In Carrying the Word: The Concheros Dance in Mexico City, the first full length study of the Concheros dancers, Susanna Rostas explores the experience of this unique group, whose use of dance links rural religious practices with urban post-modern innovation in distinctive ways even within Mexican culture, which is rife with ritual dances.
The Concheros blend Catholic and indigenous traditions in their performances, but are not governed by a predetermined set of beliefs; rather they are bound together by long standing interpersonal connections framed by the discipline of their tradition. The Concheros manifest their spirituality by means of the dance. Rostas traces how they construct their identity and beliefs, both individual and communal, by its means. The book offers new insights into the experience of dancing as a Conchero while also exploring their history, organization and practices.
Carrying the Word provides a new way for audiences to understand the Conchero's dance tradition, and will be of interest to students and scholars of contemporary Mesoamerica. Those studying identity, religion, and tradition will find this social-anthropological work particularly enlightening.
Revolution in Mexico sought to subordinate church to state and push the church out of public life. Nevertheless, state and church shared a concern for the nation's social problems. Until the breakdown of church-state cooperation in 1926, they ignored the political chasm separating them to address those problems through education in order to instill in citizens a new sense of patriotism, a strong work ethic, and adherence to traditional gender roles. This book examines primary, vocational, private, and parochial education in Mexico City from 1917 to 1926 and shows how it was affected by the relations between the revolutionary state and the Roman Catholic Church. One of the first books to look at revolutionary programs in the capital immediately after the Revolution, it shows how government social reform and Catholic social action overlapped and identifies clear points of convergence while also offering vivid descriptions of everyday life in revolutionary Mexico City. Comparing curricula and practice in Catholic and public schools, Patience Schell describes scandals and successes in classrooms throughout Mexico City. Her re-creation of day-to-day schooling shows how teachers, inspectors, volunteers, and priests, even while facing material shortages, struggled to educate Mexico City's residents out of a conviction that they were transforming society. She also reviews broader federal and Catholic social action programs such as films, unionization projects, and libraries that sought to instill a new morality in the working class. Finally, she situates education among larger issues that eventually divided church and state and examines the impact of the restrictions placed on Catholic education in 1926. Schell sheds new light on the common cause between revolutionary state education and Catholic tradition and provides new insight into the wider issue of the relationship between the revolutionary state and civil society. As the presidency of Vicente Fox revives questions of church involvement in Mexican public life, her study provides a solid foundation for understanding the tenor and tenure of that age-old relationship.
In City of Suspects Pablo Piccato explores the multiple dimensions of crime in early-twentieth-century Mexico City. Basing his research on previously untapped judicial sources, prisoners’ letters, criminological studies, quantitative data, newspapers, and political archives, Piccato examines the paradoxes of repressive policies toward crime, the impact of social rebellion on patterns of common crime, and the role of urban communities in dealing with transgression on the margins of the judical system. By investigating postrevolutionary examples of corruption and organized crime, Piccato shines light on the historical foundations of a social problem that remains the main concern of Mexico City today. Emphasizing the social construction of crime and the way it was interpreted within the moral economy of the urban poor, he describes the capital city during the early twentieth century as a contested territory in which a growing population of urban poor had to negotiate the use of public spaces with more powerful citizens and the police. Probing official discourse on deviance, Piccato reveals how the nineteenth-century rise of positivist criminology—which asserted that criminals could be readily distinguished from the normal population based on psychological and physical traits—was used to lend scientific legitimacy to class stratifications and to criminalize working-class culture. Furthermore, he argues, the authorities’ emphasis on punishment, isolation, and stigmatization effectively created cadres of professional criminals, reshaping crime into a more dangerous problem for all inhabitants of the capital. This unique investigation into crime in Mexico City will interest Latin Americanists, sociologists, and historians of twentieth-century Mexican history.
In A City on a Lake Matthew Vitz tracks the environmental and political history of Mexico City and explains its transformation from a forested, water-rich environment into a smog-infested megacity plagued by environmental problems and social inequality. Vitz shows how Mexico City's unequal urbanization and environmental decline stemmed from numerous scientific and social disputes over water policy, housing, forestry, and sanitary engineering. From the prerevolutionary efforts to create a hygienic city supportive of capitalist growth, through revolutionary demands for a more democratic distribution of resources, to the mid-twentieth-century emergence of a technocratic bureaucracy that served the interests of urban elites, Mexico City's environmental history helps us better understand how urban power has been exercised, reproduced, and challenged throughout Latin America.
By the mid-nineteenth century, efforts to modernize and industrialize Mexico City had the unintended consequence of exponentially increasing the risk of fire while also breeding a culture of fear. Through an array of archival sources, Anna Rose Alexander argues that fire became a catalyst for social change, as residents mobilized to confront the problem. Advances in engineering and medicine soon fostered the rise of distinct fields of fire-related expertise while conversely, the rise of fire-profiteering industries allowed entrepreneurs to capitalize on crisis.
City on Fire demonstrates that both public and private engagements with fire risk highlight the inequalities that characterized Mexican society at the turn of the twentieth century.
In 1774 Mexico City leaders created the Mexico City Poor House—the centerpiece of a bold experiment intended to eliminate poverty and impose a new work ethic on former beggars by establishing a forcible internment policy for some and putting others to work. In Containing the Poor Silvia Marina Arrom tells the saga of this ill-fated plan, showing how the asylum functioned primarily to educate white orphans instead of suppressing mendicancy and exerting control over the multiracial community for whom it was designed. For a nation that had traditionally regarded the needy as having the undisputed right to receive alms and whose affluent citizens felt duty-bound to dispense them, the experiment was doomed from the start, explains Arrom. She uses deep archival research to reveal that—much to policymakers’ dismay—the Poor House became an orphanage largely because the government had underestimated the embeddedness of this moral economy of begging. While tracing the course of an eventful century that also saw colonialism give way to republicanism in Mexico, Arrom links the Poor House’s transformation with other societal factors as well, such as Mexican women’s increasing impact on social welfare policies. With poverty, begging, and homelessness still rampant in much of Latin America today, this study of changing approaches to social welfare will be particularly valuable to student and scholars of Mexican and Latin American society and history, as well as those engaged in the study of social and welfare policy.
In this innovative exploration of the interaction between economic processes and social relations, Lourdes Benería and Martha Roldán examine the effect of homework on gender and family dynamics. Their fieldwork in Mexico City during 1981-82 has enabled them to provide important new empirical data on industrial piecework performed by women as well as intimate glimpses of these women's lives which place that piecework in context. Tracing the stages of production from home to jobber, workshop, and manufacturer (often a multinational corporation), the authors demonstrate the way in which the work and lives of these women are connected through subcontracting to the national and often international system of production.
This book shows how Zapotec peasants migrating to Mexico City utilize paisanazgo--which prescribes solidarity among people from the same locale--as the basis for cooperation and mutual aid within a new environment. This study focuses on three groups of Mountain Zapotecs to explain why migrant associations were created and why they took different forms, citing regional variations in ethnicity, solidarity, occupational pursuits, and sociopolitical articulation to the nation in the three points of origin.
For fans of pro soccer in Mexico City, the four most popular teams represent distinct identities that embody such attributes as political power, nationalism, and working-class values. One of these teams, the Pumas, is associated with youthfulness, and its equally youthful fans take pride in the fact that their heroes have not yet been corrupted by corporate or political interests. This ethnographic study examines Puma fans’ understanding of the ideal that the team represents, considers the practices they employ to express and sometimes contradict this ideal, and reveals how soccer fandom in contemporary Mexico has emerged as a nexus of tensions among competing visions of state and society.
Roger Magazine takes readers inside Mexico’s soccer stadiums to explore young men’s participation in struggles over the future of that country’s urban society. His firsthand observations of the fan clubs—las porras—yield a unique inside look at confrontations in the stands over group organization, particularly at the emergence of rebel segments within the clubs. His study offers a close-up look at ground-level struggles over social organization in contemporary urban Mexico, showing how young male fans both blindly reproduce and consciously manipulate images of violence and disorder derived from national myths about typical urban Mexican men.
Golden and Blue Like My Heart offers a new way of understanding the dynamics of fandom while shedding new light on larger social processes and youth culture in Mexico. And with its insight into soccer culture, politico-economic transition, and masculinity, it has important and wide-reaching implications for all of Latin America.
Based on three extensive surveys carried out by research teams from Caracas, Mexico City, and Santiago, In Search of a Home investigates the nature of owners, tenants, sharers, and landlords and exploring the relationships between them.
In this distinguished contribution to Latin American colonial history, Douglas Cope draws upon a wide variety of sources—including Inquisition and court cases, notarial records and parish registers—to challenge the traditional view of castas (members of the caste system created by Spanish overlords) as rootless, alienated, and dominated by a desire to improve their racial status. On the contrary, the castas, Cope shows, were neither passive nor ruled by feelings of racial inferiority; indeed, they often modified or even rejected elite racial ideology. Castas also sought ways to manipulate their social "superiors" through astute use of the legal system. Cope shows that social control by the Spaniards rested less on institutions than on patron-client networks linking individual patricians and plebeians, which enabled the elite class to co-opt the more successful castas.
The book concludes with the most thorough account yet published of the Mexico City riot of 1692. This account illuminates both the shortcomings and strengths of the patron-client system. Spurred by a corn shortage and subsequent famine, a plebeian mob laid waste much of the central city. Cope demonstrates that the political situation was not substantially altered, however; the patronage system continued to control employment and plebeians were largely left to bargain and adapt, as before.
A revealing look at the economic lives of the urban poor in the colonial era, The Limits of Racial Domination examines a period in which critical social changes were occurring. The book should interest historians and ethnohistorians alike.
Sight is central to the medium of photography. But what happens when the subjects of photographic portraits cannot look back at the photographer or even see their own image? An in-depth pictorial study of blind schoolchildren in Mexico, Look at me draws attention to (and distinctions between) the activity of sight and the consciousness of form.
Combining aspects of his earlier, acclaimed street work with an innovative approach to portraiture, Chicago-based photographer Jed Fielding has concentrated closely on these children’s features and gestures, probing the enigmatic boundaries between surface and interior, innocence and knowing, beauty and grotesque. Design, composition, and the play of light and shadow are central elements in these photographs, but the images are much more than formal experiments; they confront disability in a way that affirms life. Fielding’s sightless subjects project a vitality that seems to extend beyond the limits of self-consciousness. In collaborative, joyful participation with the children, he has made pictures that reveal essential gestures of absorption and the basic expressions of our creatureliness.
Fielding’s work achieves what only great art, and particularly great portraiture can: it launches and then complicates a process of identification across the barriers that separate us from each other. Look at me contains more than sixty arresting images from which we often want to look away, but into which we are nevertheless drawn by their deep humanity and palpable tenderness. This is a monograph of uncommon significance by an important American photographer.
Mema's house is in the poor barrio Nezahualcoyotl, a crowded urban space on the outskirts of Mexico City where people survive with the help of family, neighbors, and friends. This house is a sanctuary for a group of young, homosexual men who meet to do what they can't do openly at home. They chat, flirt, listen to music, and smoke marijuana. Among the group are sex workers and transvestites with high heels, short skirts, heavy make-up, and voluminous hairstyles; and their partners, young, bisexual men, wearing T-shirts and worn jeans, short hair, and maybe a mustache.
Mema, an AIDS educator and the leader of this gang of homosexual men, invited Annick Prieur, a European sociologist, to meet the community and to conduct her fieldwork at his house. Prieur lived there for six months between 1988 and 1991, and she has kept in touch for more than eight years. As Prieur follows the transvestites in their daily activities—at their work as prostitutes or as hairdressers, at night having fun in the streets and in discos—on visits with their families and even in prisons, a fascinating story unfolds of love, violence, and deceit.
She analyzes the complicated relations between the effeminate homosexuals, most of them transvestites, and their partners, the masculine-looking bisexual men, ultimately asking why these particular gender constructions exist in the Mexican working classes and how they can be so widespread in a male-dominated society—the very society from which the term machismo stems. Expertly weaving empirical research with theory, Prieur presents new analytical angles on several concepts: family, class, domination, the role of the body, and the production of differences among men.
A riveting account of heroes and moral dilemmas, community gossip and intrigue, Mema's House, Mexico's City offers a rich story of a hitherto unfamiliar culture and lifestyle.
Mexico City has always been a seat of empire. With its grandiose pretensions, sheer swagger, and staggering proportions, it gives the impression of power exercised over great time and distances. And yet this power has frequently been contested, lending the city a tough, battle-hardened look. At the same time, life in the Mexican capital can be carefree and intoxicating, and the city continues to offer any visitor not only glimpses of past grandeur, but of the fascinating wealth of the culture of Mexico today.
This book explores how the city has grown and evolved from the Tenochtitlan city-state of the Aztecs to the capital of the Spanish empire’s “New Spain,” French intervention, revolution, and the newly branded CDMX. Nick Caistor leads us through centuries of history and into the material city of today: from recently constructed museums and shopping malls, to neighborhoods where age-old traditions still appear to be the norm. Whether sampling ice cream at Xochimilco, watching freestyle wrestling at the Arena Mexico, or savoring long Mexican breakfasts, Nick Caistor reveals why Mexico City continues to fascinate and beguile us.
Mexico City became one of the centers of architectural modernism in the Americas in the first half of the twentieth century. Invigorated by insights drawn from the first published histories of Mexican colonial architecture, which suggested that Mexico possessed a distinctive architecture and culture, beginning in the 1920s a new generation of architects created profoundly visual modern buildings intended to convey Mexico’s unique cultural character. By midcentury these architects and their students had rewritten the country’s architectural history and transformed the capital into a metropolis where new buildings that evoked pre-conquest, colonial, and International Style architecture coexisted.
Through an exploration of schools, a university campus, a government ministry, a workers’ park, and houses for Diego Rivera and Luis Barragán, Kathryn O’Rourke offers a new interpretation of modern architecture in the Mexican capital, showing close links between design, evolving understandings of national architectural history, folk art, and social reform. This book demonstrates why creating a distinctively Mexican architecture captivated architects whose work was formally dissimilar, and how that concern became central to the profession.
September 19, 1985: A powerful earthquake hits Mexico City in the early morning hours. As the city collapses, the government fails to respond. Long a voice of social conscience, prominent Mexican journalist Elena Poniatowska chronicles the disintegration of the city's physical and social structure, the widespread grassroots organizing against government corruption and incompetence, and the reliency of the human spirit. As a transformative moment in the life of mexican society, the earthquake is as much a component of the country's current crisis as the 1982 debt crisis, the problematic economic of the last ten years, and the recent elections.
In masterfully weaving together a multiplicity of voices, Poniatowska has reasserted the inherent value and latent power of people working together. Punctuated by Poniatowska's own experiences and observations, these post disaster testimonies speak of the disruption of families and neighborhoods, of the destruction of homes and hospitals, of mutilation and death—the collective loss of a city. Drawing the reader dramatically into the scene of national horror through dozens of personal stories, Poniatowska demonstrates the importance of courage and self-reliance in redeeming life from chaos.
After a stirring e-mail exchange with his father, awardwinning essayist and cultural commentator Ilan Stavans decided to do something bizarre: revisit his hometown, Mexico City, accompanied by a tourist guide. But rather than seeking his roots in the neighborhood where he grew up, he headed to the Centro Histórico, the downtown area at the heart of the world’s largest metropolis. It was there that conversos, the hidden Jews escaping the might of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, were burned at the stake. And, centuries later, it was the same section where Jewish immigrants, both Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazim and Sephardim from the Ottoman Empire, made their homes as peddlers. In a sense, Centro Histórico is to Mexico what the Lower East Side is to the United States: a platform for reinventing one’s self in the New World.
With the same linguistic verve and insight that has made him one of the most distinguished voices in American literature today, Ilan Stavans invites readers along for a personal journey that is not only his own, but that of an entire culture. In Return to Centro Histórico he makes it possible to understand the intimate role that Jews have played in the development of Hispanic civilization.
Winner of the 29th annual Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Studies
All museums are sex museums. In Sex Museums, Jennifer Tyburczy takes a hard look at the formation of Western sexuality—particularly how categories of sexual normalcy and perversity are formed—and asks what role museums have played in using display as a technique for disciplining sexuality. Most museum exhibits, she argues, assume that white, patriarchal heterosexuality and traditional structures of intimacy, gender, and race represent national sexual culture for their visitors. Sex Museums illuminates the history of such heteronormativity at most museums and proposes alternative approaches for the future of public display projects, while also offering the reader curatorial tactics—what she calls queer curatorship—for exhibiting diverse sexualities in the twenty-first century.
Tyburczy shows museums to be sites of culture-war theatrics, where dramatic civic struggles over how sex relates to public space, genealogies of taste and beauty, and performances of sexual identity are staged. Delving into the history of erotic artifacts, she analyzes how museums have historically approached the collection and display of the material culture of sex, which poses complex moral, political, and logistical dilemmas for the Western museum. Sex Museums unpacks the history of the museum and its intersections with the history of sexuality to argue that the Western museum context—from its inception to the present—marks a pivotal site in the construction of modern sexual subjectivity.
Why, Diane Davis asks, has Mexico City, once known as the city of palaces, turned into a sea of people, poverty, and pollution? Through historical analysis of Mexico City, Davis identifies political actors responsible for the uncontrolled industrialization of Mexico's economic and social center, its capital city. This narrative biography takes a perspective rarely found in studies of third-world urban development: Davis demonstrates how and why local politics can run counter to rational politics, yet become enmeshed, spawning ineffective policies that are detrimental to the city and the nation.
The competing social and economic demand of the working poor and middle classes and the desires of Mexico's ruling Partido Revolucionario Institutional (PRI) have led to gravely diminished services, exorbitant infrastructural expenditures, and counter-productive use of geographic space. Though Mexico City's urban transport system has evolved over the past seven decades from trolley to bus to METRO (subway), it fails to meet the needs of the population, despite its costliness, and is indicative of the city's disastrous and ill-directed overdevelopment. Examining the political forces behind the thwarted attempts to provide transportation in the downtown and sprawling outer residential areas, Davis analyzes the maneuverings of local and national politicians, foreign investors, middle classes, agency bureaucrats, and various factions of the PRI.
Looking to Mexico's future, Davis concludes that growing popular dissatisfaction and frequent urban protests demanding both democratic reform and administrative autonomy in the capital city suggest an unstable future for corporatist politics and the PRI's centralized one-party government.
The years from the Porfiriato to the post-Revolutionary regimes were a time of rising industrialism in Mexico that dramatically affected the lives of workers. Much of what we know about their experience is based on the histories of male workers; now Susie Porter takes a new look at industrialization in Mexico that focuses on women wage earners across the work force, from factory workers to street vendors. Working Women in Mexico City offers a new look at this transitional era to reveal that industrialization, in some ways more than revolution, brought about changes in the daily lives of Mexican women. Industrialization brought women into new jobs, prompting new public discussion of the moral implications of their work. Drawing on a wealth of material, from petitions of working women to government factory inspection reports, Porter shows how a shifting cultural understanding of working women informed labor relations, social legislation, government institutions, and ultimately the construction of female citizenship. At the beginning of this period, women worked primarily in the female-dominated cigarette and clothing factories, which were thought of as conducive to protecting feminine morality, but by 1930 they worked in a wide variety of industries. Yet material conditions transformed more rapidly than cultural understandings of working women, and although the nation's political climate changed, much about women's experiences as industrial workers and street vendors remained the same. As Porter shows, by the close of this period women's responsibilities and rights of citizenship—such as the right to work, organize, and participate in public debate—were contingent upon class-informed notions of female sexual morality and domesticity. Although much scholarship has treated Mexican women's history, little has focused on this critical phase of industrialization and even less on the circumstances of the tortilleras or market women. By tracing the ways in which material conditions and public discourse about morality affected working women, Porter's work sheds new light on their lives and poses important questions for understanding social stratification in Mexican history.