- Malcontents, Rebels, and Pronunciados: The Politics of Insurrection in Nineteenth-Century Mexico ed. by Will Fowler
In this second of three projected volumes, Fowler and a group of well-known senior historians of Mexico have given us a coherent set of relatively short essays analyzing the pronunciamiento in nineteenth-century Mexico, a type of political uprising, about 1,500 of which occurred between 1821 and 1876. These typically short-lived, regionally limited, and only schematically programmatic episodes were sometimes violent. They were usually headed by military men of high rank and seen by Mexicans as one of the most important means, destabilizing as they were, of carrying out politics in an aggressive, extra-constitutional fashion. Initially of an exclusively military character in the immediate post-independence period, they came increasingly to be endorsed, and even initiated, on a variety of political fronts by civilians, priests, indigenous communities, etc. They constituted a sort of lobbying by bayonet, a means of furthering individual careers, calling upon the government to change its policies, and dislodging discredited power holders.
Each of the dozen chapters in the volume has something interesting to tell us. Some of them are more focused and biographical in approach–notably that by Catherine Andrews about Felipe de la Garza, whose failed 1822 movement was less important in and of itself than as a point along the career trajectory of a man who eventually became an important military politician. Other chapters in this category are Linda Arnold’s about José Ramón García Ugarte; Josefina Vazquez’s about the “insatiable general” Mariano Paredes y Arrillaga; Fowler’s broader chronicle of Antonio López de Santa Anna’s perennial military interventions, despite his own condemnation of them; and Eduardo Flores Clair’s treatment of the 1868 uprising of Julio López Chávez in Chalco, which presents the social anatomy of a movement singularly dedicated to pressing the claims of popular agrarian and labor groups. Other chapters take a more regional approach: Terry Rugeley’s focuses on a half-century of disturbances in southeastern Mexico; Juan Ortiz Escamilla’s provides an “ecological view” of incidents in the strategically pivotal province of Veracruz, buttressed by interesting quantitative data; and Raymond Buve’s looks at uprisings in Tlaxcala throughout much of the nineteenth century.
The continuing role of religious ideology in the pronunciamiento is given eloquent treatment by Guy Thomson’s chapter about the ever-pious Puebla, and by Anne Staples’ contribution, which explores for the [End Page 286] country as a whole the festive and celebratory elements of uprisings associated with the participation and support of secular clergy. Sergio Cañedo Gamboa’s chapter points to the role of intellectuals in its account of the radical federalist Ponciano Arriaga in 1837 San Luis Potosí, and Erika Pani’s discussion of the French Intervention of the 1860s provides a brief but provocative discussion of ideas about sovereignty as embodied explicitly or implicitly in the pronunciamiento as a political form. Concise as the chapters are, they expose the pronunciamiento in prismatic fashion to illumination from a rich variety of approaches—biographical, regional, and sociological.