Religion and State Formation in Postrevolutionary Mexico

Religion and State Formation in Postrevolutionary Mexico

Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: Published: January 2013

Author: Ben Fallaw

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Mexico, Religious Studies

The religion question—the place of the Church in a Catholic country after an anticlerical revolution—profoundly shaped the process of state formation in Mexico. From the end of the Cristero War in 1929 until Manuel Ávila Camacho assumed the presidency in late 1940 and declared his faith, Mexico's unresolved religious conflict roiled regional politics, impeded federal schooling, undermined agrarian reform, and flared into sporadic violence, ultimately frustrating the secular vision shared by Plutarco Elías Calles and Lázaro Cárdenas.

Ben Fallaw argues that previous scholarship has not appreciated the pervasive influence of Catholics and Catholicism on postrevolutionary state formation. By delving into the history of four understudied Mexican states, he is able to show that religion swayed regional politics not just in states such as Guanajuato, in Mexico's central-west "Rosary Belt," but even in those considered much less observant, including Campeche, Guerrero, and Hidalgo. Religion and State Formation in Postrevolutionary Mexico reshapes our understanding of agrarian reform, federal schooling, revolutionary anticlericalism, elections, the Segunda (a second Cristero War in the 1930s), and indigenism, the Revolution's valorization of the Mesoamerican past as the font of national identity.


“In this impressively researched, organized, and written work, Fallaw (Colby College) examines one of the major themes facing Mexico in the 1930s—the conflict between the Catholic Church and the state.”
— J. B. Kirkwood, Choice

“…the author provides one of the best portraits of how the Mexican state’s anticlericalism, rationalist educational reforms, land reform, anticlerical agitation, and indigenism were intertwined and thus galvanized opponents.” — Edward Wright-Rios, American Historical Review

“Fallaw’s study proves utterly striking, as his study details in multiple ways clerical and governmental failures to serve the basic needs of an impoverished and poorly educated public. His study reveals some of the ways that widespread cultural ignorance of the complex material cultural needs of the Mexican population persisted during the postrevolutionary period.” — Marjorie Becker, Catholic Historical Review

“[Fallaw’s] careful marshaling of evidence and his sound analysis make clear why agrarian reform and changing religious practice and devotion were extremely difficult to achieve.” — Linda B. Hall, Hispanic American Historical Review

"Overall, Religion and State Formation in Postrevolutionary Mexico is one of the most important books on twentieth century Mexico of the last ten years. Original, thoroughly researched, and ambitious in scope, the work is a must read for those interested in revolutionary Mexico, modern Catholic sensibilities, or the overlap of politics and religion." — Benjamin Smith, The Americas

“Ben Fallaw’s extraordinary new book, Religion and State Formation in Postrevolutionary Mexico, ostensibly explains religious violence in four Mexican states: Campeche, Hidalgo, Guerrero, and Guanajuato. In the process, however, Fallaw tells us much more. Challenging a number of widely held assumptions about this period, he describes convincingly how and why the revolutionary project failed in the countryside.” — Stephanie Mitchell, The Latin Americanist

“[A] nuanced account of persistent Catholic efforts to undermine the revolutionary project during the height of the reform period…. Fallaw begins to answer some of these questions in this exhaustively researched and carefully argued study. This work should mark an important departure point for larger efforts to understand the persistent power of Catholicism as a political force in twentieth-century Mexico.” — Alexander Dawson, Canadian Journal of History

"A meticulously researched and important contribution to the study of postrevolutionary Mexican religion and state formation." — Nichole Sanders, Journal of Church and State

"Fallaw’s work, based on extensive archival work and periodicals, is a substantial contribution to the literature of the 1930s, an era in which the one-party state was in its genesis and struggling for survival against political and social forces on both the left and right." — Joseph H. Green, The Historian

"This is a superbly researched and enduring contribution to the history of the Mexican Revolution and Latin America’s political and religious history. For the many researchers who continue to ponder how Mexico’s regions responded to national institutions and discourses, Fallaw’s book will be indispensable." — Thomas Rath, Journal of Latin American Studies

"Through his thorough investigation of these state- and local-level alliances, Fallaw offers an innovative and fascinating explanation for the Mexican revolutionary state’s post-1940 shift away from the most radical elements of the revolutionary project and toward a more conciliatory relationship with the Catholic Church, which has persisted to this day." — Julia G. Young, Ethnohistory

"This is a prodigiously researched work that weaves together the specificity of four cases within a satisfying analytic framework. It is likely to encourage further work on religion and state formation." — Jeffrey Mosher, EIAL

“Fascinating to read.” — Rubén Gallo, Latin American Research Review

"Religion and State Formation in Postrevolutionary Mexico should establish itself as a key text in Mexican revolutionary history. The author has done a prodigious quantity of research and organized it expertly, producing an original and convincing analysis of a major theme: Church-state conflict in the postrevolutionary period. The issue permeated Mexican politics, and its exploration opens a window onto a variety of other themes, including state building, education, land reform, gender, ethnicity, violence, and local politics and elections." — Alan Knight, author of The Mexican Revolution

"This important book forces a rethinking of the efficacy and influence of agrarian and cultural revolutions not only in Mexico but throughout the world. In what is nothing short of a massive reappraisal of the pivotal presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas, Ben Fallaw demonstrates how conservative Catholic opposition at the local and state levels consistently obstructed Cardenista reform. Based on his detailed reconstruction of circumstances and events in four very different Mexican states, he reminds us that conditions differed enormously among locales, even between two villages in the same state. His research is blockbuster in every possible way." — Terry Rugeley, author of Of Wonders and Wise Men: Religion and Popular Cultures in Southeast Mexico, 1800–1876


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Price: $28.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ben Fallaw is Associate Professor of History and Latin American Studies at Colby College. He is the author of Cárdenas Compromised: The Failure of Reform in Postrevolutionary Yucatán, also published by Duke University Press, and a coeditor of Peripheral Visions: Politics, Society, and the Challenges of Modernity in Yucatan and Heroes and Hero Cults in Latin America.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

List of Abbreviations xi

Glossary xv

Introduction 1

1. The Church and the Religious Question 13

2. Catholic-Socialists against Anti-Priests in Campeche 35

3. "The Devil Is Now Loose in Huejutla": The Bishop, the SEP, and the Emancipation of the Indian in Hidalgo 63

4. Beatas, Ballots, and Bullets in Guerrero 101

5. "Un sin fin de mochos": Catholic Cacicazgos in Guanajuato 157

Conclusion: The End of the Religious Question 219

Notes 227

Bibliography 295

Index 317
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5337-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5322-5
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