Latin American Studies ETDs

Publication Date



The improbable trajectories of Mexico and Cuba give rise to compelling questions: in what ways have the revolutionary governments of Mexico and Cuba been able to practice successful defiance of the United States hegemon of the twentieth century? And how has that defiance helped to define U.S. foreign policy in Latin America? This dissertation presents a detailed examination of the contexts surrounding both the Mexican and Cuban Revolutions and their struggle against imperialist-driven interventions by the United States in Latin America and the Caribbean. I argue that through strategic decisions, the Mexican and Cuban revolutionary governments were able to ward off U.S. intervention and create a process of independence that in turn became a trajectory for defiance in modern Latin America and the Caribbean through revolution, petroleum nationalization, and the establishment of a strong party system that harnessed the power of social movements through public buy-in to revolutionary principles. The theoretical underpinnings of this Latin American Studies interdisciplinary dissertation incorporates Immanuel Wallersteins World Systems Theory, which provides a perspective on the development of imperialism and the rise of neoliberal free-market capitalism through an examination of the developmental processes of former dependent and colonial territories. Additionally, I use the approach developed by Theda Skocpol in Social Revolutions in the Modern World to inform the comparative historical method. I emphasize Skocpol's theories of social revolution that stress the importance of geopolitical relations during twentieth century revolutions. I also incorporate Charles Tilly's theory of social movements and Max Weber's concept of charismatic authority. Bringing these diverse theoretical traditions into productive dialogue through my analysis, I develop the concept of 'natural resource revolutions:' a concept that can illustrate the mechanisms that bring together organized groups to challenge local and international pressures and coercive historical relations that favor local and international elites. I also develop 'charismatic revolutionary leadership' as a conceptual tool from which to view the national and global social forces shaping the success of social movements that aims to liberate national resources from imperial hegemony around the globe. Through 'charismatic revolutionary leadership,' Lázaro Cárdenas and Fidel Castro were successful because there were institutional dynamics inherent in revolution that facilitated the nationalist implementation of natural resource sovereignty. Specifically, they both came into power on the heels of the institutionalization of radical constitutions, strong social movements, and effective political party formation. And finally, the Mexican and Cuban Revolutions birthed constitutions that created the legal precedent for implementing national sovereignty as a new goal for their reconstituted political structures. The contributions of this dissertation are significant because they link theories of world systems and social revolutions in the modern world to social movements and the dynamics of charismatic authority to what took place in Latin America during the 1930s and 1960s vis-à-vis the use of natural resource nationalization as a diplomatic weapon. It is my hope that these empirical and theoretical contributions can be used to explore the dynamics between the United States and other world powers throughout Latin America and the Caribbean and go on to inform research into other core and periphery country relationships.

Project Sponsors

University of New Mexico - Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Doctoral Defense Preparation Fellowship University of New Mexico - Regents/Graduate Dean/Erickson Dissertation Fellowship




revolution, petroleum, nationalization, natural resource, Mexico, Cuba, hegemony, charismatic revolutionary leadership, natural resource revolution, intellectual justice, environmental justice, social justice, Mexican Revolution, Cuban Revolution, land reform, labor reform, consitution, 1938, 1960, Fidel Castro, Lázaro Cárdenas, Toussaint L'Ouverture, Símon Bolívar, José Martí, charisma, national sovereignty, nationalization, expropriation, antisystemic, dictatorship, Latin America, transnational sydicalism, transnational, international, oil, resources, autonomy, antiimperialism, fascism, communism, socialism, neoliberalism, nationalism, World War I, World War II, Russian Revolution

Document Type


Degree Name

Latin American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

Latin American Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Hall, Dr. Linda B.

Second Committee Member

García y Griego, Dr. Larry Manuel

Third Committee Member

White, Dr. Christopher M.


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