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His master’s voice

14 January 2015

Enrique Sada Sandoval, “La voz del amo: Peña Nieto en Washington“, Milenio (13 January 2015).  My translation:


In 1909, when Porfirio Diaz condescended to his famous interview with United States President William Howard Taft, the national and international context for Mexico as both promising and broadening. As the nation of the stars and stripes struggled to impose its hegemony on the New World, our country was consolidating as a sovereign and independent nation with a bright future after more than thirty years peace and progress due to non-intervention. Our northern neighbor was occupied with gobbling up the Kingdom of Hawaii and dismembering the Spanish Empire in the Philippines and the Caribbean, while Diaz pursued wise, but eclectic, foreign and domestic policies: nationalist (anti-US) but with close economic ties to Mother Europe (France, Germany, England and Spain)

CaptureProof of this not only came from the frustrated efforts by Ambassador Foster[1] to prevent his country at all costs from recognizing the “Hero of Peace and Progress” when he took power after the Revolution of Tuxtepec, but was also visible when the Mexican government refused to recognize Panama until 1905, following the mutilation of Colombia, when the United States created a new banana republic to serve their interests after building the famous canal. the United States as new banana republic to serve their interests. Much more so, in 1909, when the United States invaded Nicaragua with the express goal of capturing President Santos Zelaya, Diaz sent a Mexican warship to rescue the beleagured Zelaya from the Marines.

When Taft expressed interest in meeting the President of Mexico, Diaz was suspicious and replied: “Do you really want to see me … let’s do it, but on our own doorsteps,” thus giving rise to the famous bi-national meeting between the two heads of state in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez.

Unfortunately, Mexico is far from that position now as we saw after the visit of Enrique Peña Nieto to the White House. There would have been nothing wrong with the visit if it was a meeting between peers. But this was more an emergency conference between a worker and his boss. We know that the issue at hand had more to do with the lawlessness that permeates our country, the the independent approval[2] of structural reforms, but the flagrant violations of human rights (disappearances of students and imprisonment or murder of the AUC in Michoacán), than demgoging about capturing another capo or distributing more than 13 million television sets[3].

No doubt that Mexicans are far from the atmosphere that reigned in 1909, except for the announcement of the RCA Victor — very popular at that time — which boasted phonographs would play “his master’s voice” to loyal dogs… with one difference: now the voice of love comes not from National Palace and Chapultepec Castle, much less of Los Pinos, but the Great Elector in Washington.


[1] John W. Foster, appointed by Ulysses S. Grant was Ambassador to Mexico from 1870 to 1880. As Secretary of State during Benjamin Harrison’s administration, he oversaw the annexation of Hawaii. Foster opposed the coup that brought Díaz to the Presidency in 1876, following the overthrow of the pro-U.S. Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada, based on Diaz’ supposedly anti-American agenda. While U.S. interests captured more and more of the Mexican economy during Díaz’ 30-year regime, it sought to avoid economic dominance by the U.S. through balancing out foreign investments by European nations.

[2] By the United States?

[3] With a switch from analog to digital televisión underway, the government — or rather the PRI —scenes of politicians giving away free televisions have become a staple of the media.

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