Popular Activism and Political Organizing in 20th-Century Mexico

AHA Session 65
Conference on Latin American History 15
Friday, January 6, 2017: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Room 503 (Colorado Convention Center, Meeting Room Level)
Christopher Boyer, University of Illinois at Chicago
Christopher Boyer, University of Illinois at Chicago

Session Abstract

The politics and rhetoric of the Mexican Revolution emboldened social groups in both cities and the countryside to organize in unions, leagues, and other kinds of groups associations. Through the twentieth century, popular groups, from agrarian activists to medical professionals, have organized collectively for social change. The papers of this panel explore significant threads of new historical research on this activism in postrevolutionary Mexico. Beginning in the late-nineteenth century, Christina Jimenez’s research analyses how mandatory municipal registrations systems served as a springboard for the organizing efforts of poor, service workers in the city. By investigating the antecedents to the unionization of street porters, shoe shiners, and newspaper sellers, her paper suggests how revolutionary changes built upon other historical continuities.  Engaging several connected themes, Miles Rodríguez’s paper explains how revolutionary class-based social movements, like the independent labor unions movement, became part of cross-class alliances with community-based movements, like agrarian leagues, and the different approaches and challenges involved. By doing so, Rodríguez’s research highlights both channels and obstacles to popular organizing in the postrevolutionary period. Rounding out the discussion, Gabriela Soto Laveaga will present her research on the role of healthcare workers, namely young doctors, in popular challenges to the authoritarian Mexican state in the 1960s. Her research illustrates how hospital spaces and discourses over health care became powerful tools for doctors and then the mobilization of a broader social movement.  Each of the papers treats different aspects of the postrevolutionary Mexican state and popular activism, in unions, leagues, alliances, and broader social movements, to hold the Mexican state accountable for revolutionary promises. The panel will interest scholars of labor politics, state-society relations, unionization, social movements, and popular activism.
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