‘The Small Family Lives Better’: Population Policy, Development, and Global-local Encounters in Mexico (1974–1978)


  • Carlos Esteban Flores Terán University of Groningen




This article looks at the implementation and debate surrounding the first comprehensive population policy in Mexico in 1974. Scholars have increasingly focused on the role of external actors for the operation and diffusion of discourses concerning population growth in local contexts. This article sheds new light on such debate by shifting the attention to how Mexican scholars, experts, politicians, and state officials appropriated, debated, and finally intervened in Mexican families with the intention of reducing population growth. Drawing from published documentary material it shows how the fears inspired by a perceived ‘unregulated procreation’ of Mexican families stemmed from a strong social focus on economic growth, as well as the historically specific political vision and academic discourse of ‘modernization.’ In doing that, the article highlights the ways in which self-narratives, localized visions of desired social orders, and gendered assumptions concerning rural populations and lower classes shaped the appropriation of population and ‘modernization’ thought.

Author Biography

Carlos Esteban Flores Terán, University of Groningen

Carlos Esteban Flores Terán is a Research Master’s student in Modern History and International Relations at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree in History at the Universidad Iberoamerica in Mexico City. Before that, he undertook periods of study at El Colegio de México in Mexico City and at Fordham University in New York City. His research interests include the cultural and intellectual history of Latin America; the global histories of epistemology; and the history as well as politics of difference, namely the discursive conceptualization of slum-dwellers in Rio de Janeiro as ‘marginal,’ ‘traditional,’   and ‘criminal’ subjects throughout the twentieth century.

Photo by Sanchez Cruz. Photo Courtesy of DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.