Mexico is a country rich in natural resources with oil
being the nation�s most precious commodity. President
L�zaro C�rdenas (1934-1940) is the man responsible for
securing Mexico�s vast oil profits for its citizens.
His act of nationalizing the nation�s oil fields
remains in place today.
The calendar date of March
18th, 1938, is remembered throughout the country as the day
of �Expropiaci�n Petrolera� (Oil Expropriation).
Today, the topic of the country�s most valuable
natural resource remains controversial. Currently,
there is renewed discussion concerning the prospect of
foreign companies drilling for oil in Mexico. Many are
adamantly opposed to the suggestion, as it conflicts
directly with Mexico�s Constitution.
In 1938, President C�rdenas expropriated all the
nation�s oil production from foreign entities, namely
the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United
States. Up to this time, only international companies
were drilling for oil in Mexico. The president was led
to this bold move because the people of Mexico were
being taken advantage of. Mexican workers were being
paid only a portion of what their international
counterparts were being paid and understandably, this
situation created a great deal of labor unrest.
Indeed, strikes were occurring regularly, disrupting
production and causing widespread havoc.
In addition to these significant labor concerns, there
was also an important underlying resentment growing
towards foreign oil companies operating in Mexico. The
populace was becoming increasingly aware that their
country was not benefiting from its own resources. The
foreign oil companies had been enjoying unprecedented
profits from Mexico�s �black gold�. This basic
discrepancy combined with the gross labor injustices
being committed finally reached a crescendo of
intolerable proportions. President C�rdenas met with
representatives of the foreign companies operating in
Mexico to try and resolve these issues.
These meetings, however, were not fruitful and the
parties involved were unable to reach an agreement. On
March 18th, 1938, President C�rdenas officially
expropriated all oil assets from the international
companies operating in Mexico. Drawing upon Article 27
of the Constitution of 1917, President C�rdenas
declared Mexico�s oil belonged to the country and the
people of Mexico. He made this announcement on
national radio to the country�s citizens before he
told members of his own cabinet. This incredible
decision by President C�rdenas had profound
The people of Mexico were thrilled with the
president�s bold course of action. Tens of thousands
of the country�s citizens celebrated in the streets of
Mexico to honor this historical event. Women donated
their jewelry and silver to the government to help
compensate the foreign companies whose assets had been
seized. Naturally, the international companies
affected by the sudden turn of events had a much
different response than that of the nation�s populace.
Outrage was followed by retaliation. An international
boycott against Mexican oil was implemented. The
intent was to punish Mexico and to bring ruin to
Petr�leos Mexicanos (PEMEX), the newly founded Mexican
oil company instituted by President C�rdenas. Both
Mexico and PEMEX however survived the international
boycott and today, PEMEX continues to be Mexico�s sole