Miguel Alemán Valdés (1902-1983), the president of Mexico from 1946 to 1952, represented a new generation in Mexican political life, one that had not fought in the revolution. He pushed the industrialization of Mexico.
Miguel Alemán was born on Sept. 27, 1902, in Sayula, Veracruz, the son of a local revolutionary hero. After studying law at the National University, he entered political life and served as a judge and a senator for the state of Veracruz. From 1936 to 1940 he was governor of that state.
In 1940, Alemán directed the successful presidential campaign of Manuel Ávila Camacho and was rewarded with the key Cabinet portfolio of secretary of the interior. He was in charge of enemy aliens during the war and of the relations of the central government with the states. He followed a hard-line policy, crushing strikes and disorders attributed to pro-Axis and rightist elements.
The election of the handsome Alemán to the presidency in 1946 swung the political pendulum to the right. He filled his Cabinet with businessmen and technocrats and emphasized industrialization rather than agrarian reform as the solution of Mexico's problems. Loans were negotiated for highway construction and the transformation of the national petroleum industry. National finance was given broad new powers as a development corporation.
Labor no longer held a favored position. The forced industrialization with its curb on wages and decline in real wages produced labor unrest. Workers and farmers were paying a high price to build an industrial society. Agricultural improvements including irrigation, fertilizers, mechanization, diversification, and colonization of new zones displaced land reform. In fact, larger individual holdings were permitted.
Alemán constructed grandiose public works, such as river valley projects in Michoacán and Veracruz, highways, and a magnificent university city in the Federal District. Social reform was not forgotten during Alemán's term. Social security coverage was extended, and the construction of schools and housing was pushed. The results of his efforts could be counted in multiplying industrial units, increased agricultural production and rising per capita income and gross national product.
In 1952, Alemán backed as his successor the minister of the interior Adolfo Ruiz Cortines, who pledged a more balanced national development. But Alemán remained a political force, the focal point for more conservative elements in the party and for the new middle-class banking, industrial, and commercial interests which had risen to power in Mexico. As president of the National Tourism Council, he played a major role in the development of the resort town of Acapulco and the promotion of the 1968 Olympics.
He died of a heart attack May 14, 1983, at his home in Mexico City.
There have been campaign biographies and some journalistic publications on Alemán but no scholarly study. The best work is George S. Wise, El México de Alemán (1952). Useful material is contained in Oscar Lewis's chapter "Mexico since Cárdenas" in Richard N. Adams and others, Social Change in Latin America Today (1960); in Howard F. Cline, Mexico: Revolution to Evolution, 1940-1960 (1962); and in Frank Brandenburg, The Making of Modern Mexico (1964). General discussions of the Alemán administration may be found in Harry Bernstein, Modern and Contemporary Latin America (1952); in Hubert Herring, A History of Latin America (1955; 3d ed. 1968); and in Helen Miller Bailey and Abraham P. Nasatir, Latin America: The Development of Its Civilization (1960; 2d ed. 1968).