The Problem of Identity

        I.            What is Mexico? The Problem of the Imagined Community

A.      Imagined communities

1. Socially constructed communities

2. Not dependent on direct interactions of members

3. Constructed instead on shared beliefs of group identity

4. Individual believe themselves to members, and thus are members

5. Critical in nation building, as stable nations require that diverse individuals across vast territories all believe themselves to be of on group and share common interests

B.      Mexico sorely lacks an “imagined national community” at independence

      II.            The problem of political legitimacy

1. Spanish rule had been based on divine right, conquest, and three centuries of tradition

2. Mexico City based its dominance in the colonial period on royal backing, legitimizing its centrality

3.  Early independent Mexico lacked any mechanism for establishing a new political legitimacy, or an elite consensus

4.  The independence wars had shattered much of the old governing structures, it had also created a large class of people with military experience, whose loyalties were often to their leaders, not to any imagined country

5. As warfare continues in post-independence era, the militarists will continue to expand in size and power

    III.            Economic decline, slow recovery

A.      Mining sector devastated by war

1.  Mines flooded and machinery destroyed

2.  Price of mercury will also begin to climb

B.      Many farms ruined by independence wars

C.      Feeble banking center in aftermath of independence

D.      Domestic trade drops off and most international trade gone

E.       Sever funding crisis for government, in part due to abolishing many colonial taxes

F.       Slow recovery begins in 1830s

1.  Agriculture and real estate sectors begins to recover in 1830s

2.  This will  be accompanied by expanding haciendas, pushing many peasants off the land

3. Mining modestly comes back in 1840s

4. Textile industry reemerges in Puebla in 1840s

    IV.            The politically chaotic early Republic (and First Empire)

A.      First Empire

1. Initial effort to solve problem of legitimacy by giving Ferdinand VII a largely ceremonial crown fails

2.  Further, the initial junta fails to address the desires of the insurgents, focusing only on concerns of creole commercial class

3.  Through what amounted to a coup, Iturbide assumes crown as Emperor

4.  His own efforts at authoritarianism, in an time of serious debate as to the nature of Mexico itself, insure his down fall

5.  First Empire is short (barely a year) but establishes the main themes that will plague early Mexico

a.       Poorly funded government, with high levels of debt

b.      The crisis of executive legitimacy

c.       Congressional vs. executive power

d.      The use of the military coup as the principle means of changing government

e.      The clash between regional autonomy and centralized government

f.        A struggle over the role of the Catholic Church

g.       Government that ignores the needs of the masses

a.       No real effort to dismantle racial hierarchies (though slavery abolished in 1829)

b.      Little social mobility

c.       Insecure and small middle class

d.      Increasing use of debt peonage

B.      1824 Constitution

1.  Iturbide’s executive authoritarianism replaced by a federalist congressional government (on paper)

a.       Weak executive, strong Congress

b.       Federalist, meaning a lot of power distributed to the states

c.       Catholic Church left as state religion

d.      Nothing about equality

2.   Only the first president under this constitution, Guadalupe Victoria, would fill out his term (1824-29)

      V.            Liberalism and Conservatism

A.      Principle ideological divide of nineteenth-century Mexican elites

B.      Conservatives

1. Sought primarily to preserve the social hierarchies of the colonial era

2. Were wary of outside influences, and not eager to join free-trade economies of the Atlantic

3. Favored instead industrialization with strong protectionism

4. Supported strong central governments that could maintain social order (unless of course they lost control of that central government)

5. Strong defenders of the Catholic Church

6. Tended to support centralism

C.      Liberals

1. Looked to England, France, and the United States as their models

2. Saw Catholic Church as greedy and wasteful – Church holdings and tithed would be a major issue

3. Generally federalist

4.  Radicals

a.       Strong supporters of free trade, sought to emulate the industrialization of England

b.      Strongly anti-clerical

c.       Strongly federalist, seeing local government as best place to express popular will

d.      More open to challenging racial hierarchies

5. Moderates

a.       Favored small property owners

b.      Preferred local militias, distrusting the national army

c.       Distaste for indigenous people, seeing them as largely a hindrance to national advancement

d.      Tended to represent northern Mexico

    VI.            The rise of Caudillos

A.      Without stable institutions, power becomes increasingly personalized

B.      Political parties are organized around loyalty to individuals, not political ideologies

C.      Caudillos fill the power vacuum

1. Strongman charismatic rulers, gain power by military means

2.  Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna the most important

a.       President eleven times, none of them consecutive

b.      Power based on enormous land wealth

c.       Initially identified with radicals, but generally ruled as a conservative

3.  Anastasia Bustamante

a.       President three times, though for actually more time than Santa Anna

b.      Relied on national army for his power base

4.  Other regional and national caudillos continued to compete for power, with no real political consensus emerging

D.      Elites so divided in Mexico they could not unite in the war against the United States, contributing to Mexico’s defeat

1.  Mexico had initially encourages Americans to immigrate to Texas, but divisions arose over slavery and state Catholicism

2.   Texas breaks away in an era of multiple regional uprisings (1836)

3. Santa Anna gains a lot of political mileage beating up on the Texans, but his capture enables independence

4. While Mexico never fully accepts Texan independence, its entry into the Union under James K. Poly (1846) results in war

5.  Mexico’s losses in the north are not surprising, given how thin its resources were in the north

6.  But coups and an unwillingness to arm the masses enable Winfield Scott  to easily take Mexico City (1848), resulting in complete defeat