Mexicans felt that they were at last gaining economic independence from foreign influence.

Nationalism Spreads in Latin America

The issues facing Mexico were echoed in other Latin American nations. In the early 1900s, Latin America's economy was booming because of exports. Latin Americans sold their plentiful natural resources and cash crops to industrialized countries. In return, they bought products made in those countries.

Stable governments helped to keep the region's economy on good footing. Some Latin American nations, such as Argentina and Uruguay, had democratic constitutions. However, military dictators or small groups of wealthy landowners held the real power. The tiny ruling class kept the economic benefits of the booming economy for themselves. The growing middle class and the lower classes—workers and peasants—had no say in their own governments.

Logo of a circle divided into three vertical portions of green, white, red with the letters P R and I in each section, respectively.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) created a more stable government in Mexico and increased the representation of peasants and urban laborers.

Economic Nationalism

During the 1920s and 1930s, world events affected Latin American economies. After World War I, trade with Europe fell off. The Great Depression that struck the United States in 1929 spread around the world in the 1930s. Prices for Latin American exports plunged as demand dried up. At the same time, the cost of imported consumer goods rose. Latin American economies, dependent on export trade, declined rapidly.

A tide of economic nationalism, or emphasis on home control of the economy, swept Latin American countries. It was directed largely at ending economic dependence on the industrial powers, especially the United States and Britain. Since consumers could no longer afford costly imports, local entrepreneurs set up factories to produce goods at home. They urged their governments to raise tariffs, or taxes on imports, to protect these new industries. Following Mexico's lead, some nations nationalized resources or took over foreign-owned industries.

Photo of a group of dark haired young people in suits and dresses, some carrying banners in Spanish.

Students rally to support President Lázaro Cárdenas's nationalization of the foreign-owned oil industry. One of the signs reads: “We will collaborate enthusiastically in the betterment of Mexico.”

The drive to create domestic industries had limited success. In Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and a few other countries, some areas of manufacturing grew. Mexico and Venezuela also benefited from a growing demand for their oil. But most Latin American nations lacked the resources to build large industries. As in the past, the unequal distribution of wealth hurt efforts at economic development. Only a few in the wealthy ruling class benefited from economic growth.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments