Contextualization: What Story Do These Chapters Tell?
In this concluding chapter, I suggest that the history of Mexico re-
counted in these chapters is the story of power in twentieth- century
Latin America, an account of politics and economic development
and the tensions and pageantry of citizenship from the depression
of 1929 through the establishment of neoliberalism in the 1990s. The
Mexican Revolution was the fi rst and most dramatic event in what
we might call “the people coming on the scene” in twentieth- century
Latin America, and it set the stage for much that was to follow. It
was an explosive arrival in terms of ordinary people coming to
“count” in national public narratives and politics.
Since colonial times and throughout the nineteenth century, or-
dinary and oft en poor Latin Americans— peasants, small farmers,
Indians, domestic servants, women, slaves, blacks, factory workers,
unemployed youth, students, small artisans, and shopkeepers—
were at times able to stir up trouble or make themselves heard, but
they were not recognized as having a right to a po liti cal voice or eco-
nomic well- being. The running of the nation and the enjoyment of
its material benefi ts, from capital cities to the smallest town halls,
were the province of elites.
In the de cades following the Mexican Revolution, ordinary
people in Latin America came on the scene in country aft er coun-
try, making claims to ser gente—to be fully human and count as
citizens— and having those claims recognized. In general, these
eff orts were less violent— and the results in national policymak-
ing less thoroughgoing— than in Mexico. But across the hemi sphere
Jeff rey W. Rubin
What 1938– 1968 Tells Us about Mexico, Power,
and Latin America’s Twentieth Century
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