Cover image for From Liberal to Revolutionary Oaxaca: The View from the South, Mexico 1867–1911 By Francie R. Chassen-López

From Liberal to Revolutionary Oaxaca

The View from the South, Mexico 1867–1911

Francie R. Chassen-López


$44.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-02512-4

624 pages
6.125" × 9.25"
12 b&w illustrations/5 maps

From Liberal to Revolutionary Oaxaca

The View from the South, Mexico 1867–1911

Francie R. Chassen-López

“This is a critical, seminal work on Mexican history. The author argues that we need to rethink Mexican history through an analysis of the indigenous South that has previously been portrayed as backward and reactionary. The book is an encyclopedic overview of a key period in Oaxaca history; it is without peer for the 19th century. One of the greatest strengths of the book is its debunking of myths and poorly documented claims that permeate writing about Oaxaca.”


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Winner of the 2004 Thomas McGann Prize for the Best Book on Latin America from the Rocky Mountain Council on Latin American Studies

From Liberal to Revolutionary Oaxaca aims at finally setting Mexican history free of stereotypes about the southern state of Oaxaca, long portrayed as a traditional and backward society resistant to the forces of modernization and marginal to the Revolution. Chassen-López challenges this view of Oaxaca as a negative mirror image of modern Mexico, presenting in its place a much more complex reality. Her analysis of the confrontations between Mexican liberals’ modernizing projects and Oaxacan society, especially indigenous communal villages, reveals not only conflicts but also growing linkages and dependencies. She portrays them as engaging with and transforming each other in an ongoing process of contestation, negotiation, and compromise.
“This is a critical, seminal work on Mexican history. The author argues that we need to rethink Mexican history through an analysis of the indigenous South that has previously been portrayed as backward and reactionary. The book is an encyclopedic overview of a key period in Oaxaca history; it is without peer for the 19th century. One of the greatest strengths of the book is its debunking of myths and poorly documented claims that permeate writing about Oaxaca.”
“Professor Chassen-López has rewritten the history of Oaxaca, Mexico, from the mid-nineteenth century through the onset of the Mexican Revolution in 1911. She illuminates almost every nook and cranny of this geographically, ethnically, and economically diverse state. The book represents many years of remarkable excavations in local, state, and national archives. No other regional history of any other Mexican state exhibits this thorough a survey of sources. The book is encyclopedic in its coverage. Virtually no aspect of politics and economics during the forty-four years under study goes unexplored. The book is at its best in its depiction of the ‘Worlds of the Indigenous.’ Chassen-Lopez realistically depicts village life. Her analysis of indigenous resistance to the encroachments of centralization and economic and cultural modernization is particularly insightful.”
“Scholars from the field of Mexican and Latin American studies should not overlook this book.”
“This volume makes a major contribution to the analysis of liberalism in Mexico.”
“The book demonstrates the author’s intellectual formation in material and cultural history, and in subaltern and gender studies, and is fully supported by an impressive range of archival research and a thorough knowledge of secondary sources. When these are combined with an abiding and infectious passion for the subject matter, the result is a powerful and remarkably comprehensive study that will be an essential reference on the subject for many years to come.”
“Francie Chassen-López has given us an engrossing and engagingly written book, the result of long, personal experience of Oaxaca and a great deal of meditation on her subject. This combination of firsthand knowledge and historical research is evident throughout the work. . . . The author repeatedly links Oaxaca to other Mexican states by means of apt comparisons and contrasts, and takes the reader through a number of rewarding bibliographical discussions of differing points of view positioned throughout her text.”
“This stunning regional history, by a scholar who has dedicated more than two decades to the study of Oaxaca, is one of the most thorough and well-documented revisions of centralist historiography.”

Francie R. Chassen-López is Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky, where she has also served as Director of the Latin American Studies Program.


List of Tables and Maps



Part I: Infrastructure and Economics

1. A Thousand Whistles

2. From Time Immemorial to the Porfirian Finca: The Dilemma of Land Tenure

3. The Commercialization of Agriculture

4. The Promoter s Paradise: Mining, Industry, and Commerce

Part II: Society: Class, Ethnicity, and Gender

5. Society: Decent and Otherwise

6. Indigenous Usos y Costumbres and State Formation

7. The Indigenous Peoples of Oaxaca: Negotiating Modernity

Part III: Political Culture and Revolution

8. Liberal Politics: the Dual Legacy

9. Porfirian Politics: A Científico Governor

10. Precursor Politics

11. Revolution in the South





On April 6, 1896, Chatino Indians attacked the district capital of Juquila in the coastal region of the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Numbering some one thousand, they protested against a new tax law as they swept through the area sacking and pillaging. Shouting "Death to all who wear pants," they struck out violently against the <i>gente decente</i> (whites and mestizos dressed in European garb). They burned the town hall and the judicial archives. They beheaded 22 townspeople with machetes, among them two judges, the jefe político, the municipal president, and other officials. They put the head of the town telegrapher, Liborio Pimentel, on a pike which they paraded through the streets. Ildefonso Zorrilla and Carlos Morales (a visitor to the district) also lost their lives as did some local merchants whose stores were sacked. The rebels communicated with other Chatino communities urging them to join in the extermination of the catrines (the fancy-dressers). Fearing a caste war, Governor Martín Gonzàlez immediately dispatched the Army's 4th Battalion, which only recaptured Juquila on April 18th. The army's bloody retaliation included the execution of 30 Chatinos and the exile of many others to Quintana Roo, Mexico's tropical Siberia. <p>

The governor, then, appointed lawyer <i>Carlos Woolrich</i> as Juquila's new jefe político (prefect). He decreed that anyone entering a town under his jurisdiction was henceforth forbidden to wear indigenous dress. Huipiles (indigenous women's blouses) and camisa y calzón de manta (rough cotton top and bottoms for men) would no longer be tolerated. Everyone had to dress European-style or be punished. This ruling spawned a new enterprise in Juquila: merchants set up stands at town entrances to rent shoes, jackets, and pants to Indians going to market. To this day, the rebellion is remembered on the Costa as "The War of the Pants."<p>

The image of enterprising merchants renting European-style clothing and shoes to Chatinos on their way to market in Juquila in the late 1890s symbolizes the power and flexibility of negotiation. Some might interpret this fashion war between Western clothing and customary indigenous dress as a major collision between Liberal modernizing projects and traditional Mesoamerican communities. The story is, however, far more complicated. The tax law threatened small parcels of private property valued under $100, which previously had not been taxed. The division and privatization of communal land had just been carried out the year before in Juquila. Thus, Chatinos not only lashed out against years of discrimination and exploitation but also the threat to their newly titled properties. They achieved their objective when the governor rapidly revoked the controversial articles in the tax law and they continued to wear their traditional dress (except in the district capital) despite the new decree.

<p>The close examination of confrontations such as the "War of the Pants" permits us to transcend rigid dichotomies of civilization and barbarism so often applied to these actors. Although at times they appeared to be irreconcilably opposed worlds, the encounter of Mexican liberals' modernizing projects with Oaxacan society, especially the indigenous communal villages, exposes not only their conflicts but also their growing linkages and dependencies. In the following pages we will see them engaging with and transforming each other in ongoing process of contestation, negotiation, and, sometimes, compromise. Far from being a facile shibboleth, this approach and the focus on the dialectic of local, regional, state, and national history permits us to disentangle the threads of continuity and change over four decades of Oaxacan history, from the triumph of liberalism in 1867 to the opening days of the Revolution in June 1911.

<p>Early Liberals in the 1820s commenced independent Mexico's elusive love affair with modernity. They rashly embraced the ideals of the Enlightenment (the belief in reason, science and technology), convinced that European civilization would eventually triumph over American barbarism. In order to confront the legacies of three hundred years of authoritarian Spanish corporatism and the communal traditions of Mesoamerica, they rejected their past and shouldered the tasks of what they called modernization. For them, modernity signified the decline of traditional orders based on rigid hierarchies sustained by religious authority and the building of modern nation-states and rational, secular capitalist societies populated by dynamic social classes engaged in material progress embodied in the ideas of liberalism.

<p>Economic liberalism as ideology as well as public policy proposed to lift restraints in order to facilitate the expansion of a free market. European political economists developed the theory of comparative advantage to explain the division of the world into industrial and agro-exporting nations. Colombian Treasury Minister Florentino González expressed the position of many liberal elites in 1847: "Europe, with an intelligent population, and with the possession of steam power and its applications, and educated in the art of manufacturing, fulfills its mission in the industrial world by giving various forms to raw materials." Thus the nations of Latin America should not attempt to encourage industry but rather concentrate on carrying out "our mission, and there is no doubt as to what it is, if we consider the profusion of natural resources with which Providence has endowed this land. We should offer Europe raw materials and open our doors to her manufactures." Nevertheless, as the nineteenth century advanced, larger Latin American nations such as Mexico and Colombia took an interest in stimulating their domestic industries and modified their policies to include some protective tariffs.

<p>Liberalism also encompassed the political philosophy of republicanism, democratic values, and individual civil rights. Yet if in the United States, Britain or France, it emerged from a capitalist society, in Mexico the reverse occurred. "Liberalism in Mexico appeared as a program before it could be grounded in reality or historical experience" wrote Mexican philosopher Abelardo Villegas. Therefore, Mexican liberals faced what they saw as the revolutionary task of transforming reality and molding national identity.

<p>But not until 1867, after forty years of political and economic turmoil, wars with Conservatives foes as well as foreign invasions, were triumphant Liberals able to devote their full energies to building this modern Mexico. The presidents who guided the Liberal project, Benito Juárez (1858;150;72) and Porfirio Díaz (1876;150;80, 1884;150;1911), were both born in the southern state of Oaxaca. Yet scholars and politicians alike have characterized Oaxaca as the antithesis of modernity. Given its imposing mountain ranges and majority indigenous population, they have assumed it to be backward, impenetrable to modernity.

<p>After 1910, historians of the Mexican Revolution branded Oaxaca as inherently Conservative and Porfirista or ignored it altogether. Had Oaxaca been an enemy of the Revolution? Was it "passive" and "reactionary" as often portrayed? Inhabited by "passive" peasants who were "immunized against the epidemic of progress," had it been "bypassed by the tides of modernization?" Did it truly maintain "the image of a backward, provincial society, resistant to change?" These versions reduced discussions of Oaxaca either to its "backward" Indian population or to its "reactionary" government elites or both. Why and how had this "Black Legend" of Oaxaca emerged?

<p>These questions about my adopted patria chica confounded me no end as a graduate student at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in the 1970s and later as a professor and investigator of Mexican history first in Mexico and then in the United States. As a result, I initiated this study trying to answer three central questions: 1) Did Presidents Juárez and Díaz neglect their own state in their drive toward modernization? 2) Did indigenous peoples of Oaxaca act as an obstacle to "progress"? and 3) Had Oaxaca remained at the margins of the Mexican Revolution? I was most perplexed to discover that the ways in which I had been taught to view southern Mexico, and to frame questions, were fatally flawed. I found myself asking over and over again: What was I missing? What had I been taught to overlook?

<p>My doctoral dissertation, Oaxaca: del Porfiriato a la Revolución, 1902;150;1911 (UNAM 1986) began to supply some tentative answers, although I now disagree with many of its conclusions. It was clear that I had to look at a longer period to get at the roots of these questions and thus, I directed my research further into the nineteenth century. Along the way, these queries were modified and many more were added. The present book, based on extensive research in state, national, and private archives over two decades, is the first monograph, either in English or Spanish, to provide some answers to those questions. It is also designed to open up new avenues of research for others.

<p>An Insurgent Reading of History

<p>Undoubtedly, the stereotyping of Oaxaca can partially be attributed to the scarcity of research on this period. Nonetheless, I began to discern political motives lurking behind this misrepresentation. For nineteenth century liberals, modernization implicitly denoted de-Indianization, the assimilation of the indigenous population into a Mexican national identity. Oaxaca has historically been the state with the highest and most diverse indigenous population (16 distinct ethnicities) in Mexico. These groups have fought tenaciously to retain what they refer to as their tradiciones y costumbres desde tiempos inmemoriales or usos y costumbres desde tiempos inmemoriales (both meaning traditions and customs since time immemorial), which encompass not only their lived experience but also their worldview. Oaxaca has represented the indigenous face that "modern" Mexico has not wanted to see in the mirror. The late Guillermo Bonfil Batalla reproached us: "There is an attempt to hide and ignore the Indian face of Mexico because no real connection with Mesoamerican civilization is admitted. The clear and undeniable evidence of our Indian ancestry is a mirror in which we do not wish to see our own reflection." The present study returns that face to the mirror.

<p>Only by shifting our perspective to view history from the South, instead of from El Centro (Mexico City and its environs, the proverbial center of historical vision), can we detect that Oaxaca has been typecast in the role of the foil: anti-modern, backward, barbarous, and reactionary. The Mexico that has wanted to be seen as modern, capitalist, and revolutionary has defined itself in opposition to traditional, indigenous southern Mexico. Time was lineal, societies that were not modern and future-oriented were frozen in a "traditional" or pre-modern time. As modernity's negative mirror image, Oaxaca has also doubled as villain, representing the backwardness that posed the major obstacle to the progress of Modern Mexico.

<p>Only an "insurgent reading" of historical works and documents, as proposed by Gyan Prakash for subaltern histories of India, might liberate Oaxaca from the disciplinary categories of dominant histories. The present study undertakes such an insurgent reading to read across the grain and see all social categories as contingent on their historical context. My methodology shows the influence of political economy, feminism, subaltern studies, and poststructuralism while it strives for an engaging narrative which keeps buzzwords to a minimum. Through the descriptive analysis of how particular processes unfold, it uncovers the interdependence, ambiguities and heterogeneities that in turn deconstruct stereotypes, foils, and simplistic binaries.

<p>Although I have tried to use "modern" or "modernization" in reference to the goals as liberals themselves defined them, and "tradition" with respect to the frequent indigenous allusions to usos y costumbres, I confess these terms have surfaced in my own analysis also. Framed as the struggle between civilization and barbarism by early nineteenth century liberals, it was soon reformulated as the contest between the modern and the traditional. In the twentieth century, these categories have undergirded the formulation of both modernization and dependency theories, as they inspired the opposition between development and underdevelopment. Therefore, we find ourselves continually deconstructing this same dichotomy as it emerges in different guises.

<p>Patricia Hill Collins observed that "race, class, and gender oppression could not continue without powerful ideological justifications for their existence." The latter are created through the construction of what she calls controlling images, which encapsulate and maintain interlocking systems of race, ethnic, class, and gender oppression, for example, the welfare mother in the United States or the lazy, backward indio in Latin America. Such "images are designed to make racism, sexism, and poverty appear to be natural, normal, and an inevitable part of everyday life" thus enabling dominant groups to blame the victim for his or her situation. This is realized through the objectification of people by dichotomous thinking.

<p>Grappling with this problem, feminist scholarship has clarified how the opposition between male and female underlies other supposedly "natural" binaries. Joan Scott emphasized that feminist analysis is all about contesting meaning: "the introduction of new oppositions, reversal of hierarchies, the attempt to expose repressed terms, to challenge the seemingly natural status of dichotomous pairs, and to expose their interdependence and their internal instability." The study of the colonial reality of India convinced Gyan Prakash that only the "implacable disfiguration" of these categories and the unmasking of the politics of knowledge (sexist, racist, and colonialist) inherent in their construction, will allow hidden histories of subaltern peoples to be released. Yet I believe that this is also a dialectical process, only those suppressed histories will provide the tools necessary to replace this discursive organization of power.

<p>While we can expose the underlying logic of power in language and dismantle these controlling images, I am not so convinced that we can, at least at present, discard all dichotomies as these buried histories are only now emerging. Language and its meanings are constructed on the basis of difference ("implicit or explicit contrasts") and exclusions. The exclusion of women was fundamental to the conceptualization of modern political and economic thought of Enlightenment and the French Revolution. The modern world they brought forth restructured gender relations by presuming the existence of a male public sphere (of politics and the economy) and a female private sphere (a domestic "non-political" and "non-economic" space). Resting on previous assumptions of women's intimate relations to the natural world, to sexuality, and domesticity, this division led to the formulation of a new political and social construction of masculinity (based on the experience of the white, Western, heterosexual male) in the individual subject of modern society, founded on the male domain of reason and law. Contesting these static dichotomies, scholars have suggested that we visualize these oppositions as interrelated and fluid points on a continuum, an analytical category now central to postmodern feminism's challenge to hierarchical binary opposites. In her study of Mexican women's political participation, Nikki Craske demonstrated how the utilization of a continuum "allows for different degrees of participation between the two extremes and the fact that many activities sit between them."

<p>It is in those dynamic and fluid "in between spaces" that the concept of hybridity becomes invaluable as another conceptual tool that transcends oppositions. Since the term mestizaje is usually restricted to racial mixing and syncretism has a religious connotation, I agree with Néstor García Canclini that hybridization is preferable because it comprehends distinct "intercultural mixtures" as well as political and economic factors. Homi Bhabha affirmed that rather than a mixture of identities or elements it is instead a moment in which "all forms of cultural meaning are open to translation." Thus, hybridity also reveals "the instability of any division of meaning into an inside and outside." Of course, any identity or process can be described as hybrid starting from the fact that we all descend genetically from two very different people. Understood as a consequence of colonial power, the concept of hybridity lets us discern what Bhabha calls the "fissured character" of national histories, how they are "intersected by other histories, other modes of production, other values and identities."

<p> But, might not the concepts of hybridity and of a continuum contradict each other? On the contrary, I believe they can work in tandem. For example, we can envision agricultural labor arrangements during this period as fluid, on a continuum that flow back and forth from the extreme of slavery in Valle Nacional to wage labor on Porfirio Díaz' highly modern coffee finca in Cuicatlán with many points in between including the production of coffee by communal landholders in Santa María Yucuiti. If we focus on the latter, we can detect the combination of elements that produces a hybrid economy. While Oaxacan villages struggled to uphold their versions of communal traditions, far from arising from time immemorial, their usos y costumbres had changed over time. The indigenous peoples did not reject the varied forces of modernity outright but contested, resisted, and negotiated as well as innovated and translated them to their needs.

<p> Accordingly, the concept of hybridity helps resolve the "problematic boundaries of modernity." Arturo Escobar envisaged a hybrid modernity that does not entail adding and mixing in modern and traditional elements "or a 'sell-out' of the traditional to the modern" but instead "a cultural (re)creation." Thus, hybridity allows for creativity and agency by all actors. Nevertheless, I would not go so far as to suggest that the latter resulted in the construction of alternative modernities by peasants or subalterns. To my knowledge, nineteenth century Oaxacan campesinos did not propose to imitate elite modernity or invent their own versions, but safeguard their usos y costumbres as they reformulated them with new ideas or practices which they considered advantageous, such as the cultivation of coffee or the expansion of trade or private property.

<p>I develop four interrelated themes throughout the three sections of the book that support this larger argument of contestation and negotiation.

<p> State Formation as Contested Terrain

<p>The twin processes of the construction of the nation-state and capitalism have neither been imposed from above nor been monolithic but rather contested terrains. While elites developed their schemes of nation building, state formation involved not only the configuration of the administrative and repressive sectors of the state, the construction of a national identity through the enactment of legitimating ritual, and attempts at the legal and moral regulation of the lives of its subjects but also the contestation, rejections, resistance, adaptations, innovations, and alternatives presented by the great majority of the population, the middle sectors and urban and rural working classes of Mexico. The latter is often referred to as popular culture.

<p>The study of culture has recently undergone a great deal of critical reflection prompted by new theories of power, language, gender, ethnicity, race, and of authors' subjectivity. Now envisioned as a contested terrain, it is seen as inherently political because competing groups seek to redefine who holds power. Unfortunately, the usage of popular culture has become excessively broad, hence, I prefer to think in terms of political culture. Influenced by François Furet and linguistic studies, Keith Baker's works on revolutionary France viewed politics as the articulation, negotiation, and implementation of "competing claims they make upon one another and upon the whole." Thus, political culture, "discourses or symbolic practices," is the vehicle through which claims are made. As an historical creation, political culture is subject to constant revision by its agents as new claims are put forth and old ones are reformulated. The changing political culture in Mexico, its internal conflicts and alternative formulations, is one of the central themes running through this study.

<p>The history of state formation in Liberal Mexico is permeated by conflict and negotiation, a struggle for power on different and interlocking levels not only political but also economic, social, and cultural. At the helm of elite projects of nation building were Oaxaca's two favorite sons, Benito Juárez and Porfirio Díaz. The present study shows how they were intensely involved in the modernization of their native state and at the same time used it as their springboard and political base from which to rule the nation. They both relied on Oaxacan campesinos to defend them militarily and on Oaxacan middle sectors and elites to represent their interests in national and other state governments. They espoused democracy even as they transferred their patron client relationships to the national sphere. Both presidents exhibited the profound ambivalence of Mexican liberals towards the majority indigenous population of Oaxaca yet they were cognizant of the importance of campesinos as actors in state formation.

<p>Questions of power, domination, hegemony, and authority are also under intense discussion in many disciplines. Comprehension of the political process has been "radically deinstitutionalized" as the personal has been recognized as political and the political dimensions of everyday life have been evoked. The linkage of politics and culture reveals that power can no longer be understood as the private domain of states and the forces of repression but as changing and unequal relationships in society. The ongoing struggle among Oaxaca's social classes, ethnicities, and genders to define their identities as well as the political entities that make up their nation and to shape its future is another question which inspires this study.

<p>An early cradle of liberalism, Oaxacans fought for the Liberal Army in wartime and were major players in the Liberal Reform (1857;150;67), the Restored Republic (1867;150;76), and the Porfiriato (1876;150;1911) demonstating the preponderance of Southern politics before the 1910 Revolution. Ideologies such as <i>Juarismo</i>, <i>Porfirismo</i>, and <i>Magonismo</i>, whose progenitors were born and nourished in the state of Oaxaca, emerged as national movements. Juarismo, and the Juárez legacy, was reinterpreted and reinvented by successive generations on the state and national stage with differing political groups vying for the title of authentic Juaristas. The Mexican Revolution initiated under the banner of Juarismo in opposition to Porfirismo, a fact insufficiently recognized by historians. Yet the feeble three-day campaign in Oaxaca of Benito Ju&aacuterez Maza, the liberal hero's son, for the governorship in 1910, symbolized perhaps its inadequacy for twentieth century politics. Magonismo (after the followers of the radical liberal and later anarchist Flores Mag&oacuten brothers), which surged across Mexico after 1900, sought its roots in Juarismo but transcended it to respond to Mexico's new mass society. Ironically, Ricardo Flores Magón, another Oaxaqueño intensely dedicated to his patria chica, emerged as the leader of the first national movement to challenge Porfirismo. Although this study concentrates on the history of the state of Oaxaca between 1867 and 1911, it intertwines with larger national processes and often foreshadows future developments throughout Mexico.

<p>The Power of the Local

<p>Since the nineteenth century, thinkers as diverse as Liberals, Marxists, Modernizationists, Dependentistas, and world-systems theorists have perceived Western capitalist expansion as subject and Latin America, Asia, and Africa as object. Sherry Ortner critiqued the image of (capitalist) history arriving "like a ship, from outside the society in question" to transform "traditional" Third World regions. The result is not a history "<i>of</i> that society, but the impact of (our) history <i>on</i> that society." Instead, she suggests that each society be analyzed not only within the larger context but also with respect to its own structures and history. By focusing on process and dialectical relationships within one state, the present study reveals the flexibility of local and regional factors in their relationships with national and global forces and vice versa.

<p>This process has frequently been designated as the <i>decentering</i> of history. Decentering facilitates the emergence of hidden local and regional histories that lie beyond the privileged themes of dominant narratives. Howard Campbell's <i>Zapotec Renaissance</I> and Jeffrey Rubin's <i>Decentering the Regime</i> have done this for the study of the <i>COCEI</i> (Coalition of Workers, Peasants and Students of the Isthmus) in Juchitán, Oaxaca. For Rubin, decentering means "that national politics be understood as something partial and complex that coexist with, but is different from, regional and local politics, and that is only one among several locations and kinds of politics." Center refers "simultaneously to a place (Mexico City), an institutional apparatus of power and decision making, and a set of 'national' cultural discourses." This is a fruitful platform for the study of a grassroots political movement that began in the 1970s in order to oppose the post-revolutionary Mexican state (which he argues was not so centralized after all). In her comparative study of peasants in Mexico and Peru, Florencia Mallon utilized the concept of decentering more broadly. Few historians of regional history today would disagree with her argument that in order to comprehend "subaltern" people's history, "we must decenter our vision of the historical process" as well as concepts of the intellectual and community, of politics, theories of nationalism, and the state.

<p>However, the operation of <i>decentering</i> requires a center. And, although it was common to refer to <i>El Centro</i> in the nineteenth century, the weight of Mexican history remained in its regional dimensions. In December 1846 during the U.S. occupation, Mariano Otero lamented that "In Mexico that which is called national spirit cannot nor has been able to exist, for there is no nation." Supposedly, centrifugal forces that emerged with the struggle for Independence gave rise to Mexico's acute regionalism (although colonial historians have recently challenged the existence of a powerful centralized viceregal government). To my mind, the concept of decentering as applied to the nineteenth century is imprecise and misleading since it posits the existence of a center and a nation that were both only in the process of consolidation.

<p>Integral to that process in the second half of the nineteenth century, was the production of the first official histories written to forge a uniform and lineal narrative of Mexican history and legitimize liberal rule. These works dealt mainly with central Mexico, beginning the tradition of what Pablo Serrano has dubbed "historiographic centralism." Post-revolutionary regimes followed this path sponsoring their legitimizing versions of history and furthered the creation of a homogenous national identity based in El Centro. Nevertheless, I strongly agree with Mario Cerutti's contention that nineteenth century history needs to focus on regional history because Mexico had yet to transit to a truly "national history." Auspiciously, the publication of Luis González' <i>Pueblo en vilo</i> in 1968 (the same year of the tragic denouement of the student movement which finally interred the myth of the institutionalized revolution), the historical narrative of the small village of San José de Gracia, irrevocably fractured the credibility of centralist histories and sparked a renewed interest in regional history. The latter developed in the 1970s with the expansion of university education in the provinces and the classification of regional archives. A veritable boom by the 1980s, new regional histories tended to concentrate on northern and central Mexico during the revolutionary and post-revolutionary periods. Regrettably, nineteenth century historiography was still "held hostage to the Revolution of 1910" since it was considered mainly as the precursor to that historical watershed. Fortunately there has been a recent surge not only in nineteenth century studies but also in the "discovery" of "the unknown Mexico" of the South and Southeast, as the present study demonstrates.

<p>Thus, I designate the lens of southern regional history as <i>The View from the South</i>, borrowing it from an article by William B. Taylor entitled "Landed Society in New Spain: A View from the South" (1974). Since François Chevalier's study on haciendas was fast becoming the standard for all Mexico, Taylor synthesized the very different land tenure and labor conditions in colonial Oaxaca in order to demonstrate the dangers of generalizations on New Spain. Also engaged in discovering the multiplicity and diversity of situations in the south, it seemed fitting to me to revisit this notion both as a tool and a title. The great advantage of a close study of one state (or region or locality) is that it magnifies processes to let us examine in detail not only how change takes place but its limits and constraints. In effect, <i>The View from the South<i> holds up a mirror to the dialectic of change and continuity in the nation as a whole.

<p>The focus on regional history enables us to understand not only how capitalism affects a society but also how that society engages and translates new forces and impacts capitalism. This is why I prefer to speak of the spread of capitalist relations rather than the impact of capitalism and avoid the use of core/periphery models. Capitalism is not a force independent of the people who create, contest, resist or appropriate it. Carol Smith, too, has exhorted anthropologists to discover and emphasize the dialectic between local and global factors. She underscored the human aspect, how real people, in her case indigenous people of Guatemala, make their own history and are ultimately responsible for the dynamic capitalism acquires in specific regions. The present study humanizes the abstract forces of capitalism and nation building by portraying the struggles of real people, elites, middle sectors, working classes, and indigenous ethnicities alike.

<p> Unequal and Uneven Development

<p>In his study of slavery as social death, Orlando Patterson reminded us that "all human relationships are structured and defined by the relative power of the interacting persons. " Therefore, historical process is always conditioned by unequal access to economic, political, and social power and the relations of domination that derive from this inequality. Since the colonial period, the spread of capitalism in Latin America has been highly uneven and unequal, marked by waves of prosperity and decline. William Roseberry imagined it as an "ongoing process, a series of encounters . . . in unevenly developing spaces and shifting centers and peripheries." The challenge for scholars has been to convey that unevenness; for instance, the increasing differentiation in economic and social spheres exemplified by the growth of the international division of labor, boom and bust cycles of particular commodities and their impact on specific regions. It places particular regions of Oaxaca within the larger processes of the concentration of capital, investment of foreign capital, and connections with world markets, while others remained on the margins. This economic surge intensified capitalist pressure on natural resources and forced villages to fiercely defend their access to elements vital to their survival.

<p>Social differentiation between and within social classes, ethnic groups, regions, and local communities increased considerably as the gap between rich and the poor widened. Drawing together the focus on the process of state formation and uneven and unequal development of the regions of Mexico also elucidates how and why control of the state apparatus shifted from the hands of southern liberals to those of the Center and the North even before 1910.

<p>Ethnicity, Race, Class, and Gender

<p>The gendered subtext of modernity lodged in the false dichotomy of male and female spheres led Catherine Scott to critique theories of modernization. Modernity, with its drive toward technological and material progress and the development of civil society, posed a "set of masculine challenges." Portrayals of tradition rest on essentialized gender differences: today, the conceptualization of tradition, of the rural village, is based on the depiction of Third World rural women as backward, religious, family and community-oriented, illiterate, and domestic, not to mention irrational, childlike, dependent, and close to nature. As we shall see, these binaries have resonated mightily for the indigenous population of Oaxaca.

<p>Although nineteenth century liberals in Mexico and Latin America were literally obsessed with the question of race, for many years twentieth century historians (writing about the nineteenth) failed to see that indigenous face in the mirror. Captivated by nineteenth century peasant rebellions and the emergence of factory working classes, they relegated it to the past, except for an occasional rebellious Maya or Yaqui. While historians of colonial Mexico have long recognized the magnitude of race and ethnicity, and made notable progress in this area (perhaps due to more complete Spanish archives), only recently have the histories of women, indigenous ethnicities, and Afro-Mexicans been investigated (gays and lesbians are still waiting) in the nineteenth century. Yet Oaxaca was so overwhelmingly indigenous (three quarters of the population) and rural, that, except where specific exceptions are made, in the present study <i>indígena</i> (which refers to both the indigenous person and the descriptive adjective) and <i>campesino</i> (peasant) are synonymous unless otherwise specified.

<p>Ethnicity must be viewed as a crucial and independent factor of social analysis and cannot be simply reduced to class, as has so often been the case in Mexico, especially for the study of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Ana María Alonso agrees that class can no longer overdetermine other forms of oppression now that gender and ethnicity have emerged as independent variables that are "key to both the construction of the body personal and the body politic." In the conflict between the Mixtec campesinos of Santa María Yucuiti with the Hacienda de la Concepción, the former were continually subjected to racist denunciations as "tenacious indios," yet they confronted the hacienda's administrators, the local jefe político, and even the national government as peasants fighting for their lands not as Mixtecs. In contrast, the Chatino uprising against the 1896 tax law knotted issues of class, race, ethnicity, and gender as it threatened a caste war. The focus on the interplay of these factors permits a comprehension of the dynamic and shifting relationships of power and identity in local, regional, state, national, and global contexts, the changing ways social groups engaged with those distinct but interrelated levels of politics.

<p> Questions of Sources

<p>The present study, then, is the first to examine the Liberal period as a whole in the history of Oaxaca. The two groups that confronted each other militarily during the 1910 Revolution produced two currents of interpretation of Oaxacan historiography. On one side were the Porfiristas and Soberanistas, those who defended Porfirio Díaz and the conservative Sovereignty movement (1915) respectively. Opposed to them were the anti-Porfiristas and Carrancistas, who represented the Constitutionalist wing of the Revolution and demonized the Porfiriato portraying the revolution as savior of Mexico. Almost all writers belonged to one of these two camps before 1975 and many of the works were memoirs and biographies, although probably all of them would consider themselves Juaristas.

<p>This study owes a great debt to three narrative historians (who are no longer with us) who pioneered the trails of nineteenth Oaxacan history. Jorge Fernando Iturribarría, a lawyer and politician, the most prolific, wrote in his leisure time. His general history of the state contained the longest piece on the Porfiriato (27 pages until I began to publish my research). Regrettably, his incredibly detailed four volume history of the nineteenth century ends in 1877, the very first year of Díaz' rule. Although he strove for objectivity in documenting Oaxacan participation in the Revolution, his sympathies for the Porfiriato and Sovereignty are evident. The writings of Basilio Rojas followed the zigzag pattern of his life. From a powerful coffee-producing family of Miahuatlán, he initiated his political life as an ardent Porfirista and closed the revolutionary period as the apologist for Oaxaca's most authentic revolutionary figure, General Manuel García Vigil. The first two volumes of his autobiography are peppered with picturesque anecdotes of life in Porfirian Oaxaca. His study of coffee in Oaxaca, his <i>Efemérides</i> (the daily syntheses of the newspaper <i>El Avance</i>), access to his personal archives, and personal interviews have been priceless sources. Don Angel Taracena, although born in Tabasco, moved to the city of Oaxaca at an early age. His published works, engaging interviews with colorful reminiscences of Porfirian Oaxaca, access to unpublished manuscripts, and gracious hospitality were invaluable.

<p>Personally, I have spent many years working in the public and private archives of Oaxaca organizing, classifying, and researching documents. There is, as I reiterate throughout this study, copious documentation on the lives of elites but not on the indigenous campesinos. Shahid Amin described the problems scholars who study non-literate peoples face: "The speech of humble folk is not normally recorded for posterity, it is wrenched from them in courtroom and inquisitorial trials. Historians have therefore learned to comb 'confessions' and 'testimonies' for their evidence, for this is where peasants cry out, dissimulate or indeed narrate." It is necessary, therefore, "interrogate the interrogators" so as not to reproduce their discourses. Although in Oaxaca, villages tended to be so consistently litigious that one might question if testimonies were always "wrenched" from them, the objectives mediating them have led scholars to debate whether we can actually "get in touch with the consciousness of insurgency when our access to it is barred thus by the discourse of counter-insurgency?" This "prose of counter-insurgency" not only denies autonomy of action and a specific consciousness to the rebels, but also criminalizes their protest, turning it into rural banditry and barbarous attempts to thwart civilization. Although Ranajit Guha believes that most historians, conservatives and radicals alike, have been complicit with the code of counter-insurgency, he thinks that the evidence is to be found where the insurgents and their activities are described. This approximation requires that we constantly read in reverse and contextualize all voices in terms of power relations. Often what is not said is as revealing as what is so we must read between the lines and seek exclusions. The power of the actions of indigenous Oaxacans can often be evinced through the very stridency of elite condemnations of them.

<p>Moreover, I do not propose to speak for or to rescue the voices of indigenous campesinos from oblivion (that would be, as Michael Taussig has warned, "the ultimate anthropological conceit" ) nor do I suggest that this is an objective account, recognizing, along with Nancy Fraser, that interpretations are never simply representations, but active "interventions." My Zapotec colleague, Víctor de la Cruz, would vigorously agree and is justifiably wary of non-indigenous ethnohistorians who write for their own interests. He admonishes us that history has served the Mexican elite "to expropriate with impunity the prestigious past of the defeated" for their own benefit while they continue to oppress the direct descendants of those civilizations. Scholars produce competing interventions, heavily influenced by their personal history and circumstances, in their attempt to reconstruct history.

<p>Consequently, I have also relied on my personal knowledge, particularly having lived in the city of Oaxaca, extended stays with family in the town of Tlacolula in the Central Valleys, and innumerable trips to various regions of the state over more than three decades for research, archival organization, and pleasure. For a semester in both 1982 and 1983, as a professor at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Iztapalapa Campus in Mexico City, I was commissioned to work in the Oaxacan State Archives organizing, classifying, and researching primary documents. During other semesters, I directed teams (integrated by UAM students and technical workers from the National Archives and the State Archives) in the organization and classification of the state archives and various municipal archives in Oaxaca. Above all, for over two decades I have been privileged to learn from my collaboration with a remarkable team of Oaxacan social scientists.

<p> Organization of the Book

<p>This monograph is divided into three main parts: I) Infrastructure and Economics, II) Society: Class, Ethnicity, and Gender, and III) Political Culture and Revolution. The focus is interdisciplinary and each part builds upon the previous ones. Part I introduces the complex economic, geographical, and ethnic map of Oaxaca. The four chapters of Part I, which trace the interactions among the construction of infrastructure, the privatization of land, the expansion of commercial agriculture and mining, and the introduction of foreign capital and technology, destroy prevailing stereotypes of Oaxaca. For example, the rapid dissemination of coffee increased pressure for privatization, especially in regions with railroad connections. By the turn of the century, coffee had facilitated the rise of not only large modern haciendas but also small to middling farms and became an important cash crop for indigenous villages. The result was an increasingly unequal distribution of wealth within and among the regions of the state.

<p>In Part II, divided into three chapters, I assess how these economic transformations reshaped Oaxacan society, stimulating greater differentiation within and among existing groups in addition to the appearance of new social groups. Waves of immigrants mixed with older elites to reconfigure of the ruling class while an increasingly restless middle class grew in the city and countryside. Commercial agriculture resulted in the rise of an important rancher class in rural Oaxaca while the mining boom encouraged some expansion in the service sectors. Two chapters of this section explore the usos y costumbres of the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca in order to deconstruct the unproblematic "Indian" into various ethnicities and to underscore changes occurring within and among communities. The analysis of the various strategies utilized by indigenous peoples serves to "demystify" romantic versions of indigenous resistance while it illustrates how they negotiated modernity and participated in state formation.

<p>In Part III, I connect the changing political culture and power relationships within the state with the economic and social transformations discussed in previous sections. I trace the interaction of local, regional, state, and national politics during the presidencies of Benito Juárez, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, and Porfirio Díaz. Conservative, moderate, and radical groups increasingly disputed the interpretation of liberalism. The investigation of the internal mechanisms of local and state politics uncovers the many compromises politicians negotiated with their clienteles and the limits of political liberalism. I bring to light the growing opposition to the dictatorship in several regions in addition to various revolutionary movements, especially in the geographically peripheral regions of the state.

<p>Two decades of research have contradicted the portrayal of Oaxaca as an insignificant backwater under these Liberal governments and compelled me to rethink its history. This new version refutes stereotypes as it upsets the lineal narration of Modern Mexico, laying bare the collusion between universal and modernizing narratives with top-down elite projects of nation building. It presents the process of state formation whereby the social classes and ethnicities of Mexico participated in the shaping of the state and national identity. It does not pretend either to tender apologies or denunciations. Scoundrels and their victims abound in history, but in general campesinos and middle sectors were not saints nor were elites incarnations of Satan.

<p>The subtitle, <i>The View from the South</i>, can be understood on various levels. It is the view of Mexican history from South that disrupts dominant histories of the Centro. It is the history of the demise of the South as a political power during the late Porfiriato in the wake of the rise of North achieved by the Revolution. In a broader sense, it sheds new light on the engagement and confrontation of peoples of the southern regions of the world at the local level with the expansion of imperialism of the North. As a history of the indigenous South, it holds accountable histories written by modernizing elites that represent indigenous peoples as stagnant and frozen in time. This is especially significant given the recent mobilization of the indigenous peoples of Latin America, including those of Oaxaca, in defense of their culture and regional autonomy. <i>The View from the South</i> provides the vital background for a comprehension of these contemporary struggles.

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