by Dan Takacs
In 1971, one of the great Mexican statesmen andeducation leaders of
Mexico died, Ezequiel Padilla. He was born December 31, 1890 in Coyuca de
Catalán, Guerrero, Mexico. Coyuca de Catalán is located
in the southwestern part of Mexico about one hundred
miles from the Pacific Ocean. Padilla was born to Maríano Padilla,
an impoverished lawyer, and Evarista Peñalosa who was a
Padilla was a very educated man.
He attended secondary school at the Normal School, one
of Mexico’s public schools, in nearby Chilpancingo,
Guerrero. He received his teaching certificate there
also. From the Normal school he went to preparatory
school at the National Preparatory School in Mexico
City, Mexico’s largest city. Padilla followed in his
father's footsteps and went to law school at the National
School of Law. And then finally in 1912, at the age of
22, Ezequiel received his law degree on a government
scholarship from the National University of Mexico. He
then went to Paris, France to study at the Sorbonne one
of the oldest universities in the world dating back to
1253. He was able to attend here from 1913-14 on a
scholarship from the Secretariat of Education. Ezequiel
received governmental scholarships for all of his
professional education. He attended Columbia University
in 1916 in New York for his advanced studies.
About the time when Padilla finished with his education
regime was dying and the Mexican Revolution had
begun. The people of Mexico were tired of the Díaz
regimes power and the economic situation was bad for the average person.
One percent of the nation’s
families owned 85% of the nation’s wealth and industrial
wages averaged 12 cents a day. Also, the distribution
of land was unequal. Emiliano Zapata took control of parts of
Guerrero, Morelos and the surrounding areas. Ezequiel signed
up as a common soldier underneath him. Zapata was the
radical leader of the revolution who wrote the Plan de
Ayala. Padilla served as secretary to many generals
under Francisco Villa ,
but fled Mexico in 1916 after
Villa’s defeat. He was then self exiled in Cuba until
Ezequiel Padilla returned to his native land of
Guerrero in 1922 and started work almost immediately.
He became the Federal Deputy from the State of Guerrero
District 8 from 1922-24, and District 4 from 1924-26.
He was also the Federal Deputy from Guerrero District 1
from 1932-34. 1928 seemed to be Padilla’s busiest year.
He was the Attorney General of Mexico, Secretary of
Public Education, and the Professor of Constitutional
Law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
During this time at UNAM Padilla was involved in the
first of the many UNAM student strikes. In 1929 “the
prep school director, Antonio Caso, announced that the
degree program would henceforth take three instead of
two years.” Padilla, the Secretary of Public Education
agreed with Caso and the students took over the Prep
school building. In 1925 the law school adopted a
written exam policy forcing students to go to class and
making exams much tougher. This time the students took
a more violent approach their protests. On May 4th a
group of students said they would “physically attack any
student who tried to take exams under the new system.”
President Emilio Portes Gil
and Secretary Padilla
could not ignore the student’s protests any longer. The
President gave the school autonomy and made it the
National Autonomous University of Mexico. Also in 1925
Padilla answered President Plutarco Elias Calles' state
of the union address.
Ezequiel Padilla finished his duties as Secretary of
Public Education in 1930. He then took a post as
Minister to Hungary and Italy. He was Minister for two
years until 1932. After that he became a Senator from
the Federal District from 1934-40
Ezequiel married María G. Gouttolena and they had a son
Ezequiel Padilla, Jr., whobecame Director General of
Banca Confia in 1982. Padilla’s family was accused of
owning illegal amounts of land in Guerrero by the
Secretary General of the State National Peasant
Federation in Aug 1972. Ezequiel was a founding member
of a group of students who formed Escuela Libre de
Derecho. He knew Francisco Gaxiola and Ernesto Enriquez
Coyro in prep school and the Escuela Libre de Derecho.
In 1940-45 Ezequiel Padilla held what might have been
his most important post, Secretary of Foreign relations.
“German submarine attacks on Mexican tankers in 1942
allowed President Avila Camacho and Foreign Minister
Ezequiel Padilla to declare war on the Axis Powers on
May 22, 1942. This move allowed the Mexican government
to confiscate the production sites and patents of the
German chemical industry in Mexico, which enjoyed a
monopoly in dyes, pharmaceuticals, and fertilizers.
Thus the Mexican government added another critical
industrial sector to its petroleum industry without
resorting to expropriation.”(Werner)
allowed Mexico to claim allegiance with the Allied
Powers. He was one of the signers of a U.N. charter at
San Francisco. He also urged anti-communist,
pro-United States policy after the war.
In 1945 Padilla was a pre-candidate for the PRI
nomination for President. Miguel Alemán Valdés won the
Presidency in 1945. And from 1964-70 Ezequiel Padilla
ended his career in politics as a Senator from the State
of Guerrero. It would be just one short year of
retirement until Padilla’s death at the age of 81. He
died on Sept. 6, 1971
Sources: 1. Camp, Roderic A. Mexican Political
Biographies 1884-1934 1991. University of Texas Press.
2. Werner, Michael S. Ed. Concise Encyclopedia of
Mexico 2001. Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. London.