Jesús Reyes Heroles: An Academic and Political Leader

Jesús Reyes Heroles was an outstanding university intellectual and political leader, whose written work significantly oriented the political discourse in Mexico, as well as the conception of the Mexican State and the knowledge of its historical roots.

Jesús Reyes Heroles: An Academic and Political Leader
Jesús Reyes Heroles would leave a great legacy as Secretary of the Interior. Photo: INAH

One of the most important political reforms in contemporary Mexico took place in the seventh decade of the last century. Its importance lay in the establishment of important institutional pillars to advance in the opening of the political system then in force, to promote political diversity and a multiparty system under the tutelage of the Mexican State; thanks to these reforms, the democratization process of the country was precipitated, to follow the path we know today. The consequences a little more than forty years later have been positive; from the democratic transition to the reliable organization of elections.

The architect of the design and planning of the great political reform of 1977 was the liberal scholar Jesús Reyes Heroles, who, during the first three years of the federal administration of José López Portillo held the post of Secretary of the Interior.

Reyes Heroles was born in Tuxpan, Veracruz, on April 3, 1921. He studied law at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, from which he obtained his degree in 1944; he received his political education from university academics Mario de la Cueva and Manuel Pedroso; he did his postgraduate studies in the Southern Cone, at the universities of Buenos Aires, Río de la Plata and the College of Superior Studies, located in Argentina.

In 1939, while starting his higher education, Reyes Heroles began his political career as an assistant in the private office of the president of the National Executive Committee of the National Revolutionary Party (PNR). While occupying some other positions within the party, he witnessed important institutional changes, such as the transformation into the Partido Mexicano de la Revolución (PMR) and, finally, into the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Jesús Reyes Heroles' political career in public service in Mexico began in 1944 when he served as an advisor to the Secretary of Labor; a little more than a decade later, in 1958, he occupied the technical sub-directorate of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS). He was a federal deputy in the XLV Legislature from 1961 to 1964 and, at the end of this term, he was the director of Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) from 1964 to 1970; in 1975, at the end of Luis Echeverría Álvarez's administration, he became the director of the IMSS.

In 1976, when José López Portillo assumed the presidency of the Republic, he was appointed Secretary of the Interior -the second most important position in the administrative structure of the Mexican State at that time- a position from which he conceived and participated in the political reform that took place the following year.

This reform gave birth to the Federal Law of Political Organizations and Electoral Processes (LFOPPE). The legislation sponsored the recognition of political organizations or parties by the State, and conditioned their registration based on the results of the electoral processes; it also addressed issues concerning the media and in the Chamber of Deputies of the Congress of the Union, the number of representatives was increased to 400 legislators, implementing, at the same time and for the first time, a mixed electoral system.

As of this reform, in the H. Chamber of Deputies, there are still two types of representation, through which all the seats are filled: the deputies by the relative majority and the deputies by proportional representation.

Reyes Heroles was the author of " Mexican Liberalism", a fundamental work that would soon become a classic.

After the intermediate elections of 1979, the LI Legislature in the Chamber of Deputies counted the participation of the first opposition political groups which, in addition, had the corresponding federal registration: Socialist Workers Party, Mexican Democratic Party, Mexican Communist Party, Authentic Party of the Mexican Revolution and Popular Socialist Party.

To the pen of Jesús Reyes Heroles we owe the following works: Tendencias actuales del Estado ( Current Tendencies of the State) (1945); La carta de la Habana ( The Letter from Havana) (1948); La industria de la transformación y sus perspectivas ( The Transformation Industry and its Perspectives) (1951); Comentarios a la Revolución Industrial en México ( Comments on the Industrial Revolution in Mexico) (1951); Continuidad del liberalismo mexicano ( Continuity of Mexican Liberalism) (1954); El liberalismo mexicano ( Mexican Liberalism) (three volumes 1957 - 1961); La Iglesia y el Estado ( The Church and the State) (1960) and Mirabeau o el político ( Mirabeau or the Politician) (1983).

Jesús Reyes Heroles died in the city of Denver, Colorado, United States, on March 19, 1985. At the time of his death, he was head of the Secretariat of Public Education in the government of Miguel de la Madrid.