The Mexican Political Economy Since 1945

Created by M. Forman, M. Martin, S. Rivera (HIS 135, Spring 2009)


Assignment Mexican Drug War and the Impact on U.S. Relations
Overview Works Cited
Timeline Additional Information
Political Geography Recommended Books
U.S. Mexico Border Recommended Movies
Political History Recommended Online Videos
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)  



What are some of the factors have influenced relations between Mexico and the United States since 1945?



Over the course of the last century, Mexico’s political economy has been marked by the following trends: (1) an increase in civil liberties, (2) the influence of the National Revolutionary Party (PRI), (3) an increase in regional trade as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and (4) the impact of US–Mexico border relations.

The political history of Mexico in the twentieth century has included eras of socialism, capitalism and fascism--socialism during the 1930s and fascism during the 1940s and 1950s. Mexico developed capitalist and democratic structures after rebellions in the 1960s and 1970s. (Mexico Matters)  The age of democracy continued to unfold in the 1980s and 1990s.   The concern over the past decades is that democracy and the free market economy has centralized wealth in the country. Since World War II, Mexico has benefited from considerable economic development, but most of the benefits have gone to the middle and upper classes. The economic welfare of the poor (small farmers and laborers) has remained the same or worsened.  Mexico ’s economy has made progress, but it has not been able to provide jobs for more than one million new workers who enter the labor market each year (Mexico). Many Mexicans have immigrated to the United States in search of work.

Mexico established the National Revolutionary Party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), in 1929. The Party, founded by Plutarco Alias Calles dominated Mexican politics until 1997.  The party brought together the country’s governmental, military, and agricultural leaders in a program of socioeconomic reform (Columbia Encyclopedia).  For most of the 20th century all Mexican presidents and most elected officials belonged to the PRI.  Citizens often accused  the party of corruption and election fraud which by the 1980s through the 1990s decreased their victory margins as well as resulted in some significant losses in state elections (Columbia Encyclopedia) As a result of growing discontent and mistrust the PRI lost presidential elections in 1997 and 2000. (Mexico Matters).

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in 1994 as an agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  Under NAFTA there have been provisions among the three countries that have removed and reduced restrictions on trade, such as tariffs and quotas. The agreement has also provided a fair method for settling disputes.   The agreement includes all trade such as merchandise, services, investments and property rights. (Sawyer)   According to Mexico economists, NAFTA has been good for Mexico , but it has not been quite enough.  Gustavo Vega, director of the Center for International Studies at the Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City, has stated that NAFTA has helped create more jobs for Mexicans, but has not created enough. (Smith) However if it were not for NAFTA, Mexico would have suffered a greater financial losses than it did after its economy crashed in 1994.  

Since the Great Depression, the United States has increased border control and immigration laws with Mexico .  Each year there has been a deluge of undocumented Mexicans crossing with an estimated 6 million undocumented Mexicans living in the United States by 2006. (Mexico) Over the past few decades there has been an increase in illegal drug and illegal arms trafficking. Mexico and the United States countries have not been able to agree on how to deal with this problem.



1821 – Spain granted Mexico independence, which led to the creation of the first Mexican Empire.

1824 – Constitution promulgated a federal form of government

1846 – United States and Mexico battled for western territory

1848 - Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

1857 – New constitution included civil liberties

1858 – War of Reform

1862 - Benito Pablo Juarez elected president

1872 – Sebastian Lerdo de Tejado became president upon Juarez’s death

1877 - Porfiro Diaz elected president

1910 – Diaz reelected president

1911 – Diaz forced to resign and Francisco Indalecio Madero elected president

1917 – U.S. Occupation of Vera cruz

1917 - New constitution promulgated a labor code, prohibited a president for serving two consecutive terms, and returned lands to Indians

1917 – Carranza elected president, but later killed by opposition forces on May 1, 1917

1920 – Alvaro Obregon elected president

1928 – Alvaro Obregon reelected president but later assassinated

1928 – Emilio Portes Gil awarded provisional president

1932 – Alberlardo Rodriguez awarded provisional president

1934 – Lazaro Cardenas elected president

1940 – Manual Avila Camacho elected president

1945 – Mexico became a member of the United Nations

1952 – Adolfo Ruiz Cortines elected president

1958 – Adolfo Lopez Mateos elected president

1964 – Gustavo Diaz Ordaz elected president

1970 – Luis Echevarria Alvarez elected president

1976 – Jose Lopez Portillo elected president

1982 – Miguel de la Madrid Hurado elected president

1985 – Earthquake killed 9500 citizens

1988 – Carlos Salinas de Cortari elected president

1988 – Hurricane Gilbert caused severe damage estimated at $880 million

1992 – Constitution changed state and church relations

December 1992 – NAFTA signed

December 1994 – Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon inaugurated as president

October 1997 – floods ravaged eastern Mexico , causing homelessness and about 350 deaths

July 2000 – Vicente Fox elected president

Source is

Map of Mexico


Political Geography

In the early 19th century, Mexico lost a significant portion of its territory. In 1821, Spain granted Mexico independence, which led to the creation of the first Mexican empire (Wikipedia).  Mexico’s empire encompassed a large portion of the Western United States and Central America.  By 1824, the empire dissolved and the Constitution promulgated a federal form of government.  The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) marked a major concession of lands to the United States Mexico ceded California, New Mexico, and Texas. The Rio Grande River became the designated boundary between the United States and Mexico .

Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution (1917), drafted following the Revolution, sanctioned the redistribution of land and land rights to townships as ejidos, or communal land holdings (Perez).  The Salinas administration revised Article 27 in 1992 to permit ejidos owners to sell their properties.  This revision signified the end of land tenure in Mexico (Coerver).  President Salinas cited "low productivity" of communally owned land.  The Mexican government sold some of the ejido land to corporations, but farmers maintained some of the formerly ejido land  Some ejido cooperatives found alternative uses for the land, like the ejido that established the Tolantongo Resort (Wikipedia).

Mexicans witnessed not only changes in land use patterns, but also an increase in urbanization. Migrants moved to Mexico City each year beginning in the 1950’s.   Migrants moved to Mexico City to find jobs in newly created industries.  These migrants lived in outskirts of the city, and petitioned the government for electricity and plumbing (Wikipedia).

Source is

Urbanization in Mexico

U.S. - Mexico Border

Since the Great Depression, the United States has increased border control and immigration laws with Mexico .   The United States founded the Border Control in 1924.  Migrant workers came to the United States to find seasonal employment.  In 1929, the U.S. required a work visa for Mexican workers.  Some workers would stay in the United States throughout certain seasons (e.g. apples in Virginia and citrus in Florida).  Some workers remained in the U.S. illegally.  Other workers crossed the border between Mexico and the Southwestern U.S. for daily employment.  These day laborers have been seen as problematic in many cities and municipalities because many of them are paid in cash, therefore  they evade paying taxes, and are often seen as a nuisance gathering near employment or labor centers awaiting job opportunities.   With the exception of Canada , the U.S. Mexico border has the highest amount of legal and illegal crossings of any other land border in the world (Wikipedia).

The American and Mexican governments developed agreements to permit a specified number of workers annually, despite continued illegal border crossings.  In March 1952, the United States Congress passed a bill mandating fines for American employers who recruited illegal aliens. 

Throughout the 1960s, Cesar Chavez promoted the rights of migrant workers.  He was founder of the United Farmer Workers Association (UFWA). Cesar Chavez along with Dolores Huerta fought against the Bracero Program, which existed from 1942 to 1964.  Both believed that this program weakened U. S. workers and oppressed the migrant workers.  Their efforts paid off in 1964, as Congress ended the Bracero Program.  The UFWA was one of the first labor unions to dispute proposed employer sanctions in 1973, which would have banned employing illegal immigrants.  During the 1980’s, Cesar Chavez, working with UFWA Dolores Huerta once again, was instrumental in getting the amnesty provisions into 1986 Federal Immigration Act (Wikipedia).

In 1986, the U.S. Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).  This act banned employers from hiring undocumented immigrants illegal (immigrants who were not eligible to work in the U. S.), mandated employers to verify their employee’s employment eligibility, and awarded amnesty to illegal immigrants who had entered the U. S. prior to January 1, 1982, and had maintained continuous residency in the United States.  The act also provided a route towards legalization for specific groups of agricultural seasonal workers and immigrants who had resided continuously in the U. S. illegally since January 1, 1982 (Wikipedia).

The U.S. Congress passed the Secure Fence Act of 2006 on October 26, 2006.  The act created the purpose of controlling illegal immigration into the United States .  It allows for the construction of a double-reinforced fence 700 miles (1,100 km) along the border with Mexico, its bordering states with the U. S. (California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas), and across cities and deserts in the surrounding areas, which are known to have the highest concentration of illegal drug trafficking and other related activities. The act allows for the installation of sophisticated law enforcement surveillance equipment (sensory cameras, unmanned aerial vehicles, satellites, etc.), in order to control illegal immigration into the Unites States.  The law was also intended to cut down and control the amount of vehicles crossing the border with the intent and purpose of drug trafficking and other illegal activities.  In the words of President George W. Bush, on October 26, 2006: “This bill will help protect the American people. This bill will make our borders more secure. It is an important step toward immigration reform (Wikipedia).”


Mexico’s Political History

Since the constitution of 1857, a federal government has ruled Mexico .  The government passed through years of political and economic instability, followed by political and economic reform.  Mexico ’s political history has been marked by an increase in civil liberties and the influence of the National Revolutionary Party (PRA).

Increase in Civil Liberties

Benito Pablo Juarez led Mexicans in their quest for democracy, promoting the constitution of 1957.  This constitution included universal male suffrage and civil liberties.  Conflict ensued between the conservative opponents and the liberal proponents on the constitution.  The 1858 War of Reform led to the separation of church and state and the nationalization of church property (History).  For the next 50 years, Mexico ’s political foundation remained fragile.

The Mexican Revolution of 1910 highlighted the inequalities between the rich and poor masses, encompassed by the hacienda system.  In the late 19th century, Porfiro Diaz led a series of violent revolts until he assumed the presidency in 1876 and remained in office until he was forced to resign in 1911.  Findley and Rothney, note that the revolution passed through three phases: (1) mass mobilization to overthrow Diaz (1910-1914); (2) “class conflict, U.S. intervention, and worker defeat”; and (3) promulgation of the 1917 constitution (Findley and Rothney).

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Mexican government passed reforms aimed at increasing the civil rights.  In 1953, the Mexican Legislature granted women the right to vote (History).  In 1962, the legislature approved a constitutional amendment to force businesses to share profits with workers.  In the early 1960s, Mexican citizens organized hunger marches and squatter invasions (History).


The Decline of the PRI: Electoral Maps from the 2000 and 2006 Presidential Elections


Influence of the National Revolutionary Party (PNR)

The National Revolutionary Party (PNR), founded by Plutarco Alias Calles in 1929, dominated Mexican politics until 1997.  This government political changed names over the course of 70 years, moving from a socialist influence at its creation to more democratic in nature by the 1990’s.  In 1932, the PNR developed a 6-year program aimed toward socialist policies, including “a labor code, public works, distribution of land, and the seizure of foreign owned oil lands”(History).  Lazaro Cardenas, elected president in 1934, implemented the plan, promoting reforms in agriculture, education, and social welfare.

Mexico ’s economic situation improved in 1950 with the Export-Import Bank approved a $150 million loan to finance transportation, agriculture, and power facilities.  Mexican laborers continued to seek seasonal farm employment in the United States .  The American and Mexican governments developed agreements to permit a specified number of workers annually, despite continued illegal border crossings.  In March 1952, the United States Congress passed a bill mandating fines for American employers who recruited illegal aliens. 

The 1960s and 1970s marked a time of economic instability.  In 1964, Mexican citizens elected Gustavo Diaz Ordaz as president.  While the United States ended its policy of importing season Mexican workers,  the United States did transfer about 400 acres of territory to Mexico due to a shift in the course of the Reio Grande River.  In 1966, President Diaz Ordaz promulgated a 5-year plan for economic development (History).  In 1970, Mexican citizens elected Luis Echeverria Alvarez, who served a 6-year term marked by economic growth.  President Alvarez negotiated economic agreements with Latin American countries, Canada , the European Union, and the Soviet Council for Mutual Economic Assistance.  The Mexican economy grew until 1976, when inflation grew and the government devalued the peso (History). In 1976, Mexican citizens elected Jose Lopez Portillo, who promoted increased investment expenditures and increased oil production (History).

The 1980s brought in an increase in foreign debt, falling oil prices, and natural disasters.  Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado served as president  from 1982 until his successor Carlos Salinas de Gortari claimed a PRI victory in 1988.  The earthquake of 1985 killed 9,500 Mexicans.  Another natural disaster, Hurricane Gilbert, hit in 1988, devastating the Yucaton Peninsula.  The Salinas government continued to privatize state-controlled corporations (History).

Mexican politics in the 1990s brought constitutional reform, violent unrest, and a regional trading agreement.  The March 1992 constitutional changes included land reform and an abolishment of restrictions imposed on the Catholic church.  In December 1992,  Mexican President Salinas, American President Bush, and Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  The Zapatista National Liberation Army violently took over towns in Chiapas.  The Mexican government negotiated with the Zapatistas until a preliminary accord was reached in March 1993.  The government agreed to a series of reforms heralded by the Zapatistas. 

The value of the peso spiraled downward throughout the mid 1990s. Mexicans elected Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon in December 1994.  With public discontent and mistrust rising, the PNR was defeated in 2000 and 2006 presidential elections.  Vicente Fox Quesada won the popular vote in July 2000 and served a 6-year term.  In 2006, Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa of the National Action Party (PAN) defeated the PRI candidate once again in the presidential elections.

Source is

The NAFTA Flag

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a trade pact connecting Canada , Mexico and the United States .   U.S. President George H. W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Salinas signed NAFTA on December 17, 1992.  The legislatures of all three countries sanctioned the agreement  in 1993.  President Bill Clinton signed it into law on January 1, 1994.  The concept of NAFTA started with the Reagan administration.  It was one of Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign platforms to develop a North American common market.  President Ronald Reagan with Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney negotiated for the Canada-U.S. Free Trade agreement of 1989 which was later eliminated due to the adoption of NAFTA which now included Mexico (

The initial goal of NAFTA was to create a regional free trade zone by removing tariffs on the majority of goods produced by the participating nations. The majority of its key conditions included, removing barriers to cross-border investment and the movement of goods and services among the three nations. These key provisions were scheduled to gradually take effect over a period of 15 years ( Columbia).  The major industries to be affected by this agreement were agriculture, automobile and textile manufacture, telecommunications, financial services, energy and trucking ( Columbia).  Provisions for labor and environmental cooperation among these countries were also included in this agreement.

Over its 14 year history, there have been many debates on the pros and cons of NAFTA.  Proponents of NAFTA have claimed that there has been an increase in jobs, and a rise in imports for all three nations.  Opponents have criticized that there has been an increase in jobs lost in the United States as a result of industries that have moved into Mexico Caribbean countries have been negatively affected economically due to the difficultly of competing with the duty free exports of Mexico .

Government studies have cited financial statistics that all three adjoining countries have received significant economic and monetary gain from this unilateral agreement.  All three countries have benefited by the following (USTR):

Drug Cartel Map

Source is


Mexican Drug War and the Impact on U.S. Relations

The Mexican Drug War is an on-going armed battle between adversary drug cartels and the Mexican government.  Although coordinated efforts to eradicate and thwart Mexican drug cartels have yielded positive results (arrests and conviction of many high-ranking drug traffickers and other violent offenders), the drug war is far from over.  It rages throughout Mexico ’s northern border into the United States and Canada .  The Mexican drug cartels pose an increasing threat to its people and to the American people.  These cartels are commonly armed with assault rifles, military-styled semi automatic rifles, hand grenades, and many other military weapons acquired in the United States (Wikipedia). 

The Mexican Mafia, formed in the 1950s, was a catalyst for drug trafficking and gang violence in both Mexico and the United States .  The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the U.S. Border Control have tried to thwart the trafficking of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine.   In 1985, DEA Special Agent Enrique S. “Kiki” Camarena was kidnapped in Guadalajara, Mexico , tortured and subsequently killed by drug traffickers.  He was one of the many people who have lost his/her life in the Mexican Drug War.  Kiki Camarena gave his life fighting Mexican drug cartels responsible for the illegal trafficking of drugs into the U. S. and Canada.
Enrique Camarena (1947-1985)
Red Ribbon Symbol

The war continues today.  To honor Camarena’s memory and to continue his fight against illegal drugs, the National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth and the DEA established an eight-day Red Ribbon Campaign, celebrated every year during the last week in October.  The purpose of this campaign is to establish a shared commitment toward establishing a Drug-Free America, while remembering those who have lost their lives due to drug-related violence.

During a visit to Mexico on March 25th, 2009, U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Rotham Clinton declared that the United States shares responsibility with Mexico for the increase in violence brought upon the two nations by the Mexican Drug Wars.  Secretary Clinton continued on stating that the demand for drugs that exists in our nation is what empowers the drug trade and allows it to continue to reign.  Also, our incapacity to stop the smuggling of weapons into the hands of Mexican drug cartels is the root cause of the inability to win the war on drugs.  During this visit she pledged the United States government’s commitment boost efforts to fight blatant police corruption, and promote judicial reform (CBS).

           Hillary Rodham Clinton, Genaro Garcia Luna

Hillary Clinton in Mexico, photo Miguel Tovar, Associated Press

Works Cited

Cesar Chavez entry in Wikipedia. Accessed 15 April 2009.  

Coerver, Don M. Mexico: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Culture and History. ABC-CLIO, 2004.

Ejido entry in Wikipedia. Accessed 7 April 2009.

Ellingwood, Ken. Hillary Clinton Wraps up Mexico Visit – Calls drug violence intolerable Los Angeles Times, 27 March 2009.

Findley, Carter Vaughn and John Alexander Murray Rothney.  Twentieth Century World. 5th Ed. Boston Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.

History of NAFTA by  Kimberly Amadeo.  Accessed 9 April 2009. 

Houssain, Farhana. The Reach of Mexico’s Drug CartelsNew York Times, 22 March 2009.

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 entry in Wikipedia. Accessed 15 April 2009. 

Institutional Revolutionary Party

Mexico, country North America

Mexico entry in Wikipedia. Accessed 15 April 2009.   

Mexico – United States Border entry in Wikipedia. Accessed 15 April 2009. 

Mexican Drug War entry in Wikipedia. Accessed 14 April 2009. 

Mexico: America’s Not-so-new Security Crisis.  Accessed 26 February 2009. 

NAFTA entry in wiki.

NAFTA The Road Ahead (*.pdf file)  United States Trade Representative. 

NAFTA.  9 April 2009.  Office of the United States Trade Representative

Perez, Ramona L. "From ejido to colonia: Reforms to Article 27 and the formation of an urban landscape in Oaxaca." In Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development (September 2003). See excerpt (*.pdf)

Sawyer, W. C., & Sprinkle, R. L. International Economics. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006.


Smith, David Gaddis.  Scholar: NAFTA Has Helped Mexico, but Not Enough.

2008 The Word Factbook, Mexico.  Accessed 9 April 2009. 

U.S. – Mexican War entry in Wikipedia. Accessed 15 April 2009. 

US Mexico Border Fence and Patrol Operations. Accessed 9 April 2009.


Additional Information

US – Mexican War (1846-1848), 1995, PBS.   This provides a historical overview of the U.S.-Mexican War, which set the stage for border debates in the coming century.

Mexican Immigration, 20 April 2005, Library of Congress. This highlights policy issues surrounding Mexican Immigration to the United States. 

Mexico-United States Relations Overview, 13 April 2009, Wikipedia.  This illustrates the evolution of U.S.-Mexican relations as they relate to economics.  Wikipedia refers to the impact of globalization on the Mexican economy, including labor issues related to large factories. 

Mexico New Democracy and Economy. Mexico Matters is a investment consulting firm which provides bilingual consulting services to potential investors links to service/product providers in Mexico.

Official site for the Mexican Government

Border Stories: a mosaic documentary on the U.S.-Mexico Border

AP interactive map: Mexican Drug Cartels

Library of Congress Guide to the Mexican War

NAFTA Secretariat website

NAFTA Now: Jointly developed by the Governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States


Recommended Books

Vazquez Castille. Land Privatization in Mexico: Urbanization, Formation of Regions and Globalization in Ejidos.  Routlege, 2004.  Castille examines the local, regional, and global consequences related to land privatization in Mexico.  Specifically, Castille highlights the impact of Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, which regulated land in Mexico from the Revolution in 1910 until the constitutional reforms in 1992.  The term Ejidos refers to the communal land granted to the landless following the 1910 Revolution.

Edmonds-Poli, Emily and David A. Shirk.  Contemporary Mexican Politics.  Rowman and Littlefiled Publishers, Inc., 2008.    Edmonds-Poli and Shirk examine the contemporary political system surrounding Mexico’s democracy.

Weintraub, Sidney.  NAFTA’s Impact on North America: The First Decade.  Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2004.  A comprehensive evaluation of NAFTA by specialists from the United States, Canada, and  Mexico.  A very informative study for those interested in the economic, trade, social, political, and security effects of NAFTA and possible consequences of other broad regional trade agreements. 

Bowden, Charles.  Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Murder, and Family.  Simon and Schuster, 2004.  In this book acclaimed author and journalist Bowden offers a riveting, very detailed look at the drug trade and international relations between Mexico and the United States.  Bowden uses a 1995 drug-related murder case (the reputed hit man was 13 years old), the younger brother of a DEA agent, the subsequent investigation, and the lack of resolution that begins to tear the family apart.   Bowden details how the deceitful and shady figures who head drug trafficking between Mexico and the U.S. operate with the full approval and active participation of government officials, both high and low, on both sides of the border, resulting in a startling level of corruption. Bowden provides a glimpse of these powerful interests, which place international commerce ahead of any efforts at enforcing U.S. drug laws. He also shows how those laws and the investigative forces meant to enforce them are more political imagery than reality.  This book is recommended because it offers a glimpse into the complexity of the Mexican Drug War and the botched attempt at its eradication.

Poppa, Terrence E.  Drug Lord: The Life & Death of a Mexican Kingpin-A True Story.  Demand Publications, 1998.  This book is based on interviews author and journalist Poppa conducted with former drug czar Pablo Acosta.  In this book Poppa depicts the life of Acosta, born in abject poverty in Mexico, and how he became drug czar and how he launched his career by smuggling marijuana and heroin into the U.S., later adding cocaine, and forging an alliance with Colombian drug traders. At the peak, he may have controlled 60% of the coke trafficked into the U.S., according to Poppa. The author shows that Acosta consolidated his power by murdering rivals, corrupting local police and soldiers, distributing money to the poor and contributing generously to civic projects. Eventually, however, he became a coke addict; his iron entrepreneurial grip slipped; and he was tracked down and killed in 1987 by an international narcotic strike force. This book is a recommended must read because it gives an inside look at how drug trafficking really works in Mexico.  Also, it is a startling revelation since this is set only miles from the Texas border.  It also confirms the fact that drugs are easily smuggled into the United States at a staggering rate.

Rodriguez, Luis J.  Always Running: La Vida Loca Gang Days in L.A.  Touchstone, 2005. Rodriguez, Luis J.  Always Running: La Vida Loca Gang Days in L.A.  Touchstone, 2005.     This award-winning and bestselling memoir about a young Chicano gang member Luis Rodriguez.   Rodriguez by the age of 12 was a veteran of East L.A. gang warfare. He was lured by a seemingly invincible gang culture.  At a very young age, he witnessed countless shootings, beatings, and arrests, then watched with increasing fear as drugs, murder, suicide, and senseless acts of street crime claimed friends and family members.  Before long, Rodriguez successfully broke away from the gang life through education and his love for writing. As an adult he achieved great success as an award-winning poet.  Ironically his own son fell subject to the gang life. Rodriguez hoped to save his child by telling his own story in Always Running.  His memoirs investigate the motivations of gang life and warns against the death and destruction that inevitably claim its participants and their families and friends. This is a very heartbreaking, sad and vicious story. Always Running is however a very uplifting story.  It is filled with hope, insight, and perhaps a lesson learned for all future generations.

Shannon, Elaine.  Desperados Latin Drug Lords U.S. Lawmen and the War American Can’t Win.  Penguin Books, 1989.  This book is based on the torture-murder of Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1985.  In this book, News magazine veteran Shannon focuses on the DEA war in Mexico, before and after the murder of agent Kiki Camerena by drug lords.  Shannon details the role of the U.S. government, which stresses positive moves and ignores negative ones when dealing with drug-producing countries.  The author claims that the U.S. government has talked a lot about anti-drug fighting and drug trafficking, but has done very little to deal with the problem.  Shannon reveals that Mexico's war on drugs has been thwarted with corruption, from street cops to high officials. She concludes that the only way to win the war is to end the demand in America for marijuana and cocaine. This book is highly recommended because it examines the story of DEA agent Kiki Camarena, the events revolving around his kidnapping and murder in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1985, and examines U. S. drug policy in the '70s and '80s, and reveals the frailty of our government’s "war on drugs."


Recommended Movies

A Day without a Mexican.  Directed by Sergio Arau, 2004. This movie takes a burlesque look at the various effects on the (non-Latino, mostly White) Californians who remain when a “pink fog” surrounds California and Latinos disappear.  Where the Latinos went is not as important as what happens as a result of their disappearance.

El Norte.  Directed by Gregory Nava, 1983.  In this movie, two Mayan Indian peasants leave their village in Guatemala and decide to go the United States after the army destroyed their village and killed their family.  The teenagers receive help along the way from friends and humorous advice from a veteran immigrant on strategies for traveling through Mexico, making their way by truck, and into Los Angeles.  The movie depicts the hardships the two teenagers go through as they make a new life as young, uneducated, and illegal immigrants. 


Recommended Online Videos

Gun Running Across the Border.  9 March 2009.  CBS.  Ben Tracy reports how easy it is for drug cartels to obtain assault weapons such as AK-47’s and 50 caliber assault rifles which are bought legally in the U. S. from gun shops.  These weapons are then smuggled into Mexico and used by the drug cartels. This is site is recommended in order to take a closer look at how drug cartels continue to get their hands on weapons and why it is important for the U. S. government to better regulate gun control.

U.S. Security Push in Mexico.  24 March 2009. CBS. Seth Doane reports the latest effort of the U. S. government to reinforce the border against further violence, which includes the deployment of 500 law enforcement agents to help secure the border and crackdown on the drug cartels.  This is site is recommended in order to take a closer look at the seriousness of the situation and what to show our government’s attempt to fight the problem.


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