They Threaten Us with Death: National Reform, Popular Rebellion, and Regional Politics in Postrevolutionary Jalisco

Thursday, January 7, 2016: 3:50 PM
International Ballroom A (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Ulices Piņa, University of California, San Diego
In the 1930s, Mexico’s postrevolutionary government undertook an ambitious state-building scheme. State projects such rural schools, for example, represented some of the most important mediums through which the new ruling party attempted to instill a form of legibility on Mexican society and to construct political hegemony—which the political elite saw as tantamount to Mexico’s process of modernization. This paper explores how the socialist education project during the sexenio of Lázaro Cárdenas intersects with violent episodes to affect the lives of common people, politicians, rural teachers, and elite actors. Believing they had been deprived of their rights as citizens of Mexico, many individuals rose up in arms and retreated to the hills to wage an ill-fated campaign against the Mexican state. I propose that a narrative of this conflict cannot be divorced from an assessment of the impact that the implementation of socialist education had in inciting widespread popular rebellion across Jalisco. Despite the continued insistence on the part of the high clergy to assume a conciliatory attitude towards its relationship with the state, many rebel groups and local priests continued to interpret the “socialista school as a state instrument for the rooting-out of “faith” from the hearts and minds of both teachers and pupils. I argue that the critical determinants of how teachers translated contemporary central state policy were the rebels, priests, and common folk in the communities of rural Jalisco. In the process, I make a case for the multiplicity of rebellions characterized by distinctions of class, political orientation, and community membership; armed movements that I argue are reflective of how individuals understood their choices given a particular set of circumstances within which they acted as citizens.