Methodology and Historiography

My Contributions 

By drawing from a vast body of primary sources, including official government documents, correspondence among high-ranking officials, Mexican newspaper clippings, and visual primary sources, my investigation will add to existing historiography by providing a comprehensive and nuanced analysis of Mexico's response to the Jewish refugee crisis. My textual analysis of official government documents will reveal how specific language used throughout these documents connect directly to the national project of Mestizaje and illustrate a consistent attempt to restrict Jewish immigration to Mexico. This will also add to the important historiographical distinction between the policies toward general refugees escaping totalitarianism and Jews fleeing Nazism. Additionally, my analysis of documents from The Evian Conference of 1938 will provide a glimpse into the global temporal perspective of this time and allow me to situate Mexico's attitudes and policies toward the Jewish refugee crisis within the context of US and British attempts at manipulation as well as compare them to the official responses across the entire region of Latin America. 

Moreover, my incorporation of Mexican newspaper clippings will convey in part how the Mexican public felt about World War II and the Jewish refugee crisis, and ponder how various factors such as Mexico’s relationship with the US might have influenced this. By analyzing the shifting attitudes of the Mexican public from outright anti-Semitism and Axis support in the early years of the war to open support for the Allies' cause and little to no attention given to the Jewish victims, I will be able to provide a more nuanced understanding of the complexities of Mexican attitudes towards the Jewish refugee crisis. Furthermore, my study will be the first to incorporate war posters and use the analysis of those images to investigate the factors related to the Mexican response to the Jewish refugee crisis and the war. Examining the use of religious imagery in anti-Semitic propaganda and US government posters, I will be able to shed light on the ways in which nationalist sentiments and religious beliefs influenced Mexico's response.


While the existing historiography on the Mexican response to the Jewish refugee crisis is relatively small, what does exist is complex and nuanced. For example, in her book entitled Unwelcome Exiles: Mexico and the Jewish Refugees from Nazism, 1933-1945, historian Daniela Gleizer provides one of the most comprehensive analyses of the factors that shaped Mexico’s response to the crisis. Gleizer implements a vast body of photographs and official government documents to argue that Mexico’s policies toward Jewish refugees were consistently stringent and unique to the Jewish experience. Gleizer also contends that her conclusions challenge the prevailing notion that Mexico offered outright mass protection to persecuted peoples fleeing totalitarianism during this time, which makes no distinction between Communists, Spanish Republicans, and Jewish refugees. 

Indeed, the Mexican state perpetuates this idea by revising its history in official narratives. For example, in a 2018 speech commemorating the 75th anniversary of the arrival of Jewish refugees in Mexico, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador went so far as to claim that "Mexico opened its arms to the persecuted peoples of the world, and especially to the Jews, when other countries closed their doors to them,” (Obrador, 2018). The fact that Mexico continues to commemorate the arrival of Jewish refugees reflects an obvious intention to solely focus on the few Jewish refugees that Mexico allowed into its borders, rather than the thousands it turned away. In the decades following World War II, Mexican officials worked hard to maintain an image of hospitality and humanitarianism, but the inaccurate idea that Mexico offered similar protection to Jews and other types of refugees even permeates the scholarly sphere. In an interview with Democracy Now in 2021, historian Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo noted that "there's a popular image of Mexico as a country that welcomed everyone, and it's partly true. During the 1930s and 1940s, Mexico accepted tens of thousands of refugees, including Jews, Spaniards, and political exiles,” (Tenorio-Trillo 2021). Tenorio-Trillo’s statement here reveals that the prevailing notion Gleizer references exists at least to an extent, and that even some scholars fail to make the distinction between the Jewish experience, and that of other types of refugees. 

Spanish-language scholarship has also made significant contributions to the historiography of the Mexican response to the refugee crisis. In "El México de los años treinta: cardenismo, inmigración judía y antisemitismo," which appears in the edited volume "Xenofobia y xenofilia en la historia de México. Siglos XIX y XX. Homenaje a Moisés González Navarro," Delia Salazar and other contributors highlight the role of anti-Semitism in shaping Mexico's response to Jewish refugees during this period. Additionally, Judit Bokser's La Inmigración Judía A México Entre 1920 Y 1940 focuses specifically on the Jewish immigration to Mexico during the interwar period. Bokser argues that Mexico's acceptance of Jewish refugees was limited by both government policies and societal attitudes towards Jews. 

Other scholars have made significant historiographical contributions by focussing on specific events. For instance, Paul Bartrop's The Evian Conference of 1938 and the Jewish Refugee Crisis offers a detailed examination of the conference and its significance in the broader context of the refugee crisis. Surprisingly, Bartrop’s study is the only comprehensive one that exists about the Evian Conference specifically. Bartrop’s in-depth examination of the various international actors at the conference contributed significantly to my ability to examine Mexico’s role at the conference as compared to various other countries. Furthermore, one of the key contributions of Bartrop's work is his emphasis on the disappointment and frustration that characterized the legacy of the conference for Jewish refugees. Bartrop argues that the conference ultimately did little to address the needs of Jewish refugees, and that this failure underscored the limits of international diplomacy in responding to the crisis. Meanwhile, Monica Rankin's Mexico, la patria: Propaganda and Production during World War II sheds light on the role that propaganda played in shaping public opinion and political decisions during this period. While Rankin’s work does not focus on Jewish refugees specifically, her study of the collaborative effort to wage propaganda campaigns throughout Mexico raises important questions about the themes prevalent in the content that was distributed.