Mexican nationalist thought, as articulated by Mexico’s most powerful politicians, scholars, and writers, was never intended to describe the nation as it was or as it is. Instead, it has always expressed aspirations: it has contained multiple and often-conflicting visions of the nation as it could be, should be, or might have been. Such nationalist thinking has followed two broad tracks. One is historical. It argues that the Mexican national character—lo mexicano, mexicanidad, the essence of what it is to be Mexican—was formed through the experience of a national history that was a series of painful and unfair losses overcome by heroism and persistence. This historical narrative begins with the conquest, culminates in the loss of almost half the national territory to the United States in 1848, and is brought to a happy conclusion by the Mexican Revolution. The other track that Mexican nationalist thought has followed has to do with race. Intellectuals and politicians have changed their conceptions of the relationship between Mexico’s indigenous people and other Mexicans over the years, with the most radical shift taking place in the transition from the Porfiriato to the Revolutionary government. But across the modern era in Mexico, the presence of indigenous people, the influence of indigenous cultures, and the memory of indigenous civilizations have shaped how Mexicans understand themselves and their nation. Both of these narratives have changed over time, being rewritten and reconstructed to serve the needs of a national state that was almost constantly in the process of remaking itself from independence through the first half of the 20th century. Both of these nationalist narratives, moreover, have been subject to intense scrutiny from revisionist historians, feminists, indigenous people, and other critics since at least the mid-1960s. Neither of these nationalist narratives has ever been fully accepted by the majority of Mexicans: alternative narratives emerged from—among others—peasant and indigenous communities, urban underclasses, and Catholic groups, and these narratives gave strength and shape to multiple forms of political and cultural resistance. Nonetheless, these twin discourses of Mexican nationalism persist in Mexico because they are embedded in so many aspects of daily life: textbooks, public policies, classic films, monuments, maps, and cookbooks.
Few good, general scholarly overviews of Mexican nationalism from the Independence era to the 2010s are available in English, although Brading 1991 and Lomnitz 2001 (the latter cited under Countermythologies) cover the colonial and early national periods and the post-Revolutionary era, respectively. For the most part, this section contains texts that present or analyze some part of the official history of Mexico, which is one of the two primary underpinnings of Mexican nationalism. This nationalist-historical narrative has been presented in textbooks and political debates, among other sites, and had been an important part of school curriculums from the beginning of public education in Mexico, as shown in Vaughan 1982 and Vaughan 1997. This highly stylized story begins with the preconquest civilizations of Mesoamerica and normally concludes with the Revolutionary governments. A highly influential synthesis, Cosío Villegas 1976, began to open the nationalist-historical narrative to some revisionist accounts and took the story through the upheavals of the late 1960s. More recently, textbooks and reference works have ventured as far as 2010, which makes the story even less smooth and seamless, as in Velásquez García, et al. 2010. However, the more standard account—from the tragedy of the Conquest through the tragedy of the loss of the North, followed by a history centered on the deeds and characters of a small number of political leaders—reemerged in Krauze 1997. The patriotic historical narrative taught in Mexican schools is also embedded in maps, as seen in Craib 2004, and in national holidays, as shown in Beezley, et al. 1994 and Esposito 2010. Sheppard 2016 suggests the uses of this narrative for opponents of the Mexican post-Revolutionary state as well as for its supporters. For the presence of Mexico’s official history in visual art, see the section on Art History. For the philosophical and social-scientific literature, which used this story to underpin essays on the national character, see the sections on the Ensayista Tradition and Critiques of the Ensayista Tradition.
Beezley, William, William E. French, and Cheryl Martin, eds. Rituals of Rule, Rituals of Resistance: Public Celebrations and Popular Culture in Mexico. Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 1994.
The articles in this book begin with 16th-century religious festivals and conclude with village brass bands of the 1970s, connecting popular celebrations to the national mythology that grew up around them.
Brading, David. The First America: The Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots, and the Liberal State, 1492–1867. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Brading argues that Mexicans’ consciousness of themselves as creoles, defined in opposition to peninsulares (Spaniards), developed gradually across the colonial period and determined the form of the Mexican state post-independence.
Cosío Villegas, Daniel, ed. Historia general de México. Mexico City: Colegio de México, 1976.
Although it was never meant as a textbook, this and subsequent editions of the Historia general became the indispensable guide to Mexico’s past for anyone teaching Mexican history. Beginning with cautious departures from the official history, in its final editions (most recently the fourth edition, published in 1998) it had fully incorporated the revisionism offered by social historians.
Craib, Raymond B. Cartographic Mexico: A History of State Fixations and Fugitive Landscapes. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.
This cartographic history demonstrates that maps served as important symbols to unify the country around an identifiable picture. They also helped strengthen Mexico’s national identity domestically and internationally.
Esposito, Matthew D. Funerals, Festivals, and Cultural Politics in Porfirian Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010.
This book examines the importance of state-sponsored funerals and festivals during the Porfiriato, and their relation to the construction of historical narrative and national identity. Esposito argues that commemorations and rituals allowed the state to project its power and create a unified nationalism.
Krauze, Enrique. Mexico, Biography of Power: A History of Modern Mexico, 1810–1996. Translated by Hank Heifitz. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
Emulating earlier ambitious Mexican intellectuals, Krauze combines a standard account of Mexican history before 1880 with a historical narrative for the Porfiriato and beyond that is, essentially, a series of political biographies of the nation’s rulers. These biographical sketches include some discussion of Krauze’s own relationships with some Mexican presidents.
Sheppard, Randal. A Persistent Revolution: History, Nationalism, and Politics in Mexico since 1968. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2016.
Since 1968, both the state and popular movements have evoked historical myths of Mexico’s Revolutionary nationalism as ways to promote or justify their political causes.
Vaughan, Mary Kay. The State, Education, and Social Class in Mexico, 1880–1928. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1982.
The Mexican Revolution made education more accessible, Vaughan writes, while continuing the Porfirian practice of using schools to inculcate national pride and loyalty to the state.
Vaughan, Mary Kay. Cultural Politics in Revolution: Teachers, Peasants, and Schools in Mexico, 1930–1940. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1997.
Post-Revolutionary-constructed state schools in rural Mexican communities provided sites for public dialogue that negotiated power between the local and the national. Rural communities used the schools as spaces to protect their local cultures, while the state used schools to craft a multiethnic populist nationalism based on ideas of development.
Velásquez García, Erik, Enrique Nalda, Pablo Escalante Gonzalbo, et al. Nueva historia general de México. Mexico City: Colegio de México, 2010.
This “New Brief History of Mexico” revises Cosío Villegas’s original Breve historia and was written by a team of distinguished historians (like the original). Expanded to sixteen chapters and 818 pages, it retains the structure of the original, organizing Mexican history around political change and—in the modern period—emphasizing the role of the United States. Unlike the original, it brings the story to the moment of its publication.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Agricultural Technologies
- Ancient Andean Textiles
- Andean Contributions to Rethinking the State and the Natio...
- Andean Music
- Antislavery Narratives
- Arab Diaspora in Brazil, The
- Arab Diaspora in Latin America, The
- Argentina in the Era of Mass Immigration
- Argentina, Slavery in
- Argentine Literature
- Army of Chile in the 19th Century
- Asian Art and Its Impact in the Americas, 1565–1840
- Asian-Peruvian Literature
- Atlantic Creoles
- Baroque and Neo-baroque Literary Tradition
- Beauty in Latin America
- Bello, Andrés
- Black Experience in Colonial Latin America, The
- Black Experience in Modern Latin America, The
- Borderlands in Latin America, Conquest of
- Bourbon Reforms, The
- Brazilian Northeast, History of the
- Buenos Aires
- California Missions, The
- Caribbean Philosophical Association, The
- Caribbean, The Archaeology of the
- Cartagena de Indias
- Caste War of Yucatán, The
- Caudillos, 19th Century
- Cádiz Constitution and Liberalism, The
- Chaco War
- Children, History of
- Chile's Struggle for Independence
- Chronicle, The
- Church in Colonial Latin America, The
- Chávez, Hugo, and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela
- Cinema, Contemporary Brazilian
- Cinema, Latin American
- Colonial Central America
- Colonial Latin America, Crime and Punishment in
- Colonial Latin America, Pilgrimage in
- Colonial Legal History of Peru
- Colonial New Granada
- Colonial Portuguese Amazon Region, from the 17th to 18th C...
- Contemporary Maya, The
- Cortés, Hernán
- Costa Rica
- Cárdenas and Cardenismo
- Cuban Revolution, The
- de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando
- Dependency Theory in Latin American History
- Development of Architecture in New Spain, 1500–1810, The
- Development of Painting in Peru, 1520–1820, The
- Drug Trades in Latin America
- Dutch in South America and the Caribbean, The
- Early Colonial Forms of Native Expression in Mexico and Pe...
- Economies from Independence to Industrialization
- Ecuador, La Generación del 30 in
- Education in New Spain
- El Salvador
- Enlightenment and its Visual Manifestations in Spanish Ame...
- Environmental History
- Era of Porfirio Díaz, 1876–1911, The
- Family History
- Film, Science Fiction
- Football (Soccer) in Latin America
- Franciscans in Colonial Latin America
- From "National Culture" to the "National Popular" and the ...
- Gaucho Literature
- Gender in Colonial Brazil
- Gender in Postcolonial Latin America
- Guaraní and Their Legacy, The
- Guatemala and Yucatan, Conquest of
- Guatemala City
- Guatemala (Colonial Period)
- Guatemala (Modern & National Period)
- Haitian Revolution, The
- Health and Disease in Modern Latin America, History of
- History, Cultural
- History, Food
- Honor in Latin America to 1900
- Horror in Literature and Film in Latin America
- Human Rights in Latin America
- Immigration in Latin America
- Indigenous Elites in the Colonial Andes
- Indigenous Population and Justice System in Central Mexico...
- Indigenous Voices in Literature
- Japanese Presence in Latin America
- Jewish Presence in Latin America, The
- José María Arguedas and Early 21st Century Cultural and Po...
- Las Casas, Bartolomé de
- Latin American Independence
- Latin American Theater and Performance
- Latin American Urbanism, 1850-1950
- Law and Society in Latin America since 1800
- Legal History of New Spain, 16th-17th Centuries
- Legal History of the State and Church in 18th Century New ...
- Literature, Argentinian
- Machado de Assis
- Magical Realism
- Maroon Societies in Latin America
- Martí, José, and Cuba
- Mestizaje and the Legacy of José María Arguedas
- Mexican Nationalism
- Mexican Revolution, 1910–1940, The
- Mexican-US Relations
- Mexico, Conquest of
- Mexico, Education in
- Migration to the United States
- Military and Modern Latin America, The
- Military Government in Latin America, 1959–1990
- Military Institution in Colonial Latin America, The
- Modern Decorative Arts and Design, 1900–2000
- Modern Populism in Latin America
- Modernity and Decoloniality
- Musical Tradition in Latin America, The
- Native Presence in Postconquest Central Peru
- New Conquest History and the New Philology in Colonial Mes...
- New Left in Latin America, The
- Novel, Chronology of the Venezuelan
- Novel of the Mexican Revolution, The
- Novel, 19th Century Haitian
- Novel, The Colombian
- Oaxaca, Conquest and Colonial
- Painting in New Spain, 1521–1820
- Paraguayan War (War of the Triple Alliance)
- Pastoralism in the Andes
- Paz, Octavio
- Perón and Peronism
- Peru, Colonial
- Peru, Conquest of
- Peru, Slavery in
- Philippines Under Spanish Rule, 1571-1898
- Photography in the History of Race and Nation
- Political Exile in Latin America
- Ponce de León
- Popular Culture and Globalization
- Popular Movements in 19th-Century Latin America
- Post Conquest Aztecs
- Post-Conquest Demographic Collapse
- Poverty in Latin America
- Preconquest Incas
- Pre-conquest Mesoamerican States, The
- Pre-Revolutionary Mexico, State and Nation Formation in
- Printing and the Book
- Prints and the Circulation of Colonial Images
- Protestantism in Latin America
- Puerto Rican Literature
- Religions in Latin America
- Revolution and Reaction in Central America
- Rosas, Juan Manuel de
- Sandinista Revolution and the FSLN, The
- Santo Domingo
- Science and Empire in the Iberian Atlantic
- Science and Technology in Modern Latin America
- Sexualities in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Slavery in Brazil
- São Paulo
- Spanish American Arab Literature
- Spanish and Portuguese Trade, 1500–1750
- Spanish Caribbean In The Colonial Period, The
- Spanish Colonial Decorative Arts, 1500-1825
- Spanish Florida
- Spiritual Conquest of Latin America, The
- Sports in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Telenovelas and Melodrama in Latin America
- Textile Traditions of the Andes
- 19th Century and Modernismo Poetry in Spanish America
- 16th-Century New Spain
- Transculturation and Literature
- Trujillo, Rafael
- Tupac Amaru Rebellion, The
- United States and Castro's Cuba in the Cold War, The
- United States and the Guatemalan Revolution, The
- United States Invasion of the Dominican Republic, 1961–196...
- Urban History
- Urbanization in the 20th Century, Latin America’s
- U.S.-Latin American Relations During the Cold War
- Vargas, Getúlio
- Venezuelan Literature
- Women and Labor in 20th-Century Latin America
- Women in Colonial Latin American History
- Women in Modern Latin American History
- Women's Property Rights, Asset Ownership, and Wealth in La...
- Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas