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The Mexican Revolution's Wake
The Making of a Political System, 1920–1929


Part of Cambridge Latin American Studies

  • Date Published: January 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108401289

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About the Authors
  • Throughout the 1920s Mexico was rocked by attempted coups, assassinations, and popular revolts. Yet by the mid-1930s, the country boasted one of the most stable and durable political systems in Latin America. In the first book on party formation conducted at the regional level after the Mexican Revolution, Sarah Osten examines processes of political and social change that eventually gave rise to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which dominated Mexico's politics for the rest of the twentieth century. In analyzing the history of socialist parties in the southeastern states of Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, and Yucatán, Osten demonstrates that these 'laboratories of revolution' constituted a highly influential testing ground for new political traditions and institutional structures. The Mexican Revolution's Wake shows how the southeastern socialists provided a blueprint for a new kind of party that struck calculated balances between the objectives of elite and popular forces, and between centralized authority and local autonomy.

    • Includes a four-state comparison of socialist parties in Southeast Mexico, which contributes a truly regional perspective to a field dominated by locally-specific histories
    • Addresses the origins of Mexico's idiosyncratic post-revolutionary political system, and facilitates comparisons with histories of state-formation elsewhere in the world
    • Highlights the political histories of less-studied states in Mexico, and offers background on relevant figures and events, complicating and enriching previous interpretations of this history with new data
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Provocatively - persuasively - revisionist. The Mexican Revolution's Wake offers a through-the-looking-glass analysis of prísmo's southern roots and is a welcome restatement of the value of regional and political histories of the post-revolutionary 1920s. Sarah Osten shows that the socialist bosses of Covarrubias's fabled 'Mexico South' were not revolutionary wildcatters or mad scientists but unacknowledged systemic architects of one-party rule. Brilliantly counter-intuitive.' Matthew J. Butler, University of Texas at Austin

    'Sarah Osten's clever, comprehensive, and painstaking work rescues Mexican politics in the 1920s from overly Machiavellian readings, finding in the swamps and mountains of the southeastern states the tangled roots of the revolutionary party, and among them not just corruption and violence, but also institutions and idealism. This is a book that will change how we think about post-revolutionary politics.' Paul Gillingham, Northwestern University, Illinois

    'Osten takes regional history to the next level. She argues that four southeastern states served as a testing ground of the institutions, practices, and discourses of a distinctively Mexican brand of socialism. This southeastern socialism, above all Tomas Garrido Canabal's Tabascan variant, was adopted (and moderated) by the newly forged national ruling party in 1929. By steering clear of familiar explanations for Mexico's unique path of state formation (populism, caciquismo, culture hegemony, political machines), she has given scholars much to think about.' Ben Fallaw, Colby College, Maine

    'The Mexican Revolution's Wake is a path-breaking analysis of the role of the Mexican Southeast in the construction of the post-revolutionary state. It is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the negotiation of rule at both the state and national levels, and a splendid interpretation of how Mexico passed from political chaos to stable central rule.' Jurgen Buchenau, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

    'Sarah Osten presents a fine grained and compelling new history of reformist socialism in southeastern Mexico, and shows how novel political experiments and forms of popular mobilization diffused through that region and played a critical role in shaping the emergence of a new, national political system that would govern Mexico for the next seventy years. Built on a deep foundation of careful archival work, Osten's book is a vividly told, lucid, and judicious account of this critical and understudied era in Mexican history. Osten shows us the complex interplay between region and nation to illuminate both the popular and the authoritarian strands that defined the Mexican political system.' Edward Beatty, University of Notre Dame, Indiana

    '… It is a truly brilliant book on local political history. Reading this work is therefore highly recommended. It not only explores the local characteristics of the different movements in the southeast, but also how some of them, particularly that of Tabasco, influenced, although in a more moderate version, the formation of the PNR (predecessor of the current Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI) in 1929. And it is in these movements that we find, very clearly, some of the characteristics of that party created at the national level, not so much to come to power, but to keep it and to make Mexican political life a little more 'decent,' the cult of the Mexican Revolution, caciquismo, anti-catholicism, the formation of a national culture and an electoral machine that would become invincible. I emphasize with full conviction: this book must be read.' Herminio Sánchez de la Barquera Arroyo, Iberoamericana

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108401289
    • length: 303 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.7kg
    • contains: 8 b/w illus. 2 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: Mexico's search for peace and postrevolutionary political institutions
    1. The socialist crucible: Yucatán, 1915–1922
    2. Revolutionary laboratories: the spread of socialism across the Southeast, 1915–1923
    3. Putting the system to the test: The de la Huerta rebellion in the Southeast, 1923–4
    4. A harder line: socialist tabasco, 1920–27
    5. The forgotten revolution: socialist Chiapas, 1924–7
    6. Closing ranks: socialism and anti-reelectionism, 1925–27
    7. A nation of parties
    Conclusion: hard lessons.

  • Author

    Sarah Osten, University of Vermont
    Sarah Osten is an assistant professor of history at the University of Vermont. She has published research on Mexican politics, the history of the Mexican Southeast, and women's suffrage.

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