TO begin this discussion of the program of work that we are carrying out in Mexico, and of the origin of the domestic and international difficulties which now and then hinder my Government, I wish to quote a paragraph from an address delivered by the Viceroy of India, Lord Reading, in March of this year, before the Legislature of that country, a paragraph which I take from the July number of FOREIGN AFFAIRS. Lord Reading said: "The essential principle underlying English institutions is based on a fundamental unity of sentiment and on a general desire in issues of cardinal importance to waive the claims of individual or sectional advantage for the benefit of a common weal."[i]

This is exactly what we are doing or trying to do in Mexico: to waive the claims of individual or sectional advantage for the benefit of a common weal. Of course it is neither easy nor agreeable to develop such a policy truly and with energy in a country where privileges of every kind and what are represented as rights -- frequently nothing less than immoral or unjust concessions -- have been in the hands of an insignificant minority, native or alien. In any of the problems that revolutionary governments have tried to solve in the past few years there is always found, at the bottom, this struggle between large interests -- the real necessities of Mexico as a whole -- and small individual interests -- small in origin, utility and purpose, though often large if measured in dollars.

Hence the problem of the land in Mexico, the oil problem, the problem of education of the great masses throughout the country, and, finally, once again present, what is nowadays considered the religious problem -- which is, as I will explain later on, nothing else but the conflict between the great chiefs of the Catholic Church and the constitutional laws of Mexico that these chiefs pretend to ignore.

If one bears in mind that Mexicans possess less than one-third of the total wealth of the country, one can easily understand why so frequently in the resolution of Mexican problems, which of course have always had a marked economic character, we have friction or difficulties either with foreign governments defending the interests of their countrymen who consider themselves affected by our constitutional laws, or with Mexican land owners controlling endless tracts of land. And if one considers, furthermore, that of the third part of the national wealth owned by Mexicans (running surely above 1,500,000,000 pesos) 60 percent, at least, has been and still is in the hands of Catholic priests or religious institutions or orders of the Catholic Church, one can understand why we always have rebellions on the part of the Catholic clergy who fear at every moment of the struggle to lose their main strength: the millions that they have accumulated against the definite and express provisions of the Fundamental Charter of our country.

The Executive realizes well the difficulties and complications of all kinds that might come to the Government by following a policy directed toward putting our nationality once for all on solid foundations upon which a firm prosperity, certain for the present and future, could be based. We know also that the work of the present Administration could have been entirely simplified and its individual success safely insured by endeavoring to solve only immediate problems and seeking exclusively economic betterment at home, financial stability abroad, and military and political power, thus making the way for the administration smooth and without danger. Nevertheless the Executive, with the coöperation of the other two powers of government, and backed by the great mass of the population, has wished and has partly fulfilled its wishes to formulate and perfect, legally, a system of reforms of a just and advanced social tendency, with a strong nationalistic flavor -- reforms which will be in the future sources of general organic peace, collective progress and public wealth, and which mean the adoption of methods and systems designed to secure profit from national resources and to defend equitable national rights. These methods and systems have been adopted and followed with success by the most civilized nations for the purpose of preserving their political and economic independence and of assuring their economic prosperity and their total development.

All that has been said clearly shows that in this work of national progress, the Government has not been inspired by selfish motives, pride, or hatred to foreigners. The Government has never refused to accept the benefits of international collaboration for the development of the country. It does not think, either, that the plans of action provided by constitutional law, the product of the free but prudent exercise of its sovereignty, should prevent foreign collaboration, which must be restricted only by respect for our laws and which shall not develop to the point of absorption working harm to our national interests.

Happily in all these frictions provoked by the nationalistic policy I have outlined, the unbiased spirit of the courts, that have studied our laws endeavoring to understand their meaning and real range, and the reason which supports our cause, have paved the way for truth and justice to show themselves.

We have wished, once for all, to organize the statutes of our constitutional laws and enforce them, justly and strictly, in order to be able to develop our national wealth, and to avert, also, perpetual misunderstandings and false interpretations of our legislation and see to it that capital invested in Mexico shall know clearly what it has a right to expect in this country. Internationally the Mexican Revolution "has no axe to grind," but wants to avoid entanglements by adopting clean-cut legislation and by making foreign investors conform to Mexican law.

The domestic policy of the present Government can be summarized in a sentence: we have believed and still believe that this betterment can only be got through a formidable effort in favor of the great masses of the people.

It was essential primarily to establish strict, energetic, honest administration in all departments of the Government, in order to solve the first problem: the balancing of the budget. This was required so that we might resume service on our foreign debt, meet internal obligations in Mexico, properly develop education, agriculture and industry, and solve the difficult question of monetary circulation in Mexico -- which was on a purely metallic basis -- with the organization of the Bank of Issue. The success of this administrative reorganization and financial rehabilitation was so amazing, that at the end of the first year we had saved 70,000,000 pesos, with which the Bank of Mexico was established and later the National Bank of Agricultural Credits was opened. Side by side with this financial reorganization the Government has endeavored to establish the basis for a fitting, wise and steady agricultural progress, paying special heed to irrigation, to the construction of a network of highways and country roads, and to an intensive movement in agricultural education. As it was necessary to consolidate the situation which had been created by the restitution of lands to the towns, in the form of ejidos,[ii] and by the division of large tracts of lands formerly always idle, and in order that production might be stimulated and the sense of responsibility be developed in the new owners of land, the Mexican Congress approved the bill introduced by the Executive creating the ownership of small parcels of land on a homestead basis. This means the vesting of the ownership of lands recovered by the revolution not in persons but in homes, so to speak, the responsibility for neglecting or cultivating these parcels of lands being, however, individual and not collective.

The system of agricultural production, which was irregular, disorganized and unscientific -- because irrigation works were lacking and because communication facilities were wanting -- was bound to produce disastrous results. It frequently happened that a region having exceptionally abundant crops was without means to transport them to market, wanting communication facilities and capital and credit. In other regions crops of the same produce were lost and had to be replaced by importations from abroad. The result was poverty in the agricultural regions and the upsetting of economic plans. Henceforth the Bank of Mexico and the Agricultural Bank, with their many branches, will contribute definitely towards the improvement of these conditions.

In educational matters Mexico is following the same path recommended by the Bureau of Education of the United States, that is, more instruction every day in agriculture and in problems of rural life, so that teachers and leaders may be developed for a people of whom four-fifths live in the country.

In conclusion I wish to lay stress upon the fact that a real religious problem does not exist in Mexico. I mean that there is no such thing as persecution of a religious character against religious creeds or opposition on the part of the Government to the dogmas or practices of any religion.

It is true that the Constitution of Mexico has provisions that the Catholic high clergy consider incompatible with their constant and illegitimate intervention in politics and questions of state, or with their holding economic strength as a means of spiritual influence and a principal factor of domination of a material order. So long as the clergy do not obtain through the legal means and methods contained in the Constitution itself, and through an act of Congress approved by at least one-third of the state legislatures, the derogation or amendment of the provisions that aim at crushing the political strength of the clergy by means of making their properties the property of the nation, the Government fulfills an elemental duty in complying with these laws and enforcing a strict obedience to them. So long as the clergy in Mexico fail to win over the confidence of the great liberal majority of my country (a result that can not be attained if the clergy, disregarding their high functions, hold to the methods systematically employed so far to secure advantages of a material and political order, unbecoming to their religious character), I seriously believe that the abolition or amendment of these articles of the Constitution can not be accomplished.

[i] "India in Convalescence." G. Findlay Shirras, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Vol. IV, No. 4, p. 659.

[ii] Lands held in common by the people of an individual town or village.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now