Elizabeth A. Henson
On September 23, 1965, several years of protest, including land invasions, strikes, sit-ins, and cross-country marches, culminated in an armed attack on an army base located in the remote town of Madera, Chihuahua, in northern Mexico. Protesters had demanded that the state comply with land reform guarantees provided for by the constitution of Mexico; students from the normal schools joined in and raised their own demands. Instead of negotiating partial reforms, the state governor called out troops to burnish his reputation as an anti-communist crusader. Nominally organized in the Unión General de Obreros y Campesinos de México, movement leaders broke with national directives and encouraged “direct action” and illegal occupations, while the normalistas acted within a student activist tradition rooted in the Marxism of the 1930s. The agrarian demands came from landless workers in an agricultural valley planted in cotton, whose fortunes were linked to the world market and from dispossessed smallholders in the mountainous backlands now claimed by timber export companies. This mid-century modernization of land use had its counterpart in the protestors’ emulation of the Cuban revolution and their attempt to apply Che’s theory of guerrilla warfare. As the governor’s recalcitrance radicalized the movement, small groups undertook sporadic armed actions in the mountains, disarming forces sent after them. Other leaders moved to Mexico City to avoid arrest, undergo military training, and attempt to gather support; they returned to Chihuahua with the plan to attack the army base. Despite its spectacular failure, the event has been hailed as Mexico’s first socialist guerrilla struggle and served as inspiration for the dirty war of the 1970s, when armed revolutionaries fought the armed power of the state. Attention to its armed component has eclipsed the movement’s underlying basis, which was equally innovative and had lasting influence on Mexican social protest.
João Paulo Pimenta
Stemming from an accelerated and tumultuous process unleashed by European wars in the first decade of the 19th century, Brazil and Portugal split politically in 1822. In a sense, Brazil’s independence reflects a number of peculiar characteristics within the context of the time due, in part, to three centuries of Portuguese colonization and to changes within the colonial system beginning in the second half of the 1700s. In other ways, however, Brazilian independence is linked to external events like the French Revolution, the independence of Haiti, and, above all, the wars of independence in Spanish America. The most profound and lasting consequences of the break with Portugal were the emergence of a Brazilian state and nation that until that point did not exist and that was consolidated over the course of the nineteenth century, as well as the nationalization of certain colonial institutions that were partially maintained. Historiography and national memory would later imbue independence with supreme importance as the foundational moment of the nation such that it has become a recurring theme in historical studies of Brazil.
Natalia Sobrevilla Perea
On 19 March 1812, representatives from across the Hispanic Monarchy put forward a constitution in the Spanish port city of Cádiz. This foundational document was a response to their king’s abdication in favor of Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte, obtained under pressure from invading French troops. The constitution aimed to address what they viewed as a lack of legitimacy because the monarch was captive, as the drafters expected it would be the basis of government in all the corners of the empire, from Madrid to Mexico and Manila. Written under the protection of the British fleet in the last bastion of the Peninsula that remained unoccupied, the constitution instituted a very extensive male suffrage, freedom of the press, national sovereignty, and the abolition of privileges for citizens from all parts of the vast empire. These measures were the reason why the men who debated the constitution were the first ones to be called liberal. The liberalism of the drafters at Cádiz must be considered in the context of the early nineteenth century. When in 1814 Ferdinand VII returned to Spain, he abolished the constitution. But in 1820 a mutiny of troops forced the king to accept it grudgingly. A constitutional monarchy was established lasting until 1823, when the so-called 100,000 sons of Saint Louis crossed from France to reinstate absolutism. This period came to be known as the Liberal Triennium. In 1836 the Progressives reinstated the Cádiz Constitution, albeit briefly when they passed a new charter in 1837.
Until quite recently there was very limited scholarship on the Cádiz Constitution in English, and, as Roberto Breña shows, even the literature in Spanish had been mostly limited to the study of the text itself and its impact in the peninsula. In the past decade, Atlantic history and studies on the Enlightenment’s influence on revolution in general have led to renewed interest in the Spanish constitutional experience. The reevaluation of Spanish American independence movements in light of the Cádiz Constitution have also sparked debate among historians. François-Xavier Guerra (1992) and Jaime Rodriguez O. (1998)1 consider that it is impossible to understand the process of independence if attention is not paid to Cádiz and the enacting of the constitution. Guerra goes as far as to state that the election of deputies to Cortes was the revolution2 (1993) Bicentennial celebrations have led to a dramatic increase of publications on the constitution. Its importance, especially in influencing subsequent constitutions, is increasingly acknowledged today in academic circles.
In this article I will discuss the calling of the Cortes, the elections that brought representatives from all over the empire to Cádiz, the demands made from far-away provinces, and major issues discussed in the constitutional debates. I conclude by assessing the constitution’s reception, as well as the way in which it influenced the advent of modernity in the Hispanic world and beyond. I begin by discussing the development of constitutional thinking in the late eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century. A revision of the events that led to the Peninsular War and the context in which the constitution was put forward follows. The article then analyzes the process through which the constitution was passed, the intellectual debates that surrounded it, the impact the charter had in the wider Atlantic world, as well as the role it played in the process of independence in Spanish America. Finally, it ends with a review of how liberalism developed in the Hispanic Monarchy and the long-lasting legacy of the Cádiz Constitution.
Michele McArdle Stephens
The Caste Wars of the Yucatán tore apart the peninsula between 1847 and 1901. While the violence was not constant throughout the more than five decades between the start and conclusion of the war itself, the threat of rebel hostilities was ever present. Scholars have debated the origins of the war for many decades, with most recent academic treatments focusing on heavy tax burdens, poor working conditions for Yucatán’s peasantry, and the loss of land that occurred during the second half of the century. Tensions between political leaders exacerbated relations with the Mayas in particular and the peasantry more generally. The emergence of the breakaway state of Chan Santa Cruz, in the southeastern part of Yucatán, allowed rebel forces to coalesce between 1850 and the early 1870s. Here, a “Speaking Cross” oracle gave direction to the rebellious Mayas, who crushed their enemies and exacted revenge against those who would not support their cause. The emergence of Porfirio Díaz as President of Mexico in 1876 led to a gradual “reconquest” of the areas held by the cruzob, or “people of the Cross.” By 1901, the Mexican military ended the Caste Wars, though violent episodes still marred Yucatán until the early 1930s.
Jaime E. Rodríguez O.
The concept of a constitution, a political entity that determines how a people are governed, emerged in ancient times. The government of the Roman Republic (509–27 BC) influenced the Western world. Later, Romanized Visigoths adopted a charter, the Fuero Juzgo (654), in the Iberian Peninsula that integrated Roman and Visigothic legal systems. The document influenced regional political entities throughout the Middle Ages. In the 13th century, each of the realms of the Iberian Peninsula adopted individual rather than shared fundamental codes. In 1265, King Alfonso X established Castilla’s and Leon’s first constitution, the Siete Partidas. The New World obtained its own legal system, known as the Derecho Indiano (Laws of the Indies). Like the kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula, those of America created a compact between the monarch and the citizens of each realm rather than Hispanic America as a whole. These systems of uncodified legislation evolved to meet changing circumstances and societal norms. They provided corporations and individuals expanding opportunities for indirect and direct experience in self-government.
In 1808, an unexpected upheaval transformed the Hispanic world. The French invaded Spain. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte lured the royal family into France, compelled them to abdicate in his favor, and then granted the Spanish monarchy to his brother, José. The Spanish people did not accept the usurper king, José I. They formed the Junta Central to oppose the invaders. As the French continued to conquer the nation, they convened a Cortes, which met on September 24, 1810, in the port of Cádiz. Approximately 220 deputies, including sixty-five Americans and two Filipinos, eventually participated in the extraordinary Cortes of Cádiz. Deputies representing overseas dominions played a central role in developing the most progressive constitution of the 19th century. Despite the political chaos that surrounded the constituent congress, the delegates debated and eventually reached consensus on a modern, flexible charter that reconciled the competing interests of the multiplicity of areas and ideological positions represented at the assembly. They produced a constitution for the entire Hispanic world that made the executive and the judiciary subordinate to the legislature. It also increased the scope of political activity by establishing representative government at three levels: the city or town with a thousand or more inhabitants (constitutional ayuntamiento), the province (provincial deputation), and the monarchy (Cortes). The charter transferred political power from the center to the localities, and incorporated large numbers of people into the political process for the first time by redefining the concept of active citizenship (i.e., those eligible to vote). This fundamental document formed the basis for constitutional development throughout the Hispanic monarchy and for most charters promulgated in the nations that emerged after the breakup of that political entity.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. Please check back later for the full article.
The Sandino Rebellion Digital Historical Archive website, a work in progress, is envisioned as a comprehensive, interpretive, open-access digital archive housing all relevant primary documents, and rare, out-of-print, or hard-to-access published works, that treat the period of the Sandino rebellion in Nicaragua (1927–1934) and the counterinsurgency campaign waged by the U.S. and Nicaraguan governments against this homegrown, campesino-based nationalist insurgency led by Augusto C. Sandino, the supreme chief of the Defending Army of Nicaraguan National Sovereignty (Ejército Defensor de la Soberanía Nacional de Nicaragua, or EDSN). Primary documents, digitized from the originals in public and private archives in the United States, Nicaragua, Great Britain, Honduras, and elsewhere, are categorized by type, provenance, and theme, with many transcribed and fully searchable. The website currently housed more than 3,700 hitherto unpublished primary documents as of May 2014; ultimately, the goal is to make universally accessible approximately 30,000 documents, including letters, diaries, military reports, consular dispatches, court records, newspaper accounts, oral histories, photographs, maps, rare published works, and other materials, to be accompanied by interpretive commentaries on specific documents, events, issues, and controversies.
The digital archive is organized in the manner of a historian’s workspace in the wake of repeated visits to the many libraries, archives, and repositories that bear on the questions we seek to address. The criterion informing the selection of documents is simple: material is included if it helps to shed light on how Nicaraguans struggled to make their own history during this period. In the spirit of social and cultural history, the focus is on ordinary people and members of subordinate groups—campesinos, indigenous communities, women, migrants—while abiding attention is also paid to more prominent and powerful actors, including merchants, landowners, politicians, and military leaders.
Roughly two-thirds of this material was culled from Record Group 127 (Records of the United States Marines) in the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, which includes a staggering array of documentation relating to virtually every aspect of this rebellion and the counterinsurgency campaign that sought to crush it: patrol and combat reports, intelligence reports and memoranda, photographs, captured correspondence, court records, prisoners’ statements, and much else. Other major repositories and collections include the Library of Congress; the records of the U.S. Department of State (Record Groups 59 and 84 of the U.S. National Archives II in College Park, MD); the Marine Corps Research Center (Quantico, VA); the oral histories produced by the Instituto de Estudio del Sandinismo in the 1980s (now the Instituto de Historia de Nicaragua y Centroamérica of the Universidad Centroamericana, or IHNCA-UCA, in Managua); and private collections, most notably material generously shared by Walter Castillo Sandino, the grandson of General Sandino.
Mikael D. Wolfe
What role did drought play in the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution of 1910? Although historians of the Mexican Revolution acknowledge that the effects of drought helped catalyze it, they have not explored in any depth what connects drought to revolution. Instead, they usually subsume it within a more general discussion of agricultural cycles to explain the conduct and fortunes of popular revolutionary armies. In particular, they reference the onset of drought between 1907 and 1909 as exacerbating an economic downturn induced by severe recession in the United States. By then, Mexico had become economically integrated with its northern neighbor through rapidly growing foreign investment, trade, and cross-border migration facilitated by the railroad transportation revolution. These socioeconomic and ecological factors together led to steep declines in wages and earnings, devastating crop failures, spikes in food prices (principally corn and beans), and even famine in the lower and middle classes.
Although suggestive, such passing references to drought in the historiography of the revolution do not furnish a clear picture of its effects and how they may have contributed to social and political conflict. In the 21st century, new technologies, methods, and sources—from historical meteorological reports and climate-related accounts gleaned from archival sources to modern historical climatological data reconstructions—facilitate doing more rigorous climate history. This article provides a sampling of these methods and sources on the role of drought in late 19th- and early 20th-century Mexico that can supplement, elucidate, and even revise our understanding of the origins of the Mexican Revolution.
Friedrich E. Schuler
General Victoriano Huerta (1850–1916) stands out as the bête noire of twentieth-century Mexico. He was a career army officer who had attained the rank of general. Other generals and the old economic and social hierarchy supported him as a transitional national leader who could restore order following Francisco Madero’s revolution and presidency. Huerta has become the national bête noire because of his assumed responsibility for the assassination of Madero and his vice president, along with several governors and congressmen of the revolutionary regime. His seizure of power resulted in a new phase of the Mexican Revolution, the U.S. occupation of Veracruz, and his involvement with German Mexico and the area along the border with the United States. After going into exile, he attempted to return to power by invading Mexico. He was arrested by U.S. officials and interned at Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas, where he died during emergency surgery.
After decades of revolutionary upheaval and political violence that began early in the 20th century, Mexico had seemingly achieved stability and a relative level of social peace by the 1940s. The peasant revolution of 1910—beginning with its armed, insurrectionary phase (1910–1920) to the subsequent decades (1920–1940) that involved making “The Revolution” manifest in the everyday lives of Mexicans who (to borrow historian Jeffrey Pilcher’s metaphor) chose à la carte from the revolutionary menu—produced a durable political order characterized by an active level of popular participation and legitimacy. The peace was durable, yet potentially fragile since postrevolutionary rulers, contained within the confines of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and its previous incarnations, could not take the peasant masses for granted. Revolution had taught these masses something about their power, both its limitations and potential, to shape the content and form of the Mexican state.
After 1940, as the PRI gradually exhibited its preference for political authoritarianism and an economic project that rapidly industrialized and urbanized the country while pauperizing the countryside, a series of disparate popular protest movements continually emerged. Usually peaceful and basing their alternative modernizing visions on the 1917 Constitution and the radical policies of President Lázaro Cárdenas during the 1930s, these movements—peasant, organized labor, and student movements—often faced repression and violence at the hands of state agents and/or local-regional caciques when demanding political democracy and economic justice. The spectacular massacre of protestors in public spaces and the selective assassination of dissident movement leaders represent two of the tactics employed by the PRI to quell popular resistance in the post–1940 era. Yet, such instances of state violence also stimulated political and tactical radicalization as some protestors organized revolutionary expressions of armed struggle and guerrilla warfare. From 1940 to 1982, more than three dozen armed organizations emerged in almost every region, in both urban and rural settings, displaying a wide variety of revolutionary ideologies and practices. Beginning with Rubén Jaramillo’s 1943 armed resistance in Morelos and ending with the formal dissolution of the urban Liga Comunista 23 de Septiembre in 1982, these armed struggles generally shared the goal of overthrowing the PRI regime, seizing state power, and articulating a socialist vision for a post-PRI Mexico.
The history of the 20th century in the Southeast of Mexico is bookended by two revolutions: the Mexican Revolution as it played out in the region, along with its antecedents and aftermath, and a very different but related revolutionary movement that emerged in the state of Chiapas in the mid-1990s. The former has been little studied at the multistate regional level by historians but is critical for understanding the history of the states of the Southeast in the decades that followed. The latter has been intensively studied by scholars in numerous disciplines, but its long-term historical implications remain to be seen. Equally important but scarcely studied and relatively little known is the political history of the Southeast in between these periods of conflict and revolution.
The Southeast is a region that is commonly regarded as distinct, and even marginal, within national histories of Mexico. In the 1980s, President Miguel de la Madrid suggested that the Mexican Revolution had never reached Chiapas. Yet decades earlier, President Lázaro Cárdenas (1934–1940) famously praised neighboring Tabasco as Mexico’s “laboratory of revolution.” Meanwhile, historian Ben Fallaw contends that Yucatán was one of the most important of Mexico’s political laboratories during the 1930s. Taken together, these seemingly conflicting assertions underscore that many of the things that made the Southeast unique within Mexico also made the region important and influential to the course of modern Mexican history. They also raise the question of the Southeast’s experience of the Revolution and the long-term legacies of the revolutionary political projects that unfolded there.