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Volume 54 / Humanities


Independence, Revolution, and Post-Revolution

BARBARA A. TENENBAUM, Mexican Specialist, Hispanic Division, Library of Congress;, Editor in Chief, Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture
DON M. COERVER, Professor of History, Texas Christian University
Professor of History, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque


One of the glories of annotating materials on Mexico from 1810 to 1910 is the wealth and variety of studies published in each biennium. This period in particular was characterized by a multiplicity of superb articles in every aspect of the field. Well over 200 separate items were reviewed, most of which were meritorious and deserving of notice. Space limits, however, dictated careful selection and reflection, as well as the creation of specific criteria for inclusion in the section. Obviously, each must represent a contribution to the field, but this standard by itself could not weed out many items since, with few exceptions, they all had something new to say. Not even the previous criteria such as use of footnotes or primary sources were sufficient to exclude works with superlative illustrations or outstanding bibliographies. In many cases, then, the critical deciding vote became the nebulous judgment of whether scholars would be enriched knowing about a particular work.

This biennium marked a true watershed in the development of Mexican historiography in Mexico itself. Happily we saw a retreat from the microhistoria that has characterized the field since the 1972 publication of Pueblo en vilo by Luis González y González. Scholars are still studying localities, but they are looking at them in ways that other researchers, interested in national themes, can use more easily to provide important collaboratory or contrary data. The group of books and articles under review here - ranging from documents from Nayarit to village life in Michoacán to railroad building in Yucatán - amply demonstrates the change. Further, researchers are going to the regions to look at how national phenomenon were carried out in el campo. This is particularly true of aspects of the reform in Michoacán (Knowlton, item bi 91027223), Sierra de Puebla (Thomson, item bi 93009147), and Veracruz (Velasco Toro, item bi 92000936).

Two extraordinary scholars, Mario Cerutti (items bi 93010330 and bi 94010315) and Jean Meyer (items bi 93009724 and bi 94002176), have greatly advanced the study of particular regions. Cerutti has spearheaded work on 19th-century Nuevo León and has assembled one of the most productive teams in the field while Jean Meyer has worked individually on Nayarit. In fact, during this biennium Cerutti has published five major articles and has edited one book. Although only one of the articles has been annotated here, it would be worthwhile to draw readers' attention to his other important accomplishments on Spaniards in the economy of northern Mexico; the liberal press during the Reform; the role of Monterrey in the northeast; and trade across the Río Bravo during the war years 1855-67, this last deserving an English translation and publication.

Although political histories led the way, works concentrating on the economy were not far behind. Particularly noteworthy was the relative paucity of the basic political biographies that tended to hagiography, together with the increasing sophistication shown in studies of art as historical representation, intense examinations of previously-accepted 19th-century statistics, and burgeoning forays into constitutional questions, disaster problematics, ecology, and public health.

The biennium also saw the publication of many stunning "picture books" on interesting and/or important themes. These included: Octavio Chávez's La charrería: tradición mexicana, on Mexico's first national sport; Ramón Valdiosera's 3000 años de moda mexicana, with wonderful illustrations of Mexican "fashions;" and México: un libro abierto, a history of the development of books and the publishing industry produced expressly for the 1992 Frankfurt Book Fair. The photo series Veracruz, Imágenes de su Historia, added two new volumes this biennium: t. 6, Los tuxtlas, and t. 7, Xalapa. And for Fotografías del Nayar y de California, 1893-1900, Jean Meyer gathered together interesting photos of the indigenous peoples and archaeology of Nayarit and California taken by León Diguet, French ethnographer and contemporary of Carl Lumholtz.

The only discordant note in what was otherwise a glorious biennium for the field was the disappearance of the excellent Boletín de Fuentes para la Historia Económica de México edited by Carlos Marichal and published by the Centro de Estudios Históricos at El Colegio de México. We can only hope it will be reinstated. [BAT]


Interest in regional history remained strong during the last biennium. State studies included Mexico (item bi 93009763), Chiapas (items bi 91007448 and bi 94015816), Tabasco (item bi 93009741), Chihuahua (item bi 96016044), Puebla (item bi 93007398), Michoacán (item bi 93000233), Yucatán (item bi 91025350), and Oaxaca (item bi 93009756). Guerrero Miller provided an interesting comparative study of three Huastecan leaders caught up in the centralization process (item bi 93009667) while everybody's favorite cacique - Saturnino Cedillo - came in for additional scrutiny (items bi 93009758 and bi 93000241). Benjamin and Wasserman have compiled an excellent collection of regional studies relating to the first two decades of the revolutionary period (item bi 94015817).

Agrarian studies maintained their prominent place and took a variety of forms in the last biennium. The multi-volume Historia de la cuestión agraria mexicana issued installments dealing with the crucial period from 1934-50. Robert Barrios Castro - former secretary-general of the Confederación Nacional Campesina - provided an "official" perspective on agrarian history (item bi 93009764) while Hubert Carton de Grammont described the "vacillating" agrarian policies of Calles (item bi 92002108). The classic work of Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama on Zapata was reprinted, while Armando Ayala Anguiano, questioning the Zapata legend and its political exploitation, fired away at a long line of self-styled agrarian reformers (item bi 93009680). John Gledhill traveled to Michoacán to file a grim microhistorical report on the status of agrarian reform (item bi 91028361) and Angel Gutiérrez also described the agrarian history of that state (item bi 93009766). Noé G. Palomares Peña analyzed three case studies of the impact of agrarian reform on foreign landholdings in Chihuahua (item bi 93009673). Finally, Alan Knight revised both traditional and revisionist interpretations of agrarian history in discussing the destruction of the great haciendas (item bi 94016166).

Mexico's recent economic and financial problems have provoked greater interest in economic and business history. Stephen Haber's excellent article provides a good overview of economic development problems in modern Mexico (item bi 94016115) and the role of the central government has attracted considerable attention (items bi 93003653, bi 94015948, bi 91007527, and bi 94016388). Anderson (item bi 940157791), Haynes (item bi 94016056), and Sariego Rodríguez (items bi 93009695 and bi 93010380) pursue different approaches in discussing the impact of foreign investment. Also important are individual studies by Bortz (item bi 92016607), Camp (item bi 94015908), and Topik (item bi 91027226).

The papal visit to Mexico in 1979 has brought renewed interest in Church history and Church-State relations, with studies of the latter ranging from the Madero era (item bi 93000230) to Salinas de Gortari Administration (item bi 94016367). The Cristero rebellion still attracts considerable interest with works by Mendoza Barragán (item bi 93000260), Ortoll (items bi 93001380 and bi 93010378), and Slawson (item bi 90009572) included below. Gerald O'Rourke's state-level study clearly demonstrates that the end of the Cristero rebellion did not automatically mean an end to Church-State conflict (item bi 93009676). Historiographical articles have also appeared by Bastian (item bi 91004335), Blancarte (item bi 91004331), Negrete (item bi 91004332), and Ramírez Ceballos (item bi 91004333).

Labor history continues its tradition of multi-volume works with the latest volume in La Clase Obrera en la Historia de México series, in which Juan Felipe Leal and José Villaseñor examine the political and economic situation of labor in the late Porfiriato and early revolutionary era (item bi 94016168). At the opposite end of the time frame, Kevin Middlebrook describes the increasingly uneasy relationship between workers and the State in the crisis years of the 1980s. Case studies of the work force are provided by Mario Camarena and Susana Fernández (item bi 92010934), Gema Lozano y Nathal (item bi 92010939), and Concepción Méndez and Rodolfo Huerta (item bi 92010932).

Enrique Krauze's two latest installments in the Biography of Power series deal with two of the most important and controversial revolutionary figures: Calles and Cárdenas. Both volumes are balanced and make good use of extensive illustrations. These works will be of interest to the specialist as well as the general reader.

Carlos González Herrera, University of New Mexico, assisted in the assembling and evaluation of materials. [DMC and LBH]

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