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  • Forced Marches: Soldiers and Military Caciques in Modern Mexico ed. by Ben Fallaw and Terry Rugeley
  • Michael M. Smith
Forced Marches: Soldiers and Military Caciques in Modern Mexico. Edited by Ben Fallaw and Terry Rugeley. (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2012. Pp. 288. Illustrations, notes, index. ISBN 9780816520428, $55.00 cloth.)

Readers expecting to find stirring accounts of heroic captains, major battles, strategy, tactics, and weaponry in Forced Marches: Soldiers and Military Caciques in Modern Mexico will be disappointed. Such, however, is not the purpose of this innovative, at times provocative, anthology. Examining the Mexican military from the early national period through the twentieth century, the authors address the varied role of militias and armies as social institutions and how they "reflected and perpetuated social divisions . . . shaped society, altered the economy, affected ethnicity and gender roles, and molded faith in religion and science" (11).

Terry Rugeley's "An Unsatisfactory Picture of Civil Commotion: Unpopular Militias and Tepid Nationalism in the Mexican Southeast" explains that during the early decades of independence, citizen militias and the armed pueblo played only a limited democratizing role in the geographically isolated areas of Yucatán and Tabasco, where "'the right to arms' failed to emerge as a fundamental demand of mid-century Mexican politics" (36). Daniel S. Haworth, in "The Mobile National Guard of Guanajuato, 1855-1858: Military Hybridization and Statecraft in Reforma Mexico," discusses Governor Manuel Doblado's creation of a citizen-based constabulary that would enforce his authority in the state or form part of the new national army that the Liberal administration could deploy when facing internal threats elsewhere. In "Behaving Badly in Mexico City: Discipline and Identity in the Presidential Guards, 1900-1911," Stephen Neufeld examines one aspect of an unsuccessful Porfirian effort to establish a voluntary, motivated cadre of literate middle-class soldiers that could mitigate tensions among the working classes and promote a broader sense of nationalism. Thomas Rath's "Revolutionary Citizenship against Institutional Inertia: Cardenismo and the Mexican Army, 1934-1940" relates how Lázaro Cárdenas promoted solidarity between soldiers and the working classes, extended benefits to enlisted men, incorporated military families into his regime's program of socialist education, encouraged development of infrastructure to benefit the masses, and charged the army with organizing a peasant militias. Although historians generally argue that Cárdenas's policies paved the way for civilian rule after 1946, Rath posits that they produced decidedly ambivalent results.

Three essays examine the role and impact of military caciques (chieftains) during the Revolution and post-revolutionary years. Benjamin T. Smith's "Heliodoro Charis Castro and the Soldiers of Juchitán: Indigenous Militarism, Local Rule, and the Mexican State" describes how during the 1920s and 1930s, Zapotec-speaking men from this town on the Isthmus [End Page 234] of Tehuántepec created their own ethnically based military unit and employed the threat of force, military contacts, and a reputation for martial prowess to establish a self-sufficient local political culture that resisted state interference until the late 1960s. Ben Fallaw's "Eulogio Ortiz: The Army and the Antipolitics of Postrevolutionary State Formation, 1920-1935" relates how Ortiz's use of violence strengthened the revolutionary state and helped silence Plutarco Elías Calles's domestic enemies, but also undermined the Sonoran's claim to just rule with popular consent. In "Military Caciquismo in the PRIísta State: General Mange's Command in Veracruz," Paul Gillingham challenges the prevalent view of a submissive, de-politicized Mexican army after 1940. His case study of Alejandro Mange's career between 1937 and1959 suggests that the military's increased subservience to national authority came at the cost of allowing entrenched commanders to retain considerable regional and institutional autonomy.

The scholarship in this volume is impeccable. The authors have utilized the most relevant secondary works and made extensive use of sources available in Mexican state, national, and private repositories. Especially welcome is their utilization of material from the increasingly accessible files of the national defense archives and formerly classified documents of the Departamento de Investigaciones Políticas y Sociales.

Michael M. Smith
Oklahoma State University


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