Youth Drug Use in Mexico City, 196075

Sunday, January 6, 2019: 10:00 AM
Salon 1 (Palmer House Hilton)
Sarah Beckhart, Columbia University
My research focuses on the history of drug use in Mexico City from 1960 onwards. I will be presenting a database I compiled from 3047 Mexican juvenile court cases. I will emphasize the challenges of finding sources that help historians understand the consumer from "the bottom up." The juvenile court cases are bursting with information about what type of drugs were being consumed, who was consuming them, why they were consuming them, and how drug use was treated on a very local level. The treatments in these cases demonstrate a lack of connection between what was happening at a local level, particularly amongst the courts, and the larger drug policies Mexico was trying to implement at the state level. My goal is to connect it to emergence of a drug scare in Mexico, and the shift in the way Mexico perceived the drug problem, which helped to inspire a willingness to fight a more aggressive war on drugs. For this conference, my contribution presents the challenges of finding sources that help historians understand the point of view of the consumer/addict. I will explore questions that deal with what types of sources can supplement the inability for scholars to access certain government documents, especially when conducting research multi-nationally? Similarly, how are historians to capture the stories of subnational groups that may not appear in the government archive? How are historians of drugs to overcome challenges of presentism and teleology? Increasing of the means and volumes of communication in more recent years? These are only a few of the questions that will be addressed in the case studies I present.
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