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Bandit Nation

A History of Outlaws and Cultural Struggle in Mexico, 1810-1920

Chris Frazer

Publication Year: 2006

Stories about postcolonial bandits in Mexico have circulated since the moment Mexico won its independence. Narratives have appeared or been discussed in a wide variety of forms: novels, memoirs, travel accounts, newspaper articles, the graphic arts, social science literature, movies, ballads, and historical monographs. During the decades between independence and the Mexican Revolution, bandit narratives were integral to the broader national and class struggles between Mexicans and foreigners concerning the definition and creation of the Mexican nation-state.

Bandit Nation is the first complete analysis of the cultural impact that banditry had on Mexico from the time of its independence to the Mexican Revolution. Chris Frazer focuses on the nature and role of foreign travel accounts, novels, and popular ballads, known as corridos, to analyze how and why Mexicans and Anglo-Saxon travelers created and used images of banditry to influence state formation, hegemony, and national identity. Narratives about banditry are linked to a social and political debate about “mexican-ness” and the nature of justice. Although considered a relic of the past, the Mexican bandit continues to cast a long shadow over the present, in the form of narco-traffickers, taxicab hijackers, and Zapatista guerrillas. Bandit Nation is an important contribution to the cultural and the general histories of postcolonial Mexico.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

Ostensibly concerned with banditry and culture in Mexico, this study is, above all else, a narrative about the struggles of oppressed people for justice, dignity, and redemption. For more than a hundred years, Mexican and foreign elites waged war in Mexico to secure their access to power, privilege, and wealth. They...

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pp. ix-x

I am deeply grateful to everyone who helped make this study happen, above all to Mena Enxuga and our daughters, Rachelle and Daniella, who patiently endured and encouraged my efforts. I am likewise indebted to Derrick Fulton, whose unwavering friendship has sustained me through many a difficult moment...

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pp. 1-19

Postcolonial Mexicans have been telling stories about their bandits ever since they won independence. So too have foreigners, both travelers and those who observe Mexico from afar. Narratives about the “Mexican bandit” have appeared in almost every form of culture since the early nineteenth century: novels...

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1. Armed Bodies of Men: Banditry and the Mexican State

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pp. 20-57

After Mexico won its independence in 1821, banditry plagued authorities for more than seventy years. We do not yet know its precise magnitude, but banditry clearly thrived in the turmoil that followed independence, leaving a deep impression on the development of postcolonial society. Mexican authorities...

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2. The Nest and Nursery of Brigands: Travelers and Bandits

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pp. 58-96

In the nineteenth century, Anglo-Saxon travelers were fixated on Mexican bandits. In writing about Mexico, these travelers used images of the bandit as a metaphor for Mexican society and to measure the country’s progress, or lack thereof. Imagining Mexican bandits according to gender and ethnic hierarchies...

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3. Unsolved Mysteries of Civilization: Banditry in the Mexican Novel

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pp. 97-130

Foreign travelers were hardly unique in their fascination with Mexican bandits. The Mexican people were also so captivated that banditry became one of the most common themes in literary and popular culture during the nineteenth century. Outlaw tales abounded in the oral tradition, especially in the...

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4. With Her Pistols in Her Holster: Bandits and Corridos

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pp. 131-168

As we have seen, nineteenth-century Mexican novelists saw banditry as an icon of the backwardness that obstructed the nation’s progress. As members of the elite, these writers used the imaginary bandit to measure the readiness of the masses for citizenship in a modern republic. However, the rural and...

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5. Survival of the Fittest: Modernity and the Mexican Atavist

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pp. 169-204

At the turn of the century, Mexican elites looked upon their country with satisfaction commingled with trepidation. Gone were the decades of turmoil and upheaval, of unrestrained banditry and revolution, when the country seemed ready to consume itself in chaos and disorder. Porfirio Díaz had governed...

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Conclusion: The Spirit of Popular Banditry

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pp. 205-211

At the end of the nineteenth century, the Mexican elites had finally gained an upper hand in their fight against banditry. It had taken more than seventy years, during which time banditry left a lasting impression on Mexican society and culture and on the country’s image abroad. When English-speaking...


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pp. 213-226


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pp. 227-236


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pp. 237-243

E-ISBN-13: 9780803252318
E-ISBN-10: 0803252315

Publication Year: 2006