See biography by W. Townsend (2d ed. 1979); study by J. C. Ashby (1967).
His son Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, 1934-, seen since the 1980s as his father's political heir, held posts within the ruling Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) before 1988, when he formed the leftist Democratic Revolutionary party (PRD) in opposition. He ran unsuccessfully for president in 1988 (when he lost as a result of vote fraud) and 1994, but in 1997 he became the first elected mayor of Mexico City. He resigned in 1999 to make a third attempt at winning the Mexican presidency, running on a leftist nationalist platform that opposed free trade. Cárdenas lost to Vicente Fox Quesada in the elections of July, 2000.
A large quantity of asphalt has been taken from the bed of the harbour. A flow of fresh water from the bed of the harbour is another peculiar feature; it presumably comes from the outlets of subterranean rivers.
There are mostly narrow streets, various squares (including the Plaza de Colón, with a bronze statue of Columbus given to the city by Queen Isabella II. and erected in 1862) and substantial business buildings.
The municipality is divided into the barrios of Cantel, Fundición, Guásimas, Marina, Méndez Capote, Pueblo Nuevo and Versalles.
In 1850 General Narciso López landed here on a filibustering expedition, and held the town for a few hours, abandoning it when he saw that the people would not rise to support him in his efforts to secure Cuban independence.
On 11 May 1898, during the Spanish-American War, the Battle of Cárdenas was fought here. In this engagement an American torpedo boat and revenue cutter attacked a Spanish gunboat and shore batteries, and Ensign Worth Bagley was killed—the first American naval officer to lose his life in that war.
In the early 20th Century, Cárdenas was one of the main sugar-exporting towns of Cuba. By 1907 the population was 24,280. The shallowness of the harbour necessitated lighterage and repeated loading of cargoes. The surrounding region is farmed for its fertility. The Cuban Flag was first raised over Cuban soil in this once picturesque and historic city of straight and narrow streets, horse-drawn carriages, industry and "cangrejos" (blue crabs).
Cardenas is home of Elian Gonzalez, child used as political dispute between Cuba and the United States.