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A Liberal Nation ?. Modern Mexico Lecture Week 7. Structure of Lecture. i) Liberal patriotism and The New Army ii) The Liberal State and the Church iii) Enacting the Nation. Liberal patriotism and the National Guard.

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a liberal nation

A Liberal Nation ?

Modern Mexico Lecture Week 7

structure of lecture
Structure of Lecture

i) Liberal patriotism and The New Army

ii) The Liberal State and the Church

iii) Enacting the Nation

liberal patriotism and the national guard
Liberal patriotism and the National Guard
  • Three decades of civil and patriotic warfare reshaped Mexico’s i) military organisation , ii) citizenship and iii) political geography

(1846-48 American War, 1854-56 Revolution of Ayutla, 1858-61 Three Years War, 1862-67 French Intervention, 1872 Revolution of la Noria, 1876 Revolution of Tuxtepec)

  • i) Military organisation : a new Liberal Army was rebuilt around the National Guards of the states. Abolished in 1861 by General Jesús González Ortega, the old army was finally dissolved after 1867. Principle of National Guard : armed citizens (policing role passed to the Rurales, established in 1861).
liberal patriotism and the national guard4
Liberal patriotism and the National Guard

ii) Political geography :

power and initiative devolved not only to the states but also to districts and municipalities where NG was raised and financed.


Rise of Liberal Caudillos: e.g. Santiago Vidaurri in Nuevo León, Porfirio Diaz in Oaxaca, Trinidad Garcia de la Cadena in Zacatecas, Luis Terrazas in Chihuahua, etc.

Liberal (and some Conservative) Caudillos determined Mexican politics from 1850s to 1880s

liberal patriotism and the national guard5
Liberal patriotism and the National Guard

Districtsand Municipalities:

Rise of Liberal *caciques (politics before the 1860s had not lacked such local leaders, but they were poorly integrated within the national system)

Remote mining town of Tetela de Ocampo in the Puebla Sierra was home to two Liberal State governors (both started as school teachers and national Guard commanders) and Nahua cacique Juan Francisco Lucas (cacique=leader who remained on his patch).

Remote mining town of Ixtlan in the Sierra Zapoteca of Oaxaca provided Porfirio Diaz with: his apprenticeship at as a 25 yr old Jefe Politico in 1857; with soldiers during the 1850s and 60s; and loyalty throughout his presidency (McNamara, “The road to Ixtlán goes in two directions”).

  • *cacique, caciquismo, cacicazgo,
liberal patriotism and the national guard6
Liberal patriotism and the National Guard

Veteran of Battle of 5 May 1862, c.1922, Xochiapulco, Sierra de Puebla

Armed citizenship

  • service in the National Guard and shedding of blood the Nation provided citizens with negotiating a counter in bids for tax exemption, the right to bear arms, access to land through the desamortización, freedom from compulsory services, political autonomy, musical instruments, roads, schools..... (see Mallon, Peasant and Nation, Thomson, Patriotism and McNamara, Sons of the Sierra)
liberal state governors from tetela de ocampo puebla sierra
Liberal State governors from Tetelade Ocampo, Puebla Sierra

Juan Nepomuceno Méndez (1880-84)

Juan Crisóstomo Bonilla (1876-1880)

ju rez and the liberal state
Juárez and the Liberal State

“Pol-sci” definition of a modern state: the state enjoying a monopoly of violence (coercive power) through police and army. Mexico’s National Guard was an early stage of modern state buildin.Yet National Guards were citizens, answerable to elected authorities, not soldiers. Ambiguity here: colonial “right to rebel”, US right to bear arms, 20th C Mexican zapatista (1910 & 1994)

The assertive, municipalities, districts and states that defeated the Conservatives would, after the defeat the European Intervention, face Liberal federal governments which would gradually, between 1867 and the late 1880s, curtail their autonomy.

For the moment, until the 1870s, Liberals regarded the Church as the chief impediment to a modern secular state and citizenry. The definition of this state would be its legality and secularism as defined by the Reform Laws and the 1857 Constitution, incarnated in a dark-suited lawyer.

benito ju rez 1805 1872
Benito Juárez (1805-1872)

Benito Juárez, Zapotec lawyer from Oaxaca, served as Liberal President for 15 years from 1858-1872

“More than any of the other leaders of the 19th C, Juárez helped form Mexican national identity. After the humiliating defeat by the North Americans, Juárezrestored the nation’s dignity and self-esteem.” Mark Wasserman, Everyday Life and Politics in 19th C Mexico p.93

benito ju rez 1805 187210
Benito Juárez (1805-1872)

“Juárez is a man a little under middle size, with a very dark complexioned Indian face, which is not disfigured, but on the contrary, made more interesting by a very large scar across it. He has very dark piercing eyes, and gives one the impression of being a man who reflects much, and deliberates long and carefully before acting. He wore old English collars and a black neck-tie, and was dressed in black broadcloth” (Princess Salm-Salm, 1864)

benito ju rez 1805 187211
Benito Juárez (1805-1872

“Juárez was a little over five feet tall, strong and stocky. His black coat and tie, cane and white shirt were trademarks. His wife made his shirts. He was neat, despite his hectic life on the run. He carried a pistol on occasion when warranted.” Mark Wasserman, Everyday Life and Politics in 19th C Mexico p.93

liberals and the catholic church
Liberals and the Catholic Church

Almost all Liberals – Moderates or Puros – considered themselves Catholics, many of them devout and practicing (in 1857 Juan Alvarez, old 1810 insurgent leader and leader of the Ayutla revolution, prostrated himself on the Cathedral floor with a bible in one hand and the new Constitution in the other). However, for the first time, a Mexican Constitution failed to recognise Catholicism as the religion of state.

If during the 1820s and 1830s all parties saw the Church as the fount of nationhood, by the 1850s the Church was seen by Liberals as anti-patriotic and anti national (after the Tacubaya revolt of 1857 Liberal commander Santos Degollado accused the clergy of being “indifferent to the loss of Mexican nationality because their nationality is Roman”).

liberals and the catholic church13
Liberals and the Catholic Church

The first reform measures, the Ley Juarez on Civil Registry and the 1857 Constitution were moderate. Clerically backed revolts in 1856 and 1857, followed by the Three Years’ War , involving widespread atrocities on both side (including the execution of prominent Liberal such as Melchor Ocampo, Santos Degollado and Leandro Valle by Conservative General Leonardo Marquez) made Liberals more radical.

 In Aug 1859 the Papacy broke off relations with the Juarez government prompting further anti-clerical decrees. 1856 law had ordered sale of Church property. Laws of 7 & 12 July 1859 nationalised all Church property, regular orders were suppressed and clerical clothing banned. In December 1860 Liberals declared freedom of religion and invited North American Protestant sects to enter the country.

liberal catholicism
Liberal Catholicism
  • 19th C Liberals not anti-religious, merely anti-clerical (directed at the higher clergy and its overlap with the social elite) Pamela Voekel* sees two irreconcilable notions of how men connected to God in the mid 19th C :
  • Ultramontane (RC Church aligned with Rome Catholic and opposed to 18th C Regalism & Gallicanism) : belief in the “indispensable mediation of the Church and Saints with the divine” . This marked a reversal of austere Neo-Classical Catholicism of the 18th and early 19th C with sought to reduce festivals and encourage a more internal engagement with the Divine. Voekel: “...it was the institutional Church, sidling towards papal infallibility, energetically promoting pilgrimages, the saints and the will of Mary, which had fundamentally changed in Mexico in the mid 19thC”

“Liberal Religion: The Schism of 1861” in Martin Austin Nesvig, ed., Religious Culture in Mexico (Lanham, 2008) 780-105

liberal catholicism15
Liberal Catholicism
  • Liberal Catholicism: “moral instincts by which each man sees inside himself”. Pilgrimages, saints and festivals were for the unreasoning masses, gradually to be lifted from fanaticism through education. As for women, Voekel: “mired in the Church’s sensual cult, women, Liberals insisted, were incapable of this lofty sentiment”. Reform Liberals portrayed themselves as a “national masculine force” against a superstitious and feminised enemy (Voekel)

Ultramontane Church increasingly saw the “ideas of the Century” (Liberalism, Democracy, Republicanism, free association and freedom of conscience) as dangerous, leading to atheism, Socialism and Communism.

schismatic church 1861
Schismatic Church 1861

Following Tacubaya Revolt, Liberals attempt to mobilise the lower clergy around the Reform programme: Melchor Ocampo, Liberal leader from Michoacan (v. Catholic state) appoints priest, Rafael Diaz Martinez, to rally clergy behind the Constitution.

In 1859 Santos Degollado brings Liberal Catholicism to the new Liberal army. Sought to imitate the martyrdom of Hidalgo and Morelos. Liberals were the true defenders of “the religion of the crucified...blood fallen on the eyes of the people will open them forever”.

After Liberal triumph in Jan 1861, Diaz Martinez and 9 other priests are granted three Churches in Mexico City

Catholics fight back: women protest en masse, Liberal newspaper offices are torched in 1861

schismatic church 186117
Schismatic Church 1861

- 1861.Charismatic rural priest, Juan Enriquez Oreste, establishes mass following in the Sierra de Tulancingo with fiery sermons. Congregation of Liberal rancheros in Jacalá name him their priest against the authority of the Archbishop. after serving as military chaplain, Enriquez Oreste formed a schismatic movement in Tamaulipas during the 1860s and 70s (Zavala’s prediction that the Northern States would lead in the social and psychological transformation of Mexico )

- 1861: Liberal ideologue, Nicolas Pizarro, publishes a novel El Monedero telling of the formation of a utopian community – “La Nueva Filadelfia” – situated in the Sierra close to Mexico City, attended by reformed clergy (Pizarro’s Political Catechism, required in state schools until the 1870s, urged children to “resist, smile and become martyrs”).

liberals and the catholic church18
Liberals and the Catholic Church

In the end – after the French Intervention – Mexican Catholic hierarchy and Liberal state acknowledge the advantages of the complete separation of Church and State.

Problems thereafter have to with the state encroaching upon what the Church regards as its legitimate sphere: diocesan and parish administration, education, licensing of new religious orders. Diaz conciliates Church 1876-1911. Revolution was partly a result of many Liberal thinking the Church was becoming too powerful. After 1917 State increasingly takes on the Church culminating in Cristero War (1927-1930)

liberals and the catholic church19
Liberals and the Catholic Church
  • Later this term and early next term:

- Catholic Revival: new bishoprics

  • The feminisation of Catholicism (new religious orders, elite charity, etc)

- Increasing assertiveness of popular religion

enacting the nation
Enacting the Nation

Mariano Otero in 1847: “In Mexico that which is called national spirit cannot nor has been able to exist, for there is no nation”

Luis de la Rosa, Impresiones de un Viaje de México a Washington en octubre y noviembre de 1846 (1850): reflects on founding fathers, Miguel Hidalgo and George Washington. Hidalgo awoke a Nation before its time. Washington responded to the existence of a Nation.

In 1850 Mexico had no national map ! (Craib claims)

emperor maximilian to karl ludwig 21 september 1864
Emperor Maximilian to Karl Ludwig, 21 September 1864

Emperor Maximilian, describing Independence Day celebrations in Dolores (Guanajuato) (see Robert Duncan “Embracing a Suitable Past” JLAS (1998)

“You can imagine how embarrassed I was before a tightly packed, silent mass of people. It went off well, thank God, and the enthusiasm was indescribable”

mid 19 th c liberal mexican nation building things to consider
Mid 19th C Liberal Mexican Nation building: things to consider
  • Patriotic warfare and the commemoration of battles and patriotic martyrs and heroes: see Thomson, Duncan, McNamara
  • National Literature: see Wright Rios on Ignacio Altamirano’s “Cuadros de Costumbres” in Mexican Studies (2004)
  • National (Liberal) Catholicism: see Voekel
  • Maps and place names : see Craib “A Nationalist Metaphysics: State Fixations, National Maps and the Geo-Historical Imagination of Mexico” HAHR 2002
  • Painting: Landscapes: Jose Maria Velasco and Eugenio Landesio and History: Jose Obregon, (Stacey G Widdifield, The Embodiment of the National in Late Nineteenth Century Mexican Painting