France–Mexico relations

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France-Mexico relations
Map indicating locations of France and Mexico



France–Mexico relations refers to the diplomatic relations between France and Mexico. Both nations are members of the G-20 major economies, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the United Nations.



Anonymous painting depicting the Battle of Puebla in 1862, located at the Museo Nacional de las Intervenciones.

In 1821, soon after obtaining independence from Spain, Emperor Agustín de Iturbide of Mexico sent his foreign minister to the court of King Louis XVIII of France to ask for recognition of the newly independent nation; however, King Louis XVIII refused to recognize Mexico because of its alliance with Spain.[1] On 26 November 1826, France proposed resolving the problem of recognition by establishing trade relations with a Mexican company, thus establishing unofficial relations with Mexico.[1] It wasn't until September 1830 that France recognized and established diplomatic relations with Mexico after the forced abdication of King Charles X of France and the removal of the House of Bourbon from power. That same year, both nations opened resident diplomatic legations in each countries capitals, respectively.[1]

During the early years of their diplomatic relations, Mexico and France were not always on friendly terms, particularly with the beginning of the Pastry War (November 1838 - March 1839), known also as the First French intervention in Mexico; where France invaded Mexico in order to collect re-compensation for property damaged and or looted by Mexican forces. During the war, France (with the assistance of the United States) blockaded Mexican ports thus crippling the economy. Three months later, Mexico agreed to pay France 600,000 pesos in compensation.[2]


In December 1861, Emperor Louis-Napoléon invaded Mexico on a pretext that Mexico had refused to pay its foreign debt, though in retrospect, Louis-Napoléon wanted to expand his empire in Latin-America and this became known as the Second French Intervention in Mexico.[3] After a successful French invasion of Mexico, Louis-Napoléon installed his Austrian cousin, Maximilian of the House of Habsburg, as emperor of Mexico in 1864.[4]

For several years, Mexican rebels under President Benito Juárez fought against French and royalist troops.[1] Once the Union won the War in spring 1865, the U.S. allowed supporters of Juárez to openly purchase weapons and ammunition and issued stronger warnings to Paris. Washington sent general William Tecumseh Sherman with 50,000 combat veterans to the Mexican border to emphasize that time had run out on the French intervention. Napoleon III had no choice but to withdrew his outnumbered army in disgrace. Emperor Maximilian refused exile and was executed by the Mexican government in 1867.[5]

In 1866, Louis-Napoléon decided to withdraw French troops from Mexico due to American pressure and the fact that the rebel troops were successfully advancing on Mexico City. In 1867, Emperor Maximilian I was captured and executed in Querétaro thus ending the Second Mexican Empire.

The events of the 1860 are commemorated in both France and Mexico to this day. Mexico's best known holiday, Cinco de Mayo, celebrates the Mexicans' victory over the French invaders at the Battle of Puebla (May 5, 1862). Another defeat of the French – the destruction of the small, but heroic, French Foreign Legion force at the Battle of Camarón (April 30, 1863) – is annually commemorated by the French Foreign Legion as the "Camerone Day".


Sculpture of Louis Pasteur donated by the French community of Mexico City in celebration of Mexico's Centennial of Independence.

In 1911, Mexican President Porfirio Díaz, a former general who fought against the French during the Second French Intervention in Mexico and a Francophile, left Mexico for exile in Paris where he died in 1915 and is buried at the Montparnasse Cemetery.

In December 1926, the Mexican government purchased property on Avenue du Président-Wilson and on Rue de Longchamp which are now the current Residence and embassy of Mexico in Paris.[1] During World War II, Mexico severed diplomatic relations with the government of Vichy France and instead maintained diplomatic relations with the French government in exile (also known as Free France) led by General Charles de Gaulle in London.[1] Full diplomatic relations were restored between both nations at the end of the war in Europe in 1944.

Present day[edit]

In December 2005, a French citizen called Florence Cassez was arrested in Mexico and charged with kidnapping, organized crime and possession of firearms. She was found guilty by a Mexican court and sentenced to 60 years imprisonment. Cassez always maintained her innocence which began a diplomatic dispute between Mexico and France. At the time, President Nicolas Sarkozy asked the Mexican government to allow Cassez to serve her sentence in France, however the requests were denied.[6]

In 2009, Mexico cancelled its participation of 2011 "The Year of Mexico in France" (350 events, films, and symposium planned) as the French president Sarkozy declared that this year-long event was going to be dedicated to Cassez, and each individual event would have some sort of remembrance of the Frenchwoman.[7] In January 2013, the Mexican Supreme Court ordered her release and Cassez was flown immediately back to France. Since her release, France pledged to assist Mexico in creating a Gendarmerie in Mexico at the request of President Enrique Peña Nieto.[8]

State visits[edit]

President François Mitterrand attending the North–South Summit in Cancun along with his Mexican counterpart President José López Portillo, 1981
French President François Hollande and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Paris; October 2012

Presidential visits from France to Mexico[1][9][10][11]

Presidential visits from Mexico to France

Border disputes[edit]

France and Mexico do not presently share a land border, although in the 18th-century French Louisiana did border New Spain.

The closest land to the French Pacific Clipperton Island is Mexico, and the two countries disputed the island's ownership for several decades, until international arbitration finally awarded it to France in 1931.

Trade relations[edit]

In 1997, Mexico signed a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union (which includes France). In 2014, two-way trade between France and Mexico amounted to $5,4 billion USD.[12] Between 1999-2008, French companies invested over $1,750 billion USD in Mexico. At the same time, between 1991-2009, Mexican companies invested $594 million USD in France. France is Mexico's 16th biggest trading partner while Mexico is France's 53rd biggest trading partner globally.[13][14]

Resident diplomatic missions[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bancroft, Frederic. "The French in Mexico and the Monroe doctrine." Political science quarterly 11.1 (1896): 30-43. in JSTOR
  • Blumberg, Arnold. "The diplomacy of the Mexican Empire, 1863-1867." Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 61.8 (1971): 1-152.
  • Cunningham, Michele. Mexico and the foreign policy of Napoleon III (Springer, 2016).
  • Dabbs, Jack Autrey. The French army in Mexico, 1861-1867: a study in military government (Hague, Mouton, 1963).
  • Hanna, Kathryn Abbey. "The Roles of the South in the French Intervention in Mexico." Journal of Southern History 20.1 (1954): 3-21.
  • Ibsen, Kristine. Maximilian, Mexico, and the Invention of Empire (Vanderbilt UP, 2010).
  • Kelly, Patrick J. "The North American Crisis of the 1860s." The Journal of the Civil War Era 2.3 (2012): 337-368.
  • Mahoney, Harry Thayer, and Marjorie Locke Mahoney. Mexico and the Confederacy, 1860-1867. (1998).
  • Ridley, Jasper. Maximilian and Juárez (2001).
  • Scholes, Walter Vinton. Mexican politics during the Juárez regime, 1855-1872 (1969).