Agrarian reforms establish ejidos (communal farms) and collectivization. Extensive land redistribution then improves land tenure among the country's rural population. Previously tenuous state relations with the Church improve. Overall, government invests minimally in social infrastructure.
While education and public health receive some attention, income distribution becomes increasingly unequal, and the social needs of the rural poor go largely unaddressed. Popular acceptance of post-1940s development strategy begins to wane and is replaced by growing discontent in both rural and urban settings.
The government attempts to keep students and labor under control so as not to disrupt economic growth. As the maquiladora (assembly plant) program draws thousands to the United States border region, illegal immigration into the U.S. becomes easier and more frequent.
Social unrest comes to a head when students stage protests demanding political freedom. When the government orders a crackdown on the main university in Mexico City, thousands of students stage an antigovernment protest which is met with armed military units and tanks. In the ensuing panic, dozens of students are massacred.
In an environment of continued unrest, government launches many social welfare programs, including investment in rural schools and health clinics. Redistribution of land, begun in the '40s and suspended in the '60s, resumes, as do credit subsidies to cooperative agriculture. The oil boom of the late '70s makes Mexico richer, but the majority of the population continues to live in poverty.
The standard of living falls as the rich get richer and isolate themselves from economic conditions. The poor bear the burden of inflation, devaluation, and the withdrawal of subsidies. Privatization puts thousands of people out of work, and government is unable to supply them with new jobs. Poor families send more members, including children, into the labor market.
The emergence of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) captures the attention of Mexican society and rekindles social movements. Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos encourages the creation of autonomous indigenous communities and asserts the right of indigenous people to control the natural resources found on Indian land.
Sporadic clashes continue between armed civilian groups. Unemployment is high in urban areas, and the rural poor struggle to make a living as imports, primarily from the United States, rise.
Continued unemployment and poverty shadow Mexico's success and dilute enthusiasm for the Fox administration. A devastating earthquake kills hundreds and underscores the nation's vulnerability. Mexico City's ever-vibrant cultural life attracts global attention and draws artists, musicians, and cultural trendsetters from around the world.
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