Order Colonial Period Discussion

Order Colonial Period Discussion
1. Discuss how structures and systems of power operated in the Americas from the colonial period through the 20th century. Be sure to make an argument, and discuss at least two historical events, but you do not have to cover the entire time period. Begin by picking a specific theme, such as the place of indigenous peoples in societies, the history and legacy of slavery, the history of populations of mixed descendancy, or the history of political movements. Then discuss how your theme highlights conflicts around the exercise of power or struggles between groups for power. You must include quotations from at least 2 course readings as evidence, and cite these quotes with parenthetical citations, i.e. (author’s last name, page number).
PORFIRIAN MODERNIZATION The long reign of General Porfirio Díaz is more accessible to our present-day sensibilities than the chaotic age of Santa Anna (1824– 53), with its endless sagas of opera bouffe caudillos, foreign interventions, and caste warfare. Indeed, the so-called Porfiriato (1876–1911) is often cast as Mexico’s version of the Gilded Age, the political-economic regime that ushered in “modern Mexico.” The period is more accessible to us because it exhibits many of the characteristics of the nation at the turn of the twenty-first century, namely, a relatively strong and stable central state and the opening up of the economy to robust foreign investment. But the Porfiriato is also similar to the present moment in its privileging of economic growth and modernization over meaningful social reform. The costs of this nineteenth-century “Order and Progress” model of economic growth would be steep, culminating in the epic revolution of 1910. Important changes in the global economy that gathered force in the second half of the nineteenth century would play a key role in shaking Mexico out of the political and economic doldrums that had plagued the young republic since independence. This transformation accompanied the second phase of the Industrial Revolution, which not only witnessed the geographic spread of industrialization but also integrated primary commodity producers like Mexico more tightly into the burgeoning Atlantic industrial economy. The great industrial powers prized Mexican tropical agricultural
Order Colonial Period Discussion
commodities like rubber and henequen from the southern states, industrial ores and metals from the North, and, of course, oil from the Gulf. The Beginnings of Modernization, 1848–1876 We might pick up the story in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War (1846–48), when Mexicans pondered the effects of their nation’s catastrophic invasion and defeat by the U.S. Army, which resulted in the loss of more than half of Mexico’s territory. This national humiliation prompted the emergence of a coalition of Liberals who believed that the only way to survive U.S. expansionism was to adopt much of the socioeconomic and political philosophy of its northern neighbor. In 1854, the year after General Santa Anna sold off northern Sonora to the United States, the Plan of Ayutla engineered the defeat and exile of the Conservative caudillo. Juan Alvarez, the Liberal general who spearheaded the Ayutla rebellion, soon disappeared from the spotlight, leaving a group of idealistic young civilians that included the Oaxacan Benito Juárez to reorganize Mexico’s political and economic structure. Thus began the Liberal Reform (1855–57), a period when Juárez and his associates experimented with many of the recipes for modernization that would become guiding principles during the Porfiriato. Most important, the Liberals sought to turn a country in which the Roman Catholic Church held half of the arable land and a small landed oligarchy much of the rest into a nation of property owners. They also desired to erode the influence of the Church, which enjoyed a virtual monopoly over the educational system and also served as the country’s primary moneylender and real estate broker. With the political allies of the Church, the Conservative Party, discredited through their association with Santa Anna, the Liberals passed a series of laws culminating in the 1857 Constitution, which proclaimed Mexico a democratic, secular republic. Among the more progressive provisions, the constitution abolished slavery, debt servitude, and the death penalty. As a precursor of the revolutionary Constitution of 1917, it was most notable for Article 27, which forbade the Church—or any other “corporation”—from acquiring or managing land or real estate. Foreshadowed in the earlier Lerdo Law (1856), this provision allowed the government to expropriate Church lands and sell them to private investors. In a nation rent by factional strife, foreign intervention, and prolonged economic crisis since the

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