Mexico and its reconstruction/Preface



The developments in Mexico during the period that has come to be known as "the old régime" were of peculiar interest to the more advanced nations of Europe and America. It seemed as if here was a republic that was proving that self-government and the guarantee of public order were not incompatible with a geographical position in the sub-tropics and a population predominantly of Indian blood.

What has happened since the fall of Diaz would have been more closely followed by the western world had not the World War absorbed its energy and attention. Mexico became for the moment a factor that was considered less for itself and more in its possible relation to the general conflict. With the end of the war events in Mexico assume greater importance. The revolution has proved that the government was not yet on a foundation so firm as was supposed. The task of the reformers is to find means to make it firm. The brilliant economic show of the Diaz regime must be supplemented by a transformation in social and political conditions. Efforts to bring the new day will be closely watched by those who have capital invested in Mexico itself, by those with economic interests in other undeveloped regions, by students of international affairs, especially in Europe and America, and by students of government the world around.

At the beginning of the century the less informed had come to look upon the problems that might arise in Mexico as similar to those which might arise in the United States, in Great Britain, or in France. Many of those who knew Mexico best held the same belief—the economic foundation of the country was secure, only time was needed for the elimination of the backward conditions still characteristic of the national life. Such a judgment was mistaken and unfair to Mexico. The republic was not yet to be measured by the standards of Western Europe.

Nor is it fair to expect that the internal problems that confront the governments that follow the revolution can be solved in a period of a few years no matter how favorable the auspices under which the reforms are undertaken. It is too easy to be encouraged by a temporary or local improvement in conditions. There will be many surprising advances and disappointing backslidings before Mexico is surely on the road to becoming a modern state.

It is because he overlooks these facts that the judgment of the average man in Europe and the United States upon conditions in Mexico and the policy that should be adopted toward the republic is of such little weight. He measures Mexico by the standards to which he himself is accustomed, and what information he possesses is usually derived from the accounts of current events in periodical publications. As a matter of fact, what happens to-day or to-morrow in Mexico, whether this leader or that is in control, defeated, exiled, or killed, is probably of little importance. Such items are worthy of study only as they indicate a general tendency of development in domestic affairs or possible complications with foreign powers. Unfortunately it must be admitted that current events for the past decade in Mexico have too often been so confused that no constructive development could be discerned.

To understand Mexico and the Mexican problem it is necessary to study more than current political happenings and trade exchange. It is necessary to know, among other elements, the racial endowment of the people, the character of the governments under which they have lived, the obligations the government has assumed toward other nations and their citizens, the social and economic organization of Mexican society, the character of internal and foreign commerce, the development of transportation facilities, the position of those of other than Mexican nationality who have made the republic their home, and the relations of Mexico with other states, particularly its neighbors.

No state in our day lives unto itself alone. It must be in touch with the outside world and especially with the nations upon which it borders. It is for this reason that the relations of the United States to Mexico have become so important and are sure in the future to be of even greater moment. What affects one cannot fail to affect the other. Already the more obvious of international relationships between the two are emphasized in an unusual degree. American investments in Mexico far exceed those of any other foreign country. The foreign trade of Mexico with the United States is more important for Mexico than that with all the rest of the world combined, a condition which the developments during the World War have accentuated. The foreign relations of the two countries have an intimate connection—neither can feel itself safe without the friendship of the other. Failure to realize their political unity of interest might endanger the foreign policy which the United States has for a century defended, to assure the free development of all the American republics.

No single volume can give a detailed picture of such complex elements as those cited in the preceding paragraphs. It may, however, help to indicate the various factors that must be taken into consideration by the individual and by the state of which he forms a part in arriving at a judgment of what may fairly be expected of a government working under such conditions as will confront Mexico during its trying period of reconstruction. It is hoped that this book may assist its readers in forming such a judgment and may stimulate them to further study of the problems which it outlines. How important an intelligent understanding of these problems is for both Mexico and the United States is realized by only a small portion of the peoples of the two republics.

The materials used in the preparation of this book have been largely the official publications of Mexico and of the United States. These have been supplemented by the studies made by students of the republic both Mexican and foreign. From neither of these sources alone nor by both together is a satisfactory picture of Mexican conditions derivable, and at many points the testimony of periodicals and of residents of the republic must be accepted as the best information available. This is true especially for recent years, but in a measure also in discussing the earlier periods, for the formal history of Mexico, economic, political and social, is to an unusual degree unwritten.

My thanks are due to the authorities of the University of California and to those of the Library of Congress at Washington for facilities placed at my disposal. I am indebted also to friends too numerous to mention for suggestions and criticism, to Dr. Norman Bridge, who has read the manuscript, and to Mr. Edward L. Doheny, whose establishment of the Doheny Foundation made available valuable source materials relating to Mexican-American relations.

Chester Lloyd Jones