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For God and Revolution

Priest, Peasant, and Agrarian Socialism in the Mexican Huasteca

Mark Saad Saka

Publication Year: 2013

During the early 1880s, a wave of peasant unrest swept the mountainous Huasteca region of northeastern Mexico. The rebels demanded political autonomy for their pueblos, protection for their churches, and restoration of the land, water, and foraging rights that were a part of their heritage—issues with nationwide implications that foreshadowed the revolution of 1910. This account traces the material and ideological roots of the rebellion to nineteenth-century liberal policies of land privatization and to the growth of a radical anarchocommunist agrarian consciousness.

Elite landholders had held sway in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí since colonial times. In the nineteenth century their seizures of agricultural lands clashed with the rising political consciousness of the Huastecos, who rose up to fight for their way of life. Saka further traces the roots of the Huasteco rebellion to the grassroots religiosity that had developed in the course of centuries of local clerical leadership as well as to a nationalism derived from Huastecan participation in Mexico’s wars against the United States in the 1840s and France in the 1860s.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-7


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pp. vii-9


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

In the summer of 1879 the peasants of the Huasteca Potosina, a region associated with the Sierra Madre Oriental of northeastern Mexico, openly rebelled against the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz and state elites in San Luis Potosí. They tore down fences, invaded haciendas, seized lands that they felt were rightfully theirs, and established their own local governments. In the years...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Many individuals and institutions have contributed to this study, first and foremost my wife, Rosa Lilia, whose patience and support made this book possible. John Mason Hart, Tom O’Brien, and Susan Kellogg at the University of Houston proved invaluable as I completed this book. A number of individuals encouraged me throughout the process; I would especially like to thank to Pauline...

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pp. xv-23

During the late 1870s and early 1880s a wave of peasant unrest swept the mountainous Huasteca region of northeastern Mexico.1 The Huastecan uprising represents the apogee of agrarian unrest that erupted in the 1840s and swept northeastern Mexico until the 1880s. The Huastecan peasantry that waged these struggles demanded political autonomy for their pueblos, the protection...

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1: The Cultural Geography of the Huasteca Potosina

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pp. 1-16

The origins of the agrarian violence that engulfed the Huasteca Potosina during the nineteenth century lie in the exploitative political and economic order established during the three centuries of Spanish colonial rule.1 The Mexican Huasteca extends from the tropical lowlands of the Mexican Gulf Coast upland through the rugged Sierra Madre Oriental to the fertile valleys beyond. It encompasses portions of the states of San Luis Potosí, Veracruz, Querétaro...

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2: From Pueblo to Nation: The Huasteca Potosina, 1810–1848

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pp. 17-32

The Mexican War of Independence (1810–1821), the subsequent postindependence armed struggles associated with the federalist movements of the 1830s, and, most importantly, the war against the U.S. invasion (1846–1848) severed the Huastecan peasantry from their colonial caste subjugation.1 During the course of these struggles a radical shift in peasant consciousness evolved into an empowered sense of nationalist identity and heightened awareness...

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3: Peasant Nationalism and Agrarian War, 1848–1856

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pp. 33-50

The guerrilla war against the U.S. Army inadvertently and temporarily shifted the balance of power in the Huasteca in favor of the peasants and against the hacendados.1 Beginning in 1848, agrarian rebels invaded hacienda lands in the states of Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, and Veracruz. The origins of the rebellion rested within specific localities, and yet they were deeply linked. The...

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4: War, Foreign Invasion, and Revolution, 1856–1876

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pp. 51-62

In the aftermath of the U.S. war with Mexico, the nation entered a period of sustained political and economic crisis that culminated in the French invasion. Just as they had done in the partisan struggle they waged against the U.S. Army, but on an even larger scale, Huastecan guerrillas once again forged an alliance with the Mexican Army and waged war against another foreign occupation. For the Huasteca Potosina, the political conflicts, ensuing foreign occupation, and guerrilla struggle serve as a critical link between the earlier agrarian...

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5: The Liberal Assault, 1856–1884

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pp. 63-82

In the early 1870s the evening bell pierced the humid sky in the Ciudad del Maíz, as it had since the first Castilian inhabitants built the Spanish city in the days of the conquistadors. Every night, in memory of the city’s dead, the pueblo marked a moment of collective silence as the local church rang the community’s bell. To U.S. observers such as Cora Townsend, who was from a banking...

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6: The Capitalization of the Countryside, 1856–1884

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pp. 83-102

One of the most significant factors contributing to the nineteenth-century Huastecan rebellions was the privatization of communal landholdings. The legal precedent for privatizing pueblo lands began shortly after independence. The state government recognized the pueblos in San Luis Potosí and codified this recognition in a series of land laws passed in 1827. These laws recognized...

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7: Toward a Mexican Theology of Liberation: Padre Mauricio Zavala

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pp. 103-122

Into this arena of impending class war stepped a socialist agitator from one of Mexico’s oldest and most established institutions, the Catholic Church.1 Between 1867 and 1884 Padre Mauricio Zavala openly challenged the attempts of landed creoles and state authorities of San Luis Potosí to expand private land tenure...

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8: Death to All Those Who Wear Pants!: The Huastecan Peasant War, 1879–1884

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pp. 123-142

The Huastecan rebellions of the late 1870s differed from previous agrarian rebellions because of their coordination with national leadership originating from Mexico City and the provinces, their incorporation of anarchist and socialist ideas, and their coordinated military strategies under cacique Juan Santiago and Padre Mauricio Zavala.1 The 1879–1884 revolution was the outcome of both short- and long-term local conditions that had been building...

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pp. 143-144

The 1879–1884 Huastecan peasant war claimed the lives of thousands of Huastecan Indians, hundreds of government troops, and dozens of estate owners and their families. The destruction of property, Indian villages, and infrastructure set the region back for years. While the long-term origins of the agrarian violence lay in the Spanish invasion of the sixteenth century, the more immediate cause of the rebellion was the marginalization of subsistence-oriented...


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pp. 145-166


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pp. 167-168


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pp. 169-176


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pp. 177-186

Back Cover

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pp. 210-210

E-ISBN-13: 9780826353399
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826353382

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 854583739
MUSE Marc Record: Download for For God and Revolution

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Subject Headings

  • Agriculture -- Economic aspects -- Mexico -- Huasteca Region.
  • Peasant uprisings -- Mexico -- Huasteca Region.
  • Land tenure -- Mexico -- Huasteca Region.
  • Sociology, Rural -- Religious aspects -- Catholic Church.
  • Socialism -- Mexico -- Huasteca Region.
  • Huasteca Region (Mexico) -- History.
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