The Hope and Fear of Institutions
In 1917, in the midst of Mexico’s revolutionary fervor, as lawmakers met
to define the new institutional foundations of the nation’s political life,
Alfonso Cravioto, a federal deputy from the state of Hidalgo, posed the
following question to his congressional colleagues:
I say this: leadership posts of National Representation, beyond a real function,
have an honorific character, the character of representing the trustworthiness
of the Chamber. . . . This morning, I discussed an argument with a group
of colleagues that I find formidable in light of the justification we are con-
sidering. Can you imagine someone daring to include in the by-laws that a
president [of the Chamber] should be deposed if he proved to be a pederast?
No. Undoubtedly not. How could we anticipate such a case? The very act of
anticipating it in the by-laws denigrates National Representation to the ut-
most, not just because we could believe that an individual of such low morals
and such a physical degeneration could sit among us but also that we would
make such a terrible mistake as to choose a man of such a frighteningly low
sensual category, placing him in the Presidency. But I ask you: what would
the National Representation do if, by misfortune, the acting president at any
given moment proved to belong to this class of men and a participant in one
of those public dances that are unfortunately taking place in our midst, and
this were published in the papers? I ask you: would the National Representa-
tion tolerate having this individual at its command for even a moment: at its
highest post and presiding over our
The answer, of course, was no. The question, indeed, was rhetorical. Law-
makers presumably took for granted the relations of power constituted by
sexual stigma and their replication in the federal Congress at this founda-
tional moment in the nation’s political life. The legislative field, after all,
was a gendered terrain—even if enforced informally, left unspoken—and
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