PREFACE

My general purpose here is to identify and explain the process by which Mexico undertook its transition from colonial subservience to nationhood. The first response of anyone to such a proposal would be to say, "Naturally, it occurred with Mexican independence in September 1821." Indeed, the traditional periodization marks the achievement of independence in 1821 as the great divide separating the two major periods of Mexican history, colonial and national.

In more recent years, however, a number of scholars have suggested that 1821 did not constitute such a total break with the past, that there were as many continuities as discontinuities in independence. This idea was nicely summarized by Germán Carrera Damas and John V. Lombardi in recommended guidelines they wrote for contributors to volume 5 of UNESCO'S General History of Latin America. They proposed the theme "Models of Continuity and Fracture." The real point of this era, they suggest, is not some assumed total break but a massive structural crisis in the transplanted societies of Spanish imperialism in America that provoked the emergence of a national project in each Latin American country.

I entirely endorse the approach suggested by Carrera Damas and Lombardi because it reflects Latin Americans' perceptions of their own national foundations and because it corresponds to my own findings. It constitutes a major step away from the old hagiography of an elite-oriented patriotic paradigm and toward a more sophisticated view of the birth of nations. In the case of Mexico, however, this perception remains more a generalization than a fully detailed historical argument. I think the reason that argument has yet to be elaborated is that one must study the issues of structural crisis and the coalescing of national identity by starting from the demands of the constituent parts and arriving at the whole, rather than by looking back from the whole to define the parts.

-ix-

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Forging Mexico: 1821-1835
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