Adolfo López Mateos: The Lull
before the Storm, 1958–64
Prior to the presidential elections of 1958, some Mexican political analysts predicted that Luis H. Alvarez, the candidate of the conservative, proclerical PAN, stood a good chance to make a strong showing against the PRI candidate. For the first time in Mexican history women were fully enfranchised, and the church urged them not to follow the lead of their husbands blindly but rather to consider carefully the qualifications of the conservative opposition. The political temper of the country proved difficult to measure, but in the end the Mexican people, both men and women, were not about to turn the PRI out of office for a candidate who enjoyed the support of the church. The PRI nominee, Adolfo López Mateos, the well-educated son of a small-town dentist, won the presidency with about 90 percent of the total vote. The women’s vote increased the total ballots cast but scarcely changed the official party’s margin of victory.
President López Mateos presented a stark contrast to his sixty-sevenyear-old predecessor. Only forty-seven at the time of his election, he was dynamic, energetic, and personally attractive. Having served as secretary of labor during the Ruiz Cortines administration, he had won a reputation as a liberal for his management of labor disputes; only a few of the thirteen thousand cases he handled degenerated into strikes. He enjoyed the backing of Lázaro Cárdenas and seemed to be just the right man at the right time. More intellectually oriented than presidents of recent vintage, he indicated during the campaign that he planned to nudge the Mexican Revolution back to the left. Hundreds of thousands of young Mexicans, disheartened with the slow progress in the social field since the Second World War, identified with López Mateos, much as the youth of the United States would, a few years