Note: The views expressed here are those of the author and not those of the U.S. Government or the U.S. Department of State.

Both in the historical literature and in popular memory, President Lázaro Cárdenas (1934 – 40) is celebrated as a champion of Mexican sovereignty and as a benefactor of his country’s poor. To be sure, as the expropriator of Mexico’s oil wealth and an energetic agrarian reformer, Cárdenas looms large as the president most committed to the nationalist and redistributive tenets of the Mexican Revolution. To the extent that he has been credited with providing valuable assistance to Mexican citizens who returned to their homeland from the United States in the latter years of the Great Depression, however, his reputation may be exaggerated, or so Fernando Saúl Alanís Enciso argues in Que se queden allá. Though Mexican officials in the late 1930s at times spoke grandly of...

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