Introduction: Reasons to Be Cheerful
This is not another book about the Mexican revolution. Nor is it a collec-
tion of essays on the modalities of state formation or nationalism in Mex-
ico. Even less is it a series of analyses of forms of U.S. intervention in
Mexican political life. This book is about people.
The essays that follow are concerned with understanding the people of
the Mexican countryside, peasants and Indians who for centuries have par-
ticipated in a succession ofrevolts and rebellions thereby forcing changes in
the society as a whole and determining the character of the Mexican
nation. By their actions they have, in compelling and occasionally heroic
fashion, given the lie to an assumption often shared by liberal and Marxist
analysts alike that the peasantry is essentially limited and backward or
comparable to a "sack ofpotatoes." Despite this well-documented history
of struggle, however, the custom in recent decades has been to aver the
judgment that rural revolts in Mexico have resulted only in a series of
defeats for the peasantry.
When first assembling these essays in 1987, I shared that judgment.
What I did not share was the cynical basis routinely informing it, a basis
generally linked to perspectives articulated from above by intellectuals or
state functionaries. And neither is that cynicism (whether pragmatic, real-
istic, or shamelessly neoliberal in character) evident in the chapters that
follow. Instead they make original contributions toward understanding the
setbacks experienced by the Mexican peasantry-in ways that do not write
peasants, and subaltern social groups and classes generally, out of the
picture, out of history. Hence the evidence they provide, combined with
the impact of the
since 1994 in refashioning the languages ofpoliti-
cal discourse and political struggle throughout Mexico, convince me that
that judgment is no longer valid in 1997.
The political defeats rural Mexicans have suffered, and yet persisted in
the face of, are historical outcomes of their active engagement with other
classes of Mexican society. As Adolfo Gilly persuasively argues below, the