Cardenismo

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Cárdenas immediately showed his independence by becoming the first Mexican president to campaign for office. Once in office, he began his sexenio by adopting several popular measures. He reduced hispresidential salary and decided not to move into the national palace, he ordered a resumption of land reform on an unprecedented scale, and he expressed tacit support for a wave of urban strikes.Calles followed these developments with unease, and soon sought to undermine the new president's authority. A definitive break occurred between Calles and Cárdenas when the new president fired many ofCalles's followers in the federal bureaucracy and closed down a network of gambling houses owned by Calles's associates. It became apparent that Calles had underestimated Cárdenas's commitment to reformand his political skills. Calles's open opposition to Cárdenas finally earned the former leader forced exile to the United States in 1936. Conservatives from San Luis Potosí staged a rebellion inprotest, but the military remained loyal to the president and brought the revolt under control.

Land reform was one of Cárdenas's major accomplishments. In the course of six years, he distributedalmost 18 million hectares--more than twice as much land as all of his predecessors combined--to two-thirds of the Mexican peasantry through the system of communal farms or ejidos (see Land Tenure, ch. 3).Even though agriculture suffered an initial setback because of the loss of economies of scale and a lack of resources and credit, the redistribution proved tremendously popular with the majority ofthe Mexican people and earned Cárdenas a special place in Mexican history.

Church relations also improved during Cárdenas's presidency. Key was the intervention of Luis María Martínez, archbishop ofMexico. Martínez encouraged Roman Catholics to be more sensitive to the social and economic welfare of society, even though national education continued to be secular and had become socialist in...
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