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Adolfo López Mateos

Adolfo López Mateos
Adolfo López Mateos in 1963.

48th President of Mexico
In office
1 December 1958 – 30 November 1964
Preceded by Adolfo Ruiz Cortines
Succeeded by Gustavo Díaz Ordaz
Personal details
Born Adolfo López Mateos
(1910-05-26)26 May 1910
Atizapán de Zaragoza, State of Mexico, Mexico
Died 22 September 1969(1969-09-22) (aged 59)
Mexico City, Mexico
Nationality Mexican
Political party Institutional Revolutionary Party
Spouse(s) Eva Sámano
Angelina Gutiérrez
Alma mater Scientific and Literary Institute of Toluca

Adolfo López Mateos (Spanish pronunciation: ; 26 May 1910 – 22 September 1969[1]) was a Mexican politician affiliated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) who served as President of Mexico from 1958 to 1964. As president, he nationalized electric companies, created the National Commission for Free Textbooks (1959) and promoted the creation of prominent museums such as the Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Declaring his political philosophy to be "left within the Constitution," López Mateos was the first left-wing politician to hold the presidency since Lázaro Cárdenas.


  • Life 1
  • Presidency 2
    • Domestic policy 2.1
    • Foreign policy 2.2
  • Post-presidency and death 3
  • Sources 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6


President Adolfo López Mateos with future President of the United States Lyndon Baines Johnson and former President Harry S. Truman, in 1959.

López Mateos was born in Atizapán de Zaragoza to Mariano Gerardo López y Sánchez Roman, a dentist, and Elena Mateos y Vega, a teacher. According to official records, a small town in the state of México, though at a young age his family moved to Mexico City upon his father's death. Nevertheless, there is a birth certificate and several testimonies archived at El Colegio de México that place his birth on 10 September 1909, in Patzicía, Guatemala.[2]

In 1929 he graduated from the Scientific and Literary Institute of Toluca, where he was a delegate and student leader of the Socialist Labor Party. He served as the private secretary to Col. Filiberto Gómez, the governor of the state of Mexico.[3] In 1929, as a speaker he supported the presidential campaign of José Vasconcelos — an opposition candidate — against the presidential campaign of Pascual Ortiz Rubio. In 1934, he became the private secretary of the president of the Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR), Carlos Riva Palacio.[4] He filled a number of bureaucratic positions from then until 1941, when he met Isidro Fabela. Fabela helped him into a position as the director of the Literary Institute of Toluca[5] after Fabela resigned the post to join the International Court of Justice. López Mateos became a senator of the state of Mexico in 1946. He served until 1952, when he became the Secretary of Labor under president Adolfo Ruiz Cortines.

As Secretary of Labor, López Mateos managed well in difficult circumstances, defusing many labor strikes and pursuing a conciliatory rather than confrontational policy. However, the teachers and railway workers movements "managed to endanger the stability of the regime."[4]

In 1958, he was elected president of Mexico as the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, and served until 1964.

López Mateos was the first chairman of the Organization Committee of the 1968 Summer Olympics and called the meeting that led to the creation of the World Boxing Council.

Plagued with migraines during his adult life, he was diagnosed with several cerebral aneurysms, and, after several years in a coma, he died in 1969 of an aneurysm.[6] His ex-wife Eva Sámano was buried next to him in the Panteon Jardín in Mexico City following her death in 1984.[7] President Carlos Salinas de Gortari later had the remains of them both moved to López Mateos's birthplace in Mexico state and a monument erected to him there.[7] Salinas's father Raúl Salinas Lozano had been a cabinet minister in López Mateos's government and passed over to be the next president of Mexico.[8] The reburial of López Mateos's remains in the place now named Ciudad López Mateos in Mexico state rather than remaining in the national capital could be interpreted as political in various ways.


Domestic policy

A wide range of social reforms were carried out during Adolfo Lopez Mateos’ presidency. Land reform was implemented vigorously, with 16 million hectares of land redistributed.[9] The government also cleared and opened up new agricultural lands in the extreme south, which helped to reduce land tension in that part of the country. Public health campaigns were also launched to combat diseases such as polio, malaria, and tuberculosis. Typhus, smallpox, and yellow fever were eradicated, and malaria was significantly reduced.

Tackling poverty became one of the priorities of López Mateos’s government, and during his presidency social welfare investments reached a historical peak of 19.2% of total investment. A number of social-welfare programs for the poor were set up, and existing social-welfare programs were improved. Health care and pensions were increased, new hospitals and clinics were built, and the IMSS programme for rural Mexico was expanded. A social security institute was established, the Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Socials ed los Trabajadores al Servicio del Estado (ISSSTE) which provided child care, medical services, and other social services to workers, especially state employees.[10] A 1959 amendment to the Social Security Law also brought part-time workers within the auspices of social security. He established the National Institute for the Protection of Children to provide medical services and other aid to children.[10]

A food distribution system was established to provide affordable staples for poor Mexicans and a market for farm produce. The government entered the housing business on a large scale for the first time in Mexican history, with a major program being initiated to build low-cost housing in major industrial cities, with over 50,000 units of low-income housing constructed between 1958 and 1964. One of the largest housing developments in Mexico City housed 100,000 people and contained several nurseries, four clinics, and several schools.

In an effort to reduce illiteracy, the idea of adult education classes was revived, while a system of free and compulsory school textbooks was launched. In 1959 the National Commission of Free Textbooks (Comision Nacional de Libros de Textos Gratuitos) was created.[11] The text book program touched off controversy.[10] Education had become the largest single item in the federal budget by 1963, and there was a renewed emphasis on school construction. Almost every village was assisted in the construction of schools and provided with teachers and textbooks. Free student breakfasts for primary-school pupils were also restored.

An attempt was made at political liberalization, with an amendment to the constitution that altered the electoral procedures in the Chamber of Deputies by encouraging greater representation for opposition candidates in Congress. The electoral reform of 1963 introduced so-called "party deputies" (dipudados del partido) whereby opposition parties were granted five seats in the Chamber of Deputies if they received at least 2.5 percent of the national vote and one more seat for each additional 0.5 percent (up to a maximum of 20 party deputies).[12] In the 1964 elections, for instance, the Popular Socialist Party (PPS) won 10 seats, while the National Action Party (PAN) won 20. By giving opposition political parties a greater voice in government, the Mexican state which was controlled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party could have the appearance and greater legitimacy as a democracy.

The government succeeded in reducing labor unrest by setting up a National Commission for the Implementation of Profit Sharing which apportioned between 5% to 10% of each company’s profits to organized labor. In 1960, Article 123 of the Constitution of 1917 was amended to ensure that government employees were protected by minimum-wage legislation. Tight price controls and sharp increases in the minimum wage also ensured that the worker’s real minimum wage index reached its highest level since the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas. State intervention in the economy increased markedly between 1958 and 1964, with the government purchasing controlling stock in a number of foreign industries. The government also purchased the cinema industry, and it was decreed that ticket prices would be affordable for all.

His government achieved political and social stability by suppressing social movements. One example is the military operation of 1959 to end a conflict with the labor union of the railroad workers. During this operation, the strike was broken and Demetrio Vallejo, leader of the railroad workers was arrested.[13][14]

López Mateos nationalized the electric industry in 1960.[15]

López Mateos was succeeded as president by the conservative Gustavo Díaz Ordaz in 1964, also of the Institutional Revolutionary Party.

Foreign policy

U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson (left) and Mexican President Adolfo López Mateos (right) unveil the new boundary marker signaling the peaceful end of the Chamizal dispute.

López Mateos welcomed U.S. President John F. Kennedy to Mexico for a highly successful visit in July 1962. But Mexico’s relationship with the United States changed, due to Mexico’s friendly position towards the socialist regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba.[9] The Chamizal conflict with United States could be resolved and a large part of the Chamizal area was given back to Mexico.

Post-presidency and death

In the last year of his presidency, Lopez Mateos was visibly unwell. He looked worn-out and increasingly slim. On his very last months as president, a friend of his, Victor Manuel Villegas, went to see him and remembers asking him how he was, to which he replied "screwed up". It turned out that Lopez Mateos had seven aneurysms.[16] After finishing his presidential term, he served as head of the Olympic Committee which was responsible for the organization of the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968. But he had to resign after a short period due to his failing health. Manuel Velasco Suarez quotes him saying "In every way life has smiled at me. Now i must accept whatever comes".[16] No long after he became an invalid. He was unable to move and after an emergency tracheotomy he lost his voice. Enrique Krauze exclaimed on one of his books "Gone was the voice of a once great orator".[16] López Mateos died in September 1969 in Mexico City.[17]


A Traveller's History of Mexico by Kenneth Pearce

The Course of Mexican History by Michael C. Meyer and William M. Sherman

Mexico: Lonely Planet Travel Guide (2010)

Mexico and the United States by Lee Stacy

The Mexican profit-sharing decision: politics in an authoritarian regime by Susan Kaufman Purcell

Plaza of sacrifices: gender, power, and terror in 1968 Mexico by Elaine Carey

Medicine in Mexico: from Aztec herbs to betatrons by Gordon Schendel and José Alvarez Amézquita


  1. ^ Aniversario del nacimiento en Atizapán de Zaragoza, de Adolfo López Mateos,, and [3] give a birth date of 26 May 1910. However, several other sources give a birth date of 26 May 1909 [4].
  2. ^ Loaeza, Soledad (2009-07-06). "El guatemalteco que gobernó México". Nexos (in Spanish) (Mexico City). Retrieved 2009-10-26. 
  3. ^ Cecilia Greaves Lainé, "Adolfo López Mateos" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 1, p. 758. Chicago: Fitzroy and Dearborn 1997.
  4. ^ a b Lainé, "Adolfo López Mateos" p. 758.
  5. ^ Lainé, "Adolfo López Mateos" p. 758
  6. ^ Cecilia Greaves Lainé, "Adolfo López Mateos" p. 759.
  7. ^ a b Eva Sámano
  8. ^ Jane Bussey, "Carlos Salinas de Gortari" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 2, p. 1330.
  9. ^ a b Delgado de Cantú, Gloria M. (2004). Historia de Mexico, Legado Historico Y Pasado Reciente. Pearson Educación. p. 418. 
  10. ^ a b c Lainé, "Adolfo López Mateos" p. 759.
  11. ^ Delgado de Cantú, Gloria M. (2003). Historia de Mexico, Legado Historico Y Pasado Reciente. Pearson Educación. p. 311. 
  12. ^ Martinez, Sarah. "Changing Campaign Strategies in Mexico: The Effects of Electoral Reforms on Political Parties" (PDF). 
  13. ^ Delgado de Cantú, Gloria M. (2003). Historia de Mexico, Legado Historico Y Pasado Reciente. Pearson Educación. 
  14. ^ Lainé, "Mateo López Mateos" p. 758.
  15. ^ "Adolfo López Mateos 2". Retrieved 17 November 2013. 
  16. ^ a b c
  17. ^ Coerver, Don M. (2004). Mexico: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Culture and History. ABC-CLIO. p. 269. 

Further reading

  • Biography at Mexico Connect
  • Biography at Historical Text Archive
  • (Spanish) Biography
  • Camp, Roderic A. Mexican Political Biographies. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona, 1982.
Political offices
Preceded by
Adolfo Ruiz Cortines
President of Mexico
Succeeded by
Gustavo Díaz Ordaz
Party political offices
Preceded by
Adolfo Ruiz Cortines
PRI presidential candidate
1958 (won)
Succeeded by
Gustavo Díaz Ordaz
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