- 1750–1850: La independencia de México a la luz de cien años. Problemáticas y desenlaces de una larga transición
Numerous books and articles were published in 2010 to mark the occasion of the bicentennial of Mexico’s struggle for independence. Most of these works focused on Spanish liberalism and the insurgent war, which triggered the revolution in New Spain between 1808 and 1810. The book Brian Connaughton has coordinated is presented as an exception. Here, the goal is not to explain the independence process but to explain the longer progression of the Spanish monarchy’s collapse and the difficult course of Mexican state-building. For this reason, the book’s chapters deal with topics different from those just mentioned and different from each other, from conflict between royalist authorities and the clergy in the 1790s to the popular mobilization in Mexico City in 1840. The result is a book rich in themes and interpretations, useful for understanding the period’s various aspects.
Unfortunately, the book also evidences some of the serious problems of edited volumes. For example, I do not think that a scholar interested in the question of limpieza de sangre would decide to read this book if it were found in a library catalog, even though the chapter by Norma Angélica Castillo Palma on the subject is one of the most remarkable. Equally, Ana Lidia García Peña’s important study on relations between the state and families (particularly women) in early nineteenth-century Mexico might be linked with the essay written by Ivana Frasquet on the constitutional project of 1822 or with Reynaldo Sordo Cedeño’s work on the ecclesiastical congressmen, but neither the editor nor any single author tries to make this relationship explicit.
Despite Connaughton’s aim of paying testimony to the 100-year-long transformation, half the chapters address very specific issues relating to the period 1808–1822. Going against current historical wisdom, Ana Carolina Ibarra demonstrates that in 1809 there were signs of disloyalty to the Spanish monarchy. Jaime E. Rodríguez O. corrects data offered by other historians on the 1809 elections and offers his interpretation of autonomism. Marta Terán shows the importance of interethnic relations in the conspiracy of Valladolid of that same year. The chapter written by Luis Fernando Granados represents one of the most original approaches to neoclassical policies during the independence period. Alicia Tecuanhuey’s account of Juan Nepomuceno Troncoso’s political life in Puebla concludes, along with the aforementioned chapters by Frasquet and García Peña, the case studies on the 1808–1822 period. The remaining chapters focus on a varied set of topics, though still with relatively narrow chronological focus: the relation between Church and state in the late viceroyalty, as studied by Connaughton; the survival of cacicazgo in the nineteenth century, addressed by Margarita Menegus; Castillo Palma’s essay on the proofs of pureza de sangre; Pérez Toledo’s examination of the popular mobilizations in Mexico City; and Sordo Cedeño’s study of the ecclesiastical congressmen. Only Jorge Silva Riquer in his comprehensive analysis of the historiography of economy and Brian Connaughton in the introduction study the period 1750–1850 in its entirety. [End Page 144]
It has been asserted in recent years that the historiography on Independence has reached consensus on a number of issues. Most evidently, it seems to have been determined that the Latin American nations were the result of the dissolution of the Spanish monarchy but not its cause. Connaughton’s introduction finds some cracks: while he recognizes that the cultural wealth of New Spain “did not translate easily into an ethnic identity, much less in a (proto) national [one]” (pp. 15–16), he assures us that some kind of “national identity” was forged in New Spain between 1521 and 1808. Furthermore, he contends that in the late seventeenth century various realms or “proto...