The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001

Fighting Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Mexico:
Popular Protest against Diplomatic Decisions
JOHN LEDBETTER*
OOT-AND-MOUTH VIRUS INVADED MEXICO IN 1946, SICKENING AND
killing Mexican livestock and robbing Mexican citizens of food, draft
animals, and savings. The highly contagious malady threatened to spread
north through Texas and lay waste to a fundamental United States indus-
try; only the recent alarm over "mad cow disease" can begin to compare
to the panic that foot-and-mouth caused ranchers and farmers of hogs
and sheep. Years before, Americans had rid their country of the infection
and they now expected their neighbor to abide by what the United States
determined to be the best policy. When American officials promised
financial and technical aid, Mexican political leaders adopted harsh
remedies and began to destroy a large proportion of animals in infected
regions in an attempt to eradicate the disease. Like Americans, Mexican
officials perceived that the nation's long-term interests required a quick
elimination of the virus, and U.S. assumptions of efficiency, national
interests, and disease control shaped their initial decisions. But both U.S.
and Mexican officials, members of the world's wealthier urban class, did
not expect the protests their choices produced. Poor rural Mexicans
refused to be assigned the role of passive citizens willing to accept the
choices of their leaders. Their strong public protest, laced with violence,
threatened the Mexican government. Leaders of both nations began to
fear broad unrest, and worried that conflict would endanger security,
trade, investment, and even the stability of a world thought threatened by
communism. In response to the agitation and against intense U.S. indus-
try opposition, Mexicans began to vaccinate more animals and to kill
fewer. Ironically, the ostensibly weaker party-Mexican farmers and
* John Ledbetter, a student of twentieth-century Mexico-United States relations, earned his
Ph.D. at the Unviersity of Texas at Austin and now serves as an adjunct professor at the University
of Texas at Arlington. He would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of this article for their sug-
gestions, Cherie Wolfe of the Cattle Raisers Museum in Fort Worth for help with the photos, Holly
Taylor for her editmg, and the staff at the Benson Latin American Collection for their assistance.

VOL. CIV, No. 3 SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

JANUARY, 2001

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101221/. Accessed November 21, 2014.