Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata

The Jaramillista Movement and the Myth of the Pax-Priísta, 1940–1962

Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata

Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: 12 photographs, 1 map Published: November 2008

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Mexico

In Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata, Tanalís Padilla shows that the period from 1940 to 1968, generally viewed as a time of social and political stability in Mexico, actually saw numerous instances of popular discontent and widespread state repression. Padilla provides a detailed history of a mid-twentieth-century agrarian mobilization in the Mexican state of Morelos, the homeland of Emiliano Zapata. In so doing, she brings to the fore the continuities between the popular struggles surrounding the Mexican Revolution and contemporary rural uprisings such as the Zapatista rebellion.

The peasants known in popular memory as Jaramillistas were led by Rubén Jaramillo (1900–1962). An agrarian leader from Morelos who participated in the Mexican Revolution and fought under Zapata, Jaramillo later became an outspoken defender of the rural poor. The Jaramillistas were inspired by the legacy of the Zapatistas, the peasant army that fought for land and community autonomy with particular tenacity during the Revolution. Padilla examines the way that the Jaramillistas used the legacy of Zapatismo but also transformed, expanded, and updated it in dialogue with other national and international political movements.

The Jaramillistas fought persistently through legal channels for access to land, the means to work it, and sustainable prices for their products, but the Mexican government increasingly closed its doors to rural reform. The government ultimately responded with repression, pushing the Jaramillistas into armed struggle, and transforming their calls for local reform into a broader critique of capitalism. With Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata, Padilla sheds new light on the decision to initiate armed struggle, women’s challenges to patriarchal norms, and the ways that campesinos framed their demands in relation to national and international political developments.


Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata is essential reading for those interested- in Mexican politics and history the Mexican Left, peasant movements and women's history.” — Helga Baitenmann, Journal of Latin American Studies

Rural Resistance is an important contribution to Mexican historiography. It provides a nuanced picture of an eighty-year revolutionary project through an exploration of its underbelly. . . . Padilla’s work shifts the focus from culture and identity to the process of sustained struggle that marked the supposed pax Priista, thereby opening up a new interpretation of the era.” — Patricia Harms, Canadian Journal of History

“Although the book is deliberately tailored to an audience aware of the debates within Mexican historiography, its graphic explanation of the mechanisms of state repression mean that it could be read in conjunction with other texts on the Cold War in Latin America or for a course on Mexican history. Overall, it is an extremely valuable addition to the field and should spark debate and hopefully more research on this understudied era.”
— Benjamin Smith, Social History

“In her excellent study of the agrarian movement led by Rubén Jaramillo in Zapata’s home state of Morelos in the 1940s and 1950s, the historian Tanalís Padilla skillfully combines archival research and oral histories to highlight the continuities of rural struggles in Mexico. The result is a valuable corrective to standard accounts that skim over the Jaramillistas, along with the rebellions of Genaro Vázquez and Lucio Cabañas in Guerrero in the 1970s and numerous other mobilizations from below, as anomalous discontinuities.” — Richard Stahler-Sholk, Latin American Perspectives

“Padilla has written a intelligent, perceptive, deeply researched history of an agrarian movement that spanned two decades. . . . Twentieth-century Mexico is replete with stories of resistance, and Padilla has provided an important service in bringing to print the Jaramillistas’ often forgotten history.” — Paul Haber, Agricultural History

“This important book shows how a regional study can change our understanding of a larger national story. . . . Well written and well researched, this book is a model of how to approach recent history. Reading it will benefit anyone interested in the making of modern Mexico.” — Paul Hart, Hispanic American Historical Review

“While Tanalís Padilla provides great insight into the subject of modern rural resistance movements, her study’s real value is how it connects the state’s crushing of the Jaramillistas to the decline of the Mexican revolution and the corresponding embrace of neo-liberalism and NAFTA by Mexico’s governing classes.” — Norman Caulfield, International Review of Social History

"Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata is essential reading for those interested- in Mexican politics and history the Mexican Left, peasant movement and women's history." — Helga Baitenman, Journal of Latin American Studies

Rural Rebellion is a valuable contribution to our understanding of this less-studied era of Mexican rural history. It is a well-researched and engaging book that should stimulate great interest among scholars of Mexican history, more generally, Latin Americanists and researcher of rural social movements and insurrections.” — Lynn Horton, Mobilization

“[Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata] is valuable, pioneering. . .significantly advances debate on the fundamental nature of postrevolutionary Mexico.” — Paul Gillingham, The Americas

“[A] nuanced and well-written book. . . . Padilla’s recognition both of the flaws in the single party system and the prolonged resistance to it helps complicate any neat division between an orderly period of industrial growth and relative social peace from 1940-1968, and one of prolonged crisis that followed. This book should be required reading for scholars wishing to think more deeply about such issues.” — Samuel Brunk, A Contracorriente

“It is tempting to ask whether anything ‘new’ can possibly be added to the ‘new’ cultural history of Mexico, but Padilla delivers. . . . [N]early all of the powerful histories that have transformed our understanding of Mexico in recent years either conclude around 1940 or begin after 1968. This leaves a substantial gap, and Padilla’s book goes a long way to fill it. . . . As nostalgia for the mythical peace of PRI rule gains force in Mexico this year, Padilla’s reminder could not have come at a better time.” — Aaron Bobrow-Strain, American Historical Review

Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata sets a new standard for historical studies of Mexican social protest and state repression after 1940. Drawing on rich campesino testimonies and state surveillance reports, Tanalís Padilla illuminates the seamy underbelly of the ‘Golden Age’ decades, puncturing any lingering, hegemonic notions of the PRI’s ‘perfect dictatorship.’ More than an engrossing and poignant account of the Jaramillistas’ unremitting electoral and insurgent struggles to compel the Official Party to fulfill its agrarian promises, this volume provides critical insights into the nation’s broader political experience and the dynamic nature of Latin American peasant movements.” — Gilbert M. Joseph, co-editor of Everyday Forms of State Formation: Revolution and the Negotiation of Rule in Modern Mexico

“A wonderful example of regional history that is embedded in the history of post–World War II Mexico. Students of agrarian movements, contemporary Mexican history, and the grand drama of peasant struggles over land and social justice will find this book obligatory reading.” — Barry Carr, author of Marxism and Communism in Twentieth-Century Mexico


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Tanalís Padilla is Assistant Professor of History at Dartmouth College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1. The Ghost of Zapata 26

2. Jaramillo, Cárdenas, and the Emiliano Zapata Cooperative 55

3. The Agrarista Tradition 85

4. "Like Juárez, with Our Offices on the Run" 108

5. "They Made Him into a Rebel" 139

6. Gender, Community, and Struggle 161

7. Judas's Embrace 184

Conclusion: The Jaramillista Legacy 211

Notes 225

Bibliography 263

Index 279
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4319-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4337-0
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