The story of Mexico’s paradigm shift in energy policy is nothing short of extraordinary. The breadth and depth of the reform, the dramatic break with the past, and the positive long-term impact on Mexico’s economy are of course remarkable, but the story of the political process is also worthy of recognition. An issue that had long seemed intractable, one on which the only consensus appeared to be that change was impossible, suddenly moved forward at breakneck speed in 2013, resulting in a constitutional reform in December of that year and secondary or implementing legislation by August 2014. The audacity and pace of the reform process naturally meant that the final legislation was far from perfect. But the reform is astounding as an example of what can happen when political forces and economic imperatives align. For that reason, 2013 will long stand as a watershed in Mexican history.

Yet the year or so of reform debates and decisions do not tell the whole story. Mexico had been struggling with energy reform for decades, and prior to 2013 there had been several abortive or partial attempts to modernize the system. What follows in this paper is the story of those efforts and how they contributed to the modifications to Mexico’s legal framework that came to be known as the “mother of all reforms.”