Mexican support for Spanish exiles
Repository: Ateno Español de México, Cuidad de México, México
Extent: 1 item
After the failure of the military coup and the start of the Spanish Civil War, Mexican President General Lázaro Cárdenas offered his support to the Spanish Republic and began sending weapons and supplies. Cárdenas felt a strong affinity towards Spain’s Popular Front government, and this separated him from the dominant non-interventionist tendency of the time. It also further reinforced the prominence that the Mexican president and his government had been acquiring in foreign policy. They had already defended international legality with their protests against Fascist Italy’s attack on Abyssinia in 1935, and they would do so again in 1938 and 1939, following Nazi Germany’s aggression in Austria and Czechoslovakia. Rather than providing a moral benchmark, Mexico would experience international isolation.
Mexico sent the Republic more than twenty thousand rifles, as well as machine guns, cannon, ammunition, and airplanes. Mexican factories increased their production to try to provide as much as they could for the Republican Army. And on a number of occasions, Cárdenas acted as an intermediary, buying European weapons that the Republic could not acquire directly. Together with the Soviet Union, Mexico became one of the Republic’s two most reliable suppliers of armaments. According to Ojeda Revah, because the arms shipments from Mexico to Spain were secret, there is no way of knowing their precise quantity or value. Sources also differ when it comes to documented shipments. For example, according to the Parisian newspaper Le Temps, on September 25, 1936, the Mexican-flagged steamship América left Antwerp, officially for Veracruz, but in reality for a Republican-held port. Also, the American military attaché in Mexico City reported that in September 1936, the same gunboat that had evacuated several Mexican and Spanish refugees sheltering in the Mexican Embassy in Madrid, transported 8,000,000 cartridges and 8,000 rifles to an undisclosed port in Spain. Mexico also smuggled several planes from the United States, which were hidden in the port of Veracruz, equipped with weapons to turn them into bombers, and later sent by sea to Spain
The second aspect of Mexican aid to the Republic was the support and reception of between twenty and twenty-five thousand exiles in 1939. Already in 1937, after the intercession of Amalia Solórzano, Cárdenas's wife and president of the Committee to Help the Children of the Spanish People, the country had welcomed 456 boys and girls, known as the “Children of Morelia”, after the city where they were sent to live. The photograph shows President Cárdenas with some of them.
Once the war was over, the Mexican government provided protection to Republican exiles in France, including the President of the Republic, Manuel Azaña, who died in 1940 in a hotel in the town of Montauban that had been declared an extension of the Mexican embassy. Thanks to the efforts of the country’s ambassador in Paris, several thousand more were able to leave the concentration camps and find refuge in Mexico. The first ship, the Sinaia, arrived in Veracruz on June 13, 1939, and was followed by others such as the Ipanema, the Mexique, the Nyasa and the Champlain.