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Maximato was a period in the historical and political development of Mexico ranging from 1928 to 1934. That period was named after Plutarco Elías Calles, who was known as "el Jefe Maximo". Elías Calles was president in the period 1924-1928, but throughout the next six years, Calles was the de facto leader of Mexico. There were three presidents in this era, all of them subordinate to a lesser or greater extent to Calles. The presidents and their respective mandates are the following :

The influence of the former President ended when Lázaro Cárdenas del Río expelled him from the country in 1936.


Under Calles a constitutional change was passed that allowed for a non-consecutive reelection, and in 1928 Álvaro Obregón was elected as Elías Calles's successor. However, Obregón was assassinated by José de León Toral, a Catholic militant, before he could assume power. To avoid a political vacuum, Calles named himself Jefe Máximo, the political chieftain of Mexico and Emilio Portes Gil was appointed temporary president, although in reality he was little more than a puppet of Calles.

The following year, Calles founded the PNR, or Partido Nacional Revolucionario, the predecessor of today's Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). Officially, after 1929, Calles served as minister of war, as he continued to suppress the rebellion of the Cristero War, but a few months later after the intervention of the United States ambassador Dwight Morrow the Mexican government and the cristeros signed a peace treaty. PNR candidate Pascual Ortiz Rubio won the controversial 1929 election, in which he defeated the philosopher José Vasconcelos of the National Antireelectionist Party (PNA), whose campaign was supported mainly by university students, and Pedro Rodríguez Triana of the Mexican Communist Party (PCM).

The election was marred by violence and fraud, however, and Vasconcelos refused to accept the result. Dozens of antireelectionists were killed, and Vasconcelos decided to flee the country. During his inauguration, Ortiz Rubio was wounded in an assassination attempt by antireelectionist student Daniel Flores, who was tried and received the death penalty.

During the Maximato, Calles became increasingly authoritarian.[1] After a large demonstration in 1930 the Mexican Communist Party was banned, Mexico stopped its support for the rebels of César Sandino in Nicaragua, strikes were no longer tolerated, and the government ceased redistributing lands among poorer peasants. Calles had once had been the candidate of the workers and at one point had used Communist unions in his campaign against competing labor organizers but later, having acquired wealth and engaging in finance, suppressed Communism.[2] Overall the Maximato was characterized by growing polarization and radicalization on both sides of the political spectrum, with left-wing and right-wing groups often fighting against each other in the streets of Mexico's cities.

In 1932, Calles forced Ortiz Rubio to step down because of the latter's appointment of several anticallists in public functions. Ortiz Rubio was succeeded by Abelardo Luján Rodríguez. Although another puppet of Calles, Rodríguez was also known for his progressive reforms. Under his presidency social legislation promised by the Mexican constitution of 1917 was introduced for the first time, including a minimum wage and the 8-hour working day. Rodríguez also repealed the constitutional amendment that allowed for reelection and extended the president's term to six years.

Rodríguez' secretary of education Narciso Bassols tried to implement a system of "socialist education", and the constitution was amended for this purpose, although its provisions which sought to suppress religion were removed from the constitution in 1946. The introduction of sex education proved to be very controversial, and after the protestations of conservative parents, Bassols was forced to step down and socialist education was abandoned.

In 1934, Calles selected his old wartime subordinate Lázaro Cárdenas as presidential candidate, on the false assumption he could control Cárdenas as he had controlled his predecessors. Soon after his inauguration however, conflicts between Calles and Cárdenas started to arise. Calles opposed Cárdenas' support for labor unions, especially his tolerance and support for strikes, while Cárdenas opposed Calles' violent methods and his closeness to fascist organizations, most notably the Gold Shirts of general Nicolás Rodríguez Carrasco, which harassed communists, Jews and Chinese.[3]

Cárdenas started to isolate Calles politically, removing the callistas from political posts and exiling his most powerful allies: Tomás Garrido Canabal, Fausto Topete, Emilio Portes Gil, Saturnino Cedillo, Aarón Sáenz and finally Calles himself. Calles and Luis Napoleon Morones, one of the last remaining influential callistas, were charged with conspiring to blow up a railroad and placed under arrest under the order of President Cárdenas and deported on April 9, 1936 to the United States. At the time of his arrest, he was reportedly reading a Spanish translation of Mein Kampf.[4][5]


  1. ^ Payne, Stanley (1996). A History of Fascism. Routledge. ISBN 1-85728-595-6 p.342
  2. ^ Calles, Plutarco Elías Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05 Archived May 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Meyer, Michael C. and William L. Sherman, The Course of Mexican History (5th E. Oxford Univ. Press 1995)
  4. ^ Krauze, Enrique. Mexico: Biography of Power. A History of Modern Mexico, 1810-1996. HarperCollins Publishers Inc. New York, 1997. Page 436
  5. ^ Larralde, Carlos "Roberto Galvan: A Latino Leader of the 1940s". The Journal of San Diego History 52.3/4 (Summer/Fall 2006) p. 160.