Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

Latin American History
8 January 2013
Ben Smith (Warwick)
La Dictablanda: Soft Authoritarianism in Mexico, 1940-1968


In 1929 the National Revolutionary Party (PNR) was formed and later renamed Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).  Between 1940 and 1970 this administration became increasingly authoritarian and at times oppressive.  This talk by Ben Smith examines what he calls soft authoritarianism in the acts of the PRI.

Ben Smith believes that historiography on this period in Mexican history is missing the everyday experiences of families under soft authoritarianism, or as the Mexicans would call it La Dictablanda.  He talks about the paradox of revolution and state, of how the revolutionary authority turned from democracy to an increasingly authoritarian state and of how extreme violence was used against the people even during periods considered relatively peaceful.  The paper focuses on four principal elements:

1)      Description of twin-paradoxes of the Mexican state.

2)      Historiography on the subject.

3)      Conclusions regarding the PRI state.

4)      La Dictablanda described.

Smith finishes his paper by examining one way people were able to make political statements with minimum fear of persecution – this was the use of humour as an act of subversion.

To listen to this podcast click here.

Read Full Post »

Latin American History seminar
16 October 2012
Rebecca Earle (Warwick)
Embodying Race in Colonial Spanish America

Casta paintings have become quite popular in the art and antiques world.  Largely created in eighteenth century Mexico by unknown artists and purposed by unknown parties, Casta paintings depicted family scenes, giving us a rare opportunity to glimpse into the private lives of those living in Colonial Spanish America.

Example of a Casta painting (wikipedia)

Example of a Casta painting (wikipedia)

These windows into the past are useful as there are very few alternative sources available for this period and place for gaining an idea of private and family spaces.  Rebecca Earle examines these paintings from the point of view of race relationships.  In particular she is interested in what the paintings are trying to represent – suggesting a unity to conceptions of race and racial identity – in contrast to the reality in which race was viewed as a much more mutable classification.  Earle explores this theme noting that physical characteristics were not the only method used to racially classify. Social aspects were often equally important including the types of clothes worn and living standards.

To listen to this podcast click here

Read Full Post »

Latin American History
Was the Mexican Revolution a Success?
Alan Knight (Oxford)
21 February 2012

A rebel camp outside Juárez, Chihuahua, during the Mexican Revolution.

Mexico in 1910 was a country beginning the path toward a long and bitter uprising that before its end would turn into a full-scale civil war and eventually into revolution.  The Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 was the greatest upheaval Mexico faced in the 20th century.  The conflict began with an uprising by Francisco I. Madero against Mexico’s dictator leader Benito Juárez.  Madero succeeded Juárez in 1911 but failed to live up to his promises of reforming agrarian life and transforming the socioeconomic status of Mexicans.  Further revolutionary activity led to three presidents in less than a decade, ending only with the death of the Constitutional Army’s first chief, Venustiano Carranza in 1920.  Nevertheless various coup attempts and uprisings continued (including the more extensive Cristero Wars of 1926-1929) for at least another decade.

“Was this revolution a success?” is therefore a difficult question to tackle especially, as clearly stated by Alan Knight himself, the multitudes of deaths and lost lives can never (and should never) be quantified in such terms.  There are also difficulties in how we determine ‘success’.  Do we mean progress?  If so how do we assess progress and how do we demonstrate that the Revolution was the primary cause behind it?  How do you assess success of failure?

On one level the Mexican Revolution can be called a success simply because it survived – it moulded a new political generation and made a significant impact on the future of the Mexican state.  Revolutions that do not survive very long generally have much less of an impact.  However, such an assessment is simplistic.  Alan Knight tries to assess ‘success’ in terms of its seeming effect on liberalist politics and social tensions (such as aggregation reforms, labour, and economics).  He does so cautiously, noting the danger of suggesting that everything that happens post-revolution is directly related.  To level the playing field, therefore, Knight ends with counterfactuals as a way to assess possible success or failure.  What if the revolution never happened?  How different might Mexican civilisation have been?  Knight ends with the equally difficult question: was it all worth it?  Again the answer is far from straightforward or easy.

To listen to this podcast click here.

Read Full Post »

Latin American History
Mexican Nationalism: History and Theory
David Brading (Cambridge)
4 October 2011

Flag of Mexico

In 1821 Mexico gained independence from Spain and formed a Republic.  By the 1880s a ‘reformation’ had begun to occur in the Mexican church, trade had moved primarily with Europe to Mexico’s North American neighbours, and modernisation went hand-in-hand with a government based around dictatorship and a cast based society.  Amongst, all of these changes in Mexican society were the growth of a nationalist ideology straining to break free of its Spanish roots and searching for a new ‘Mexican’ identity.  David Brading is both successful as an historian in English-speaking countries and in Mexico itself.  Indeed, several of his books are reprinted regularly in Mexico and viewed as essential texts in their universities.  This talk, then, on Mexican nationalism, comes from a man who is by-far one of the leaders in his particular field.  Brading looks at the multi-faceted nature and history of nationalism in Mexico especially where it intersected with major events such as civil war, religious transformation, and growth of urbanisation and modernisation. 

To listen to the podcast please click here.


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: