Railroad Radicals in Cold War Mexico: Gender, Class, and Memory

By Robert F. Alegre | Go to book overview

5
Railroaded:
The Cold War Idiom in Practice

Before Adolfo López Mateos could settle into his new role and transition from minister of labor to president, he faced a country rapidly dividing along class lines. Hundreds of thousands among the urban working class, confident they now had an ally, took to the streets to continue their struggle for increased wages, while less vocal but nonetheless influential segments of the middle class now joined business, government, and media elite in deriding the blue-collar masses. Anticommunist hysteria surged as students in major cities stood beside working-class men and women in support of disgruntled workers. As mobilizations grew more militant, popular opinion turned against working-class families, with detractors accusing labor leaders of hoodwinking members into backing leaders bent on overthrowing the government to advance a communist revolution.

As workers strategized to organize their latest mobilizations, they witnessed the triumph of a cross-class insurgency in Cuba. Led by Fidel Castro on New Year’s Day 1959, bearded guerrillas drove tanks into Havana, joining urban revolutionaries in ousting the U.S.-backed dictator, Fulgencio Batista. Grassroots activists throughout Latin America would soon echo the sentiment expressed in Lázaro Cárdenas’s wistful journal entry: “Cuba, with its revolution in the Sierra Maestra, headed by doctor F. Castro, offers hope.”1 Within months Cuban revolutionaries would enact some of the most comprehensive reforms in modern history, greatly raising industrial wages, lowering rents, and distributing unused land to campesinos. Just as the Cuban Revolution later

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