Cárdenas Compromised

The Failure of Reform in Postrevolutionary Yucatán

Cárdenas Compromised

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 1 map Published: August 2001

Author: Ben Fallaw

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Mexico

Cárdenas Compromised is a political and institutional history of Mexico’s urban and rural labor in the Yucatán region during the regime of Lázaro Cárdenas from 1934 to 1940. Drawing on archival materials, both official and popular, Fallaw combines narrative, individual case studies, and focused political analysis to reexamine and dispel long-cherished beliefs about the Cardenista era.
For historical, geographical, and ethnic reasons, Yucatán was the center of large-scale land reform after the Mexican Revolution. A long-standing revolutionary tradition, combined with a harsh division between a powerful white minority and a poor, Maya-speaking majority, made the region the perfect site for Cárdenas to experiment by launching an ambitious top-down project to mobilize the rural poor along ethnic and class lines. The regime encouraged rural peasants to form collectives, hacienda workers to unionize, and urban laborers to strike. It also attempted to mobilize young people and women, to challenge Yucatán’s traditional, patriarchal social structure, to reach out to Mayan communities, and to democratize the political process. Although the project ultimately failed, political dialogue over Cárdenas’s efforts continues. Rejecting both revisionist (anti-Cárdenas) and neopopulist (pro-Cárdenas) interpretations, Fallaw overturns the notion that the state allowed no room for the agency of local actors. By focusing on historical connections across class, political, and regional lines, Fallaw transforms ideas on Cardenismo that have long been accepted not only in Yucatán but throughout Mexico.
This book will appeal to scholars of Mexican history and of Latin American state formation, as well as to sociologists and political scientists interested in modern Mexico.


“[A] fine-grained political analysis of Yucatán under Cardenismo. . . . Fallaw advances our understanding of this period on a number of significant fronts. We not only learn how and why the agrarian reform failed, but what an intractable problem Yucatán posed for Mexico City. . . . Fallaw has written a model monograph that exposes the limits of Cardenista reform and the difficulties that traditional political cultures pose for revolutionary regimes.” — Allen Wells, The Americas

"Cárdenas Compromised creates a rich . . . portrait of the Yucatecan political world. . . . Fallaw’s portrait of Yucatán’s politics, with all its official and unofficial exclusions of the majority population, rings so true. In a world where Mexico remains inadequately understood, Fallaw’s book is a welcome addition to the historical literature." — Marjorie Becker, Hispanic American Historical Review

"[A]n important historical study . . . that provides a solid scientific interpretation of a transcendental moment of Mexico’s modern history." — José Alejos García, Rural History

"A well-designed and convincing study. . . ." — Paul Gillingham, Journal of Latin American Studies

"Ben Fallaw’s Cárdenas Compromised offers one of the most thorough treatments of postrevolutionary Mexican politics currently available. . . . Fallaw also provides a much-needed contribution to ethnohistory. . . . Cárdenas Compromised satisfies on multiple levels. . . . Cárdenas Compromised provides an essential contribution to the growing literatures on revolutionary consolidation, agrarian reform, rural politics, and Yucatán itself, and together with a sheaf of recent articles by the same author marks the emergence of an important new voice in Mexican history." — Terry Rugeley, Ethnohistory

"Fallaw does an excellent job at tracking the various political alliances that ran through the Yucatan. . . . Fallaw's work raises important questions about the ability of the federal government to challenge regional elites and impose national revolutionary programs. . . . Enlightening." — Catherine Nolan-Ferrell, Latin American Research Review

"Fallaw’s research is both solid and useful. . . . The introduction and the concluding chapter are excellent in placing Fallaw’s work in the context of existing scholarship. Extensive, often annotated, notes are helpful and the bibliography . . . is a substantial. Historians, political scientists, and other scholars interested in the dynamics of the Cárdenas regime—as well as those more broadly concerned with Latin American political development—will be able to consult this substantive work with profit." — Joel S. Cleland, South Eastern Latin Americanist

"With its meticulous analysis of Cardenista politics at the national, state, and local level, Fallaw’s book will certainly be of interest to students of Mexican history and politics. But it will also be of value to everyone concerned with the politics and process of state formation. . . ." — Jennie Purnell, American Historical Review

"Deeply researched and powerfully argued. . . ." — Paul K. Eiss, Journal of Social History

“A deeply researched and convincingly argued regional study that illuminates the contradictions and ambiguities of Mexico’s most radical post-revolutionary regime.” — Mary Kay Vaughan, author of Cultural Politics in Revolution: Teachers, Peasants, and Schools in Mexico, 1934–1940

“Fallaw presents a great deal of new information on the history of the key state of Yucatán during the decisive years of the 1930s, when Mexico underwent profound political and social reform. Those working on Mexican revolutionary history will find this book invaluable. Broad-minded political scientists will find the analysis illuminating, as well.” — Alan Knight, author of The Mexican Revolution


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Price: $25.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ben Fallaw is Assistant Professor of History and Latin American Studies at Colby College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 Agrarian Cardenismo, THe Rise of the CGT, and the Fall of Governor Alayola, 1934-1935 15

2 Left-Cardenismo and the Lopez Cardenas Administrations, 1935- 1936 38

3 Cardenismo in Crisiss: Gualbertismo, the Falal of Lopez Cardenas, and the Rise of the Official Camarilla 59

4 The Crusade of the Mayab: Cardenismo from Above 80

5 Alliance Failed: Cardenas, Urban Labor, and the Open Door Election of 1937 97

6 The Retreat of Cardenas: The Great Ejido Plan and the New Political Equilibrium in Yucatan 125

7 Cardenas Compromised: Cardenismo's Legacy in Yucatan 158

Notes 169

List of Abbreviations 201

Bibliography 205
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2767-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2758-5
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