top of page

Expropiacion Petrolera; 1938

"Poor Mexico; so far from God, yet so close to the United States." Porfirio Díaz (1836-1915).

I want to jump ahead now to the end of foreign investment in Mexico's oil industry.

Like the Middle East and other regions of the world, Americans found Mexico's massive oil reserves in the Tampico Basin, and taught Mexico how to produce the stuff, ... then we got run off. So it was in 1938 when Mexico had enough of foreigners making money from their sovereign resource wealth, nationalized their oil industry and told Americans, Europeans and the English to pack their personal belongings, leave everything else behind, and to vamos.

So significant to the Mexican people was the ability to be shed of American and English control of their oil industry, March 18, or Oil Expropriation Day is still considered a National Holiday in Mexico and Presidente Lazaro Cardenas a National Hero.

“Today, we pay homage to the leadership, patriotism, and vision of General Lázaro Cárdenas. He knew how to defend the supreme interest of the nation by directing, with the support of women and men from all around the country, the rescue of this fundamental resource for Mexicans . . . Today, just as seven decades ago, oil is the patrimony of all Mexicans, a symbol of our sovereignty and an emblem of our nationalism.” Presidente Felipe Calderón; 2008

Expropriation had very negative effects on American holdings in Mexico, of course, and the ramifications of nationalization went on for years in International courts and with worldwide sanctions and tariffs on Mexican oil. After Cardenas left office in 1940 the United States and the United Kingdom both tried to wiggle their way back into Mexico to recover some of their investment but found a proud, unyielding government unwilling to make significant concessions. By 1950 the world simply gave up trying to access Mexico's resource wealth.

I stumbled into this little video and I was struck with the pride, and hope the song conveyed . The music reminded me of care free days in Mexico, of surf in crystal clear water, deep caves, big fish and cold mountains; of bad tequila, smiling faces and dancing the night away.

March 18, 1938 was a great day in Mexican history. Huasteca, you must please recall, was Edward Doheny's (California) company and Aquila was Cowdrays from London, both taken completely over by Pemex. There is celebratory footage in this film of Cardenas, Expropriation Day and, of course, an emphasis of the greatness of nationalization for the Mexico laborer.


Google many aspects of early Mexican oil history and lots of Oily Stuff stuff pops up first. Cool, uh?


bottom of page