ABOUT THIS BOOK
Forced Marches is a collection of innovative essays that analyze how the military experience molded Mexican citizens in the years between the initial war for independence in 1810 and the consolidation of the revolutionary order in the 1940s. The contributors—well-regarded scholars from the United States and the United Kingdom—offer fresh interpretations of the Mexican military, caciquismo, and the enduring pervasiveness of violence in Mexican society. Employing the approaches of the new military history, which emphasizes the relationships between the state, society, and the “official” militaries and “unofficial” militias, these provocative essays engage (and occasionally do battle with) recent scholarship on the early national period, the Reform, the Porfiriato, and the Revolution.
When Mexico first became a nation, its military and militias were two of the country’s few major institutions besides the Catholic Church. The army and local provincial militias functioned both as political pillars, providing institutional stability of a crude sort, and as springboards for the ambitions of individual officers. Military service provided upward social mobility, and it taught a variety of useful skills, such as mathematics and bookkeeping.
In the postcolonial era, however, militia units devoured state budgets, spending most of the national revenue and encouraging locales to incur debts to support them. Men with rifles provided the principal means for maintaining law and order, but they also constituted a breeding-ground for rowdiness and discontent. As these chapters make clear, understanding the history of state-making in Mexico requires coming to terms with its military past.