Crime Contested
Crime in Mexico City between 1900 and 1931 developed in two distinct
rhythms. One was swift: from the proud capital of Porfirian progress,
through the besieged and hungry center of the civil war, to the optimistic
heart of postrevolutionary reconstruction in the 1920s, the city experienced
great changes in thirty years. The institutions and ideas around crime also
changed at a fast pace compared to the periods of slower reform that pre-
ceded and followed those years. Never in the past had the Mexican state
been so aggressive and resourceful against suspects: arrest campaigns, large
prisons, leva, and transportation to penal colonies were brought to bear
in rapid succession. Images of crime reinforced the impression of dizzying
transformation, from the ragged, rural, knife-wielding pulquería fighters of
the turn of the century, through the fearful revolutionary soldiers, to the
sophisticated car-driving professionals of the postrevolutionary era.
Although these transformations left an imprint on public opinion, they
masked changes taking place at a different pace. There were consistent rules
governing violence, theft, the perceptions of and reactions to crime, and the
negotiations established by all actors before and during the intervention of
police and judges.The results of these interactions were not always positive;
violence combined with male domination to silence young victims, and cor-
ruption, delays, and neglect defined the judicial process. Yet everyday pat-
terns of crime were resistant to change and the chronological boundaries of
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