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Funerals, Festivals, and Cultural Politics in Porfirian Mexicoby Matthew D. Esposito
Synopses & Reviews
When President Benito Juárez died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1872, the Mexican government declared a seven-day period of mourning. Nearly the entire population of Mexico City filed past Juárez's body as it lay in state in the National Palace. Over 100,000 people watched the magnificent procession of his hearse, and countless mourners vied for position to listen to his eulogies. Juárez's was the last state funeral for a sitting president in republican Mexico, and the public response proved the existence of a Mexican national community. It also gave birth to the cultural politics and mythical discourse of the Porfirian regime that would overthrow Juárez's successor in 1876.
In 1902 Mexican journalist, congressman, and intellectual Justo Sierra asserted that Mexico gained both national pride and its international personality during the long reign of Porfirio Díaz. Matthew Esposito argues that much of this identity stemmed from Díaz's reliance on memorialism. Over the course of thirty-five years, the Porfirian state constructed dozens of national monuments, performed countless commemorations, and held 110 state funerals. While most historians have argued that Díaz's reign owed its longevity to extralegal activities and personal appeals to loyalty, Esposito examines Díaz's successful manipulation of cults of the dead, hero cults, and national memory to shape the perception of his leadership.
Book News Annotation:
Esposito (history, Drake U.) uses hegemony as a unifying concept to explain the paradoxes of the Mexican state, nationalism, and the regime of eight-term dictator Porfirio Diaz. He argues that the state funerals, commemorative festivals, and construction of monuments of the Porfirian period reveal government and ruling class efforts to create an aura of legitimacy and achieve hegemony without resorting to force or democratic reform. The book includes a chronology of national commemorations in Porfirian Mexico, 1881-1910, appendices of state funerals and reburials of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and b&w historical photos and illustrations. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
During the long dictatorship of Porfirio Daz, from 1876 to 1911, Esposito asserts that Mexico gained both national pride and its international personality due to Diazs reliance on memorialism, death and ceremony. Porfirian state constructed dozens of national monuments, performed countless commemorations, and held 110 state funerals. These magisterial displays of state power created an aura of legitimacy that helped the eight term dictator stay in power.
While most historians have argued that Díaz's reign owed its longevity to extralegal activities and personal appeals to loyalty, this study examines Díaz's successful manipulation of cults of the dead, hero cults, and national memory to shape the perception of his leadership.
About the Author
Matthew D. Esposito is associate professor and chair of the department of history at Drake University. He is the author of numerous articles and reviews on Mexican cultural history.
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History and Social Science » Latin America » Mexico