The Logo of the British Mexican Society Image of Mexico - the British Mexican Society

 

 

The British Mexican Society, a non-political organisation, was established in the UK in 1942. This short summary is taken from a paper entitled ‘Origins and Early Days’ by Henry B. McKenzie Johnston CB, written in 1982, shortly after his tenure as Chairman of the Society.

The Society came formally into existence on 5 June 1942. It was the creation of Licenciado Alfonso Rosenzweig Diaz, the first Mexican Minister (later Ambassador) to London after the resumption of full diplomatic relations between the two countries in October 1941. This followed the break in relations which had occurred in May 1938 as a consequence of the Mexican expropriation in March of that year of foreign oil companies.

President Manuel Avila Camacho

President Manuel Avila Camacho

Although Britain was at the darkest moment of the war against Germany in December 1940 it was then that President Manuel Avila Camacho chose to take the first informal steps, through intermediaries, to let the British Government know that he would like to restore relations. The British Foreign Minister at the time was Anthony Eden, who welcomed this move, and was encouraged by the United States Government to respond.

Anthony Eden

Prime Minister Anthony Eden

At the end of September 1941 he sought the approval of His Majesty King George VI for the appointment of a Minister to Mexico, and Mr (later Sir Charles) Batemen presented his Letters of Credence in Mexico City on 7 October 1942. Meanwhile Licenciado Alfonso Rosenzweig Diaz had presented his in London on 21 January 1942 and had immediately begun an active campaign to set up a ‘friendship’ society.

King George VI

King GeorgeVI

Rosenzweig, while always observing proper courtesies, was impatient with some of the formalities he was expected to go through to achieve official recognition of such a body, and by the time Mexico declared war on the Axis Powers on 28 May of that year he had already assembled a distinguished group of friends of Mexico who were eager to cooperate with him. So, only three days after calling on Eden to inform him officially of Mexico’s declaration of war, he was able to announce, in a telegram to Eden sent on the afternoon of 5 June, the formation of the British Mexican Society, itself an unorthodox way of proceeding.

Eden responded with a personally signed letter ‘warmly’ welcoming the Society ‘as a valuable contribution to the promotion of friendship and understanding between the two countries’. (At the same time a group of distinguished Mexican and British people in Mexico were active in setting up the Anglo-Mexican Cultural Institute in Mexico, although this did not formally come into existence until June 1943.)

In succeeding years the Society was active, with the strong help, both financial and moral, of the Mexican Embassy in publishing a variety of newssheets and organising cultural events. Rosenzweig tried in September 1942 to hold a BMS reception in honour of Eden and possibly Churchill, the Prime Minister, but the Foreign Office and the Prime Minister’s office felt that if they accepted it would mean that they would have to do the same for all other similar societies. However, Eden did agree to be guest of honour at a luncheon on 14 October.

Churchill declined an invitation to be the guest of honour at a lunch to mark the second anniversary of Mexico’s declaration of war, as well as an invitation to visit Mexico, but the Society marked this anniversary with a dinner at the Dorchester Hotel which received some publicity. And on 15 June 1944, not long after the reciprocal raising of the diplomatic missions in the two countries to full embassies, the Mexican Ambassador hosted a luncheon, attended by the diplomatic representatives of all the other belligerent Latin American countries, at which Churchill was guest of honour.

However, an invitation shortly after this to Churchill to become an honorary member of the BMS was politely declined because of the precedent it would set. But someone in the Foreign Office minuted that it might be suitable to repeat the invitation on the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Society — which will be in 2042!