85th anniversary of the nationalization of Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México

railway machine

“The Government of Mexico will be the Sole Owner of the FF. DC. Nationals”, can be read on the front page of Excélsior of June 24, 1937. “Patriotic measure that comes to put an end to many problems”, he continues. In addition, a detailed recapitulation of the official document was published. Photographs: Excelsior Archive

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On June 23, 1937, the government of President Lázaro Cárdenas published the decree of nationalization of the Mexican railroads, in charge of the FNM agency. Until before the signing of the presidential mandate, the railway lines were mostly operated by foreign companies.

The Industrial Revolution as a process of transformation of nations, brought with it a series of discoveries that allowed optimization of work processes, thereby allowing large-scale economic development. The railway was one of the inventions with the greatest contribution to the progress of social strata at an international level.

Inaugurated by Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada during the 19th century, the first railway line in Mexico connected the port of Veracruz with the outskirts of the center of the Republic. With the arrival of the Porfirista regime, the railway network was significantly expanded and the system was strengthened until it became a pillar of the economy.

In 1908, the company Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México, SA (FNM) was created as a decentralized public body, with the aim of establishing the necessary organization for concessions in the country’s railway sector.

PHILIP FISHERMAN

A prominent figure in the railway union was Felipe Pescador from Durango. A tireless fighter for the rights of railroad workers, Pescador promoted the creation of groups of Mexican workers to counteract the hegemony of foreigners at all hierarchical levels of the union organizations.

Deeply aware of the technical and strategic work of the railway activity, Pescador promoted the participation of workers of Mexican origin to perform in all operational positions. During the revolutionary period, the Duranguense participated in different ways in the movement until receiving the leadership of FNM during the mandate of Venustiano Carranza.

The figure of Pescador has been the object of various tributes, and over time his legacy became the main symbol of the union struggle of the railway workers. His name is widely recognized in his native Durango.

THE NATIONALIZATION

With the weakening of the country’s railway infrastructure after the passage of the Revolution. The sector required a profound renovation to continue to be considered as a standard of national economic strengthening.

On June 23, 1937, the government of President Lázaro Cárdenas published the decree of nationalization of the Mexican railroads, in charge of the FNM agency. Until before the signing of the presidential mandate, the railway lines were mostly operated by foreign companies.

“The Government of Mexico will be the Sole Owner of the FF. DC. Nationals”, can be read on the front page of Excélsior of June 24, 1937. “Patriotic measure that comes to put an end to many problems”, he continues. In addition, a detailed recapitulation of the official document was published.

The agreement ordered the immediate possession of all FNM assets by what was then called the Ministry of Communications and Public Works and the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit. The provisions contemplated the corresponding compensation from the federal government to foreign companies.

The purpose of the measure was to seek the stabilization of the national railway communications network, as well as to give a public character to the operation and service from the direct administration of the government of the railway company.

“That the best organization and effective operation of the railway companies should be a serious concern for the Public Power, since such a communications system is a factor of the highest importance for the economic and social progress of a country, to the extent that its level of efficiency can be taken as an index to appreciate the general state of advancement of a nation; that in addition, internal political stability and foreign defense largely depend on the efficiency of the railway lines”, refers to the main section of the decree.

One of the main reasons of the Cardenas government for making the determination was to provide the decentralized body with greater technical resources in order to provide a better service while regulating the rates of passenger trains, as well as maintaining a balance of the finances of the the company.

THE LAST STRETCH

In 1995, during the government of Ernesto Zedillo, FNM underwent a privatization process, a situation that led to the company’s disappearance years later and, with it, the eventual cancellation of the rail passenger transport service.

Today the Mexican Railway System is made up of more than 23 thousand kilometers of track. Despite the disappearance of FNM, there are some intercity modalities for the transfer of passengers. However, the predominant operations are freight transport of goods from different sectors.

According to data from the Railway Transport Regulatory Agency, until five years ago almost 130 million tons of cargo were moved each year by rail.

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