In Use of Their Rights: Popular Anxieties, Power, and Community in 1920s Jalisco, Mexico

Sunday, January 6, 2019: 11:40 AM
Salon 12 (Palmer House Hilton)
Ulices Piña, Colorado College
In December of 1923 a massive rebellion broke out in the central-western Mexican state of Jalisco. The Estradista Rebellion, as it came to be known, formed part of four contemporary armed insurgencies that shook the newly established social order in Mexico for nearly sixty days. In the subsequent bloodletting, politicians came of age, rose to prominence or were eliminated; political parties were created and dissolved; alliances shifted and were strengthened. The defeat of these rebellions not only reaffirmed Mexico’s process of modernization, but also reconfigured politics at the national and regional levels. Following the uprising, Governor Jose G. Zuno reestablished himself as the most powerful politician in the region. Most of the revisionist historiography has recognized Zuno’s contributions to the defense of regional autonomy (at municipal and state levels) and to agrarian, labor, anticlerical, and educational policies; very few studies, however, have attempted to understand the consequences of such state interventions on the lives of citizens and the impact of such efforts on local governance. This paper centers on the anxieties and complaints of ordinary people swept up in larger events to reveal how they engaged in political struggles and dealt with local authorities. The paper makes use of letters, community petitions, and government documents uncovered in local and state archives to showcase how locals participated in an on-going negotiation over how to govern and rule. I focus on three topics: 1) property confiscations of “presumed rebels” after the armed uprising; 2) the anxieties and complaints rural communities expressed; and 3) popular conceptions of local sovereignty. These exchanges that occurred between ordinary people and authorities, I argue, formed part of an extensive debate regarding the limits of local and national power in the first decade of the postrevolutionary era.