Politics, Work, and Culture in Mexico, 1938–1968


American Encounters/Global Interactions

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Book Pages: 464 Illustrations: 6 tables, 4 figures Published: April 2014

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Mexico

In 1910 Mexicans rebelled against an imperfect dictatorship; after 1940 they ended up with what some called the perfect dictatorship. A single party ruled Mexico for over seventy years, holding elections and talking about revolution while overseeing one of the world's most inequitable economies. The contributors to this groundbreaking collection revise earlier interpretations, arguing that state power was not based exclusively on hegemony, corporatism, or violence. Force was real, but it was also exercised by the ruled. It went hand-in-hand with consent, produced by resource regulation, political pragmatism, local autonomies and a popular veto. The result was a dictablanda: a soft authoritarian regime.

This deliberately heterodox volume brings together social historians, anthropologists, sociologists, and political scientists to offer a radical new understanding of the emergence and persistence of the modern Mexican state. It also proposes bold, multidisciplinary approaches to critical problems in contemporary politics. With its blend of contested elections, authoritarianism, and resistance, Mexico foreshadowed the hybrid regimes that have spread across much of the globe. Dictablanda suggests how they may endure.

. Roberto Blancarte, Christopher R. Boyer, Guillermo de la Peña, María Teresa Fernández Aceves, Paul Gillingham, Rogelio Hernández Rodríguez, Alan Knight, Gladys McCormick, Tanalís Padilla, Wil G. Pansters, Andrew Paxman, Jaime Pensado, Pablo Piccato, Thomas Rath, Jeffrey W. Rubin, Benjamin T. Smith, Michael Snodgrass


“[A]n invaluable resource for any nonspecialist seeking a rigorous and in-depth consideration of the topic. . . .  A necessary addition to any respectable collection on Latin American history or 20th-century politics. . . . Essential. Upper-division undergraduates and above.” — J. M. Rosenthal, Choice

“This timely edited volume explores how the country that launched the first social revolution of the twentieth century became one of the world’s most unequal and least democratic societies. Its regional and methodological sweep is impressive. Taken together, the eighteen chapters challenge the conventional wisdom in many ways. Graduate students in particular will mine this volume for promising leads; indeed, this book will likely inspire a wave of interdisciplinary research on the period.” — Stephen E. Lewis, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Dictablanda is a must read for students of Mexican history and politics, and provides a useful synthesis of the emerging works on this under-researched period" — Amelia M. Kiddle, Labour/Le Travail

"Dictablanda’s publication marks a watershed in the study of postrevolutionary Mexico. … The collection’s theoretical pluralism and thematic diversity defies easy characterization." — Ben Fallaw, The Americas

"[T]his volume brings together important case studies and contributes to a debate about how to conceptualize the era. It is essential reading for scholars of post-revolutionary Mexico." — Louise E. Walker, Hispanic American Historical Review

"Combining two generations of scholarship in the historiography of postrevolutionary Mexico, this collection of essays is a masterpiece. It constitutes the first-ever effort to study in detail the heyday of Mexico’s official revolutionary party from the oil expropriation of 1938 to the government’s massacre of student protesters at Mexico City’s Tlatelolco Square in 1968....it should be required reading for anyone interested in twentieth-century Latin America." — Jurgen Buchenau, The Historian

"Essays in . . . Dictablanda take a decentered look at the Mexican state. In their excellent historiographical essay, they reject the idea of a perfect dictatorship and the framework of hegemony for understanding PRI dominance."

— Mary Kay Vaughan, Latin American Research Review

"This ambitious volume offers a provocative and timely reconsideration of Mexican state formation. Its diverse and empirically rich case studies examine politics on the ground, providing unusual insights into the mechanisms of Mexico's authoritarian regime. This book will be indispensable reading for anyone seeking to understand the ruling party's astonishing ability to retain power and countless challenges to its legitimacy." — Jocelyn Olcott, author of Revolutionary Women in Post Revolutionary Mexico

"Dictablanda provides a rich interpretation of the so-called Golden Age of PRI rule. The collection's regional, thematic, and methodological sweep is impressive, as is the roster of contributors and the painstaking research that each has conducted in local, regional, national, and international archives. Dictablanda is certain to fill gaps, complicate existing narratives, and become a cornerstone of scholarship for years to come." — Gilbert M. Joseph, coauthor of Mexico's Once and Future Revolution


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Paul Gillingham is a Lecturer in Latin American History at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Cuauhtémoc’s Bones: Forging National Identity in Modern Mexico.

Benjamin T. Smith is Associate Professor of Latin American History at the University of Warwick. He is author of Pistoleros and Popular Movements: The Politics of State Formation in Postrevolutionary Oaxaca.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface / Paul Gillingham vii

Acknowledgments xv

Glossary of Institutions and Acronyms xvii

Introduction: The Paradoxes of Revolution / Paul Gillingham and Benjamin T. Smith 1

High and Low Politics 45

1. The End of the Mexican Revolution? From Cárdenas to Aveila Camacho, 1937–1941 / Alan Knight 47

2. Intransigence, Anticommunism, and Reconciliation: Church/State Relations in Transition / Roberto Blancarte 70

3. Camouflaging the State: The Army and the Limits of Hegemony in PRIista Mexico, 1940–1960 / Thomas Rath 89

4. Strongmen and State Weakness / Rogelio Hernández Rodríguez 108

5. Tropical Passion in the Desert: Gonzalo N. Santos and Local Elections in Nothern San Luis Potosí, 1943-1958 / Wil G. Pansters 126

6. "We Don't Have Arms, but We Do Have Balls": Fraud, Violience, and Popular Agency in Elections / Paul Gillingham 149

Work and Resource Regulation 173

7. The Golden Age of Charrismo: Workers, Braceros, and the Political Machinery of Postrevolutionary Mexico / Michael Snodgrass 175

8. The Forgotten Jaramillo: Building a Social Base of Support for Authoritarianism in Rural Mexico / Gladys McCormick 196

9. Community, Crony Capitalism, and Fortress Conservation in Mexican Forests / Christopher R. Boyer 217

10. Advocate or Cacica? Guadalupe Urzúa Flores: Modernizer and Peasant Political Leader in Jalisco / Maria Teresa Fernández Aceves 236

11. Building a State on the Cheap: Taxation, Social Movements, and Politics / Benjamin T. Smith 255

Culture and Ideology 277

12. The End of Revolutionary Anthropology? Notes on Indigenismo / Guillermo de la Peña 279

13. Cooling to Cinema and Warming to Television: State Mass Media Policy, 1940—1964 / Andrew Paxman 299

14. Pistoleros, Ley Fuga, and Uncertainty in Public Debates about Murder in Twentieth-Century Mexico / Pablo Piccato 321

15. Rural Education, Political Radicalism, and Normalista Identity in Mexico after 1940 / Tanalis Padilla 341

16. The Rise of a "National Student Problem" in 1956 / Jaime M. Pensado 360

Final Comments. Contextualizing the Regime: What 1938–1968 Tells Us about Mexico, Power, and Latin America's Twentieth Century / Jeffrey W. Rubin 379

Select Bibliography 397

Contributors 427

Index 429
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5637-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5631-8
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