes de México, no. 127, 1970, pp. 11–100. JSTOR, accessed 11 March 2019.
  29. ^ Delgado de Cantú, Gloria M. (2003). Historia de México, Legado Histórico y Pasado Reciente. Pearson Educación. p. 311.
  30. ^ Pansters, Wil. "Social movement and discourse: the case of the university reform movement in 1961 in Puebla, Mexico." Bulletin of Latin American Research 9.1 (1990): 85.
  31. ^ Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, p. 643.
  32. ^ Paoli, F. J. (1986), Estado y sociedad en Mexico, 1917–1984, p. 64, Oceano (Mexico).
  33. ^ Martinez, Sarah. "Changing Campaign Strategies in Mexico: The Effects of Electoral Reforms on Political Parties" (PDF).
  34. ^ Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, p. 641.
  35. ^ Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, pp. 642–643.
  36. ^ quoted in Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, p. 655.
  37. ^ Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, p. 656.
  38. ^ Keller, Renata. "A Foreign Policy for Domestic Consumption: Mexico's Lukewarm Defense of Castro, 1959–1969." Latin American Research Review, vol. 47, no. 2, 2012, pp. 100–119. JSTOR, accessed 11 March 2019
  39. ^ Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, pp. 656.
  40. ^ a b c
  41. ^ Coerver, Don M. (2004). Mexico: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Culture and History. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 269. ISBN 978-1-57607-132-8.
  42. ^ es:Eva Sámano
  43. ^ Bussey, Jane. "Carlos Salinas de Gortari" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 2, p. 1330.