Policy Review: Mexico's soft spot for exiles

Tom Leach on the cultural and political figures who have found a home in Mexico

Tom Leach
10th June 2020
Image: Mark B. Schlemmer on Flickr, President of Russia, Wikimedia Commons
In November 2019, which feels a decade away, president of Bolivia Evo Morales resigned his position.

In a flurry of accusations of corruption surrounding his supposedly rigged re-election, Morales was forced to step down. He was replaced by an un-elected interim president, Jeanine Áñez, a right-wing member of the Democrat Social Movement Party. She expressed views strongly in opposition to Morales and his pro-indigenous stances; once he resigned, Morales flew to Mexico City.

Mexico has taken in the politically persecuted since the 1930s

This is not the first example of the deposed finding asylum in Mexico. The Central American country has a history of taking in those persecuted for their politics that stretches back to the 1930s.

Take the Spanish Civil War. The democratically elected Second Spanish Republic and its socialist and anarchist allies faced revolt, and a coup attempt by Francisco Franco's fascists. Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas offered support to the Republicans. Against Spain's fascists, monarchists, conservatives and the Catholic Church – backed by Mussolini and Hitler – it was clear the Republicans couldn't win. As such, Cárdenas offered refuge to as many as 40 000 left-wing refugees. From this point on, Mexico has kept up the tradition of welcoming political exiles.

Filmmakers and revolutionaries have all spent time in Mexico

Morales is not the only high profile exile who found sanctuary in Mexico. Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky settled in Mexico City in 1936 until his assassination in 1940. Seminal avant-garde film maker Luis Buñuel moved to Mexico after being blacklisted in Hollywood for his anti-Francoist views. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara met in Mexico City where they planned the Cuban Revolution.

The list continues. Many of the most important thinkers, fighters, artists and writers in the Spanish speaking world have at least once made home in Mexico. As inconsequential as Mexico's policy of welcoming the persecuted may seem, its impact on history, politics, and culture is immense. Without it, much of Hispanic art and democracy would've been lost to the regimes of fascists and right-wingers.

Policy rating: 9/10

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AUTHOR: Tom Leach
Spanish and German student. Interested in cultural studies and left-wing politics globally. Twitter: @tleachleach

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