- The Logic of Compromise in Mexico: How the Countryside Was Key to the Emergence of Authoritarianism by Gladys I. McCormick
Images of the exploitation and violence committed against rural communities are very powerful for anyone learning about the Mexican Revolution. Despite claims made for decades by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that democracy and social justice had replaced the authoritarianism and injustices that caused the revolution, Mexicans increasingly disbelieved. Protests against the authoritarian nature of the one-party state grew as the twentieth century advanced. Regardless, most Mexicans knew little about these instances of defiance because the state was able to divide and co-opt protest groups and manipulate the media into looking the other way.
Gladys McCormick's incisive book emphasizes the role played by rural communities in inspiring resistance against the one-party state. The resolution of people from the countryside and the ideals of their leaders, she argues, eventually permeated the consciousness of urban protest groups, who then became the better-known protesters and martyrs resisting the authoritarian Mexican state, as epitomized in the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre. McCormick's work traces the story of rural resistance against the PRI to challenge the idea of a pax priísta. Instead, she asserts, "Mexico's authoritarianism was more violent than previously assumed and began much earlier than the 1960s" (5).
McCormick places resistance against the one-party state as a continuation of the long militant history of rural communities. Her work focuses on 65 communities in two sugar cooperatives at the heart of the Zapatista lands in the states of Puebla and Morelos. She follows their dealings with local, state, and national authorities from the beginnings of Cardenismo in the mid 1930s to the assassination of a community leader in 1962. McCormick shows incisively how the PRI quickly shifted its focus from the needs of rural Mexico to the development and application of mechanisms of repression against these communities, so as to favor modernization and centralized power.
Her work is especially compelling because she does not analyze faceless peasant movements but instead humanizes resistance. Complementing her archival sources with interviews, she makes vivid the experiences of community leaders, particularly those of the brothers Porfirio, Rubén, and Antonio Jaramillo. She analyzes the causes and effects of their different responses to state-sponsored corruption, clientelism, and intimidation. The results allow her to expose the importance of individual resilience, principles, and fears in shaping history. Her approach casts a light on the capacity of the state to co-opt resistance and maintain the appearance of a peaceful Mexico.
The Jaramillo brothers are the thread that guides McCormick's narrative of resistance, intimidation, and cooptation in the sugar cooperatives of Zacatepec, Morelos, and [End Page 441] Atencingo, Puebla. Confronting the same forces of oppression, the three brothers chose three very different paths. Porfirio favored resistance and was assassinated rather early, in 1955. Rubén, the best known of the brothers and Emiliano Zapata's heroic heir, had the strongest influence on rural and urban protest movements. He led two peasant uprisings, but he also tried to work within the system, only to be brutally murdered in 1962, together with his pregnant wife and children. Antonio, considering that his younger brothers had paid a very high price for their ideals, decided that accommodation within the system was the best option for pursuing the interests of his community. The lives of these brothers expose state violence against the leaders of rural communities, but McCormick's study offers more than that. She dissects their lives to reveal the process by which the PRI confronted resistance and built the clientelist networks needed to empower the regime.
This is an excellent work of scholarship if we can ignore the author's occasional inclination for absolutes. I am not sure, for instance, that many scholars would agree that there were no significant targeted assassinations against urban protest leaders in Mexico...