All historians think that their period o√ers the greatest clue to the present,
or perhaps the present influences their analysis of the past so much that the
two become blurred. My work on the historical genealogy of elite Mexican
liberals was no doubt influenced by the havoc currently being wreaked by
their twenty-first-century neoliberal heirs. Some of this book was written
in 1996 in the spectacularly beautiful Tepotzlán, Morelos, a town of about
ten thousand, an hour by bus from Mexico City. Tepoztecos are ‘‘self-
consciously traditional,’’ I was informed by a local anthropologist who
drives a town taxi, ‘‘because we know that divided we will be defeated.’’ In
the neighborhood where I lived, as in all the barrios, confraternities
wended their way through the cobblestone streets collecting for the annual
celebration of the patron saint and a seemingly endless array of lesser
celebrations. When a group of the wealthy weekenders who have built
palatial homes near the town complained about these noisy festivals, a
group of townsmen threatened to beat them with sticks. My neighbors
likewise demonstrated a profound ecumenism in relation to their health,
for the public clinic competed for clients with a host of equally appealing
options. Curanderos supplemented antibiotics with herbs, electric mas-
sagers, whirlpool baths, and the mysterious healing powers of twins. The
more mobile made pilgrimages to the miraculous Christ of Chalma; vari-
ous neighbors could be counted on to insert an i.v., deliver a baby, or stitch
a wound.
Tepotzlán’s finest hour struck when several townsmen sold their land to
a multinational conglomerate intent on building an eighteen-hole golf
course ringed by eight hundred luxury homes. The neoliberal government
had already launched its assault on Article 27 of the Constitution, which
had enshrined communal property rights since the Revolution. Under the
new dispensation of private property, the free market, and individual
rights, the land vendors of Tepotzlán felt that their former usufruct claims
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