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Científicos, Mexican political faction in the Porfiriato. Supporters of the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz (1876–1910), the científicos were a group of young lawyers and journalists who, in the periodical La Libertad, articulated a theory of "scientific" politics based upon the positivism of Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer as an alternative to "doctrinaire" and "metaphysical" liberalism. They advocated strong government marked by technocratic management and were concerned less with rights and liberties than they were with issues of order, peace, and economic growth. The original group included Justo Sierra, Telesforo García, Francisco Cosmes, Francisco Bulnes, Pablo Macedo, and José Yves Limantour.

In 1892, these powerful tenured public servants in the Díaz government formed the Liberal Union to advocate a third term for Díaz. With a developmentalist platform, they called for a money-saving reorganization of the ministry of war, rationalization of the tax system, and a commercial and fiscal policy to accelerate foreign investment. They also sought constitutional amendments that would create institutional safeguards against persistent dictatorial rule. To strengthen the separation of powers, they advocated a vice presidency independent of the supreme court and the irremovability of judges. In the debate over these reforms, the group was dubbed "Científicos."

Only partially successful in their constitutional reform proposals, the científicos were more effective with their developmentalist agenda. As minister of finance, José Yves Limantour created a budget surplus after repaying the foreign debt; reorganized finances and credit; suppressed the alcabala, or internal sales tax; lowered tariffs on imports; negotiated foreign loans; put Mexico on the gold standard; and succeeded in enacting new mining and land legislation to encourage unfettered growth through foreign investment.

In 1903 the científicos once again organized the reelection of Díaz through a second Liberal Union convention and at the same time sought constitutional safeguards for institutionalizing the transfer of power. As Díaz's Mexico City-centered power group, the científicos were clearly one of the two major contending political factions. Opposed to their European-oriented development policy to offset U.S. penetration were the reyistas, supporters of the Nuevo León governor Bernardo Reyes, who were more closely allied with the military and with peripheral, regional bases of power. The political contention between these two factions gave rise to the crisis of succession and the Revolution of 1910.

After the Revolution of 1910, científico became a derogatory term applied to those most closely associated with the dictatorship who had accumulated capital, wealth, and power at the expense of the Mexican people and their development.

Interpretations of the científicos vary among historians. François Javier Guerra and Charles Hale see them as constitutionalists. Guerra, however, believes that they clearly distinguished themselves from liberalism after 1893. Hale sees their liberal derivation as always fundamental. Friedrich Katz sees them as a key political faction motivating the crisis of succession in 1910. Leopoldo Zea and Arnaldo Córdova see them as ideologues and administrators of the Mexican bourgeoisie and managers of dictatorship for capitalist development.

See alsoDíaz, Porfirioxml .


Córdova, Arnaldo. La ideología de la revolución mexicana: La formación del nuevo régimen (1974).

Cosío Villegas, Daniel. Historia moderna de México, vol. 9 (1955–1972); Jesús Reyes Heroles, El liberalismo mexicano, 3 vols. (1957–1961).

Guerra, François Javier. Mexico, del antiguo régimen a la revolución, 2 vols. (1988).

Hale, Charles. The Transformation of Liberalism in Late Nineteenth Century Mexico (1989).

Katz, Friedrich. The Secret War in Mexico (1982).

Tenorio-Trillo, Mauricio. Mexico at the World's Fairs: Crafting a Modern Nation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

Villegas Revueltas, Silvestre. El liberalismo moderado en México, 1852–1864. México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1997.

Weiner, Richard. Race, Nation, and Market: Economic Culture in Porfirian Mexico. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2004.

Zea, Leopoldo. El positivismo en México (1968).

                                      Mary Kay Vaughan