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The Fourth of July…

4 July 2010

While today is election day, north of the border this is the 138th birthday of Calvin Coolidge. We remember Coolidge here for having sent not only the stupidest U.S. Ambassador we ever had, but also the best.

Ambassador to Mexico, Frank Sheffield

… tried his best to work in the tradition of Joel Poinsett and Henry Lane Wilson. Poinsett had masterminded Masonic plots; Wilson had sponsored a bloody coup d’etat; Sheffield organized football games.

Convinced “Soviet México” (as he called it, especially after México and the Soviet Union exchanged ambassadors in 1927) was doomed to Catholicism, Socialism and what was worse, actually demanding ownership of the oil revenues; a radical remedy was in order. To Sheffield, it was a question of education. Mexicans played European sports like fútbol – soccer – not American sports like football. Only people who played an American style game could produce people who supported American style (or rather, pro-American) governments. So, with great secrecy, the ambassador contacted universities throughout the United States. College students were recruited as secret agents—their mission (paid for by the United States government): infiltrate Mexican schools and recreation programs and teach the Mexicans the “American Way of Life” and the lateral pass.

More seriously, the ambassador listened to oilmen like William  Buckley, who were still pushing for United States military intervention to protect their investments. When the United States intervened in a Nicaraguan civil war in 1927 (to protect American investments in that country), Mexican soldiers were sent to assist the Nicaraguan government under the Juárez Doctrine, which called for mutual assistance when asked by a neighbor in need. The two armies spent most of their time avoiding each other while their governments issued inflammatory warnings. President Coolidge… said that México was on “probation” and could be attacked if it didn’t withdraw its troops; President Calles responded that he would order the oil fields torched if American soldiers entered the country. More practically, Calles suggested both countries leave Nicaragua, and that the matter be turned over to the International Court in The Hague. Meanwhile, the luckless Ambassador Sheffield, who had to publicly deny there was any plan to invade, unwisely left papers outlining his suggestions for intervention. The Mexican cleaning staff “expropriated” the ambassador’s papers.

President Coolidge had no choice but to cancel the invasion and the football program. Anyone was bound to be an improvement, but Coolidge surprised the Mexicans, and himself, when he chose Wall Street banker Dwight Morrow to replace the disgraced and discredited Sheffield. Morrow’s immediate task was to avoid a complete breakdown in relations. Oilmen and other American businessmen would listen to a professional business advisor. Unlike his predecessors, Morrow—who had made his fortune listening to the experts who disagreed with him and then advising wealthy investors on how to handle their money—did not arrive with preconceived notions of how México should react. …

Morrow’s advice was simple— in México, play México’s game by México’s rules…

(Gods, Gachupines and Gringos)

Although the spirit of Sheffield lives on, perhaps it’s only proper and fitting that the United States remembers Calvin Coolidge — not so much for sending the only U.S. Ambassador to Mexico to ever have a street named for him (calle Dwight Morrow, in colonia centro, Cuernavaca) — but for presiding over a United States of the 1920s, which so much resembles the Mexico of Felipe Calderón:  viewed internationally as a nation of violent crime, rampant gangsterism, political scandal and a growing gulf between the haves and have-nots.

So, north of the border, enjoy the day of excess and explosions … and let nothing come between you and your Calvins:

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ken Howard permalink
    4 July 2010 11:46 am

    Aqui en el Norte, EVERY day is a day of excess and explosions, Richard. 😉

  2. josie permalink
    4 July 2010 1:31 pm

    Voting today is SOUTH of the border, unless you live in Guatemala.

  3. 4 July 2010 2:09 pm

    You are an excellent editor, josie. I was confused by your post, until I realized the first sentence had a clause that created the meaning you read. Good catch.

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