Criminal and Citizen in Modern Mexico

Criminal and Citizen in Modern Mexico

Criminal and Citizen in Modern Mexico

Criminal and Citizen in Modern Mexico

Synopsis

Criminal and Citizen in Modern Mexico explores elite notions of crime and criminality from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century. In Mexico these notions represented contested areas of the social terrain, places where generalized ideas about criminality transcended the individual criminal act to intersect with larger issues of class, race, gender, and sexuality. It was at this intersection that modern Mexican society bared its soul. Attitudes toward race amalgamation and indios, lower-class lifestyles and lperos, women and sexual deviance, all influenced perceptions of criminality and ultimately determined the fundamental issue of citizenship: who belonged and who did not. The liberal discourse of toleration and human rights, the positivist discourse of order and progress, the revolutionary discourse of social justice and integration sought in turn to disguise the exclusions of modern Mexican society behind a veil of criminality -- to proscribe as criminal those activities that criminologists, penologists, and anthropologists clearly linked to marginalized social groups. This book attempts to lift that veil and to gaze, like Jos Guadalupe Posada, at the grinning calavera that it shields.

Excerpt

The element most necessary to the prosperity of a people is the good use and exercise of its reason. -- José Mariá Luis Mora, Revista politica de las diversas administraciones que la República mexicana ha tenido desde 1837

Oh mother of mine! Judging by the scorn with which gentlemen treat us, it seems to me that we are the worst of the world and incapable of anything good; and truly, that calling us poor is the same as calling us demons come from hell. What I see is that those-that-have flee from us as though we were the devil. -- José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi, La ciega y su muchachita

The foundations of modern criminology in Mexico were laid during the era of Mexican independence from Spain. the connection between these seemingly unrelated events was far from coincidental and was very closely tied to changes in the European intellectual climate. From the eighteenth century on, the works of Enlightenment thinkers gave succeeding generations of social analysts and policymakers, confidence in the ability of human reason to order their seemingly disordered societies. This confidence in a brave, new, and reasonable world inspired Mexican revolutionaries Fathers Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and José María Morelos, as well as the Creole elites that ultimately controlled post-independence politics, to free Mexico from arbitrary (politically unreasonable), impractical (economically unreasonable), and backward (socially unreasonable) Spanish colonial rule.

Enlightenment-inspired works on crime and punishment also found a sympathetic ear in Mexico. in his world-renowned 1764 essay, Dei delitti e delle pene (On crime, and punishment), Italian jurist Cesare Beccaria suggested a rationalization of criminal justice that English legal . . .

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