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When FDR stood up for Mexico: April 20-21, 1943

21 April 2020

It ‘s rare to see a photograph of Franklin Roosevelt standing unaided, but he did, recognizing the sense of occasion when he and Manuel Ávila Camacho met in Monterrey on April 20 to discuss Mexican contributions to the US war effort.

Although Mexico had been openly anti-fascist since 1934, and had declared war on the Axis in May 1942, it had only been 20 years since the “official” end of the Revolution, followed by a series of counter-revolutionary uprisings, the most recent being the Nazi financed rebellion of Saturnino Cedillo in 1938-39, while at the same time working mightily to demilitarize the country and decrease the amount of the woefully meager Federal budget that had to go the military spending.

Although Mexico would contribute an air wing (it was proud of having the first military air force in the Americas, and Escuadron 201 would become the public “face” of the Mexican war effort), the Monterrey meeting (and the next day’s meeting in Corpus Christi, TX) set the stage for Mexico’s less noticed role, not just in providing workers to fill jobs in agriculture and production in the United States, but a long term effect, opening the United States to Mexican manufactured goods, and Mexico to US manufacturing plants.

Also, as a result of the U.S. recognition of Mexico’s importance to the war effort, official propaganda in the United States… which had up to then referred to the country as “Bolshevik Mexico”. or painted it as simultaneously a country of credulous peasants and bloodthirsty atheists, produced newsreels praising the country as a modern democracy (never mind the de facto one party state) with exciting cities and colorful folkways.

For better or worse, the April 20-21 presidential summit set the stage for both the interlocking US-Mexican business relationship and Mexico’s post-war tourism industry.



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