University of Nebraska Press

The Mexican Experience

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The Mexican Experience

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Alcohol and Nationhood in Nineteenth-Century Mexico

Deborah Toner

Drawing on an analysis of issues surrounding the consumption of alcohol in a diverse range of source materials, including novels, newspapers, medical texts, and archival records, this lively and engaging interdisciplinary study explores sociocultural nation-building processes in Mexico between 1810 and 1910. Examining the historical importance of drinking as both an important feature of Mexican social life and a persistent source of concern for Mexican intellectuals and politicians, Deborah Toner’s Alcohol and Nationhood in Nineteenth-Century Mexico offers surprising insights into how the nation was constructed and deconstructed in the nineteenth century.

Although Mexican intellectuals did indeed condemn the physically and morally debilitating aspects of excessive alcohol consumption and worried that particularly Mexican drinks and drinking places were preventing Mexico’s progress as a nation, they also identified more culturally valuable aspects of Mexican drinking cultures that ought to be celebrated as part of an “authentic” Mexican national culture. The intertwined literary and historical analysis in this study illustrates how wide-ranging the connections were between ideas about drinking, poverty, crime, insanity, citizenship, patriotism, gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity in the nineteenth century, and the book makes timely and important contributions to the fields of Latin American literature, alcohol studies, and the social and cultural history of nation-building.

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Celebrating Insurrection

The Commemoration and Representation of the Nineteenth-Century Mexican Pronunciamiento

Will Fowler

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The Civilizing Machine

A Cultural History of Mexican Railroads, 1876-1910

Michael Matthews

In late nineteenth-century Mexico the Mexican populace was fascinated with the country’s booming railroad network. Newspapers and periodicals were filled with art, poetry, literature, and social commentaries exploring the symbolic power of the railroad. As a symbol of economic, political, and industrial modernization, the locomotive served to demarcate a nation’s status in the world. However, the dangers of locomotive travel, complicated by the fact that Mexico’s railroads were foreign owned and operated, meant that the railroad could also symbolize disorder, death, and foreign domination.

In The Civilizing Machine, Michael Matthews explores the ideological and cultural milieu that shaped the Mexican people’s understanding of technology. Intrinsically tied to the Porfiriato, the thirty-five-year dictatorship of General Porfirio Díaz, the booming railroad network represented material progress in a country seeking its place in the modern world. Matthews discloses how the railroad’s development represented the crowning achievement of the regime and the material incarnation of its mantra, “order and progress.” The Porfirian administration evoked the railroad in legitimizing and justifying its own reign, while political opponents employed the same rhetorical themes embodied by the railroads to challenge the manner in which that regime achieved economic development and modernization. As Matthews illustrates, the multiple symbols of the locomotive reflected deepening social divisions and foreshadowed the conflicts that eventually brought about the Mexican Revolution.

 

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Deco Body, Deco City

Female Spectacle and Modernity in Mexico City, 1900–1939

Ageeth Sluis

In the turbulent decades following the Mexican Revolution, Mexico City saw a drastic influx of female migrants seeking escape and protection from the ravages of war in the countryside. While some settled in slums and tenements, where the informal economy often provided the only means of survival, the revolution, in the absence of men, also prompted women to take up traditionally male roles, created new jobs in the public sphere open to women, and carved out new social spaces in which women could exercise agency.

In Deco Body, Deco City, Ageeth Sluis explores the effects of changing gender norms on the formation of urban space in Mexico City by linking aesthetic and architectural discourses to political and social developments. Through an analysis of the relationship between female migration to the city and gender performances on and off the stage, the book shows how a new transnational ideal female physique informed the physical shape of the city. By bridging the gap between indigenismo (pride in Mexico’s indigenous heritage) and mestizaje (privileging the ideal of race mixing), this new female deco body paved the way for mestizo modernity. This cultural history enriches our understanding of Mexico’s postrevolutionary decades and brings together social, gender, theater, and architectural history to demonstrate how changing gender norms formed the basis of a new urban modernity.

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Forceful Negotiations

The Origins of the Pronunciamiento in Nineteenth-Century Mexico

Edited and with an introduction by Will Fowler

Often translated as “revolt,” a pronunciamiento was a formal, written protest, typically drafted as a list of grievances or demands, that could result in an armed rebellion. This common nineteenth-century Hispano-Mexican extraconstitutional practice was used by soldiers and civilians to forcefully lobby, negotiate, or petition for political change. Although the majority of these petitions failed to achieve their aims, many leading political changes in nineteenth-century Mexico were caused or provoked by one of the more than fifteen hundred pronunciamientos filed between 1821 and 1876. The first of three volumes on the phenomenon of the pronunciamiento, this collection brings together leading scholars to investigate the origins of these forceful petitions. From both a regional and a national perspective, the essays examine specific pronunciamientos, such as the Plan of Iguala, and explore the contexts that gave rise to the use of the pronunciamiento as a catalyst for change. Forceful Negotiations offers a better understanding of the civil conflicts that erupted with remarkable and tragic consistency following the achievement of independence, as well as of the ways in which Mexican political culture legitimized the threat of armed rebellion as a means of effecting political change during this turbulent period.

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Gender and the Negotiation of Daily Life in Mexico, 1750-1856

Sonya Lipsett-Rivera

History is not just about great personalities, wars, and revolutions; it is also about the subtle aspects of more ordinary matters. On a day-to-day basis the aspects of life that most preoccupied people in late eighteenth- through mid nineteenth-century Mexico were not the political machinations of generals or politicians but whether they themselves could make a living, whether others accorded them the respect they deserved, whether they were safe from an abusive husband, whether their wives and children would obey them—in short, the minutiae of daily life.

Sonya Lipsett-Rivera’s Gender and the Negotiation of Daily Life in Mexico, 1750–1856 explores the relationships between Mexicans, their environment, and one another, as well as their negotiation of the cultural values of everyday life. By examining the value systems that governed Mexican thinking of the period, Lipsett-Rivera examines the ephemeral daily experiences and interactions of the people and illuminates how gender and honor systems governed these quotidian negotiations. Bodies and the built environment were inscribed with cultural values, and the relationship of Mexicans to and between space and bodies determined the way ordinary people acted out their culture.

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The Heart in the Glass Jar

Love Letters, Bodies, and the Law in Mexico

William E. French

The Heart in the Glass Jar begins with one man’s literal heart (that of a prominent statesman in mid-nineteenth-century Mexico) but is truly about the hearts, bodies, legal entanglements, and letters—as both symbols and material objects—of northern Mexicans from the 1860s through the 1930s.
 
William E. French’s innovative study of courtship practice and family formation examines love letters of everyday folk within the framework of literacy studies and explores how love letters functioned culturally and legally. French begins by situating love letters in the context of the legal system, which protected the moral order of families and communities and also perpetuated the gender order—the foundation of power structures in Mexican society. He then examines reading and writing practices in the communities that the letters came from: mining camps, villages, small towns, and the “passionate public sphere” that served as the wider social context for the love letters and crimes of passion. Finally, French considers “sentimental anatomy,” the eyes, hearts, souls, and wills of novios (men and women in courting relationships), that the letters gave voice to and helped bring into being.
 
In the tradition of Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms and Natalie Zemon Davis’s The Return of Martin Guerre, French connects intimate lives to the broader cultural moment, providing a rich and complex cultural history from the intersection of love and law.

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Independent Mexico

The Pronunciamiento in the Age of Santa Anna, 1821–1858

Will Fowler

In mid-nineteenth-century Mexico, garrisons, town councils, state legislatures, and an array of political actors, groups, and communities began aggressively petitioning the government at both local and national levels to address their grievances. Often viewed as a revolt or a coup d’état, these pronunciamientos were actually a complex form of insurrectionary action that relied first on the proclamation and circulation of a plan that listed the petitioners’ demands and then on endorsement by copycat pronunciamientos that forced the authorities, be they national or regional, to the negotiating table.
 
In Independent Mexico, Will Fowler provides a comprehensive overview of the pronunciamiento practice following the Plan of Iguala. This fourth and final installment in, and culmination of, a larger exploration of the pronunciamiento highlights the extent to which this model of political contestation evolved. The result of more than three decades of pronunciamiento politics was the bloody Civil War of the Reforma (1858–60) and the ensuing French Intervention (1862–67). Given the frequency and importance of the pronunciamiento, this book is also a concise political history of independent Mexico.
 

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The Inevitable Bandstand

The State Band of Oaxaca and the Politics of Sound

Charles V. Heath

In the hands of the state, music is a political tool. The Banda de Música del Estado de Oaxaca (State Band of Oaxaca, BME), a civil organization nearly as old as the modern state of Oaxaca itself, offers unique insights into the history of a modern political state.
 
In The Inevitable Bandstand, Charles V. Heath examines the BME’s role as a part of popular political culture that the state of Oaxaca has deployed in an attempt to bring unity and order to its domain. The BME has always served multiple functions: it arose from musical groups that accompanied military forces as they trained and fought; today it performs at village patron saint days and at Mexico’s patriotic celebrations, propagating religions both sacred and civic; it offers education in the ways of liberal democracy to its population, once largely illiterate; and finally, it provides respite from the burdens of life by performing at strictly diversionary functions such as serenades and Sunday matinees.
 
In each of these government-sanctioned roles, the BME serves to unify, educate, and entertain the diverse and fragmented elements within the state of Oaxaca, thereby mirroring the historical trajectory of the state of Oaxaca and the nation of Mexico from the pre-Hispanic and Spanish colonial eras to the nascent Mexican republic, from a militarized and fractured young nation to a consolidated postrevolutionary socialist state, and from a predominantly Catholic entity to an ostensibly secular one.

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The Lawyer of the Church

Bishop Clemente de Jesús Munguía and the Clerical Response to the Mexican Liberal Reforma

Pablo Mijangos y Gonzalez

Mexico’s Reforma, the mid-nineteenth-century liberal revolution, decisively shaped the country by disestablishing the Catholic Church, secularizing public affairs, and laying the foundations of a truly national economy and culture.
 
 
The Lawyer of the Church is an examination of the Mexican clergy’s response to the Reforma through a study of the life and works of Bishop Clemente de Jesús Munguía (1810–68), one of the most influential yet least-known figures of the period. By analyzing how Munguía responded to changing political and intellectual scenarios in defense of the clergy’s legal prerogatives and social role, Pablo Mijangos y González argues that the Catholic Church opposed the liberal revolution not because of its supposed attachment to a bygone past but rather because of its efforts to supersede colonial tradition and refashion itself within a liberal yet confessional state. With an eye on the international influences and dimensions of the Mexican church-state conflict, The Lawyer of the Church also explores how Mexican bishops gradually tightened their relationship with the Holy See and simultaneously managed to incorporate the papacy into their local affairs, thus paving the way for the eventual “Romanization” of Mexican Catholicism during the later decades of the century.
 

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