Pathways: A Journal of Humanistic and Social Inquiry


In response to antisemitic persecution from Nazi Germany and allied states, Jews from Central and Eastern Europe sought asylum, emigrated, applied for visas, and faced deportation. Mexico, under the leadership of President Lázaro Cardenas, a vocal opponent of Fascism who allowed tens of thousands of Spanish-Republican exiles to emigrate to the country, was one potential destination for Central and Eastern European Jews. In fact, the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, received thousands of applications from asylum seekers. This paper challenges the image of Mexico as a country offering hospitality to European refugees and evaluates the state’s reluctance to accept Jews during the presidencies of Cárdenas and his successor, Manuel Ávila Camacho. By highlighting the very different receptions given to Spaniards, on the one hand, and Central and Eastern European Jews on the other, I argue that Mexico’s immigration and refugee policy was influenced by racism rather than antifascism alone. Examining immigration policies of the 1930s and 1940s has possible implications for today’s immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers and how contemporary governments accept or exclude them.