History ETDs

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1968 was a year of opportunities and challenges for the Mexican state. While some in government busied themselves with preparations for the Games of the XIX Olympiad to commence in October, others focused on diffusing student unrest that had festered on the nations campuses and was threatening to spread to the streets. In the interest of preserving civil order and conveying an international image of stability in Mexico, authorities opted to confront dissent firmly. Skirmishes between student-led groups and government forces escalated until culminating in the killing of hundreds of protestors in the Tlatelolco district of Mexico City on October 2, 1968. Tlatelolco, henceforth, would be considered by many as a parteaguas, or watershed moment, for the way it exposed the authoritarian nature of the Mexican ruling regime. This dissertation challenges the status of Tlatelolco as watershed by examining changes witnessed in tripartite (state, organized labor, and business) relations in Mexico during the period 1969-1976, or the years that immediately followed the massacre of October 2, 1968. Here it is contended that after that seminal moment it was not students but organized workers, those from the civil sector most ascribed with historical symbolism and that deemed most capable of destabilizing the regime, that became the chief target of state rhetoric and primary beneficiary of public policy. This hypothesis is tested by investigating periodicals, union literature, ministerial records, and labor suits in order to: a. deduce what factors motivated the Mexican state in the creation of labor policy; b. understand the major labor disputes of the era while giving attention to internal rifts within the sectors; and c. analyze the behavior exhibited by state authorities in their functions as mediators between the forces of labor and capital. Moreover, this dissertation shows how organized workers after Tlatelolco reaped real benefits from a history-conscious executive and a reformed labor establishment. The New Federal Labor of 1970, conceptualized and implemented in this period, is assessed for the ways it impacted workers' lives in substantive ways. Other political reforms of the era that galvanized unionists to push for democracy and oppose state control are also considered, yet this analysis demonstrates that state goals were multifaceted and not mutually exclusive. While politicians like Luis Echeverría preached democratic reform and showed themselves more permissive of rank-and-file dissent among workers vis-à-vis their predecessors, they also coveted the chance to revive a form of 'collaborationism,' meaning a symbiotic, reciprocal relationship that strengthened their respective positions with top union brass reminiscent of an earlier time. On the whole, this dissertation weighs the merits of rhetoric as presented in state and union missives against reality as exposed in economic data and the records of labor conciliation and arbitration boards. Tripartite relations are evaluated herein inside a larger state campaign to pay the political costs of 1968 by solidifying traditional values and making grand overtures to an original constituent of the Mexican Revolution.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Bieber, Judy

Second Committee Member

Garcia y Griego, Manuel

Third Committee Member

Hart, John Mason



Project Sponsors

Latin American and Iberian Institute, University of New Mexico

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