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Specters of Revolution: Peasant Guerrillas in the Cold War Mexican Countrysideby Alexander Avina
Synopses & Reviews
Specters of Revolution chronicles the subaltern political history of peasant guerrilla movements that emerged in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero during the late 1960s. The National Revolutionary Civic Association (ACNR) and the Party of the Poor (PDLP), led by schoolteachers Genaro Vázquez and Lucio Cabañas, respectively, organized popularly-backed revolutionary armed struggles that sought the overthrow of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Both guerrilla organizations materialized from a decades-long history of massacres and everyday forms of terror committed by local-regional political bosses and the Mexican federal government against citizen social movements that demanded the redemption of constitutional rights. The book reveals that these revolutionary movements developed after years of exhausting legal, constitutional pathways of redress (focused on issues of economic justice and electoral rights) and surviving several state-directed massacres throughout the 1960s. As such, the peasant guerrillas represented only the final phase of a social process with roots in the unfulfilled promises of the 1910 Mexican Revolution and the dual capitalist modernization-political authoritarian program adopted by the PRI after 1940.
The history of the ACNR and PDLP guerrillas, and the brutal counterinsurgency waged against them by the PRI regime, challenges Mexico's place within the historiography of post-1945 Latin America. At the local and regional levels parts of Mexico like Guerrero experienced instances of authoritarian rule, popular political radicalization, and brutal counterinsurgency that fully inserts the nation into a Cold War Latin American history of state terror and "dirty wars." This study simultaneously exposes the violent underbelly that underscored the PRI's ruling tenure after 1940 and explodes the myth that Mexico constituted an island of relative peace and stability surrounded by a sea of military dictatorships during the Cold War.
The 1960s represented a revolutionary moment around the globe. In rural Mexico, several guerrilla groups organized to fight against the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Specters of Revolution chronicles two peasant guerrilla organizations led by schoolteachers, the National Revolutionary Civil Association (ACNR) and the Party of the Poor (PDLP), which waged revolutionary armed struggles to overthrow the PRI. Both emerged to fight decades of massacres and everyday forms of terror committed by the government against citizen social movements that demanded the redemption of constitutional rights. This book reveals that these movements developed after years of seeking legal, constitutional pathways of redress, focused on economic justice and electoral rights, and became subject to brutal counterinsurgencies. Relying upon recently declassified intelligence and military documents and oral histories, it documents how long-held rural utopian ideals drove peasant political action that gradually became radicalized in the face of persistent state terror and violence. Placing Mexico into the broader history of post-1945 Latin America, Specters of Revolution explodes the myth that Mexico constituted an island of relative peace and stability surrounded by a sea of military dictatorships during the Cold War.
About the Author
Alexander Avina is Assistant Professor of History at Florida State University.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Guerrilla Ghosts in the Mexican Countryside
1. Traditions and Legacies of Rebellion
2. A Lesson in Civic Insurgency
3. A Moment of True Democracy
4. Re-treading Old Paths, Forging New Routes
5. "There Was No Other Way"
6. A Poor People's Revolution
Conclusion: A Poor People's Utopia
Epilogue: "The Bones Will Tell Us What Happened"
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