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The Labor Problem in Mexico

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The Labor Problem in Mexico


Haberman, Roberto
Sanger, Margaret
Yucatan, Mexico


Haberman discusses the place of Birth Control in the social, political, and economic revolutions of Mexico.


Haberman, Roberto


Margaret Sanger, ed. International Aspects of Birth Control: Proceedings of the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference, vol. 1 (New York, 1925), 115-120.


American Birth Control League




De Bel, Heather (metadata and transcription)


The American Birth Control League became Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1939. Contact Planned Parenthood for rights.







Text Item Type Metadata



By Roberto Haberman

I bring the greetings of the Mexican Federation of Labor, whose delegate I am to this conference. It is one of the youngest labor movements in the world. It has 1,200,000 members; but is strong enough to have elected a president to rule the Republic of Mexico. The present-day president of Mexico is a candidate; a member of the Labor Department of Mexico and has been elected to office as such. He is probably the first labor president elected on this continent.

In Mexico we have been interested in the problem of Birth Control for many years. As you well know, Mexico has been undergoing various revolutions. The present government has come into being as a result of a revolution which has been political and economic; so it is natural that we look upon Birth Control as one of the means of making the revolution more effective.

We haven't much of a contribution to make in Mexico to the subject of Birth Control. Mexico being a Latin country and having been under the domination of the Spaniards and of the Catholic Church for many, many years, it is natural that such a country should be a man-made and man-ruled country. The status of womanhood is very low indeed and it is only lately that feminist groups both within the labor movement and outside of the labor movement are coming into being. It is only lately that the men who have been responsible for the success of the Mexican revolution are beginning to realize that the revolution is only half done as long as the women can find themselves in the state in which they are today.

The Mexican revolution, and we have had fifteen years of it, has never crossed the threshold of the household. Most revolutionary men have been the revolutionists so far as the threshold and no further. It is really from that point of view more than any other one, that we are interested now in Birth Control.

All the reasons that have been talked about until now and which will be talked about from now on, we know in Mexico. We do not have to be convinced. The only contribution that Mexico probably makes as one of the reasons for Birth Control is the reason which was given officially by the Governor of the State of Yucatan, who was assassinated January 3rd of last year, during a counter-revolution.

The State of Yucatan is a Socialist state. It is the nearest to the Socialist regime that we have has in the history of the country. They officially printed and published Margaret Sanger's pamphlet on Birth Control - the one that is not permitted to circulate in the United States.

The only attack the movement received was through the Catholic Church, and there were some very prominent members in the church. The governor of Yucatan answered the attack by publishing in the official daily of the government the government's position.

Being Latins, it is the business of all Mexicans to live life and to enjoy life and not to amass fortunes. This is the essential difference between the Latins and the Anglo-Saxons. We cannot live unless people are happy and the ladies are very beautiful.

We have a different problem. Beautiful girls like that through marriage and lots of child-births become very ugly and the first thing you know the man begins to have another love affair. So the Governor of Yucatan in his reason for Birth Control said that Birth Control would bring about a state of affairs so that the women of Mexico would retain their beauty the same as the women of the United States have done. This was the official document and if I remember right, it was published in one of the Birth Control Reviews of about two years ago.

The trouble with Mexico is not overpopulation. Mexico is about one-third the size of the United States and it only has fourteen million people. We are not concerned in Birth Control from that point of view. Mexico can easily take care of 100,000,000 people. Most of the country is very fertile and in most of Mexico you can raise two and three crops a year. But what we are troubled with in Mexico is an enormous amount of wastage, due to the ignorance, the state of slavery and the peonage of the workers, previous to the revolution due to lack of education and due to the many counter-revolutions. We had a first class counter-revolution last year against the labor movement and the government. The economic condition is not as good as it should be.

I am going to give you come figures which were published two weeks ago by the Governor of Yucatan. This is the most prosperous state in Mexico, not only in Mexico, but I think in the world over. With all that prosperity every Indian owns his own land down there. Besides that fact he has opportunities to earn quite a good salary (or wages) for working in the hemp fields. With all this splendid economic condition, due to the lack of education, due to this irresponsible breeding of children, we have the following result.

In the period from the 11th of May to the 30th of November of last year, in the city of Merida, there have been 1,835 births and 1,845 deaths. That is in the city of Merida, which is quite a modern city. It has sewerage and modern sanitation. The medical school is there, also the Board of Health. They have dispensaries and all that. The population of Merida by the way, is 80,000 and the rest of the state which makes up another 300,000 for that same period, there have been 6,642 births and 5,541 deaths, almost another 100 per cent.

Three years ago this month I happened to be in Merida, Yucatan. The Director of the School of Medicine told me that out of three births, two never reached the age of five. The only real attempt that we have made at establishing Birth Control clinics was at Yucatan, where Mrs. Kennedy, I think, inaugurated the first Birth Control Clinic. (As I stated to you before, we are not as highly moral as you are here, nor as highly civilized. That is why we have absolutely no laws against Birth Control).

Last year we invited Margaret Sanger as the official guest of the Mexican Federation of Labor to come to Mexico and assist in the inauguration of the first labor president on this continent, and also to inaugurate the first Birth Control clinic. However, Margaret Sanger didn't show up. We have the clinic but we don't have it in the Labor Federation building because we had no room, but we have two women physicians who are giving all the information and the appliances necessary and they are doing it freely and at no charge at all. All that is necessary is that the women or their husbands belong to the labor union.

Two years ago I organised the forty medical students, the forty women medical students into a sort of cultural group, affiliated with the Mexican Federation of Labor for the purpose of establishing hygiene centers which would have included Birth Control departments. Unfortunately we had the revolution about that time and the thing has been suspended.

The Republic of Mexico, outside of the work which has been done at Yucatan, has printed about two or three hundred thousand of Margaret Sanger's Birth Control pamphlet, the same one that has not been permitted to circulate in the United States. We utilised the Department of Education in taking those things to the furthest ends of Mexico and so that the people would not be exploited by the local druggist, the Drug Clerks Union of Mexico City took charge of supplying all the appliances at almost cost and the address which was given in the booklet for further information said address the Drug Clerks' Union of Mexico City.

As I said to you before, the revolution in Mexico has been a purely labor revolution. The counter-revolution last year has been against the labor government and the labor groups. The best proof of it is that wherever the counter-revolutionists happened to enter into a city, if they happened to conquer it, the first thing to do was to execute the labor leaders. This is not only peculiar to Mexico but to the history of the world. This condition came about throughout the Republic of Mexico. The main work in Mexico now is the problem of reconstruction and we look upon Birth Control as one of the aids in reconstruction.