The Course of Mexican History

By Michael C. Meyer; William L. Sherman et al. | Go to book overview

40
From Revolution to
Evolution, 1940–46

THE ADMINISTRATION OF AVILA CAMACHO

To some, Mexico’s presidential election of 1940 marked the end of the Revolution; to others that same political exercise was simply the harbinger of a new approach to problem solving. Many contemporary political pundits predicted that Cárdenas would give his support to Francisco Múgica, an aging radical with impeccable revolutionary credentials. The conservatives, terrified at the prospect of further socialization of the country, rallied behind Juan Andreu Almazán. A wealthy Catholic landowner who even attracted fascist support to his camp, Almazán won the endorsement of the Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN), a conservative party later to be dominated by urban industrialists. But the official party candidate supported by Cárdenas turned out to be not Múgica but Secretary of War General Manuel Avila Camacho, an honest moderate and scarcely a social revolutionary.

The Mexican citizenry knew little about Avila Camacho prior to the 1940 presidential campaign; in fact, he was nicknamed “the Unknown Soldier.” Avila Camacho had joined the Revolution in 1914 and gradually worked his way up through the military ranks. His reputation in the army was one of a compromiser rather than a forceful leader. During the course of the campaign, when asked about his feelings toward the church, he answered with the words, Soy creyente (I am a believer). The candid response presaged things to come. It meant specifically, of course, that anticlericalism was not going to be a part of his administration, but more generally it meant that the orientation of the Revolution was about to undergo a fundamental change. No longer would the implementation of Articles 3, 27, and 123 be considered the touchstone of social progress. If the Mexican people were surprised that a candidate for the presidency dared to confess his faith so openly, the leaders of the PRM were not. The politicians who gave Avila Camacho the nomination knew that he was much more conservative than

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