Adolfo López Mateos (May 26, 1910 – September 22, 1969) was a Mexican politician affiliated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) who served as President of Mexico from 1958 to 1964. As president, he nationalized electric companies, created the National Commission for Free Textbooks (1959) and promoted the creation of prominent museums such as the Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Declaring his political philosophy to be “left within the Constitution,” López Mateos was the first left-wing politician to hold the presidency since Lázaro Cárdenas.
Life[edit source | editbeta]
López Mateos was born in Atizapán de Zaragoza to Mariano Gerardo López y Sánchez Roman as a dentist and Elena Mateos y Vega as a teacher. According to official records, a small town in the state of México, though at a young age his family moved to Mexico City upon his father’s death. Nevertheless, there is a birth certificate and several testimonies archived at El Colegio de México that place his birth on September 10, 1909 in Patzicía, Guatemala.
In 1929 he graduated from the Scientific and Literary Institute of Toluca, where he was a delegate and student leader of the Socialist Labor Party. That year, as a speaker he supported the presidential campaign of José Vasconcelos — an opposition candidate — against the presidential campaign of Pascual Ortiz Rubio. He filled a number of bureaucratic positions from then until 1941, when he met Isidro Fabela. Fabela helped him into a position as the director of the Literary Institute of Toluca after Fabela resigned the post to join the International Court of Justice. He served until 1952, when he became the Secretary of Labor under president Adolfo Ruiz Cortines. In 1958, he was elected president of Mexico, and served until 1964. Plagued with migraines during his adult life, he was diagnosed with several cerebral aneurysms, and, after several years in a coma, he died in 1969.
Presidency[edit source | editbeta]
A wide range of social reforms were carried out during Adolfo Lopez Mateos’ presidency. Land reform was implemented vigorously, with 16 million hectares of land redistributed. The government also cleared and opened up new agricultural lands in the extreme south, which helped to reduce land tension in that part of the country. Public health campaigns were also launched to combat diseases such as polio, malaria, and tuberculosis. Typhus, smallpox, and yellow fever were eradicated, and malaria was significantly reduced.
Tackling poverty became one of the priorities of López Mateos’s government, and during his presidency social welfare investments reached a historical peak of 19.2% of total investment. A number of social-welfare programmes for the poor were set up, and existing social-welfare programmes were improved. Health care and pensions were increased, new hospitals and clinics were built, and the IMSS programme for rural Mexico was expanded. A social security institute was established, which provided child care, medical services, and other social services to workers, especially state employees. A 1959 amendment to the Social Security Law also brought parttime workers within the auspices of social security.
A food distribution system was established to provide affordable staples for poor Mexicans and a market for farm produce. The government entered the housing business on a large scale for the first time in Mexican history, with a major programme being initiated to build low-cost housing in major industrial cities, with over 50,000 units of low-income housing constructed between 1958 and 1964. One of the largest housing developments in Mexico City housed 100,000 people and contained several nurseries, four clinics, and several schools.
In an effort to reduce illiteracy, the idea of adult education classes was revived, while a system of free and compulsory school textbooks was launched. Education had become the largest single item in the federal budget by 1963, and there was a renewed emphasis on school construction. Almost every village was assisted in the construction of schools and provided with teachers and textbooks. Free student breakfasts for primary-school pupils were also restored.
An attempt was made at political liberalisation, with an amendment to the constitution that altered the electoral procedures in the Chamber of Deputies by encouraging greater representation for opposition candidates in Congress. In the 1964 elections, for instance, the Popular Socialist Party (PPS) won 10 seats, while the National Action Party (PAN) won 20.
The government succeeded in reducing labour unrest by setting up a National Commission for the Implementation of Profit Sharing which apportioned between 5% to 10% of each company’s profits to organised labour. In 1960, Article 123 of the Mexican Constitution was amended to ensure that government employees were protected by minimum-wage legislation. Tight price controls and sharp increases in the minimum wage also ensured that the worker’s real minimum wage index reached its highest level since the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas. State intervention in the economy increased markedly between 1958 and 1964, with the government purchasing controlling stock in a number of foreign industries. The government also purchased the cinema industry, and it was decreed that ticket prices would be affordable for all.
López Mateos welcomed U.S. President John F. Kennedy to Mexico for a highly successful visit in July 1962.
López Mateos was succeeded as president by the conservative Gustavo Ordaz in 1964.