Notes on Mexico and the U.S.

-by Martín Luis Guzmán-

translated by D. Ohmans
(c) copyright 2012

Text imprint Mexico City, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1997

MARTÍN LUIS GUZMÁN was born in Chihuahua, Chih. in 1887 and died
in 1976 in Mexico City. He performed his studies at the National Preparatory
School and in the National School of Jurisprudence. His life was multi-faceted:
he adopted Madero-ism in 1911 and was elected a delegate to the National
Convention of the Liberal Progressive Party from his birthplace state; he was a
Spanish professor in the Superior School of Commerce and librarian at the
National School of Higher Studies; he joined the revolutionary group of
Francisco Villa and, when the latter broke with Venustiano Carranza,
Guzmán left the country until 1920; then he was editorial director of
The Herald of Mexico and in 1922 founded the periodical, El Mundo.
     In 1924 he joined the Huertista movement, whose failure obliged him to
again abandon the nation with the aim of Spain. He lived on the peninsula 12
years, during which he collaborated on half a dozen newspapers. From Europe he
begins to collaborate on Mexican newspapers in the United States and, on his
return to Mexico, founds the weekly magazine Tiempo.
     In 1959 he was designated president of the National Commission for
Texto Gratuito Books, and from 1970 to 1976 was senator of the Republic.
In 1954 he entered the Mexican Academy of the Language and in 1958
was honored with the National Literature Prize. Martín Luis Guzmán
will always be remembered and re-read for his valuable contribution to the
genre of the novel of the Mexican Revolution. Author of the fundamental trilogy
of this type of literature: The Eagle and the Serpent, The Shadow of the
Commander and Memories of Pancho Villa, Guzmán dominated the
presentation  of environments, dialog of characters as much real as fictional
and, at the same time, transmitted the most pristine liberal spirit that would
endow more than one revolutionary soul.
     By this great Mexican writer, the Fondo de Cultural Económica has
published Javier Mina: hero of Spain and Mexico, Historical Dyings,
February 1913, and Pirates and Corsairs. FONDO 2000 now
presents a selection of brief articles and essays taken from the books,
Mexico's Complaint, The Banks of the Hudson and other pages that are found
in the Complete Works (FCE, 1995). The reader of these pages will share
the unique narrative intensity and the dedicated historical vocation of a
tireless investigator not only of our memory of the past, but also of the
perspectives which shape our present.

                    Mexico's complaint

These brief notes form part of a work where, in the light of history, the
vibrant questions of Mexico and the principal figures of the last revolution
are studied. Two motives oblige me not to give the printer the greater part of
the mentioned work: first, having participated in the Revolution itself; in the
second place, my desire to suspend for now all judgment concerning persons,
except in indispensable cases.
     Since I attempt to expound an ill, I momentarily make abstraction from
the qualities of the Mexican people and only occupy myself in noting some of
their defects. What purpose would be served by the rhetorical ardor of going to
write a eulogy--however deserved and just it might be--beside every censure?
Respect for the seriousness of the matter, respect for the category of readers
to whom I have aimed this publication, counsel me to flee from such abuse.
     The task, thus reduced to the role of censure, could not fail to be
painful and, in every sense of the word, unpopular. Therefore I have given
these notes limited publication, seeking that they will only reach those who
will be capable of reading them without anger and with benefit.
December 1915

ENSIGN Justo Sierra, generous spirit and master--not only dreamer--of his
choice of fortune, often suggested to us that if Mexico's economic problem was
very important, not less so was our educational problem.
     This judgment, not very original yet interesting in the days when
unanimous opinion held to the materialist theory, yet seems timid to us; in
part, because our educational need is not only comparable to our economic
necessity, but far exceeds it; and, in part, by what is mistaken in our concept
of national education.
     In any event, if we may be permitted to refer the occurrences in the life
of a people to that which works in them as the preponderant element, there is
no doubt that the problem which Mexico sets us to resolve is a problem of a
primarily spiritual nature. Our economic disorder, great though it is,
influences us only on a secondary level, and will persist insofar as our
spiritual environment does not change. We waste time when, in good or bad
faith, we go in search of the origin of our troubles even in the disappearance
of the old divisions of the earth and other analogous causes. These, of great
importance in themselves, in no way should be considered supreme. The sources
of the evil are elsewhere: they are in the spirits, the feeble and immoral
precedents of the ruling class; in the spirit of the criollo, in the
spirit of the mestizo, for whom one must consider the education project.
Nevertheless, materialist opinion still rules and, otherwise understood, has
come to comprise, sincerely or falsely, the formal reason for our armed
movements beginning in 1910.
     In the following pages I have tried to untangle certain lessons from our
century-long convulsions; I have wished to make manifest the internal facts
that fall within the ills of fragmentary concepts which have informed our
doctrinal political life; we suffer from a penury of spirit.
     I am not a skeptic with respect to my country, and even less can one hold
me to little love her. But, to tell the truth, I cannot admit to any hope that
is founded upon lack of knowledge of our defects.
     Our interminable political contests; our failure with all forms of
government; our inability to construct, profiting from the Porfirian peace, a
real and lasting point of support that holds the national life high, everything
indicating, without any sort of doubt, a persistent and terrible evil, which
has not found, nor can find, remedy in our constitutions--we have tried them
all--nor depending exclusively on our governors, though--who would believe it!-
-we have had many honorable ones. It would be vain, furthermore, to seek
salvation in some of the factions now in dispute, in our territory or in the
guise of Yanqui liberality, the dominion of Mexico; none carries in its
breast, despite of what their plans and men affirm, a new method, a new
procedure, a new idea, a new feeling that nourishes the hope of a resurgence.
The internal life of all these parties is no better nor worse than our
proverbial oligarchic tyrannies; like in them, there lives the same ruinous
ambition, the same methodical injustice, the same brutality, the same
blindness, the same lust for lucre; in a word, the same absence of the
sentiment and the idea of the nation.
     Finally, however beside the subject comes to seem what these pages
declare, there is something in them that will remain afoot, even in the worst
of cases: the affirmation of the imperious duty, now inescapable, of performing
a sincere revision of Mexican social values, a revision oriented towards
illuminating the road that is to be followed--the entrance to that road we
cannot find--and not to further polish our historical fable.

                         DIRT AND GOLD

MEXICANS tend, for educational reasons, to always view the questions that
concern our nation--so peculiar in its origin, in its formative elements and in
its history--in parallel with those that have sustained the life of other
peoples whom we little resemble. We do not suspect that there must exist a
substance of our own at the bottom of any national idea for it to be fertile,
and that foreign influences can only be added as illumination or accidental
corrections. Be it caused by our mental laziness; be it for being accustomed to
the luster and interest of the latest aspects of European thought, we do not
seek to have an authentic intellectual life from what comes out of the very
heart of Mexican social problems. We are condemned to a certain perishable
condition of the dilettanti. In the best of cases we do not pass beyond
being solicitous spectators of what happens beyond our frontiers, beyond the
seas. We have almost no vernacular art [I refer to Creole art, not to the
indigenous]; we lack our own philosophy and science; our religion has never
provoked conflicts of a merely spiritual character among us. I do not deny-I do
not--that from time to time we are vainglorious about who knows what Mexican
research and discoveries; nor do we lack in our schools the figure of such and
such a most wise gentleman whose science everyone ponders, everyone extols,
even if no one is given to prove it for themself, for those wise men of ours
speak little and never write; nor is the forced spirit rare in our nation of
one who, to start out, sits down to write a book to emend the plane of foreign
wisdom of the day: unknown in Mexico is the enormous, uninterrupted labor
required in the world of science to wear the tassel. We still live in the
golden age of the genius, of the marvelous man who, in a forgotten moment,
turns grave and explains the world. Furthermore, we confuse ideas, confuse
values: we think that a lawyer is the same as a humanist, a surgeon as a
biologist, a botanist as a chemist. Accustomed to page through one book today
and another tomorrow, we suppose that the directive for the life of a people is
thus to be found. Is there anything more common and at the same time more
horrible than that facility with which anyone improvises professorially in our
schools? And here I do not speak of those occasions wherein, carried by a
generous enthusiasm, or before an unexpected gap, someone attempts to teach
materials beyond their specialty; I allude to systematic improvisation, to the
belief that what is most involved can be learned in a day and taught the
following. For the Mexicans, discernment is a game--a game little practiced--
and as people who think little, they ignore that there is nothing more
difficult than handling ideas. We are dilettanti. 
     Yet what is worse is, with all this arsenal of superficiality and
pedantry, we move onto the terrain of our social problems. We resist thinking
about these problems directly. We know almost nothing of the history of Mexico-
-because, since it is not written, in order to understand it one must tire
themself among many papers--but we have read some manual of the history of
France, of the history of England or of the history of the United States, and
that is enough for us. We do not know a rebellion that is not explicable by the
mechanisms of the French Revolution, nor do we understand a Constitution which
does not resemble the yankee Constitution. Why strive, if everything is already
resolved, and so vigorously! Our patriotic reality is sad, is ugly, is
miserable. Why study it? Also, we are so badly educated that our senses
themselves do not work: we do not know how to see, nor are we capable of
touching. It remains constant that behind us a discomfort exists, an essential
abnormality, an impossibility of continuing to live like this; yet we are
blindfolded before events, revolving without knowing where to stop and not
thinking of removing the blindfold to see, but instead in reviewing what we
have heard, what had been told to us, in order to discover the truth. In this
manner our evils are perpetuated. Except for the reformers--not to be
confused with constituents--no one has cared to think of Mexico in its
Mexican reality. Dazzled by the great clarity of our eyes in foreign lands, we
feel our way amongst the obscurity that weighs upon our countryside, incapable
of scrutinizing it to find its own pathways. Will we someday comprehend that,
however low in quality it seems to us, the native material is that which we
should approach, putting our hands upon it and applying the rules that suit it?
Shall we someday believe that the rest is ephemeral? That a more firm and
lasting work is made cultivating the dirt as dirt, than treating it as gold?


A GOOD part of the considerations made so far concerning the actual state of
servile prostration in which the indigenous populations of Mexico lie is
grounded in a false, or at least exaggerated, basis: the supposed great
material, intellectual and, above all, moral development attained by the
indians up until the arrival of Cortéz. To this exaggeration--deceptive
when it overvalues the worth of the indigenous mass as one of the constitutive
elements of Mexican society--several causes have contributed: the natural
imaginative tendency of the first Spaniards to come to America; the noble
desire of the friars of the first epoch to make the indian more worthy of
commiseration; the tendency of the Mexican chroniclers and historians to
augment the glorious past of one of the two branches of their lineage.
     But, let it not be doubted, things should take a different turn more in
keeping with that aspect which we know from the colonial era and which they
still present, after 100 years of independent life.
     A long time before the star of the conquistadores would shine
over the lands that would later become New Spain, the aboriginal civilizations
of Mexico had already failed from a circumstance of a spiritual order.
Superstition and religious fear, supreme movers that had channeled everything
up to then, became lifeless before the material progress which they originated;
captives of their ardor, they had cast forth, with a last great effort, the
very sources of their energy, constructing a world better than the process from
which that world emanated, and thus destined to perish beginning the same hour
as their birth.
     How else to explain that indigenous civilization, so incoherent and
strange if we are to take as true the essence of our historical accounts? Only
an unconscious impulse, although most powerful, could produce the advanced
Aztec organization in an inhuman and cannibalistic society, whose religion,
burdened with superstitions and terrors, did not have the faintest glimmerings
of morality.
     It is true that one easily falls into the error of bringing to each of the
aspects of indigenous life the type of perfection of what was excellent in it;
and thus one arrives at even supposing for them a moral code. Yet all this is
in vain. The ephemeral culture of Quetzalcóatl, sweet and human divinity,
and its definitive exile, signal the culmination and descent of the indigenous
soul, the maximum force that it could not realize and from which it returned
weaker than ever and, therefore, more inhuman and more cruel.
     It was in the midst of this long period of crisis that the conquistador
arrived, who, with brutal and thunderous distress, decomposed and left a still
incomplete soul shapeless. Later, what is to say about the colonial empire,
regime of unleashed exploitation in a country whose principal wealth were the
natives, a regime sustained by a model system of spirits adequate to that
exploitation? A few generous and venerable friars, those who arrived with the
first ships to New Spain, captured the indian, hurriedly baptized and later
abandoned him, still idolatrous, in the shadows of Christianity. Others came
later, yet now not to Christianize nor preach like the first ones, but instead
to exploit and dominate like the conquistadors, to exchange the indigenous
flesh and soul for gold. From the hands of the cruel chief the indian passed to
those of the Spaniard without pity and to those of the friar without virtue; no
longer would they perish by the thousands erecting pyramids and bloody temples,
but would die constructing cathedrals and palaces; no longer would they be
immolated on the altars of the angry god, whose fury could only be
extinguished with blood: they were sacrificed in the mines and in the
slave owner's fields, whose thirst for gold could never be sated.
     Since then--since the Conquest or since the pre-Cortezian times, for the
case is the same--the indian is there, prostrate and submissive, indifferent to
good and bad, without conscience, with soul having become a rudimentary button,
incapable even of one hope. It is true that the Independence came later a with
it a quick dismantling of the colonial regime; true also that beyond in time
was the Reform; yet what have either one or the other been for the indian? How
has he been served except to return him to a forgotten habit, the habit of
killing? If we should believe what is before our eyes, the indian has not
advanced a step over many centuries; as the conquerors found them so they have
remained; the sun of the colonial era shone upon the same ones as the sun of
the Independence and the Reform, and the same are illuminated by the sun of
today. It is a lot that the unfortunate does not display the infamous mark
where the cheek was burned with the brutal brand of the conqueror!
     The indigenous population of Mexico is morally unconscious; they are weak
even at discerning the simplest forms of their own well-being; the ignore the
right like the wrong, the bad like the good. When, perhaps, some instrument
capable of beneficially modifying their life falls into their hands, it is
devalued and they descend to an accustomed quality, to that of the abject way
of life they inherited. It is undeniable that they had the generous sentiment
of their own divinity (which later literally poured into the external forms of
Catholicism), of their tribe's divinity, for whom they battled, sacrificed and
built; but, did they ever feel, truly, love of their village, love of its
ground? If their ancestral law commanded, in the case of being defeated, that
they respect and adore the winner's divinities, should not one gather from
that, and in accordance also with their ancient wandering history, that they
were more a people of religion than one of nation? Just as we know them today,
the radiance of their soul does not cross the familiar boundary; there their
social sentiments end, there and in the hate or servile affect uniting them
accidentally with the master who exploits them.
     So then, if such is the material, what is the work to be created from it?
Nations without an ideal, without desire, without an aspiration, without the
fierce feeling of their race living in their breast; worn-out nations from who
knows what irritant and mortal docility, never denied, but experienced century
upon century, will they be capable, by themselves, of endowing the social group
of which they form a part with another impulse than that which, negatively, is
born of their inertia? The indigenous mass is for Mexico a burden and a
hindrance; but only hypocritically can it be accused of being the determining
dynamic element. In peaceful and normal life, the same as in the abnormal and
turbulent, the indian cannot have just a single function, that of the loyal dog
who blindly follows the designs of its master. If the creole wants to live in
peace, and exploit the land, and exploit the indian, this will pacify him too,
and he will work the earth for his señor, and will tamely allow
himself to be exploited. If the creole resolves to make war, the indian will go
with him and by his side will kill and destroy. The indian require nothing nor
provokes anything; in the totality of Mexican social life has no more influence
than that of a geographic accident; he must be considered as integrated into
the physical medium. The day that the creole and mixed classes, socially
determinative, resolve to remove him from that, he will be easily detached and
allow himself to be taken to where his own wings might serve him. Yet until
then, he remains there.

                    THE IMMORALITY OF THE CREOLE

                         The trouble with origin

So divorced is Mexican politics from its own realities (our institutions are
imported; our political speculation--vague and abstract--is informed by the
foreign theories in fashion, et cetera) and so systematic is the immorality of
its proceedings, that one cannot but think of the existence of a congenital
problem in the Mexican nation. Effectively, this is so. In the dawn of our
autonomous life--in the turnings of the war for Independence--a true defect of
national constitution (unfortunately inevitable) appears: we Mexicans have
had to erect a nation before conceiving it purely as an ideal and feeling it as
a generous impulse; that is to say, before deserving it.
     We have here the unquenchable source of the discomfort. If our first step
had been an envisioning, or a cold and conscious valuation, or an egoistic
calculus, but clearly defined, Mexican national life would enjoy the
excellencies of the first, the sure and moderated march of the second or the
firm narrowness of the third; yet it is more like the reverse, that our first
act partook of blindness, of the unreflective and the vague, and for these we
have had to suffer at length. This trouble with origin in our original flesh,
the point of departure for our individuality as a people and as a nation; this
has traced our life and our character, this explains us. We were born
prematurely, and a consequence of that is the spiritual poverty that
debilitates our best efforts, always hesitant and disoriented. 
     There are two moments in our history where we may more fruitfully approach
the Mexican political soul - the soul of that class, integrated in a certain
unity, which directs the events of Mexican society: Independence and the
Porfirian peace. Between these two stages, the Reform grows, gives almost ill-
gotten fruits, is corrupted and finally lost in the Peace.


It was something, in its origin, from an old quarrel, from a vague literary
exaltation and from an opportunity.
     It flowed into Mexico, already late and almost extinct, the wave of
spiritual revolution that had motivated Europe and North America in the second
half of the 18th century. Among us its influence was not that which simply
accelerates the effects of a long nourished and contained desire, but of those
that produce a state of artificial exaltation on deceptive bases. The group of
Mexican society that grew enthused by the idea of liberty belonged to the
oppressor class and not to the suppressed class in New Spain; they were not the
material most disposed to become inflamed by contact with the new French ideas.
But these, and the example of the United States, arrived at a time to provide a
noble motive for relief from the old--and perhaps just--rancor of the creoles
toward the Spanish, and to channel it confusedly toward a bold and glamorous
possibility: the Independence.
     Add to the foregoing the provocative opportunity for the Napoleonic
invasion of Spain, and everything will be explained.
     Our war of Independence was not a national movement. It was not that for
the men who intervened in the fight, nor for its spirit, nor for its results.
There is nothing more murky than the juridical intrigue of 1808, headed by the
viceroy Iturrigaray, false for one and the other; the noble execution of
Hidalgo is typical of the improvised and turbulent; revolutionary vision and
military genius do not combine in Morelos with political resources adequate to
the social tensions of that hour; Iturbide is the Mexican symbol of the
fraudulent political scam and military immorality.

                         The Reform

Only laboriously had one come at last to incarnate in the Reform that which at
first was a vague idea that the Independence only made sense as an internal
breakup of the colonial regime. The creole soul had required half a century to
reach the light. Ayutla's revolution brought, along with the eternal
constitutional emblems, the adult, circumscribed truth of action for reform.
Over the disease of forever theorizing rose the humble admission of a spiritual
decadence in the directing classes, and the necessity of their regenerating. It
even attained the founding of a great school to forge the new souls.

                    The Porfirian peace

There was not time. The regimen of Díaz supervened, the regime of peace as
a goal and of sociological realities which, turned against the national current
of our history, dropped the barely begun spiritual work, the only true one,
from its hands. The directors of Mexican societal life, beginning in the 70's,
ignored the historical sense of their times and killed in its crib the
fundamental work to be done. After the Reform and the struggle against the
French intervention, which gave a national value to it, the only honorable
political labor was the work of reform, the effort to invigorate and give
liberty of spirit to the governing classes, creole and mixed. The regime of the
Peace criminally performed the exact opposite. It instituted the lie and
venality as a system, the particular means as an end, injustice and crime as
armament; it could be seen in El Imparcial, that infamous and immoral
periodical; it engendered all the Íñigos Noriegas of our land, the
Lord Cowdrays of our industries, the Rosalinos Martínez of our army.
     Against this accusation, of whom should we think of less than Porfirio
Díaz. What matters the error or the incapacity of a single man compared to
the incapacity and the error of the entire nation who glorified him? No. Think
of the wide group who lived in the shadow of the chief and who believed they
understood the nation's needs, or at least pretended to, in a manner propitious
of their personal enrichment. Think of all the ruling class of that day, of the
20 year-old youths of the 70's, of the mature intellectuals of 1890, of the
venerable 60 year-olds who warmed their flesh under the Centennial sun. All
those, direct heirs of the unformed, but generous, work of the reformers--the
exceptions, some of them illustrious, do not change the picture--what did they
do for their country? Where is the act or the word that links them with their
ancestors? What effort did they make to end the national political abjection,
the ruined politics and the national political lie, the national injustice, and
the profound, so profound Mexican political immorality? They lacked time and
occasion to smile upon the dictator and embed him deeper in their myopic belief
as to what would save the nation; lacked time to court the men of the
presidential clique, or his friends, or their children, in search of
concessions, favors and employment. Can there be anything more definitive for
an identification of the political immorality of mestizos and creoles than the
spectacle of those hundreds and hundred of citizens who over seven terms
never failed the dictator in stacking the seats of the chambers and the
legislatures? Legions of conscientious and distinguished citizens, the flower
of Mexican intellectuality, lending themselves to the most sterile political
pantomimes that ever existed! Among Mexican glories--not even having the excuse
of cowardice for, far from being compelled, there were not places for all the
applicants--among those glories, appeared our masters...
     Our armed agitations, eloquent as they are, tell us nothing of our painful
truth next to the cruel teachings of the 35-year peace.

                    THE CONCEPT OF EDUCATION

THE MOST advanced conception concerning the problem of education in Mexico--and
also the most common and altruistic--is that which incorporates the principle
of popular education. It was first understood in the form of a clear and well-
defined proposition, when sir Jorge Vera Estañol, minister of Public
Instruction in Díaz's final cabinet, drafted his project for Rudimentary
Schools. The proposal was essentially this: to teach Spanish, the alphabet and
the fundamental rules of arithmetic to the rough indigenous class, especially
that part who live far from the civilized centers, in the mountains and in the
country. Thus an almost national thought came to be incarnated in the public
institutions, whose results were to usher in--as everyone hoped--the Mexican
panacea. In turn from such a project much was said of the regenerative mission
of the book and the newspaper - well-fated were those who read El
Imparcial; of the genesis and the effects of public opinion; of the
aspirations that awaken in a fallen and miserable being who envisages possible
betterment, and of other things of similar tone. That which is certain is that
the alluded-to project was born in the heat of the first revolutionary
movements of the North--at the same time that the Chambers voted for the law of
non-reelection--and with the visible destiny of becoming a noisy counterweight
to the School of Higher Studies, created months before by Justo Sierra in the
midst of a strike as much general as dissimulated. Who in Mexico did not then
utter the sacred words: "Not higher, but lower studies are what
we need"? The poor school! Never has any nation spent a few pesos more
unwillingly than ours, that which the School of Higher Studies invested in its
primitive and unwashed plans. [Later, the School of Higher Studies became more
humble and came to follow the road of useful results.]
     With the triumph of Madero's revolution, sir Alberto J. Pani, sub-
secretary of Public Instruction and also representing the revolutionary
interest and that of those outside of the debate, analyzed, to bring to
completion, the project of the Rudimentary Schools, and found them mistaken and
unrealizable: they had calculated 200,000 pesos [I must necessarily make these
citations from memory] for a work requiring more than 50 million annually!
[See Alberto J. Pani, Rudimentary Instruction, Mexico City, 1912.]
Mr. Pani renounced his position; the plan for the schools followed its course
and the 200,000 pesos were spent on an inspector for here, an inspector for
there. Of course there was nothing to inspect.
     But we leave aside the errors of the project in question and the
possibilities of shrinking it to modest and practicable proportions, as was
proposed, certainly, by the same Mr. Pani. What is interesting for us is to go
the sources themselves of the thought which gave life to them. The program of
rudimentary instruction was a true thrust of impatience, inspired by the creole
theorem of the terrible ignorance of the indians being the principal obstacle
to Mexico's happiness. At the root of that program, celebrated in shouts by all
the detractors toward the School of Higher Studies--which was instituted to
"create Mexican science" and give congruent and live instruction to the upper
classes--was this tacit proposition: "the ruling creoles already had all the
education they need; it is time to think of the ruled, of the illiterate." It
pretended, in a word, to bring the miserable indigenous condition a little
closer to our creole condition as free and conscious persons, as much to
improve their fate, as to open doors to general happiness, to order, to life.
The ideal had culminated at the point when the indians would become beings
equal to ourselves, the class that knows how to govern, to govern itself, to
direct and to direct itself.
     The Díaz regime, furthermore, was a hopeless nest for germinating
similar ideas. The creole at the Porfirian apogee lived in shining cities paved
with asphalt; heard the locomotives' whistle; continued to regularly pay the
installments on the public debt; knew that "the playing field was leveled" and
every day read in El Imparcial the elegies to those who govern and hymns
to the enormous development of the country. Who had reason not to be satisfied?
Vague indicators arrived, at times, of who knows what rapes and crimes in the
highlands - of land seizings, of ruinous concessions, of embezzlements; when it
came atop the curse of having to invoke justice one knew that one should expect
less justice; of the times, one spoke of attempted iniquities, the abjection of
the Chambers, the servility of the functionaries. Yet, did he know anything of
that? For one thing they were at peace; for another he could, from time to
time, do the same as the others, and so it went. It is true that in Mexican
societal life public activities had been exiled; but, was that not the base?
Little politics and much administration, said the maxim.
     The fact is that everything concurred to produce deceit in an atmosphere
well-prepared to receive it. The highest virtue of the Díaz regime was to
convince us that the problem had been resolved; those men's souls, free from
uncertainty, testify to that. The whole world believed in our cure--the
millions of Lord Cowdrays, with Limantour's voice, took charge of the
propaganda--and we believed in it ourselves, loyal El Imparcial readers
and ingenuous spectators at all those public ceremonies from which shone in a
place of honor an enormous emblem with this solitary inscription: Peace.
     There were motives, then, for dedicating oneself to the indian and
extinguishing the light of democratic processes. Creole sufficiency was seen
reflected in the rich shop windows of San Francisco Avenue, and that was enough
to feel free, conscious, capable of everything, to the point of liberating
others lifting them to the correct level.
     A mistake perhaps? The politicians previous to the Reform clearly saw
that the roots of the Mexican problem started, truly, with ourselves, with the
creoles, incapable of harmonizing life; and they attributed it all to
irreducible predilections for certain forms of government - monarchy,
republicanism, centralism, federalism.
     The reformers recognized that same source of evil and had the clairvoyance
to attribute it, in part at least, not to divergent tendencies or antagonistic
forms of constitutional organization, but to a condition of fallenness in the
creole spirit, demoralized and brutalized by the Catholic Church. Also
Díaz's regime introduced a brusque and disconcerting novelty: it took the
burden of the problem from upon creole backs and caused it to rest upon causes
of an economic order; they translated the spiritual to the material. One dealt
now not with forms of government nor spiritual incapacities: one dealt with
trains, with ports, with industries, with banks - with these and only these.
That which in the reformers' minds had been part of a program, under the
Díaz regime was all. The great school, daughter of the Reform, Preparatory
School, with its chairs of sociology and political economy, began to bear its
fruit, except in an unawaited sense. It became a popular phrase to say that "at
the base of all social phenomena is that of an economic order." Limantour had
been a founding alumnus of the Preparatory alma mater; and who did not believe
in Limantour?
     It followed that, now tranquil within ourselves, at heart forgotten the
only true fertile idea of the reform and of the history of Mexico, and before
the growing spectacle of banks and trains, when one came to think of the
dangers of a walk in the environs, they fell, necessarily, upon the "danger of
indigenous illiteracy." And the error was absolute.
     The creoles had no right to imagine themselves in a more advanced life
than that entertained by the reformers. The Porfirian peace, made not against
the true problems but beside them, evading and contradicting them, could mean
nothing, had no value: it was a peace without politics or better said, with
politics reduced to the combinations which Díaz conceived to maintain the
friendship of his friends or the impotence and the tolerance of his enemies.
Díaz managed to substitute obedience for politics. In no other way was
that relative internal peace among our revolutionary factions obtained; in
those there is no politics either, only pure and simple obedience. When in a
beautiful and memorable speech, delivered two years ago in the village of
Magdalena, in the state of Sonora, Juan Sánchez Azcona entreated Carranza
as to the need for all of us to participate in the development of revolutionary
proposals, that is, when Sánchez Azcona broke from obedience and
addressed politics, Carranza did, neither more nor less, what Díaz
himself would have done: he sent Sánchez Azcona as an envoy to Europe.
When Carranza, alarmed by the many battles that Villa was winning, wanted to
reduce his orbit and give another the chance to triumph at Zacatecas, when
Villa emerged from obedience and became political and gave his
reasons, Carranza detached from politics, required obedience and would rather
have it with an enemy than consent to a change of system. Porfirio Díaz,
who was experienced in such matters, elevated to the category of axiom his
famous maxim of little politics and much administration. In triumph, he
had no such illusions; despite his title of president, he continued to feel,
above and before all, himself chief of his faction, until his faction of blood
covered the total area of the Republic, yet this did not stop him from being
that. From there to order, and from there to peace. For 35 years we have lived
under a factional government.
     But this, which seems so clear to us today, contemporaries could not see.
They yielded to narcissism and were soothed by the appearance of their
definitive regeneration. Their qualms about life the same as usual, they
forgot themselves: they forget their incapacity, forgot their ignorance, forgot
their lies, attributing the bad effects of those vices to the existence of the
illiterate indian, to the existence of a being who almost does not exist! They
forgot they were still--then more than ever, due to the doubly corrupting
effects of the Porfirian regime--at the foot of the old problem of education
and the regeneration of the creole, infinitely more necessary than the
education and the regeneration of the indians.

                    INTERVENTION AND THE WAR

WHEN Carranza, chief of the revolutionary faction, asks the government of the
United States to recognize him as president of the Republic, he does it only
according to an old truth of our internal politics: in Mexico no political
party has sufficient vigor by itself to dominate; its security and its force
requires the concourse of a foreign power. The old conservative party
recognized and exaggerated the value of this principle when it elicited the
intervention of Napoleon III; the liberal party has always counted on the
assistance of the United States. The recent instance of Huerta, swollen with
power, comfortable with economics, and also free with rewards for the
middlemen, is conclusive. One word by Woodrow Wilson, one no by the
president of another country, sufficed to decide Huerta's destiny and the
destinies of Mexico. To be imposed, he only needed that Yankee recognition;
Villa and Carranza do not today expect any more help.
     Yet to what extent does the die cast on Mexico's fortunes and adversities
depend upon the interests or on the morality of a neighboring people, can be
appreciated--better than in our nation, where the truth is always hidden or
twisted--in that which is happening in the United States itself. Let us examine
     Under the epigram, "Iturbide is capable" the New York Times
correspondent on June 6th of this year of 1915 publishes the following lines:

     Eduardo Iturbide has been in Washington for several days, accompanied by
     personal friends and political advisers. With great openness, and visibly
     frank, he spoke this morning, in very good English, of political affairs
     in Mexico and of his own political ambitions.
          Mr. Iturbide says that he has been meeting in every venue, here and
     in New York, and with public figures interested in Mexico's constitutional
     government being restored: among them Secretary Bryan and other Department
     of State functionaries. He says that he does not have official word that
     President Wilson has honored him with the designation, man of the
     moment in Mexico; but that, unofficially, different people had assured
     him it was so.

     The value of this item is inestimable, not so much to judge Mr. Iturbide,
but to delineate our situation. Undoubtedly those are not the same words as the
actual expression of the thought of that man, but the interpretation of a
skillful reporter--they all are in that country--who had heard Mr. Iturbide in
a moment of "liberty" and "visible frankness," and that it is very related to
the intense campaign which Mr. Iturbide wages in the United States to gain the
presidential chair of the Mexican Republic.
     So then, Mr. Iturbide is a creole of our lineage; among the historical
items in his family closet perhaps not missing is an imperial cloak; he
himself, in discussing the government he would implement in our land, insists
on the necessity that that government, fully approved by all the Mexican
people, be a "government by the higher and respectable class"; there can be no
doubt, certainly, concerning his personal respectability. Add to this the noble
modesty of the titles that he flaunts. His illustrious predecessors do not
impress him, nor his education, nor his status, but instead a minuscule act of
mere citizenship: he received Mexico City from the hands of the Huertista
regime and knew how to deliver it, later, avoiding the slightest abuse and the
slightest disorder, to the commissioners of the Revolution. He has, in a word,
the generous pride of the humble, of an insignificant citizen.
     Because of the anterior considerations it would be repugnant to attribute
to lowness of soul, or to a certain unmeasured ambition of the Mexican type,
Mr. Iturbide's comings and goings to the United States, his campaign in the
Yankee press, his conversations with "officials and interested parties" about
the affairs of Mexico, his conversations with Bryan, his interviews with the
press, "visibly sincere" and using "very good English," etc. No. It would be
stupid to explain it this way. The explanation is easier, more consoling, more
human. Mr. Iturbide very well knows this principle of which we now speak and
puts it into practice. It consists even of the evidence that Villa and Carranza
fought indefinitely among themselves, or against future factions, and that they
sought to prepare themselves for whether the benediction of Yankee recognition
might not fall on them. He suspects, furthermore, that neither the one nor the
other will be ultimately recognized, and hastens, out of love of his nation, to
organize a party within the very limits of the city of Washington, and to
shorten the road beginning where others cannot end; to him it seems easier,
less dangerous and more secure to be president of our country in Washington,
than to attempt it in Mexico.
     We have here confirmation of the principle that our internal politics
depend on the foreign policy of the United States, confirmation drawn from the
words and the acts of a Mexican who is considered invested with sufficient
respectability and prestige, and blessed with talent and the indispensable
contacts to claim the first Mexican judgeship.
     We now seek merely ratification from a Yankee source.
     The most serious of the New York newspapers, The Evening Post,
wrote in its issue for 7 August of 1915, describing the labors of the meeting
of Latin American representatives, convened by the Yankee Secretary of State to
deal with matters of Mexico:

     It seems that none of the Latin American diplomats was opposed to this
     part of the plan (to recognize Manuel Vásquez Tagle, ex-minister of
     Justice in Madero's cabinet, for the role of president of Mexico) even
     though some of the ambassadors suggest that a representative of the
     scientific group would be indicated for the post. These persons,
     nevertheless, were informed, according to sources, that President Wilson
     is opposed to the return to power of those scientific or conservative
     interests who were identified with Porfirio Díaz.

     President Wilson "is opposed" to them returning to power. Is there
anything more final and definitive? "He is opposed to their return to power!"
     Our purpose in exhibiting in all its actual nakedness this political
subordination of Mexico with respect to the United States, is preliminary to
reducing the concept Yankee intervention to its proper dimensions.
Around those two words everything imaginable has been said, and not a little
has been done. Yankee intervention was one of many scarecrows (at its most
innocent perhaps) in the hands of Porfirio Díaz; Huerta exacerbated it, to
make it materially visible and thus provoke a breaching of the revolutionary
factions, even to the point of attracting the projectiles of Yankee armaments
against the juvenile chests of the Veracruz cadets; in the recriminations that
our political groups launch at one another never lacking is, "item: the nation
is being exposed to the dangers of a foreign invasion."
     From the viewpoint of Mexican sentimentality, Yankee intervention in
Mexico can be this, that, or something else; from the viewpoint of the events
experienced, historically experienced over a century and experienced now
beneath our very gaze, intervention is, qualitatively, an absolute and
undeniable truth. The United States intervenes in a systematic, almost organic,
manner in Mexico's internal affairs. Henry Lane Wilson, the ambassador to our
country, took part in the case of hosting in his offices the conspiracy that
ended by taking the life of president Madero.
     But yes, qualitatively at least, given a real intervention, it occurs to
one to ask about possible and tolerable quantities of intervention.
Because it exists in various grades as when Woodrow Wilson refuses to recognize
Huerta, when he captures the port of Veracruz, when "he opposes the scientists'
return to power" or when, fulfilling the "public aspirations" of Mr. Eduardo
Iturbide and complying with "unofficial duties rendered him," he has him
disembark at a Mexican port due to his "designation as the man of the moment."
     Among all these quantities there is one that, by any view, we
cannot turn to our advantage, because it remains out of our reach: the United 
States are the owners of Mexico's destiny by always being the major material
and authoritative power enjoyed by the party which they help. That this is, for
obvious reasons, a very large portion of our destiny no one will deny: whoever
has Yankee support in Mexico has almost everything; whoever does not have it,
has almost nothing; and no one will deny either that this is irremediable, for
now at least.
     Yet such is the warp and woof of Mexican affairs in our day that the
possibility is not remote that, carried by the interventionist political
current itself, the United States may be seen acting to sink its track deeper
and, in one form or another, actually disembarking their intervention
upon our territory. For that eventuality we prepare our conduct. We strip away
sentimental points and evaluate things from the viewpoint of Mexico's interest,
which is another form of patriotism, less colorful and oratorical, but more in
keeping with out resources and the truth. Before the calm and natural habit
with which the Yankee press speaks of Wilson's "opposition" to this or that
political group returning to power in Mexico, before the spectacle of Mr.
Eduardo Iturbide, who declares in public, and with "visible frankness," his
knowledge that the same functionary "favors him," selecting him to govern us,
no Mexican yet takes the right to consider the national honor injured because
the possibilities of intervention are discussed. To do so would be pointless,
almost imbecilic, and would only lead us to the unseemliness of the Huertista
capital, where the statue of George Washington was dragged through the streets
to the cry of "Donkey, Wilson; donkey, Wilson!" while the Yankees swatted flies
in Veracruz.

     [The events I refer to are subsequent to the capture of Veracruz by
     the Yankee forces. Regarding this last deed, we lament that President
     Wilson, possibly with good intentions (perhaps confirmed by more recent
     acts) has launched into an equivocal adventure, bloody and useless, that
     includes, no matter how you consider it, a humiliation for Mexico; we
     lament that Victoriano Huerta, once the conflict had been provoked, could
     not find, in the midst of all his vices, a bit of ancient decorum causing
     him to resist truly; we lament that Venustiano Carranza, always
     irreproachable in his relations with the United States, always tenacious
     --sometimes obstinate--could not continue in the dignified attitude of
     energetic protest that he displayed frankly in his ultimatum note to
     President Wilson.
          The conduct of those three men, in whose hands the future of Mexico
     then lay, reduced the international conflict to a military incident,
     without glory for the victors nor honor for the defeated, in which some
     Mexicans heroically sacrificed and some Yankees, uselessly.]

Less hatred, less passion, more sensitivity. If the intervention, in any shape
or form, would ever help us to relieve our ills, and then would leave us free,
welcome to it and we would be criminal to reject it. But evidence for this is
what does not exist. Indubitably, knowing how to seize the propitious moment,
any of the now enemy factions could make peace in Mexico if the government in
the White House would help them. Yet that peace would be a deceptive and
inorganic equilibrium, good only for inflating the figures in our statistics,
like that of the Díaz regime, and to calm the anxieties of cotton people
in Torreón and the oilmen of Tampico; and we are not dealing with that.
The supported group will energetically redouble its immorality and its
radiating corruption; the assistance for it will be another motive for
impunity. We cannot forget that, despite the generosities of Wilson and his
friends, nowhere is the doctrine of the iron fist for Mexico so popular as in
the United States; held, if by John Quincy Adams and Woodrow Wilson, also by
some Jackson and by Teddy Roosevelt. Peace at all costs does not benefit us, we
know experimentally; and the peace of intervention will be nothing more than
this peace at all costs - with the river of mud and blood dark beneath
our feet.
     Intervention is so serious for the true interests of Mexico, for the
interests of our fundamental morality--the only medium capable of setting us
afloat--that now there remain for us only two discernible roads: either the
solution emerges of itself from our fallen souls, or it emerges from a true war
with the United States - true at least regarding the state of the passions.

               On the Banks of the Hudson

Most of the pages contained in this volume were written in the city of New
York (United States of America) and published there between 1916 an 1918 by two
Mexican newspapers: Revista Universal and El Gráfico. That
explains the title of the piece.
Mexico City, 1920

                         MEXICAN POLITICS

SEEN from afar by a Mexican, and in the light of what occurs in other
countries, the public life of Mexico presents itself in entirely defined and
clear profiles. False that it could be so absurd a nation as some of its sons
tend to think, or as inexplicable and mysterious as foreigners often affirm.
Completely to the contrary: the politics of Mexico seems, from here, to unfold
on a plane which, while not very peculiar, is exempt of logic.
     We have there, and in this Mexico concurs with every nation of the world,
a group of men, some honorable and others cunning, who have the role of
intervening in the Republic's affairs. But, as opposed to the politics
elsewhere, the majority of Mexican politicians only conceive of one method of
exercising their office: the use of power. This, naturally, is not due in them
to wickedness or ambition--it would be unjust and stupid to so claim--but
instead to the narrowness of aptitudes that commonly characterize them. The
only ability, or the supreme ability, that almost all the governors that Mexico
has had since the war of Independence has been the ability to command. And
since politics is a profession (or a passion) that, like the other professions,
must be practiced daily all throughout life, it naturally follows that the men
of command who in Mexico profess politics attempt to arrive without delay into
the government and stay in that post perpetually. Mexican politicians are not,
save a few exceptions, writers, nor orators, nor journalists, nor managers, nor
teachers; they are simply citizens, persons of very little or no letters,
although at times with very good intentions, who have resolved to channel by
their hands the flow of the nation.
     The foregoing suffices to explain, ultimately, two aspects of Mexican
politics: the predilection of Mexico's public figures for a constant state of
war that does not imperil those in government and, a corollary of this, the
resistance of the party, or the group, or the vanquished commander, to laying
down arms in an absolute manner. With regard to the first, it is evident that
in peacetime they only participate in the public scene--when not developing
some interest--by molding opinion, that is, putting words into play, the pen,
ideas, an activity beyond most Mexican politicians, who rarely write or speak.
With regard to the second, no one will disagree that politicians of this type
believe, not without reason, that once defeated they will influence their
nation's government more by traversing the countryside at the head of two or
three dozen men than by returning to nowhere, to the mediocrity from which they
emerged. This is without taking something else into account: that the governing
politician, always exposed to falling from his position by virtue of arms,
annihilates the feared enemy who gives them up.
     Sedition, then, and uprising, and rebellion are not, in Mexico, necessary
signs of immorality (although they often are that) but the customary manner by
which almost all Mexican politicians of the opposition express their
disagreement. Why do they express it this way? Because that is the only medium
of expression that they know or of which they are capable. What can general
Zutano or general Mengano do to convince the rest that they are correct, except
to resort to arms and demonstrate, with the triumph of force, that reason is on
their side? Is it even in their universe to achieve the same through the force
of ideas?
     Face to face with the militant politicians, the great mass of Mexicans
live submerged in their affairs. There circulates among the nation's better
educated classes the theory that politics, Mexican politics at least, is only
suited to the adventurous or inferior spirits and to those ambitious for power
or quick enrichment. And such an attitude provides favorable circumstances for
the continuation of the regime of violence. For if those classes, from whose
breast could emerge politicians endowed, at least, with the indispensable
instrument for creating politics without resorting to the sword, that is to
say, politicians capable of utilizing the language and writing, abstain from
every civic impulse, there is no alternative for ending the reign of those who
understand through blows, nor any moral justification for those who lament that
this occurs.
     When from time to time some member of Mexico's cultured classes throws
themself into politics on their behalf, and not as a mere instrument of
ignorant generals, their greatest efforts to substitute reason for force are in
every respect useless; the military atmosphere is quick to demonstrate to them
that in the Republic words are not valued, but actions, and to oblige them to
recur to violent means or to disappear: such was the case with Madero.
     The same attitude of Mexico's cultured classes also explains why there the
social category is absent, present in all the semi-organized nations of the
Earth, whether they be democracies, oligarchies or monarchies, who have the
role of occupying themselves, with no immediate view toward power or toward
riches that power brings, with public affairs, with public education, with
public spirit and, put simply, with that concerning the national life of a
country. Far from it, in nothing do the Mexican intellectuals so pride
themselves as in their indifference towards political questions. Not to engage
in politics is equivalent, in their eyes, to practicing a virtue: as if the
exercise of intelligence in Mexico would bring the paired sacrifice of civic
dignity and the forgetting of the responsibility for being a father.
     At such moments there cannot in all the nation be detected a single
writer, a single orator, a single teacher who can measure up to the magnitude
of the national necessity.

                    MEXICO AND THE UNITED STATES

SOME actual events--small, apparently insignificant and chosen at random--make
manifest that the relations between Mexico and the United States (that which
is, or should be, the cornerstone of Mexican international politics) contain
for both nations' peoples a series of problems of immediate and evident
importance. We all know that the question is not new, just as the opinions are
not new that are formulated in this regard. And precisely because there is
nothing new in the one nor the other, we judge it useful to insist upon the
convenience that would result for Mexico as much as for the United States if
one were to proceed to review the matter, adding in turn to the fundamental
data of the problem the teachings which in this, as in so many other things, we
owe to the War.
     The geographic reality is this. On one side a large nation, rich, strong,
well organized, well governed, and motivated so incontestably towards expansion
that it could do no less than throw aside, in the last analysis, the barriers
that its traditional politics erected. On the other side a nation, neighbor of
the first, which if not small in its natural resources, is socially poor, weak,
badly organized, badly educated, badly governed, and susceptible and fearful.
Motives of proximity and life necessities cause the first of these two nations
to feel called to seek its tranquility whenever necessary in points concerning
the welfare of the second nation. For similar reasons, certain aspects of the
second nation's life depend, irremediably, on the first nation, or are, at
least, narrowly subordinate to the latter.
     Given this reality, it would be idle to suppose that one or the other of
these two nations could live oblivious of the other. Whether they engage or
abstain, the United States will always be, directly or indirectly, the greatest
foreign influence of those that weigh in Mexico's destiny. Whether the Mexicans
like it or not, Mexico will always count as an element of primary importance in
the american politics of the United States and as a non-negligible factor in
certain aspect of it Asian policies. To corroborate the first, we remember
simply how President Wilson's not having recognized the government of
Victoriano Huerta was, for Mexico, an event of greater transcendence than the
landing of the North American troops in Veracruz in 1914.
     Beside this unmovable reality of a physical character the following
spiritual disposition exists: the United States, for the very reason of its
strength and fortunate history, is capable of enormous generosity, knows and
feels generous and at times mistakes the measure of its generosity; Mexico, on
the other hand, as a natural and very human consequence, from its slackness and
painful history, has for possibilities the worst calamities, feels weak,
believes itself persecuted and errs in the measure of its fear of the ills that
approach it. The people of the United States, furthermore, which now awakens to
a sympathy and an incipient respect for the Spanish people and their past,
still persists, with few exceptions, in its attitude of aggressive ignorance of
the Hispano-american peoples, of the Mexican people in particular; and the
people of Mexico, offended and convinced that they are depreciated, withdraws
more and more, assisted in this by historical evidence, into an unbending ill
will towards the people of the United States. From this ill will, and from it
alone, is born the absurd Germanophilia seen currently in Mexico.
     The Mexicans insist upon not opening their eyes to the geographic
reality; they suppose, despite all the indicators they discover daily in their
struggle for bread, that the meaning of their existence requires them to
separate as much as possible from the United States; they think that their
mission is to grow as an antagonistic power, not as a parallel power in the
North American orbit, and that this their interest can be momentarily
identified with the interest of non-American powers. Mexico still ignores the
implications of it not being by choice but by a geographic fatality that it
gravitates towards the United States, and that, things being thus, no road
will be more advantageous to it than that they gravitate intelligently.
     The United States, for its part, neglects the spiritual question. They
think that, at the time, it will be enough to say to the Mexicans, "This is in
your interest," for Mexico to accept it. They are not aware that the first
step toward true reconciliation between the two peoples will only be taken the
day the United States convinces Mexico that it understands her pains, and
being near them sympathizes with them; that is to say, when there exists in 
the United States a popular feeling similar to the official feeling initiated
by President Wilson. And for that, before anything, the United States would
have to begin to revert to a politics which in a persuasive, systematic, slow,
and sure manner counteracts the aversion of the people of Mexico towards
those of North America and the traditional opinion the North American people
hold with respect to all things Mexican.


THERE DOES NOT EXIST today in Mexico--we affirmed in days past--a single
educator, a single teacher capable of dealing with the magnitude of the
national questions. We said so not to satisfy (as many assumed completely)
some morbid desire to shrink from the existing Mexican educators, but instead
to indicate the cruelest of the sorrows that afflicts our nation: the
indifference of its mentoring classes regarding the country's primary
problems, and when not indifference, the clueless falsity of the acts of those
same classes.
     Elsewhere we shall have occasion to expound on the ineptitude of such an
attitude and we shall see that it causes one to wholly forfeit the energies of
Mexico's thinkers concerning every generous goal, whether national or
individual. We shall see how by not channeling these energies (it is always
essential for a race or a people to trace its path) into the construction of
the nation, which is the task's beginning point, Mexican intellectuals fail in
their labor as philosophers, as wise men, as literary, as artists, or at least
they are enormously weakened. In other words, we shall observe how out of
egoism they neither completely fulfill their role nor create a nation so that
their children can realize their own.
     Our objective is now further reduced. We recently received and read the
first volume of the Bulletin of the University of Mexico, and in its
pages we seem to have found confirmation of our judgment about the Mexican
teachers. And it is not that we belittle this or that technical detail in the
publication mentioned in matters of teaching; nor that the university reforms
of which the Bulletin speaks seem bad to us; nor that we underestimate
the efforts that the various faculties and the institutes exert to better
fulfill their charge. Upon all that we could not, from here, opine with
certainty. Nor do we wish to say that the Bulletin lacks impressive
demonstrations of Mexican academic knowledge and of the determination with
which the disciples follow the professors: in the Bulletin there are
dissertations and notes, now of professors, now of pupils, well deserving of
praise. We refer to the spirit that in general dominates the pages of the
organ of the University, to the tendencies, immoral from an education point of
view, which is practiced and taught in those pages.
     We would lament being unjust and, thus, we prefer not to press individual
charges. Is the rector of the University of Mexico responsible for what is
said in the Bulletin? Is the University Council? Are the body of
professors from the schools that comprise the University responsible? However
you would like, the readers of the Bulletin will attribute to the
University of Mexico--to the University as a body, as an institution--the
ideas contained in the pages of which we speak and the form in which the ideas
are expressed. Very well, what is said there truly signals, and nothing more
than the sample, a road opposed to that that educational work in Mexico should
     To carry to completion the education of the Mexican people, or better
said, of the Mexican nation, is a most difficult enterprise, and therefore
Mexico needs a great educator. For this task perhaps are required, apart
from the sacred talents of the teacher, which are like fire that the gods place
in a person so as to illumine the path of others, dimensions truly of the
apostle and the hero. Madero understood, fragmentarily, in a certain sense,
the type of mentor which Mexico lacks: in him existed the soul of the apostle
and the hero, but not the soul of the teacher; his word was the ardent word of
the preacher, and his greatness that of the man who proceeds to the sacrifice;
yet his evangelism, his light, turned out incomplete. He was, in a word, the
Baptist of the Mexican redemption, whose Christ perhaps already exists among
us, or perhaps such as still to be born.
     But if it is difficult to give the scope of Mexico's educational task, to
posit the problem of education here is not. The Mexicans are only afflicted by
timidity in their human qualities, particularly in those that are
indispensable for organizing and unfolding social democratic life: they lack
aptitude for valiantly seeing and analyzing themselves; they do not know how
to avoid the abuses of the men who arrive at power; they do not resolve to
confront the dissolution deriving from those abuses. And such a character
flaw, originating from fundamentally educational roots, is manifested among
them in various ways: in civil fear (individual and collective fear), in
attachment to the national fiction, and in the tendency towards deformation in
political judgment, sometimes adulatory, denigrating during others. All the
conscious Mexicans who avoid thinking about the national history and those who
abstain from intervening in public affairs are prisoners of civic fear,
whether they feign indifference, disgust or pessimism. Afflicted with the
national fiction are those Mexicans trained to glorify not real, although
semi-hidden, virtues that exist among the people of Mexico, but a certain form
of being, glittering and artificial, within which we like to contemplate
ourselves nationally although we know it is false. And finally, Mexicans
suffer from deformation in political judgment when they flatter, out of simple
adulatory urgency, the bad, stupid or naive governor, knowing that he is, and
who, inversely, attack and defame without compassion those upstanding and
well-intentioned governments respectful of the laws and the liberties--on
occasions when luck goes against us--with no other motive than to give vent to
the denigratory passion welcoming, fomenting and backing the villainies that
incubate in street malice. We have here, fully and basically, the problem with
Mexican education.
     The bosses have assassinated and stripped Mexico for a hundred years, and
the governors abused and corrupted according to your taste, thanks to civic
cowardice, to lies and to the surrounding adulation. What can you expect from
a normal man (habitually less than normal) who is told daily that he is the
savior of the slum, or of the city, or of the region, or of the country,
without at the end him too believing it and becoming the mere incarnation of, 
the crime against whom such a thing violates? To this man, who feels himself
the savior of the slum, of the city, of the region, or of the country, because
the others assure him and no one puts it in doubt, since they are not the
victims, he cannot be denied an absolute right over lives and consciences.
Rosas, remember, asked for the totality of Argentine public power. Nor
can it be required that a boss learn by himself to respect the rights of
others if no one ever dares to say to him: "Sir, this is my right." The
Mexican Republic said in mass, out of fear and adulation, less when they spoke
with no one hearing, that Porfirio Díaz was the savior of Mexico. This
was said by the ministers of Díaz, the senators and the deputies of his
regime, the states' governors, the professors in the schools, the teachers,
the poets, the orators, the businesspersons. And Díaz, by the fact that
he was not a great man, but very simply just a man, a man made a god and
glorified, who sacrificed everything he had to sacrifice to his false saving
mission: from the lives of his enemies to the dignity of his friends.
Alternately, when Madero emerged, apostle of civility and truth, they
mobilized against him the passion for lying and that of adulation, adulation
for the classes who had been the leaders until 1910 and who now emitted spite
and hatred.

Without these reflections being precisely new, what they imply has never been
crystallized, as a conscious factor, in the Mexican soul. No rule of national
conduct, nor of class, nor of a group, portends for Mexico an effort designed
to extirpate civic fear from the spirits, or the proclivity towards the
deforming lie in politics and towards adulation. Evident proof is the fact
that the same educators of Mexican youth not only do not teach them to defend
themselves from a terrible ill, but instead propagate it in public and by
     "It would be disrespectful and contrary to equanimity--we read in the
university organ--not to dedicate the first pages of this Bulletin to
the transcendental educative labor of the illustrious citizen who today is
found in the lead of national destinies."
     And after these lines, which would be acceptable if after them were
performed a measured and serious analysis, although supportive, of the
educative processes of Mexico's existing president, they turn to the above
adulatory functions with such as the following:

     However much we force ourselves to scrupulously scrutinize the pages of
     our history to find an example that coincides with that of this
     extraordinary man, our efforts will be in vain and our intentions
          Nor do we claim to say by this that in our gallery of virtuous and
     eminent citizens are not found figures glorious for their character and
     lofty gifts; we wish to say only...that we do not find in the pages of
     our history, neither ancient nor contemporary, a man who with the
     amazing strength of Mr. Carranza, having before his eyes the complete
     vision for his nation, and without ignoring the vital questions for
     immediate resolution, would put such determination and such care into
     solving the most fundamental of all the problems: that of the Mexican

     The foregoing concepts will be all that the wise ones of the University
of Mexico want in what comprises the president of the Republic. To us they
seem, above all, unworthy of adequate rigor for a university document,
destructive of the principle that should guide Mexican education and
disrespectful of its history.
     And it is not a declaration advanced here: our desire is not to defeat
the concept, just or unjust, that some persons may have of the president of
Mexico of which, to speak frankly, we could not care less. If Socrates, not to
ask for little, today occupied the Mexican presidential chair, we would not
change these observations. The gravity of the problem of Mexico does not
reside in the greatness of smallness of its presidents, but instead in the
smallness of the Mexicans (What good was Madero's great soul in the midst of
so much ruination? There are imbeciles today who accuse him of not having
killed or neutered the press).
     What interests us is the interpretation the University of Mexico gives
of its duty. Do the functionaries of that institution know that what is
essential in their work is to fortify the Mexican spirit, so full of abjection
and cowardice? If they know it, why do they celebrate, in their example, the
ill that they should cure? Worse yet if what they say about the president of
Mexico is sincere. The truly great men never needed them to speak of their
greatness. Do the functionaries of the University--historians, philologists,
humanists--know that most sacred to a people is its history? Do they know
that, in the popular soul, the greatest of all realities is inferior to the
least of traditions? If they know it, why do they dull the gloss of history
and expound it so that it becomes of sterile force, lowering it to this side
of the mediocrities of the present?
     And this, without recognizing that the cited paragraphs enclose an
absolute falsehood behind their ridiculous phraseology. Greater and more
heroic efforts were made to educate Mexico in the first years of the Spanish
domination, more illustrious at the end of the 18th century and more
effective after the triumph of the Reform, than everything attempted from 1870
to our own day. Or do the functionaries of the University also ignore that
Mexico has invented nothing, in teaching materials, comparable to the National
Preparatory School?

And that is not all. The Bulletin says in another place: "Today is when
the University, conscious of its transcendental mission in favor of the
national culture, begins--directed by luminous spirits--to cast into the
furrows the seed of an education that contains lofty tendencies, with the
related hope of effectively contributing to the supreme ideal of our
definitive exaltation."
     If the first was serious, this is deadly and laughable. Not content with
manipulating--a different matter from deepening and calibrating--the history
of Mexico, the functionaries of the University flatter themselves and have the
indecency of proclaiming themselves superior to those who preceded them.
Now that those gentlemen direct the University is when they find themselves
before "luminous spirits" and when the institution begins to cast the seed into
the furrow! Have the times and men changed so much? We see, nevertheless, no
"luminosity" that matches that of Justo Sierra, who was the first leader of
the new University of Mexico; nor do I understand why sir Ezequiel A.
Chávez and sir Valentín Gama and sir Antonio Caso and sir Alfonso
Pruneda should emit from themselves less light than the existing functionaries
of the University. If we do not fool ourselves, the best spiritual vigor that
motivated yesterday's University is the same which nurtures that of today.
Four years ago, the most famous professors of the University of Mexico were
sir Jesús Díaz de León, among the old, and sir Antonio Caso,
among the young. Today, the most famous professors in the University are sir
Antonio Caso, among the young, and sir Jesús Díaz de León,
among the old. Where, then, is the change in "luminosity"? Is it an allusion
to the rector? That would be unjust: if Mr. Macías is a distinguished
professor, then sir Valentín Gama is a distinguished professor and sir
Ezequiel A. Chßvez an extremely distinguished educator.

                    FRANCISCO I. MADERO

Heroes, even if they emerge from the reality that is lived in fantasy, are
always offspring of the soul of the people. Properly speaking, there have
never been false heroes: those who are termed heroes are always heroes,
independently of their actual capacity or of their acts or their ideas.
Therefore heroes cannot be disputed, or are disputed solely within their
heroism. Perhaps it is said: What is the essential virtue of the hero? How are
they known? Who discovers them? To these questions only the instinct of the
people can respond and, naturally, not with a precise valuation nor an
analysis, but instead in a synthetic and imperative manner: by their fame.
Fame is the unmistakable heroic attribute.
     Francisco I. Madero is a hero. The people of Mexico made him a hero from
the first moment. Not aware of this essence in him, he has often been
discussed as a mere mortal, and that nothing until now should have separated
Madero the hero from Madero the man, except that, confounding the one with the
other, there persists with him the mistake of enlarging or destroying the
first with the qualities or the human defects of the second. In Madero, the
immortal and intangible hero, the people of Mexico have wished to
symbolize--really to incarnate, making them particularly human and
active--many vague desires, many hopes against their sorrows. Madero is for
Mexico the promise held when Mexico fails in its path to tranquility and its
destiny; the man who would have saved us; the hero who saves us in our
imagination; the recipient of the transcendental generosity and the
superhuman power needed by a people already without hope.
     All that Madero is, and one must begin there when they deal with him,
accepting the original datum as an axiom is accepted. That does not mean that
Madero lacks in modestly human and transitory meaning: his meaning in the
political history of Mexico. This 20th of November is the sixth anniversary of
the revolution he initiated. In the development of this social movement Madero
was, and continues to be, the most important value. To explain the noblest
part of the Revolution there may be no better road, nor shorter road, than
that of reducing the Revolution to the essence and the attributes of Madero's
character. Madero signifies, within our public life, a spiritual reaction,
noble and generous, against the Porfirian brutality; a reaction of absolute
liberalism, the liberalism that is based on culture, against the inherent
tyranny of the uneducated masses, sometimes an oligarchic tyranny, or else
demagogic. The outspoken revolutionaries of 1911 and 1912, like the
reactionaries of 1913, always saw in Madero an incapable being (simply because
he did not resort to excesses nor to violence) and this explains how some of
the former came to unite with the latter in the hour of crime. This explains

too Madero's fiasco in the transitional work of ruling his people, unwashed
and excessive. The true revolution begun by Madero, a revolution essentially
of the spirit, was a work not understood by the ruling Mexicans, although felt
by the popular masses. Still today, after six years of blood, of anger, of
cultural incapacity, and to the degree that the veneration of Madero grows and
becomes more irresistible, his work in its deep meaning is understood less.
     Madero, for his valor, for his goodness, for his gentleness, for his
confidence in just and humane procedures; in a word, for his unquenchable
morality, is the highest personification of Mexico's revolutionary yearnings.
The people of Mexico sensed in him the generous and moral presence, prepared
for sacrifice and an enemy of crime, which Mexico has long awaited.

                   Mexico and the United States


IF IT IS true that the relations between Mexico and the United States are--or
should be--the cornerstone of Mexican international politics, they do not
carry lesser importance for those among us who shape our spirits and public
     Starting from this basis, nothing would be more natural or more
satisfactory than to see our Secretary of Relations devoted to advancing,
constantly, decorously and intelligently, the coming together of our two
nations, and our teachers, our publicists, our men of State, collaborating
thanks to a similar sentiment.
     The facts, however, announce something else, perhaps because nothing
presents greater difficulties of conception and realization, in the matter of
national doctrines, than an illustrative and useful attitude concerning this
point. Does one discern, perhaps, in our official acts regarding the great
republic of the North, any coordinating proposition which is not the mere
effort of avoiding the obstacles without compromising the nation nor injuring
the sensibilities of the people? Regarding our public figures, our writers
(the great majority of them), our teachers, they either maintain a timid
reserve, or else plumb the depths of irrational impulses to extract from them
gestures so absurd as that of "with 50,000 men I will reach Washington."
     Recently, some organs of the Mexican press, suffused with the enormous
interest that skillful profiting from our vicinity to the United States
entails, have initiated to this end a more or less coherent campaign. We do not
want to suggest anything about the immediate fruit of such efforts, except for
the observation that these, more often than not, have been poorly understood by
the great public and even more poorly exploited by other newspapers in their
desire to delve into features of a commercial character.
     Our program, of nationalist reconstruction, includes the vehement desire
to project light, of Mexican design, upon the absolute value of the United
States and its civilization, and on the only road that Mexico can travel to
transform the accident of geography which put the two nations side by side
into a beneficial material and spiritual concourse. In the commentaries
regarding this point we freely express our ideas, fixed solely on the good of
Mexico, as we ourselves understand it, and with the hope that it comprises,
for we believe it necessary, and even historically advisable--firstly for
reasons of a political, economic and spiritual order--an intelligence between
Mexico and the United States, learned and generous on behalf of both.

8th of May of 1919


     It is not individual condition--the apparently congenital incivility
among the Mexicans--that in Mexico explains the everyday violation of the law.
No. To contravene the legal mandate has come among us to be a custom, but so
unique a custom, from the strength of learning in practice that on the side of
evasion of sanctioned rules is where the least problems are and the most secure
conditions for life.
     Whoever has visited among the Mexican emigrants who populate the south of
the United States--emigrants there who often even form totally Mexican towns
and cities--perhaps has been amazed at how the law operates in those places.
The sole action of a diverse environment, the knowledge that human justice
will ultimately be imposed, seems to return to our compatriots another social
mode of being, a mode free of our vices.
     Unfortunately, that influence of a healthy atmosphere, propitious to the
life of the civil institutions, until now only a few sons of our soil have
felt, those who have transferred to the neighboring country out of hunger or
the chances of politics; and thus, nothing permanent or appreciable has
redounded to them. Even further, in the great majority of the cases they say
that our returned Mexicans, by virtue of their stay in the United States, as
one way of taking the more civilized and equitable life, upon their return
among us they resume their old habits of not adhering to the law - similar to
what happened with some black missionaries: that when they went to preach in
the Congo, land of their antecedents, they re-assimilated the atmosphere.
     When one thinks of the small groups of our contemporaries who, seduced by
the excellence of North American industry and instruction, go to the United
States, and a few years, later return to Mexico masters of their art or
profession, some bitter reflections occur. Here these students, these workers,
do not forget their science or their art, because nothing will take the
acquired knowledge from them; on the contrary, they sow the seed they bring
with them on our soil. Yet, at the same time that is happening, the minute
those same students, the same workers, re-cross the frontier, they forget, as
in an enchantment, the most valuable acquisition they made there: the habit of
obedience to the law, the faith in human institutions.
     There struggles in Mexico, against every moralizing intention for
relations among men, the general tendency to bend those relations mercilessly
toward self-interest, and thus here it becomes more useful to deviate than to
be upright. In the U.S. the dominant tendency struggles against every intention
destructive of social equity to retain unharmed the principal wisdom upon
which the life of a happy and cultured collectivity should be founded. Here we
have the difference.
     Long ago serious admiration was awakened in the Mexicans for the material
grandeur of the United States and, likewise, we begin here to correct the
false notions that we had of their science, their literature and their
art. But, have we not yet noticed that the fundamental basis for such material
and spiritual grandeur devolves, principally, from a collective organization
inspired--for themselves, now not for others--in the distinction between the
just and the unjust?
     The manifestations of individual initiative are great wherever the right
of self-conquest is assured and there are not hopes of achieving welfare
thanks to a foreign effort. Yet there is nothing so common among us as the
type of the mover or shaker who from night to morning arrives at comfort or
more impressive opulence. Would this type be possible with impunity in the
North American republic?

9th of May of 1919


The "question of Mexico" still continues in the United States, submitted to the
internal rhythm of the contested elections of that nation. Just as four years
ago, when the progressive-Republican coalition felt insufficiently strong to
counteract Wilson's prestige, today's Republicans furiously revive the problem
of Mexico and make it an issue in the next election of the president. In that
sense, these days Mexico plays, for the party politics of the United States,
an analogous role--although of lesser importance--to the Points for Peace and
the League of Nations. It is undeniable that the same party interest
(unpopular up to a point) which tries to invalidate the Democrats for power,
criticizing the international promises already signed by Wilson, is the hidden
hand behind the attacks on Mexico and behind the clamor for a more energetic
Mexican politics. The Republican senators combat the League of Nations and
certain chapters of the Peace Treaty because both items contribute to
defeating Wilson, and for the same motives request, with respect to ourselves,
a non-Wilsonian politics: the politics of Theodore Roosevelt and that of
McKinley, not the politics of watchful waiting.
     We have here one of the aspects of our permanent conflict with the United
States: for them we are a party interest; and as such we are condemned--while
Mexico's circumstances remain unchanged--to play that role every time that the
Republican Party and the Democratic Party face off. Have we not noticed this?
Are the Mexican conscious of the danger that this contains? Perhaps not; at
least, we know of no Mexican effort to date systematically dedicated to
convince the people of the United States that we should be beyond their
partisan struggles; on the contrary we do know of some Mexicans (Mr. Bulnes
and Mr. Calero, for example) allied with the  our Republican against the
Democrats and against this nation.
     There is, furthermore, another aspect, tightly linked with the internal
and provoked by our international politics of the last three years, strong and
healthy at bottom, but not very wise, very able in form. We refer to the
crisis of certain foreign interests invested in Mexico. With regard to them,
the application of constitutional Article 27--contradicted or supported by the
varying interpretations of our functionaries and our politicians--has meant,
due to a lack of strong and learned diplomatic action, two years after the
letter of that article has become law, that foreign capitalists still do not
know how to restrain themselves. Perhaps the government and the people of
Mexico might have known how to assume an unequivocal attitude concerning the
petroleum politics of the Republic, given that it is inspired by indisputably
national propositions. The lawyers are--take note--Mexicans who outside of
Mexico sponsor the pretensions of the companies interested in Mexican oil.
     Regarding this sharp attitude of anti-Mexicanism operating in the United
States, our cause is still not lost. There remains, for one thing, the
personal influence of Wilson, necessarily resolved to carry forward his
original Mexican policies, more just and more defensible following the peace
accords. And there remains available, above all, an always altruistic and
well-inclined source in the people of the United States; a source very
different from that which we suppose. If the labor against us, paid for by the
politicians and the speculators, does not convince the North American people
of our sinfulness, Wilson will have support and will free us of the Republican
threat. If that labor succeeds...Ah!
     It is not an easy thing to improvise diplomatically nor to become an
adviser for situations like this. Also, very clearly, Mexico is immediately
offered a road it should follow: to fight in the U.S. using the same arms that
our enemies and detractors use. If the politicians and the bankers pledge to
destroy Wilson's Mexican politics by means of scandalous and constant
propaganda, the government of Mexico should counterattack with propaganda as
clamorous, as loud and as persistent as that. And for this special, capable
office should be established in the great cities of the United States.

23rd of July of 1919


We have said above that our nation should confront the interventionist
propaganda of certain North American politicians and speculators with a
contrarian propaganda as tenacious as their own. Mr. Fletcher's declaration
before the United States Congress, a thesis favorable to Mexico for multiple
reasons, is a most important symptom of the manner in which sound and
disinterested opinion in that country understands our problems and our actual
circumstances. And common sense counsels, before a deed as reassuring as this,
not to leave the defense of our cause in other hands at the same time that
attacks multiply and threaten to gain territory.
     Against such sound opinion, naturally, the efforts now harden of those
who wish for "the Mexican question" the aggressivity of a McKinley or a
Theodore Roosevelt. Our North American enemies know that in their country (as
the inverse of what happens here) public opinion rules, that public opinion
exists side by side with the law and tradition there and, to that extent, all
their efforts are concentrated on imbuing their ideas onto those who have
access to the ballot box. Why should we not do the same? If Wilson, as the
supreme executive of the North American nation, and with him the federal
chambers, are seen, in their action, pulled by two opposing wills, one
favorable to Mexico, the other unfavorable, why should we not proceed to
strengthen the friendly will and debilitate the enemy's? Diplomatic gestures
do not suffice in cases like the present: it now deals not with convincing the
United States government of the facts of our situation and of our good
intentions, but instead of taking the convincing to the North American people
themselves. The task of the Mexican ambassador is only one part of what should
be tried before conflict.
     No one now ignores that the insulting punitive expedition of 1916 was a
violent compromise between the "patient" politics of Wilson and the popular
impatience born with the invasion of Columbus. If public opinion had not then
manifested itself with such great rancor, Wilson, despite what happened with
Columbus, would have reverted to another procedure. Opinion, then, rolled over
     Well then, are we not now in the presence of an analogous crisis? The
1916 crisis, it is true, was explosive and rapid; it did not even allow time
to think. But the crisis of today has an entirely different character; it
deals with a slow and conscious process. Such that if during the invasion of
Columbus we had no more resources to weather the storm, now we can avoid it,
we can divert it or at least, reduce it.
     A special office should be established soon in the United States,
dedicated to defend Mexico from the interventionist propaganda.

26th of July of 1919


If a philosopher of history should try to find the basic substance of Mexican
political development, she would perhaps find, as final data of her research,
that much of Mexican history is explained by the unequal struggle between the
fatalism of an overwhelming majority and the violent optimism of an always
meager minority. The great mass of the country, deaf and indifferent, only
perceives the national pulse in the great moments of minority triumphs, which
then transform them into enthusiastic spectators. But between triumph and
triumph this enormous mass remains apart, shielded behind the essence of their
attitude: "what must happen will happen." There is no other ultimate reason
for the most characteristic phenomenon of our public life; the armed uprising.
Would the insurrections in Mexico be possible if, once and for all, the
Mexican nation would resolve to rule--rule itself, not just some--within its
     And that fatalism, which explains the most, also explains the least. To
it should be attributed our inactivity these days before the interventionist
North American propaganda. While on the other side of the Bravo millions of
dollars are spent to change our lives, we here remain impassive, waiting to
become "that which must be." As if dealing with another country--not our
own--we hear without blinking the threats that come to us from over the
border; we continue undaunted in our everyday existence and read our
newspapers with the tedium of habit, which make the interventionist rumors a
motive for scandal, a source of a news feature, not an object for grave
meditation and active resolution.
     While the Mexican Chambers answer their congratulatory telegrams, the
ambassador of the United States, the great friend of Mexico, yesterday advised
our deputies and senators to help resolve the conflict. The advice, a
diplomatic effort, comes carefully packed in words revelatory of pure egoistic
interest: Mr. Fletcher asks our legislators to "help protect the lives of the
North American residents in this country." However, if we are to understand
him well, the advice--directed to the most influential federal power in the
life of a republic--exceed the strict meaning of the words: it is entirely an
invitation for the deputies and senators of Mexico to play their role in these
moments of danger. The North American ambassador, undoubtedly aware of our
character and our customs, and devoted, at the same time, to the proposals of
the United States with respect to Mexico, knows that our heredity fatalism
will let things follow their own course, without attacking or diverting them,
and shows us, with subtle discretion, the necessity for all Mexicans to
intervene, to intervene in this matter of the people of Mexico, the people
represented by their legislative bodies. Will we hear the advice? Will our
deputies and senators understand the advice?

28th of July of 1919

                         Our petroleum


RECENTLY we published in this same section some North American reflections
concerning our extremely difficult problem of oil, some favorable and others
unfavorable towards what the existing government of Mexico propounds.
Regarding those viewpoints, our readers will have been able to detect that the
central arguments in such a delicate question are not hidden from those who
defend nor from those who attack, from the United States, the interests of the
Mexican people, and where on certain occasions--disgracefully always contrary
to Mexico--there can easily be heard within some thesis the voice of the
Mexican legal staff now placed, in the United States, at the service of
foreign companies.
     In order to support or combat our new legislation, Yankee politicians and
publicists submit the following points for judgment: the right of the
government of Mexico to utilize the natural resources of the country in the
manner that best suits it; the validity of the Constitution of 1917; the
congruence or incompatibility between constitutional Article 27, which
declares the petroleum deposits the property of the nation, and Article 14 of
the same code, which establishes the principle of no retroactivity for laws;
and finally, the right of foreign governments to have their diplomatic
interference be heard.
     The interpretation that in the United States is given to each one of
these points is of great interest to us. It matters to us, for one thing,
whether rights in Mexico can find support in the soul of that nation; for
another, by the circumstance of simply being the North American people, for
commercial, industrial and political motives, those which, after the Mexicans,
most closely concerns the problem of our oil. We should, then, think, and put
one after the other the arguments of those who sustain us and those who impugn
     The friends of Mexico affirm that a constitutional convention is
sovereign in the absolute and charged, to that extent, with disposing of
public and private properties at its discretion, even when to do so requires
resorting to confiscation. They affirm, likewise, the validity of the 1917
Constitution, as much for it having taken origin at a constitutional
convention, as by the value it derives by being applied in fact and in having
been recognized, in practice, by foreign nations. They also affirm that one
cannot argue incompatibility between Articles 27 and 14, both with
constitutional force, without saying that 27 was a dubious interpretation and
requiring, consequently, for its clarification, the help of another text from
the same supreme law. They affirm, finally, that to suppose the existence of an
international law superior to the fundamental laws of Mexico, with regard to
private property, would be the same as accepting that the foreigners, in their
conflicts, should resort, to determine their rights and their titles, to
international laws and not be under Mexican laws, which is absurd.
     At the same time, the critics of the nationalization of Mexican oil
reason as follows: first, the right of the government of Mexico to use the
natural riches of the country in the way which suits it is debatable in this
instance, because the Constitution of 1917 lacks validity. Second, the 1917
Constitution if illegal because, being a mere reform of the Constitution of
1857, it should have been conceived according to the procedure prescribed for
the latter and not by a constitutional convention. Third, considering the 1917
Constitution as legitimate, its Article 27, with regard to rights obtained
before the promulgation of this new Magna Carta, is retroactive and
consequently incompatible with Article 14 of the same law. Fourth, the right
of the United States to make use of diplomatic intervention is unquestionable,
for on February 20th of 1917 the North American ambassador received, on behalf
of the government of Mexico, ample assurances that the legislation growing out
of Article 27 of the new Constitution would not prejudice rights already
     Following this thesis and this antithesis one would have to unfold a
discussion of the rights of Mexico to legislate about oil in the form required
by the constitutional text; following those points one would have to develop
the international aspect of our petroleum question.
     The same problem, seen from within the interior of Mexico, has different
faces and to those we shall refer in another article.

19th of May of 1919


A few days ago we spoke of the viewpoint adopted by persons who, inside and
outside of Mexico, discuss the problem of our petroleum, in its international
aspect, and we would say that this discussion will continue, revolving around
the four following points: the right of Mexico's government to use the
country's natural resources however it likes; the validity of the 1917
Constitution; congruency between the constitutional Article 27, which declares
the petroleum deposits goods of the nation, and Article 14 of the same code,
which establishes the principle of non-retroactivity of the laws; and finally,
the right of foreign powers to have their diplomatic interference be heard.
     The same problem presents a different aspect, seen from our own
territory. When one stops attending particularly to the international
conflicts that the new legislation can provoke, and thinks only of the
necessity for this legislation as a measure protective of Mexico's public
wealth, the favorable or adverse arguments of the created petroleum
interests lose their primary importance, and only the ineluctable duty for the
nation to carry out an already well conceived and well resolved politics
remains afoot. Because if indeed it is true that none, among the promises
contracted by the Revolution, and consecrated by the Magna Carta of
Querétaro, is of more gravity nor more dangerous than the nationalization
of oil, it is also true that Mexican public opinion considers that
revolutionary measure an already untouchable conquest, due, more than
anything, to the close relationship that exists between it and many
necessities of our internal economy.
     And to see it thus, public opinion is not deceived. The nationalization
of oil in Mexico is not, as some suppose, a simple fiscal venture or a mere
endeavor of Bolshevism, but instead an organic reform upon which profound
transformations in the nation's economic capacity depend. The avalanche of
commentaries, protests, disputes, and fears born of it are justly due to its
immanent character, to the great mass of truth that is found in it as soon as
it is compared with existing conditions. The eyes of the entire world are now
placed on us, not so much for the great foreign wealth whose luck will end
here, but that at the same time, this deals with defining rights fundamental
to the affairs of a people.
     Certainly, Mexican politicians and publicists are not lacking for whom
the problem of petroleum begins the moment when Article 27 of the Constitution
was written; in other words, people who see in all this no more than a
stupidly unleashed international tempest, which now has to be pacified. And
those who think this way, also think that the most intelligent, most adequate
means, most simply resolving the problem, reduces to deleting or modifying
Article 27 at all costs, returning if necessary to the previous Constitution.
This way of seeing things, of course, is the one most distant from the heart
of the matter in what it promises to the Mexican nation.
     For the nations interested in our country's oil, there is no higher
petroleum problem than that of their interests. Yet for ourselves, to injure
the private interests minimally, whether these be nationals, or foreigners, is
only a part of the considerations that should be taken into account to carry
out the politics of oil. What is essential in the matter for Mexico is the
necessity to nationalize and have in hand something which is enormous public
wealth; the incidental, the transitory is that a part of this wealth belongs
to foreign capitalists and that this gives cause for complications with the
     Such should be, in our judgment, the point of view that should guide the
Mexican interpretation of the oil question, and this same viewpoint yields the
responsibility of the government. Our statists, our legislators are obliged
to overcome the conflict complying with the revolutionary promise of
nationalizing the oil fields, but at the same time avoiding the international
obstacles that threaten to be interposed. The government cannot declare itself
incapable of avoiding international conflict and then renounce their
revolutionary petroleum politics, nor can it insist on this at the cost of
grave external dangers. Its duty, its commitment, is to find the just medium,
the intelligent road.

22nd of May of 1919

Mexico's complaint
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  Mexican politics
  Mexico and the United States
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  Francisco I. Madero

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