CHAPTER SEVEN
Sovereignty of the People: "A Shoot of a Plant That Has Not Been Cultivated"

The final years of the first federal republic saw the fruition of the great contest that had begun in the war of independence, the struggle to determine whether the ultimate logic of an entirely new political order would emerge in Mexico, and for the first time in any Latin American society, the journey toward a popular government operating in the name of the common man. It occurred in a context rendered chaotic by the highly flawed Yorkino achievement of power, the wholesale abandonment of the constitution, and the loss of a rallying point around which nationhood could be made stronger.

When Vicente Guerrero took office on 1 April 1829 as the second president of the republic he issued a remarkable manifesto that simultaneously expressed both the fatal flaw and the glory of his presidency. The fatal flaw was encapsulated in the sentence with which the statement began, "By the will of God...and of my compatriots, I have been constitutionally called to perform the high charge of President of the United Mexican States." That was simply a fiction; every Mexican knew the names of the Yorkino politicians who had put Guerrero in the presidency and who expected to run it in his name. Yet the final two sentences of the twenty-page statement expressed in a few powerful words what Mexicans still see as the glory of this unlettered man who had such aspirations for the well-being of the people: "The people have confided in me their destinies, and I will be everything for the people. One tear less: one ear of corn more: a shoot of a plant that has not been cultivated, that will be the maximum of my happiness."1

What was the "shoot of a plant that has not been cultivated" to which Guerrero referred? Guerrero spoke and probably thought in simple naturalistic terms drawn from the experiences of the mestizo and mulatto

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