Lázaro Cárdenas (lä´särō kär´dānäs), 1895–1970, president of Mexico (1934–40). He joined the revolutionary forces in 1913 and rose to become a general. He was governor (1928–32) of his native state, Michoacán, and held other political posts before he was, with the support of Plutarco E. Calles, elected president. After a bitter conflict Cárdenas sent (1936) Calles into exile and organized a vigorous campaign of socialization of industry and agriculture based on the constitution of 1917. Large landholdings were broken up and distributed to small farmers on the ejido system, and many foreign-owned properties, especially oil fields, were expropriated. Cárdenas, determined to make Mexico a modern democracy, became anathema to large landowners, industrialists, and foreign investors, but—himself a mestizo—became a hero to native peoples and the Mexican working classes. He relinquished his office at the end of his term, acting in accord with his desire for democratic and orderly constitutional processes. Cárdenas was recalled to public service as minister of national defense (1942–45). His political influence as the leader of the Mexican left continued in the years after World War II.
See biography by W. Townsend (2d ed. 1979); study by J. C. Ashby (1967).
His son Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano (kōō-outā´môk, sōlôr´sänō), 1934–, seen since the 1980s as his father's political heir, held posts within the ruling Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) before 1988, when he formed the leftist Democratic Revolutionary party (PRD) in opposition. He ran unsuccessfully for president in 1988 (when he lost as a result of vote fraud) and 1994, but in 1997 he became the first elected mayor of Mexico City. He resigned in 1999 to make a third attempt at winning the Mexican presidency, running on a leftist nationalist platform that opposed free trade. Cárdenas lost to Vicente Fox Quesada in the elections of July, 2000.