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A reading list of Mexican history and culture

On 16 September 1810, a priest named Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla delivered a proclamation in the small town of Dolores that urged the Mexican people to challenge Spanish imperial rule, marking the start of the Mexican War of Independence. To commemorate Mexican Independence Day and the “Grito de Dolores,” we’ve compiled a reading list that explores the rich history, culture, and traditions of the Mexican people.

Taste, Smell, and Flavor in Mexico by Jeffrey M. Pilcher
Mexican cuisine is often considered to be a mestizo fusion of indigenous and Spanish foods, but this mixture did not simply happen by accident; it required the labor, imagination, and sensory appreciation of both native and immigrant cooks. Jeffrey Pilcher examines the fusion that defines Mexican national identity. He explores how the tastes of the culture changed with the rise of industrial agriculture, from bitterness toward sweetness as the predominant sensory experience.

The Mythology of Mexico and Central America by John Bierhorst
In this expansive volume, John Bierhorst brings to light the gods and heroes of pre-Columbian times—and demonstrates that they are very much alive today. The book provides translations of twenty “basic myths,” showing how these have influenced the artistic, literary, and political life of modern Mexico and Central America. Originally published in 1990, the text has been updated to reflect recent advances in Mesoamerican studies. In addition, a new Afterword describes how these native mythologies—since the late 1980s—have begun incorporating issues of international significance, including cultural pluralism, religious freedom, and environmentalism.

The Women of Guadalajara in Mexico’s History by María Teresa Fernández Aceves
From the War of Independence until the recognition of female suffrage in Mexico in 1953, the women of Guadalajara witnessed different forms of activism that touched upon national and local issues, causing them to take to the streets in order to defend their families, their neighborhoods, and their communities – which were their political and religious ideals. Fernández Aceves’ article looks at how the women of Guadalajara upended traditional notions of femininity within the Catholic Church, the liberal state of the 19th century, and the public square after the revolution (1920–1940).

Producing Modernity in Mexico by Sarah Washbrook
This case study of tropical plantation development and a major regional study of modern Mexico analyses the politics of state-building and the history of land tenure and rural labour in the state of Chiapas in the period leading up to the outbreak of Revolution in 1910.

Mexico City
“Mexico City” by Blok 70. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

Mexico in World History by William H. Beezley
Drawing on materials ranging from archaeological findings to recent studies of migration issues and drug violence, William H. Beezley provides a dramatic narrative of human events as he recounts the story of Mexico in the context of world history.

Working Women in the Mexican Revolution by Susie S. Porter
From la Adelita to the suffragette, from la chica moderna to the factory girl dressed in red shirt and black skirt—the colors of the anarchist—women’s mobilization in the midst of the Mexican Revolution was, to a large degree, rooted in their workforce participation. Susie S. Porter examines how women changed the conversation about the rights of women—single or married, mothers or not, and regardless of personal beliefs or sexual morality—to involve issues of dignity at work, and
the right to combine a working life with other activities that informed women’s lives and fulfilled their passions.

Mexico in Spain’s Oceanic Empire, 1519–1821 by Christoph Rosenmüller
How did indigenous cultures in colonial Mexico change with the introduction of Spanish missionaries and Spanish rule? How did such communities continue their traditions and adapt to coexist with the Spaniards? Christoph Rosenmüller explores these questions in this article addressing the period after the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs.

The Three Faces of the Family, 1872–Present by Elena Jackson Albarrán
The family structure, both nuclear and extended, often functions as a microcosm of the institutional organization of power. Historian Soledad Loaeza has noted that this comparison goes beyond a facile metaphorical observation; within the family, individuals experience their first contact with authority, and they first begin to construct their social and political identities within the context of this power rubric. Elena Jackson Albarrán examines how the shape, function, and social meaning of the Mexican family changed alongside its relationship to the state, the Catholic Church, and popularly held beliefs and customs over the past 140 years and more.

The Mexican Revolution, 1910–1946 by Jürgen Buchenau
The Mexican Revolution was the first major social revolution of the 20th century. Its causes included the authoritarian rule of Dictator Porfirio Díaz, the seizure of millions of acres of indigenous village lands by wealthy hacendados and foreign investors, and the growing divide between the rich and the poor. Jürgen Buchenau explores the effects of the revolution from the insurrection and civil war (1910–1917); reconstruction (1917–1929); and institutionalization (1929–1946).

Ordinary Opinions of Everyday Mexicans: Polling from the 1940s–2012 by Roderic Ai Camp
Public opinion polls played a critical role in Mexico’s democratic political transition during the 1980s and 1990s. It informed ordinary Mexicans about how their peers viewed candidates and important policy issues, while simultaneously allowing citizens, for the first time, to assess a potential candidate’s likelihood of winning an election before the vote and also confirm actual election outcomes through exit polls. Roderic Ai Camp discusses how polling data reveal changing social, religious, economic, and political attitudes among Mexicans over time—revealing the importance of both traditional and contemporary values in explaining citizen behavior.

Featured image credit: “Mexico, Puebla, Cuetzalan” by CrismarPerez. Public Domain via Pixabay.

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