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This article traces the progression of "youth" in Mexico from 1867 to c. 1900. It argues that the historical "images" of youth that developed during this period are telling as to youth culture, but also reveal much concerning greater societal and national aspirations. As this burgeoning vision of youth took shape in the late nineteenth century, its preeminent expression was the preparatoriano, or the student of the National Preparatory School. This "positivist image" of youth, hitherto overlooked in the historiography, was particularly celebratory and bespoke the transformative nature of the modern state. This group of young students, however, was not homogenous. As the restored nation tried its find its course (through local notions of liberalism and positivism), different notions of youth were imagined, experienced, further defined, and contested. This relationship between official ideology and reality was evident in the subcultural behavior of young men and the reactions these contested images generated among the old or the parent culture. This essay traces the contested relationship between official representation and subculture in the rise of student activism, the appropriation of new and public spaces, the creation of innovative style, and the celebration of an illicit bohemian lifestyle, on the one hand, and in public reaction, on the other.