The Eagle and the Virgin

Nation and Cultural Revolution in Mexico, 1920–1940

The Eagle and the Virgin

Book Pages: 396 Illustrations: 36 illustrations (20 in color) Published: March 2006

Art and Visual Culture > Art History, History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Mexico

When the fighting of the Mexican Revolution died down in 1920, the national government faced the daunting task of building a cohesive nation. It had to establish control over a disparate and needy population and prepare the country for global economic competition. As part of this effort, the government enlisted the energy of artists and intellectuals in cultivating a distinctly Mexican identity. It devised a project for the incorporation of indigenous peoples and oversaw a vast, innovative program in the arts. The Eagle and the Virgin examines the massive nation-building project Mexico undertook between 1920 and 1940.

Contributors explore the nation-building efforts of the government, artists, entrepreneurs, and social movements; their contradictory, often conflicting intersection; and their inevitably transnational nature. Scholars of political and social history, communications, and art history describe the creation of national symbols, myths, histories, and heroes to inspire patriotism and transform workers and peasants into efficient, productive, gendered subjects. They analyze the aesthetics of nation building made visible in murals, music, and architecture; investigate state projects to promote health, anticlericalism, and education; and consider the role of mass communications, such as cinema and radio, and the impact of road building. They discuss how national identity was forged among social groups, specifically political Catholics, industrial workers, middle-class women, and indigenous communities. Most important, the volume weighs in on debates about the tension between the eagle (the modernizing secular state) and the Virgin of Guadalupe (the Catholic defense of faith and morality). It argues that despite bitter, violent conflict, the symbolic repertoire created to promote national identity and memory making eventually proved capacious enough to allow the eagle and the virgin to coexist peacefully.

Contributors. Adrian Bantjes, Katherine Bliss, María Teresa Fernández, Joy Elizabeth Hayes, Joanne Hershfield, Stephen E. Lewis, Claudio Lomnitz, Rick A. López, Sarah M. Lowe, Jean Meyer, James Oles, Patrice Olsen, Desmond Rochfort, Michael Snodgrass, Mary Kay Vaughan, Marco Velázquez, Wendy Waters, Adriana Zavala


The Eagle and the Virgin presents an excellent synopsis of the recent historiography of post-revolutionary Mexico, showing how everyday people selectively rejected and appropriated elite cultural projects.” — Everard Meade, Bulletin of Latin American Research

“[A] necessary book that will become an important reference for future works on modern Mexico and Latin America.” — R. Hernández Rodríguez, The Latin Americanist

“[T]his is an important milestone in the historiography of postrevolutionary Mexico that will serve as a touchstone for future scholarship. The sheer variety and richness of the contributions show how fruitful a refocused attention to the postrevolutionary decades can be.” — Christopher R. Boyer, American Historical Review

“[T]his project is a welcome analysis of the significant role popular culture played during the post-Revolutionary period. It is especially successful in demonstrating the complex and heterogeneous nature of popular culture’s evolution, especially since it was not limited to one region, class, or interpretation. . . . This book is recommended for both undergraduate and graduate level courses on Mexican history.” — Jaime R. Aguila, Canadian Journal of History

“[T]hough the editors have wisely focused on these pivotal decades, the impact of what is discussed in these essays encompasses the rest of the century, and certainly can be considered relevant to understand ongoing cultural hybridization processes still taking place within a broader, transnational, and global context.” — Ana María Rodríguez-Vivaldi, Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association Online Review

“Readers should examine the essays ready to take notes to add to their lectures (Patrice Olsen's essay is packed with wonderful information, for example), or to jot down potential research topics (the Introduction has a dozen or so). This anthology joins the latest work by Ricardo Pérez Monfort in opening the discussion of the rise of the mass media and the growth of urban audience as critical to the nature of Mexico's revolutionary, modern cultures.” — William H. Beezley, The Americas

“The 16 essays that Mary Kay Vaughan and Stephen E. Lewis have compiled here inventively probe and synthesize the synergistic processes of nation building and cultural revolution that characterized Mexico in the period from 1920 to 1940. . . . The vibrancy and variety of these essays remind us that culture is integral to any analysis of this crucial period in the formation of Mexican national identity, because Mexico’s cultural revolution is so inimitable in its many contested manifestations. As this volume demonstrates, its very creativity and inconsistency are fundamental to understanding the complexity of the interactions that took place between the state and popular sectors.” — Susan M. Deeds, Hispanic American Historical Review

“The book is certainly worth reading. It is a good contribution to the debate on the revolutionary state-building project, its narratives and imagery.” — Raymond Buve, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

“This is an excellent overview of nation-building in Mexico during the crucial period between 1920 and 1940.” — Ariadna Acevedo-Rodrigo, Journal of Latin American Studies

“This is an impressive work that will be of great value in graduate and undergraduate classrooms.” — Alexander Dawson, A Contracorriente

The Eagle and the Virgin is a necessary book, a selection of essays which allows readers to see in detail how a nation is invented and reinvented, how it experiences its achievements and its customs, both the good and the bad; and how it is internationalized and nationalized (since by 1940 Mexico was both a more cosmopolitan country and a more Mexican one). A delightful work.” — Carlos Monsiváis

“Steeped in a generation of new cultural and transnational analysis of state formation and popular expression, The Eagle and the Virgin raises the bar for studies of nation building and cultural politics in postrevolutionary Mexico. Particularly impressive is the volume’s sensitive analysis of contests over religious culture and symbols, its gendered understanding of state formation, and its handsomely illustrated treatment of the development of a Mexican revolutionary aesthetic.” — Gilbert M. Joseph, coeditor of The Mexico Reader: History, Culture, Politics


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Mary Kay Vaughan is Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her books include Cultural Politics in Revolution: Teachers, Peasants, and Schools in Mexico, 1930–1940. She is a coeditor of the journal Hispanic American Historical Review.

Stephen E. Lewis is Associate Professor of History at California State University, Chico. He is the author of The Ambivalent Revolution: Forging State and Nation in Chiapas, 1910–1945.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations xii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction / Mary Kay Vaughan and Stephen E. Lewis 1

I. The Aesthetics of Nation Building

The Noche Mexicana and the Exhibition of Popular Arts:
Two Ways of Exalting Indianness / Rick A. Lopez 23

The Sickle, the Serpent, and the Soil: History, Revolution, Nationhood, and Modernity in the Murals of Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros / Desmond Rochfort 43

Painting in the Shadow of the Big Three

Frida Kahlo / Sarah M. Lowe 53

Maria Izquierdo / Adrianna Zavala 67

The Mexican Experience of Marion and Grace Greenwood / James Oles 79

Mestizaje and Musical Nationalism in Mexico/ Marco Velazquez and Mary Kay Vaughan 95

Revolution in the City Streets: Changing Nomenclature, Changing Form, and the Revision of Public Memory / Patrice Elizabeth Olsen 119

II. Utopian Projects of the State

Saints, Sinners, and the State Formation: Local Religion and Cultural Revolution in Mexico / Adrian A. Bantjes 137

Nationalizing the Countryside: Schools and Rural Communities in the 1930’s / Mary Kay Vaughan 157

The Nation, Education, and the “Indian Problem” in Mexico, 1920–1940 / Stephen E. Lewis 176

For the Health of the Nation: Gender and the Cultural Politics of Social Hygiene in Revolutionary Mexico / Katherine E. Bliss 196

III. Mass Communication and Nation Building

Remapping Identities: Road Construction and Nation Building in Postrevolutionary Mexico / Wendy Waters 221

National Imaginings on the Air: Radio in Mexico, 1920–1950 / Joy Elizabeth Hayes 243

Screening the Nation / Joanne Hershfield 259

IV. Social Construction of Nations

An Idea of Mexico: Catholics in the Revolution / Jean Meyer 281

Guadalajaran Women and the Construction of National Identity / Maria Teresa Fernandez Aceves 297

“We Are All Mexicans Here”: Workers, Patriotism, and Union Struggles in Monterrey / Michael Snodgrass 314

Final Reflections: What Was Mexico’s Cultural Revolution? / Claudio Lomnitz 335

Contributors 351

Index 357

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Mary Kay Vaughan is the recipient of the 2016 Conference on Latin American History (CLAH) Distinguished Service Award.

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3668-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3657-0
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