Religions (Jan 2023)

“The Most Dangerous Fifth Column in the Americas:” U.S. Journalists and Mexico’s Unión Nacional Sinarquista during World War II

  • Julia G. Young

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 14, no. 1
p. 106


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Between 1937 and 1945, numerous American journalists became gravely concerned about a rapidly growing Mexican Catholic right-wing movement, the Unión Nacional Sinarquista (UNS). Founded in 1937, the UNS spread rapidly across Mexico and by 1941, the Sinarquistas had formed numerous chapters in the United States as well. This coincided with the U.S. entry into World War II, and a heightened concern about the potential threat represented by immigrants loyal to Axis powers. Thus, U.S. journalists devoted significant coverage to the Sinarquista movement, casting it as a Fifth Column movement that was taking money, arms, and direct orders from enemies of the United States. In doing so, journalists largely downplayed the inherently Catholic character of the movement, as well as its deep roots in Mexican Church-state history, interpreting it instead within the framework of contemporary geopolitics. As a result, U.S. media consumers received an incomplete portrait of this particular religious “other”. In this article, I focus on the writings of the journalists Allan Chase and Betty Kirk, in order to assess how and why religion and religious belief was de-emphasized in influential media portrayals of the UNS, and why this matters for historians and journalists interested in religious movements.