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Modern Mexican History:
From the Porfiriato & the Revolution to the Present

Spring 2013; HIST 30912;
Lectures: M & W 11:45 am —12:35 pm
Discussion: Fridays 11:45 am —12:35 pm & 12:50 pm—1:40 pm

Course Description and Goals

This course is designed to introduce students to the modern history of Mexico and its people. Our studies range from contested visions of the nation during the Porfiriato in the late 19th century to the signing of NAFTA in the 1990s; from the violent years of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917) to the gradual emergence of democracy by the dawn of the 21st century; from the rise of Cardenismo in the 1930s to the fall of the Institutionalized Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 2000 and to its recent “come back” in 2012; and from the many who have struggled with deep poverty to the few who have wielded great economic and political power. 

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have developed an in-depth understanding of:

  • The origins, outcome, significance, and multiple legacies of the “many” Mexican Revolutions (1910-1940);  

  • The reasons for the longevity of the PRI (1929-2000); 

  • The structures and causes behind the rise and fall of Mexico’s “economic miracle (c.1940-c.1968);”

  • The logic underlying the various political movements and grassroots responses that flourished during the conflicting periods of the Revolution, the Cold War Era, and the Neoliberal phase that followed, including the muralist movement of the 1920-30s, the working class uprisings of the late 1950s, the student movements of the 1960s, the feminist and countercultural movement of the 1970s, and the neo-Zapatista rebellion of the 1990s;

  • The structural causes and consequences of the rise of the Narco organization; and

  • The ambivalent and, at times, problematic relationship between Mexico and the United States.

The course is co-taught by Professor Jaime Pensado and the eminent Mexican politician Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas. Mr. Cárdenas is the son of Lázaro Cárdenas, one of Mexico’s most beloved and respected presidents. Like his father, he began his career as a supporter of the PRI. He served the state of Michoacán as a Federal Senator from 1974 to 1980 and as Governor from 1980 to 1986. Two years later, preoccupied by an increasing turn towards neoliberal policies, he distanced himself from the ruling party and ran for president as representative member of the leftist opposition, the National Democratic Front, ultimately losing to the PRI’s Carlos Salinas. It is generally accepted, however, that Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas actually won the election and lost only due to electoral fraud. In 1989, Cárdenas founded Mexico’s most influential leftist opposition, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). As leader of the PRD, Cárdenas ran for president twice more (in 1994 and 2000), and became the first elected Mayor of Mexico City in 1997. Today Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas continues to fight for a more democratic Mexico, a struggle recognized when he was awarded The Notre Dame Prize for Distinguished Public Service in Latin America in 2010.

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