Bandera del Gobierno de Mexico
Presidencia de la Republica Meicana

Foreign Affairs

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The Ministry is responsible for foreign affairs. Its purpose is to further Mexico’s interests in an international system based on rules and norms that create the conditions for the peaceful coexistence of states. It conducts business with other governments and international governmental organizations; protects Mexican citizens abroad; and promotes Mexico, its commercial and other interests, around the world. It does this through its Mexico City headquarters in Tlatelolco and its delegations within Mexico and through its worldwide network of embassies, consulates and missions.

Diplomats, Poets and Writers

 The diplomat as author: a remarkable talent for wielding the pen combined with the ability to negotiate. A creative talent combined with outstanding consular and diplomatic capabilities. The art of writing combined with the art of  conducting negotiations with representatives abroad while abiding by traditional costumes and courtesies. Literature as passion and diplomacy as destiny.

The Mexican Foreign Service has always been comprised of remarkable writers who have shared their culture, wisdom and judgement when representing Mexico abroad. They have championed Mexico's culture, its roots and its sentiments throughout the world.

The following is a selective list of the most renowned Mexican novelists and poets who have represented Mexico abroad. The information presented here comes from a book edited by the Foreign Ministry entitled Escritores en la Diplomacia Mexicana (Writers in Mexican Diplomacy), Volumes I and II, Mexico, 1998 and 2000, respectively. Additional information comes from Milenios de Mexico  (Mexico's Millennia) by Humberto Musacchio, edited by  Raya en el Agua, Mexico, 1999, as well as from Diccionario de Escritores en Mexico (Dictionary of Writers in Mexico). The list is incomplete and open to the inclusion of other writers and intellectuals.

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History of the Foreign Ministry

 

Any discussion of Mexico’s international politics and of the principles set forth in Article 89 part 10 of the Constitution of the United Mexican States must begin with an understanding of Mexico’s birth as a free and sovereign nation in the early 1800s. 

THE 1800s

The birth of Mexico as an independent nation led to a series of interventions by foreign powers. In addition, the Holy See, the Spanish Crown and other sovereign powers withheld diplomatic recognition from Mexico.  The new nation was legally constituted through the signing of the Cordoba Treaties, and threats from abroad were added to its many other difficulties.  

A provisional government was created as a preliminary step to installing a monarchic form of government in Mexico. The provisional government appointed a regentship for the Mexican Empire, an executive body that—as the interim government—named the first foreign minister, giving him the title of Minister of Business and Domestic and Foreign Affairs. Subsequently, a decree published on November 8, 1821 established four ministries, one of which was the Ministry of State and Domestic and Foreign Affairs, in charge of diplomatic relations with foreign countries.

National historic documents record Dr. José Manuel de Herrera as the first Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Foreign Service is created in 1822. On May 7th of that year, the Constitutional Congress issued a decree setting forth the rules for appointing the members of the Foreign Service, as well as instructions and salary guidelines for the diplomatic personnel. 

The 1824 Constitution consolidates Mexico as a federal republic. It specifies the responsibilities of the General Congress with regard to international relations (Article 50), and the responsibilities of the Mexican president regarding the appointment and removal of ministers, diplomatic envoys and consuls, and for entering into international commitments (Article 110). In addition, the administrative organization and functions of the government are also set forth (Articles 117 to 122).

Given Mexico’s new legal and political structure and its increasing international commitments, new rules and regulations for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were issued on July 7, 1826, defining both its responsibilities and attributes. And on December 31, 1829, General Vicente Guerrero issued the first law of the Mexican Foreign Service, which included the rules for establishing diplomatic offices, special diplomatic offices and consulates. The special diplomatic offices were responsible for drawing up treaties and agreements; the regular diplomatic offices for the permanent responsibilities conferred upon them by the right of reciprocity; and the consulates were divided by this law into general consulates, consulates and vice consulates. These were headed by consul generals, consuls or vice consuls, respectively.

In 1831, the law establishing diplomatic representations in Europe and America was passed. It dealt more with labor issues than with organizational issues and made two important contributions: with the official creation of diplomatic offices, the number of diplomats increased,  and the salaries of the diplomats posted to Europe and America were made equal.

On February 12, 1834 a law was passed that replaced all previous laws on consulates by order of President Gómez Farías. It is worth noting that between 1835 and 1896, six different sets of rules were passed to regulate even the clothing that should be worn by Mexican diplomats and consuls, according to the practices of those times.

In 1836, as a result of General Antonio López de Santa Anna’s coup d’etat, seven constitutional laws were passed making Mexico into a centralist republic. The stage was set for the Mexican president to determine and manage the country’s international relations (fourth law, article 17, parts 12, 13, 19, 20, 21, 31 and 32). In addition, four ministries were created, of which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was one (article 28). The ministries’ tasks were also specified (article 31, parts 1, 2, 3, 32 and 38).

The effects of adopting this type of government became evident. Urgent and necessary measures were taken through the passage of the Organizational Structure of the Provisional Government of the Republic, signed on May 28, 1841, which named four ministries, one of which was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Interior and the Police. In 1852, President Mariano Arista restructured the ministries, leading to a second set of rules and regulations for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that was published on October 12 of that year.

Mexico’s foreign policy was shaped at this point by an abundance of foreign interests and by the harsh conditions imposed by various other powers as a condition for recognizing Mexico as a sovereign nation. During this period, the country lost much of its territory during the war with Texas and the 1847-1848 war with the United States; its trade was dominated as well, and it was dependent on other countries for debt instruments and for capital investment and industrial technology. One of the most important political debates during the 1800s addressed the issue of how to achieve national unity. After losing more than half of its national territory in 1847, this debate takes on primordial importance in Mexico.

During General Antonio López de Santa Anna’s last years in power, federal administrative policies were published (April 22, 1853) creating five ministries, one of which was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In order to define its scope of operations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued its third set of rules and regulations on August 8, 1853.

In addition, the law of the diplomatic corps was published on August 25, 1853 in order to codify the various laws that had been introduced previously. The new law defined a new hierarchy within the diplomatic corps and confirmed the functions of the normal and special diplomatic offices established by the 1829 law. It also specified “the qualifications of the diplomatic staff and the rules for their appointment.” Mexican nationality was a requirement for becoming a diplomat. It was also necessary to have a good reputation, proven aptitude, honesty and to have studied a recognized profession.

When the liberals came into power the Provisional Statute of the Mexican Republic was published on May 15, 1856. This statute established six ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On February 5, 1857 a new Constitution was adopted. The Constitution set forth the responsibilities of the General Congress (article 72, parts 12 and 13) and of the Mexican president (article 85, parts 2, 3, 10 and 11) with regard to international affairs and commitments, and the appointment and removal of ministers, diplomats and consuls. And, on August 12, 1858, in the midst of the Reform War, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued its fourth set of rules and regulations.

The 1858-1860 reforms brought the nation closer to solving its problems, and its resistance to the 1862-1867 foreign intervention established the foundation for the Mexican state. The end of the second empire signaled the end of Europe’s designs on Mexico.

After Benito Juárez consolidated his government in 1861, four reforms and modifications were made to the structure of the federal government, and the Foreign Ministry became the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Interior.

After the fall of Maximilian’s empire, during the era known as the “restored republic”, a new foreign policy emerged, based on respect for the sovereignty and legal equality of nations. Rules and regulations for consular officers were issued in 1871 and specific tasks were assigned to the consular staff in each consulate. In addition, the categories of consulates were expanded.

No further substantive changes were made to the legal or administrative structure of Benito Juárez’ government and so ended one era in Mexico. It would be followed by the prolonged rule of General Porfirio Díaz.

 

THE EARLY 1900s

 

Two events of importance for the federal government occurred during Porfirio Díaz’ rule. The first was the publication on February 11, 1883 of the fifth set of rules and regulations for the Foreign Ministry and the second was the creation of seven ministries on May 13, 1891, at which point the ministry became known as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1888, rules for the Mexican diplomatic corps were issued as well. Porfirio Díaz’ foreign policy consistently emphasized industrial, commercial, cultural and financial ties with the European countries.

 At this point, the diplomatic missions were divided into four categories: special embassies; special legations, legations with a resident minister and legations with a chargé d’affaires. Military or naval attachés were also part of the legations but were not part of the diplomatic roster.

 If a diplomat committed a crime, he was subject to the Code of Federal Procedures. In 1896 the law of the Mexican diplomatic corps and its rules and regulations were issued. For the first time, these laws, issued on July 3 and 19, 1896, comprised a uniform legal code based on a true correlation between the law and the rules and regulations. Entrance into the Foreign Service was strictly and rigorously defined. Public examinations were held and were presided over by a jury made up of the Foreign Minister or Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs as president, two first secretaries and a language teacher. The most important provision was included in article 47, which established the various diplomatic categories and positions within the ministry and the consulates.

The law of the Mexican Consular Service and its rules and regulations were introduced in 1910 and 1911, during the revolutionary period. This law took the place of the 1834 law and its 1896 rules and regulations. The consular law made two contributions: first, the consular agents were divided into career and honorary consuls. The rules and regulations consisted of 813 articles divided into 43 chapters. The document describes trade and merchant marine law, the laws regarding the civil register and the attributes of consulates. 

Venustiano Carranza opposed the government of the usurper Victoriano Huerta, whom he confronted via the Guadalupe Plan. This Plan reorganized all areas of public administration and created eight ministries, one of which was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  

AFTER THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION

The Political Constitution of the United Mexican States was adopted on February 5, 1917 at the end of the revolution. It established that the Congress, through the Senate, would analyze the foreign policy developed by the executive branch of government and all international commitments made on behalf of Mexico. It would also ratify the ambassadors and consul-generals appointed by the president. In addition, the Constitution would establish the responsibilities of the President in managing the country’s foreign policy and in entering into commitments with foreign countries, and naming and removing diplomatic agents and consuls.

Article 90 of the Constitution stated that the Congress would legislate the structure of the public administration. Therefore, on April 14, 1917, a law was issued establishing the existence of six ministries, one of which was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was followed on December 25, 1917 by another act of Congress establishing seven ministries and five state departments as the administrative units of the federal government. Again, one of the ministries was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The apparent political and social calm over which the post-revolutionary governments presided encouraged successive administrations to focus on satisfying the general needs of the nation and the country’s economic and social well being. And, on January 9, 1922, President Álvaro Obregón issued a law for the diplomatic corps and, on February 15, its rules and regulations. The diplomatic corps was comprised of heads of mission and career personnel. For the first time, entrance into the Foreign Service was via a competitive public exam.

All diplomatic personnel were charged with caution and discretion in official affairs, and with abstaining from intervening in the domestic politics of the countries to which they were posted. Chiefs of mission could be removed from their post by the Mexican president without explanation, while career diplomats could only be deprived of their diplomatic status if tried for a crime, if they married a foreigner without notifying the ministry previously, for a serious breach of their official duties, bad conduct or for abandoning their post.

On January 9, 1923 a law was passed that established a new structure for the consular offices and their personnel. The law stated that the government could appoint as consul general Mexicans outside of the consular corps if they possessed the skills for the job and demonstrated good conduct.

1928 was a key year in the history of the post-revolutionary state. It marked the end of General Plutarco Elías Calles’ term and the assassination of Alvaro Obregón, who a few days before had been elected for a second time as president of Mexico.

The legal and administrative structure of the government was modified without affecting the existence of the Foreign Ministry by the laws issued by Congress on April 6, 1934; December 31, 1935; December 30, 1939; December 13, 1946; January 1, 1947 and December 24, 1958.

In 1934 the law of the Foreign Service was issued with its rules and regulations. These documents stated that the Foreign Service would promote and maintain political and economic relations between Mexico and foreign countries (article one of the regulations); safeguard the country’s prestige and assure that Mexico complied with all of the treaties, conventions and international obligations to which it was party. The diplomatic offices were designated as embassies and delegations, and the consular offices became general consulates, consulates, consular agencies and honorary consulates.

The diplomatic ranks were: ambassador; envoy; minister-envoy; chargé d’affaires; counselor; first secretary; second secretary; third secretary and diplomatic attaché. The consular ranks were: consul general; first consul; second consul; third consul; fourth consul; and vice consul.  The document covered such areas as trade, protection of Mexicans, national marine law, consular civil register law, notary functions, and customs, health and migration measures.  The law was poorly received due to the provision allowing the Mexican president to make appointments at every rank on the diplomatic and consular scale for a specific duty and for a specified time. This law was added to on November 26, 1940 when the sixth set of rules and regulations was issued.

 

THE MODERN ERA

The period from 1946 to 2000 could be called the post-revolutionary era, the modern era. Mexico faced new challenges: Mexicans were living longer and adding to the problem of a rapidly expanding population; industrialization led to explosive growth in the cities; improvements in education encouraged the public to demand a more democratic model; and advances in the communication media encouraged a more open attitude towards new styles of cultural life which led, somewhat paradoxically, to various forms of nationalism.

In 1967, a new law was published for the Mexican Foreign Service. It made two important contributions. First, an Entrance Advisory Commission was created, as was the Foreign Service Personnel Commission, whose purpose was to evaluate requests for leaves of absence, vacations, retirement, disciplinary measures, new postings and promotions.

Obviously, the economic, political, social and cultural aspects of the nation were inextricably linked and interdependent: the rapid growth of the universities—an educational and cultural phenomenon—had an impact on political events such as the 1968 student movement. At the same time, the Mexican government pursued a liberal and progressive foreign policy. In the OAS, it opposed the expulsion of Cuba from the Interamerican system and the trade embargo to which it was subject due to its revolution.

The so-called Cold War was a sign of the times. The division of Germany, the Korean War, and the uprisings in Eastern Europe were only a few indications of the times. The Chinese revolution had been consolidated. By the end of the fifties, the Cuban revolution would take a socialist bent. The fifties and sixties would see the emergence of that bloc of countries called the Third World, two of whose leaders, Tito and Nehru, were committed progressives. These times witnessed a search for a North-South dialogue.

Within this context, President Adolfo López Mateos expanded the horizons of Mexican foreign policy. His predecessors had only visited the United States. He organized trips to Europe, Asia and Latin America. At the same time, Mexico received visits from individuals as important as Nehru, Tito, and Sukarno, the main leaders of the Third World; Charles De Gaulle, interested in a closer relationship with Latin America; and the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, who came to thank Mexico for the support of the Cardenas administration during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia prior to World War Two. John F. Kennedy also visited Mexico, as did several South American leaders: Alessandri of Chile; Rómulo Betancourt of Venezuela; Juan Bosch of the Dominican Republic; and Paz Estenssoro of Bolivia. Another very important visit was that of Anastás Mikoyán, the deputy prime minister of the Soviet Union. His visit led to the first industrial and cultural exposition held by Russia in Mexico at the same time that the People’s Republic of China held its first exposition as well.

The Cuban missile crisis, which almost provoked a war between the world’s two largest powers, led the Mexican government in 1963 to propose that Latin America become a nuclear-weapons-free zone.

That same year, fearing that the Cuban revolution would spread throughout the continent, the United States pressured all the Latin American countries to break relations with Cuba. Mexico voted against the proposal. With this type of foreign policy, Mexico prolonged a tradition whose most important chapters had been the support given by Cárdenas to the Spanish republic and to Ethiopia.

The administration of Luis Echeverría Álvarez began in 1970 and was characterized by its outward-looking policies. Mexico’s diplomatic relations were broadened, and this had an effect on the Foreign Ministry.

On February 14, 1973, a foundation for the publication, distribution and sale of works in international relations was created with initial funds of three million pesos. And during this administration, the seventh set of rules and regulations were issued for the ministry on December 3, 1975, as well as the law of the federal public administration on December 29, 1976, in which the Foreign Ministry is one of eighteen dependencies of the federal government. Their functions are regulated by article 28 of that law.

In 1975, the Foreign Ministry was comprised of 27 areas, including the Minister’s office, two underministries and a deputy minister for administrative affairs. The Ministry’s first passport office was opened in Monterrey, Nuevo León in February 1975.

As a result of the growing diversity and complexity of Mexico’s diplomatic relations, it became necessary to add a third underministry for special international affairs and research in January 1976. And in October of that year, a second passport office was inaugurated in Guadalajara, Jalisco.

The Foreign Ministry’s eighth set of rules and regulations was published in the Official Federal Journal on September 23, 1977. It mentions 35 areas within the Foreign Ministry.

And on April 18, 1978, the ninth set of rules and regulations for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was issued, setting forth a new organizational structure for the ministry. A fourth underministry appears for the first time; the General Direction for Organization, Management and Budget created; and two general directions and two other areas are eliminated, leaving the Foreign Ministry with four underministries and two passport offices outside of Mexico City.

The tenth set of rules and regulations for the Foreign Ministry was published on October 17, 1979. It named four underministries. Five directions were eliminated and the names of the rest were changed. The Foreign Ministry was organized by region at the level of the general directions. In addition, in August 1979 the first passport office within Mexico City was opened in the Gustavo A. Madero district, In November of that year, a second one was opened in the Miguel Hidalgo district of Mexico City.

After the death of Francisco Franco, Mexico renewed its diplomatic relations with the Spanish state, now become a monarchy. In 1981, Mexico hosted a chapter of the North-South dialogue between the heads of state of the industrialized countries and the less-developed countries. The pope made a successful visit to Mexico in 1979. Mexico was active as well in promoting peace and reconciliation in Central America through the so-called Contadora Group.

On November 26, 1980, the eleventh set of rules and regulations for the Foreign Ministry was published in the Official Federal Journal. The Ministry was organized into four underministries, a deputy minister for administrative affairs, an office for legal affairs, two commissions, three supervisory directions and 26 general directions. On March 31 of that year, two more passport offices were opened in the Venustiano Carranza and Benito Juárez districts of Mexico City, and one in Hermosillo, Sonora, was opened in July.

Recognizing the need to decentralize the services of the federal government, the Foreign Ministry next opened passport offices in: Torreón, Coahuila in March 1981; Villahermosa, Tabasco in August 1981; Tapachula, Chiapas in May 1982 and Mérida, Yucatán in July 1982. In October 1985, offices were opened in Toluca and Naucalpan de Juárez in the state of Mexico and, finally, in July 1985 the fifth passport office in metropolitan Mexico City was opened in the Cuauhtémoc district.

A new law for the Mexican Foreign Service and its rules and regulations were published on January 8, 1982. The new law reflected Mexico’s incessant activity in the international forums prior to its publication. The diplomatic, consular and administrative areas of the Foreign Service were made into three separate and parallel career paths. The diplomatic branch of the Foreign Service was comprised of the following ranks: ambassador, minister, counselor, first secretary, second secretary, third secretary and diplomatic attaché. The consular branch included the categories of consul general, first consul, second consul, third consul, fourth consul and vice consul. The administrative branch included the ranks of first administrative attaché, second administrative attaché, third administrative attaché, first administrative secretary, second administrative secretary and third administrative secretary.

In addition, entrance into the Foreign Service for all career diplomats would be via general public examinations consisting of three stages: an entrance examination for the Matias Romero Institute of Diplomatic Studies; specialized classes for a minimum of one semester; and an oral examination in order to become either a diplomatic attaché or a vice consul.

On January 12, 1984, the twelfth set of rules and regulations for the Foreign Ministry was issued. It included a name change for one underministry and created the Mexican sections of the International Boundaries and Water Commissions.

During Miguel de la Madrid’s presidency, changes and additions were made to the law of the federal public administration. The federal government was divided into 19 areas, including the Foreign Ministry. During these years, pressure on the national economy led to budget cuts, and several areas of the federal government were eliminated. These austerity measures were also felt by the Foreign Ministry: its budget was cut and its organization was reduced although its responsibilities remained the same.

These changes were reflected in the thirteenth set of rules and regulations of the Foreign Ministry, published on August 22, 1985. They consisted of ten chapters defining the roles of the ministry’s personnel and its divisions, and regulating its activities.

On January 23, 1989, the fourteenth set of rules and regulations of the Foreign Ministry were published in the Official Federal Journal. The new rules specified the functions of the Foreign Ministry in accordance to the functions set forth in the Mexican Constitution, Federal Public Administration Law, the law of the Mexican Foreign Service and other laws.

This new set of rules established that the Foreign Ministry would carry out its activities in a programmed fashion. For the study, planning and execution of its affairs, the Ministry would be made up of three underministries, the underministry for administrative affairs and a legal affairs office, as well as eighteen general directions.

 

THE LATE 1900s

 

The fifteenth set of rules and regulations of the Foreign Ministry was published on August 28, 1998 in the Official Federal Journal and subsequently modified by presidential decree as published in the Official Federal Journal of November 13, 1998. Here it was stated that the Foreign Ministry would be responsible for those issues expressly assigned to it by the Constitution of the United Mexican States, the law of the Federal Public Administration, the law of the Mexican Foreign Service, the law regarding treaties and other laws, rules and regulations and decrees, agreements and other orders issued by the Mexican president.

The Foreign Ministry would execute Mexico’s foreign policy, promote, encourage and assure that measures abroad were carried out in coordination with other areas of the federal government as necessary, direct the Mexican Foreign Service and participate in the formulation of all treaties, agreements and conventions to which Mexico was a party. In addition, the law mentions that the Foreign Ministry would carry out its activities in a programmed fashion. To this end, the document sets forth the participation of the various areas of the Ministry, as well as of its decentralized components and its diplomatic and consular representations, taking into account the guidelines of the National Development Plan and the policies, priorities and methods established by the President to achieve Mexico’s goals.

For the study, planning and execution of its affairs, the Foreign Ministry would be comprised of three underministries, the underministry for administrative affairs, a coordination and liaison office, a legal affairs office, 22 general directions and 14 decentralized agencies, amongst them the Mexican Institute of International Cooperation and the Matias Romero Institute. It also includes an Internal Audit Department that would be guided by article 42 of the rules and regulations.

These rules and regulations specify that the Foreign Minister would have the nontransferable power to implement the international aspects of the National Program for Women and those related to gender as well, in coordination with the Ministry of the Interior and its corresponding decentralized agencies (article 6 section 20).

On November 13, 1997, a decree modifying the rules and regulations of the Mexican Foreign Service law was published in the Official Federal Journal.  Article one of these rules states that the Mexican Foreign Service would be a permanent corps of public servants specifically responsible for representing Mexico abroad and also responsible for executing Mexico’s foreign policy in agreement with the principles established in the Mexican Constitution. The Foreign Service would depend on the Mexican president and would be administered by the Foreign Ministry.

 

THE NEW MILLENNIUM

 

The international system has undergone profound changes over the past decade: the international system that has emerged in the post-Cold War era is simultaneously fragmented and global in scope. It demands new strategies and a new focus if we are to carve a successful role for our country in the international economy, face the challenges of the new international security agenda and guarantee the sustained development and the well being of our society.  For this reason, the Mexican diplomacy of the new millennium should not be solely an instrument to safeguard Mexico’s sovereignty and national security. It must also become a lever to promote and strengthen Mexico’s socioeconomic development.

Mexico is also going through an era of profound changes within its own borders. The July 2, 2000 election of President Vicente Fox Quesada demonstrated the political maturity of the Mexican people and their desire for democracy. It put our institutions to the test and they passed with flying colors. The Mexican government today enjoys a legitimacy that adds strength to its positions on international issues.

At the very beginning of the new century, on August 10, 2001, a new version of the Foreign Ministry’s rules and regulations was published, and this was quickly followed by several others. So that Mexico’s international activities answered the challenges of the new millennium, a new law of the Mexican Foreign Service was published in the Official Federal Journal on January 22, 2002; a new set of rules and regulations for the Mexican Foreign Service was published on August 23; and the most recent version of rules and regulations for the Foreign Ministry was published on August 10, 2001 and modified on October 11, 2001; July 31, 2002; August 21, 2002 and November 1, 2002.

Bibliography:

México: 175 años de política exterior, 4 volúmenes, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, México,

Memoria de Labores de la SRE, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, México.

CUMBERLAND, Charles, La Revolución Mexicana: los años constitucionalistas, Fondo de Cultura Económica, México.

 KRAUZE, Enrique, Biografía del Poder, Fondo de Cultura Económica, México, 1988.

 PELLICER, Olga y REYNA, José Luis, Historia de la Revolución Mexicana, El Colegio de México, México, 1981.

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