Guardino makes extensive use of archival materials, including judicial transcripts and newspaper accounts, to illuminate the dramatic contrasts between the local politics of the city and of the countryside, describing in detail how both sets of citizens spoke and acted politically. He contends that although it was the elites who initiated the national change to republicanism, the transition took root only when engaged by subalterns. He convincingly argues that various aspects of the new political paradigms found adherents among even some of the most isolated segments of society and that any subsequent failure of electoral politics was due to an absence of pluralism rather than a lack of widespread political participation.
Peter Guardino is Associate Professor of History at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is the author of Peasants, Politics, and the Formation of Mexico’s National State: Guerrero, 1800–1857.
Through interpretation of a wide array of historical sources—including descriptions of public rituals, accounts of indigenous rebellions, idolatry trials, legal petitions, court cases, land disputes, and indigenous pictorial histories—Yannakakis weaves together an elegant narrative that illuminates political and cultural struggles over the terms of local rule. As cultural brokers, native intermediaries at times reconciled conflicting interests, and at other times positioned themselves in opposing camps over the outcome of municipal elections, the provision of goods and labor, landholding, community ritual, the meaning of indigenous “custom” in relation to Spanish law, and representations of the past. In the process, they shaped an emergent “Indian” identity in tension with other forms of indigenous identity and a political order characterized by a persistent conflict between local autonomy and colonial control. This innovative study provides fresh insight into colonialism’s disparate cultures and the making of race, ethnicity, and the colonial state and legal system in Spanish America.