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Pistoleros and Popular Movements

The Politics of State Formation in Postrevolutionary Oaxaca

Benjamin T. Smith

Publication Year: 2009

The postrevolutionary reconstruction of the Mexican government did not easily or immediately reach all corners of the country. At every level, political intermediaries negotiated, resisted, appropriated, or ignored the dictates of the central government. National policy reverberated through Mexico’s local and political networks in countless different ways and resulted in a myriad of regional arrangements. It is this process of diffusion, politicking, and conflict that Benjamin T. Smith examines in Pistoleros and Popular Movements.

Oaxaca’s urban social movements and the tension between federal, state, and local governments illuminate the multivalent contradictions, fragmentations, and crises of the state-building effort at the regional level. A better understanding of these local transformations yields a more realistic overall view of the national project of state building. Smith places Oaxaca within this larger framework of postrevolutionary Mexico by comparing the region to other states and linking local politics to state and national developments. Drawing on an impressive range of regional case studies, this volume is a comprehensive and engaging study of postrevolutionary Oaxaca’s role in the formation of modern Mexico.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: The Mexican Experience


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pp. vii


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pp. viii


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pp. ix-xi


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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. 1-21

On 24 January 1947, a week after Edmundo Sánchez Cano was deposed as governor of Oaxaca, a pressure group called the Alianza-Revolucionaria-Oaxaqueña published an open letter to President Miguel Alemán Valdés. The dispatch stated that since the Revolution...

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1. Revolution and Stasis in Oaxaca, 1876–1928

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pp. 22-41

The regional process of state formation in twentieth-century Oaxaca has depended on its rugged and uneven geography. Most of the state’s terrain is extremely mountainous. Over 60 percent of the state is located at heights of more than five hundred meters...

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2. The Caudillo and the State, 1928–34

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pp. 42-75

Between 1928 and 1934, Mexico was dominated by Plutarco Elías Calles, the Jefe Máximo de la Revolución. Despite his attempts at what Jürgen Buchenau has described as “authoritarian populism,” the country was “far from being a monolithic block.”...

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3. The Rise of Cardenismo and the Decline of Chicolopismo, 1932–36

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pp. 76-106

By 1933 Mexico had survived the worst of the world depression and the most serious of the military threats to the Callista government. However, at the political level it was far from stable. Despite the creation of the pnr, the regime was still riven by rivalries...

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4. The Politics of Cardenismo, 1936–40

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pp. 107-134

During the period 1936 to 1940 President Cárdenas established his political program, building on the PNR structure and adding a series of modifications based on the socioeconomic reforms enacted by his own administration. Key to the development of Cardenista politics...

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5. Cárdenas’s Caciques, 1936–40

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pp. 135-193

From 1934 to 1940 Cárdenas’s patronage of mass organizations and the reform of the national party reoriented politics at all levels. Traditional descriptions of this process in the regions have linked the formation of a powerful bureaucratic state to the creation of a network...

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6. Politics and Socioeconomic Reform, 1936–40

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pp. 194-240

The sexenio of Lázaro Cárdenas was characterized by farreaching social reform. In the cities Cárdenas championed the right to strike and the implementation of a strict interpretation of the 1931 Law of Work.1 In the countryside he enforced the tenets...

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7. The Problems with Cardenista Politics and the Rise of the Urban Social Movement, 1940–44

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pp. 241-288

The few studies of the 1940s portray the era as one of increasing centralization, corporatism, stability, political control, and economic modernization.1 The exigencies of Mexico’s entry into World War II and the resulting discourse of national unity...

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8. The Rise and Fall of Edmundo Sánchez Cano, 1944–47

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pp. 289-327

During the years 1946 and 1947 the governors of Chiapas, Guanajuato, Baja California Norte, Jalisco, Tamaulipas, Durango, Coahuila, and Oaxaca left office before their allotted time. At the same time the governors of Chihuahua and Sinaloa came under sustained popular pressure...

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9. The Vallistocracia Governor, 1947–50

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pp. 328-361

Popular protest and elite politicking brought Eduardo Vasconcelos to power at the beginning of the presidency of Miguel Alemán Valdés. The few studies of the sexenio stress the growing authoritarianism of the state and eradication of its revolutionary...

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10. The Short Reign of Manuel Mayoral Heredia,1950–52

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pp. 362-401

The last two years of Miguel Alemán’s sexenio witnessed the political process of exclusion reach inside the pri itself. Alemán’s changes to Article 27 of the Constitution, the authoritarian repression of the union movements, the promotion of foreign investment...

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pp. 402-414

During the three decades following the Revolution, the Mexican government imposed an increasing degree of control on the country’s population. In Oaxaca this political process of state formation was complex, tortuous, and extremely disjointed. Although successive presidents...


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pp. 415-494


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pp. 495-534


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pp. 535-578

E-ISBN-13: 9780803224629
E-ISBN-10: 0803224621

Illustrations: 3 maps, 8 b/w images
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: The Mexican Experience