Crafting Order and Progress: Revisionist Perspectives of the Porfirian Era in Mexican History
Conference on Latin American History 6
Our panel provides a much-needed revisionist examination of the authoritarian regime of President Porfirio Díaz (1877-1911) by showing how processes of negotiation underpinned nation building, politics, and economic development in Mexico during this time. The Porfiriato is generally understood as the violent and repressive period that gave way to the Mexican Revolution; a period when national order and economic progress came at the expense of popular interests. However entrenched, this historical narrative elides how the Porfirian administration negotiated with various constituencies on the local, regional, national, and even international levels in order to foment Mexico as a more modernized, banded nation. The papers on this panel examine various moments that corroborate a more complex political, economic, and social history of the Porfiriato. The papers consider diverse socio-economic as well as geographical perspectives: they juxtapose studies of elites in Mexico City with investigations of indigenous communities in the countryside. By bringing these perspectives together, the panel bridges the scholarly divide between urban and rural history. Jaclyn Sumner will study the role of state governors in upholding the Porfirian regime on the regional levels, and how one governor in particular, Próspero Cahuantzi of Tlaxcala, used his Indian identity to ingratiate himself to national elites while also exploiting his local acumen to create networks of support within Tlaxcala. Christina Bueno will examine how archeology played a decisive role in Porfirian nation building by showing the ways in which the administration crafted Mexican nationalism vis-à-vis the protection of national artifacts. Steven Bunker will revise scholars notions of urban Porfirian development while demonstrating the fractured and contested urban politics of “order and progress” in the capital. Colby Ristow will examine how Porfirian urban planning in Juchitán, Oaxaca, intended to foster new, “modern” identities and forms of sociability, actually undermined the growth of liberal democracy in the wake of Porfirian rule. The panel will be of interest to a wide range of scholars including historians of Latin America, indigenous peoples, nation building and intersections between urban and rural history. Three of these scholars are actively working on new projects, and another is preparing her dissertation for publication. This panel will thus provide a valuable opportunity for an exchange of insights into how to best theorize and move forward with their projects. Commentary will be provided by Colby Ristow, and Jaclyn Sumner will chair.