¡Tierra y Libertad!: Narrating the Mexican Revolution

In 1910, Ricardo Flores Magón ended an article in the revolutionary weekly Regeneración with the battle cry “¡Tierra y Libertad!” We recuperate Flores Magón’s call for land and freedom to interrogate how Mexican cultural production has registered, challenged, and narrated the social demands and revolutionary ideals that shaped the political imagination of the Mexican Revolution. Exploring different genres and media from 1910 to 1968, we consider how literary texts, visual arts, architecture, and popular culture have captured the tension between revolutionary aspirations, nation-building, and state formation in postrevolutionary Mexico. We pay particular attention to the dialectics of aesthetic form and social process, emphasizing the theoretical concepts that specify the notion of revolution for the Mexican case. Primary sources include novels, poems, short stories, films, paintings, buildings, monuments, and music.

Assignments include presentations, a weekly short paper (250-500 words), discussion facilitation, and a final project (podcast, storymap, documentary) to be completed individually or in small groups.

  • Revolution, Rebellion, Insurrection. We focus on the causes of the revolutionary uprising and the military phase of the Revolution. We study the Novel of the Revolution and its political underpinnings, corridos, and other cultural artifacts (posters, newspapers, etc.) in the context of the struggle to define the ideological and cultural identity of the revolutionary war.
  • The Prolific Roads of Reedification. We consider how the politics of mestizaje, indigenismo, and the agrarian question intersect with the nation-building arithmetic of the Mexican state. Particular attention is given to the artistic avant-gardes, and their role in the production of an internationalist agenda in the postrevolutionary period.
  • The Modern City. We follow the accelerated process of industrialization and urbanization that transformed Mexico City into a megalopolis, from the development of large-scale apartment complexes (multifamiliares), working class neighborhoods, and squatter settlements, to the construction of University City. Likewise, we analyze the consecration of the port city of Acapulco as an international tourist attraction, heralded as a token of Mexico’s successful quest for capitalist modernization.
  • The Popular, the Bourgeois, and the Middle Class. We study the permanent tension between popular and bourgeois aspirations in the postrevolutionary period, the authoritarian turn of the Mexican state, and the development of a middle class sensibility that challenged the corporatist structures that governed everyday life in Mexico. Particular attention is given to the context of the Global Sixties, national liberation movements, rural guerrillas, and the Tlatelolco massacre of 1968.

Texts and Films

  • Mariano Azulea, Los de abajo, 1915 (1920).
  • Manuel Maples Arce, Urbe: súper-poema bolchevique en 5 cantos, 1924.
  • Nellie Campobello, Cartucho: relatos de la lucha en el norte de México, 1931.
  • Fernando de Fuentes, dir. Vámonos con Pancho Villa, 1935.
  • Juan Rulfo, El Llano en llamas, 1953.
  • Rosario Castellanos, Ciudad real, 1960.
  • Luis Buñuel, dir. Los olvidados, 1950.
  • Jorge Ibargüengoitia. Los relámpagos de agosto, 1964.
  • Elena Poniatowska, La noche de Tlatelolco, 1971.

Other reading materials made available through course supersite.

Selected Bibliography

Alexander, Ryan M. Sons of the Mexican Revolution: Miguel Alemán and His Generation. University of New Mexico Press, 2016.

Anderson, Perry. “Modernity and Revolution.” New Left Review, no. 144, 1984, pp. 96–113.

Anreus, Alejandro, et al. Mexican Muralism: A Critical History. University of California Press, 2012.

Carranza, Luis E. Architecture as Revolution: Episodes in the History of Modern Mexico. University of Texas Press, 2010.

Carter, Warren. “Painting the Revolution: State, Politics and Ideology in Mexican Muralism.” Third Text, vol. 28, no. 3 2014, pp. 282–91.

Cohen, Theodore W. Finding Afro-Mexico: Race and Nation after the Revolution. Cambridge University Press, 2020.

Davis, Diane. Urban Leviathan: Mexico City in the Twentieth Century. Temple University Press, 1994.

Draper, Susana. 1968 Mexico: Constellations of Freedom and Democracy. Duke University Press, 2018.

Joseph, Gilbert M. Everyday Forms of State Formation: Revolution and the Negotiation of Rule in Modern Mexico. Duke University Press, 1994.

Knight, Alan. “The Mexican Revolution: Bourgeois? Nationalist? Or Just a ‘Great Rebellion’?” Bulletin of Latin American Research, vol. 4, no. 2, 1985, pp. 1–37.

—. The Mexican Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2016.

Lomnitz-Adler, Claudio. Deep Mexico, Silent Mexico: An Anthropology of Nationalism. University of Minnesota Press, 2001.

Lund, Joshua. The Mestizo State: Reading Race in Modern Mexico. University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Madrid, Alejandro L. Sounds of the Modern Nation: Music, Culture, and Ideas in Post-Revolutionary Mexico. Temple University Press, 2008.

Morton, Adam David. “Reflections on Uneven Development: Mexican Revolution, Primitive Accumulation, Passive Revolution.” Latin American Perspectives, vol. 37, no. 1, Sage Publications, 2010, pp. 7–34.

—. “The Architecture of ‘Passive Revolution’: Society, State and Space in Modern Mexico.” Journal of Latin American Studies, vol. 50, no. 1, 2018, pp. 117–52.

Olea Franco, Rafael. “La novela de la revolución mexicana: una propuesta de relectura.” Nueva revista de filología hispánica, no. 2, 2012, pp. 478–514.

O’Rourke, Kathryn E. Modern Architecture in Mexico City: History, Representation, and the Shaping of a Capital. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016.

Osten, Sarah. The Mexican Revolution’s Wake: The Making of a Political System, 1920–1929. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Sánchez Prado, Ignacio M., ed. Mexican Literature in Theory. Bloomsbury, 2018.

Zolov, Eric. The Last Good Neighbor: Mexico in the Global Sixties. Duke University Press, 2020.