In the Latin American milieu, Mexico stands out as a host nation for exiles. It is somewhat paradoxical that a country with very restrictive migration policies was always willing to receive victims of political persecution, and later expanded this behavior to include victims of ethnic, religious, and gender persecution, generalized violence, and natural disasters. Explaining this paradox involves considering the transformations that the 1910 Revolution introduced into Mexico’s domestic and international politics and how these transformations impacted abroad, above all in the Latin American space, projecting the idea of a nation committed to the construction of political order and just and democratic societies. Political asylum and the Refugee Status Determination are the legal instruments by which Mexico has welcomed foreigners in conditions of extreme vulnerability. The widespread use of these instruments forged the image of Mexico as a nation of exiles. Many victims of persecution entered the country under the protection provided by the instruments of political asylum and refugee status; undoubtedly, many more did so by circumventing migratory obstacles thanks to generous governmental conduct in situations of political persecution. A journey through the most important experiences of exiles in Mexico must start with the first Latin American exiles persecuted by dictatorial regimes in the 1920s, before turning to the case of the Spanish Republicans after the Civil War in the late 1930s, and then immediately incorporating European victims of Nazism during World War II. During the Cold War a second stage of exile began with the arrival of Americans persecuted by McCarthyism in the United States, and later by the influx of thousands of Latin Americans victims of new military dictatorships. This cycle ended at the beginning of the 1980s when large contingents of Guatemalans crossed the border with Mexico to protect themselves from a war of extermination launched by the army of that country. The size and the social composition of this exile obliged Mexico to draft policies for the reception of victims of persecution that led to adjustments in national legislation and strategies for collaboration with the United Nations. In the final decades of the 20th century, the redemocratization processes in Latin America led to a marked decrease in the number of victims of political persecution. Nevertheless, since the beginning of the 21st century Mexico has faced new challenges, no longer in terms of political asylum but in terms of refuge. The increasing flows of foreign migrants who, irregularly, transit through Mexican territory to reach the border with the United States and the migration enforcement policies implemented by the US government have generated a considerable increase in requests for refugee status in Mexico. This phenomenon, unprecedented in the history of the reception of victims of persecution, leaves Mexico facing an enormous challenge in terms of humanitarian protection for foreigners who flee their countries to preserve their freedom and protect their lives.
Exiles in Mexico
Huguenots in the Atlantic
Bryan A. Banks
Huguenots refer to the group of French Calvinists in France, those expelled from France into the wider European, Atlantic, and global diaspora, and those descendant from either of the first two groups. Driven by faith, religious factionalism, and dynastic rivalries, Huguenots enflamed the French Wars of Religion (1562–1598). Henri IV ended the war by extending a degree of toleration to the Huguenots in 1598 with the Edict of Toleration. Despite the king’s royal edict, the first wave of Huguenots (1530s–1660s) continued to leave France well into the 17th century. The second wave (1670s–1710s) occurred in the second half of the 17th century, when Louis XIV’s persecutory policies began to limit Huguenot communal activities, meeting spaces, available professions, and then with the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), the ability to be Calvinist legally at all. Following 1685, those who remained in France entered into what is often called the Désert period, when French Calvinists continued to practice their faith in clandestine settings, away from the French dragonnades. Those who rode the two waves out of France, settled in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Great Britain, Ireland, and many of the German states. Some used other European states to ride successive waves of diaspora movement out further into Europe and the Atlantic World, relocating to North America, the Caribbean, Suriname, Brazil, South Africa, and then later on into the Indian and Pacific oceanic worlds. Huguenots took advantage of Atlantic spaces in order to prove their value to the French state, but when France no longer proved safe for Huguenots, the Atlantic offered them a refuge, wherein a complex diaspora community emerged in the early modern period.