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The Romance of Democracy

The Romance of Democracy: Compliant Defiance in Contemporary Mexico

Matthew C. Gutmann
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: 1
Pages: 318
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  • Book Info
    The Romance of Democracy
    Book Description:

    The Romance of Democracygives a unique insider perspective on contemporary Mexico by examining the meaning of democracy in the lives of working-class residents in Mexico City today. A highly absorbing and vividly detailed ethnographic study of popular politics and official subjugation, the book provides a detailed, bottom-up exploration of what men and women think about national and neighborhood democracy, what their dreams are for a better society, and how these dreams play out in their daily lives. Based on extensive fieldwork in the same neighborhood he discussed in his acclaimed bookThe Meanings of Macho,Matthew C. Gutmann now explores the possibilities for political and social change in the world's most populous city. In the process he provides a new perspective on many issues affecting Mexicans countrywide.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93663-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    M. C. G.
  4. Preface: Provoking Ten Burros and a Genius
    (pp. xv-xxx)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Compliant Defiance in Colonia Santo Domingo
    (pp. 1-25)

    The Romance of Democracyis an ethnographic study of popular politics and official subjugation in the world’s most populous city; a detailed, bottom-up exploration of the lives of residents of a poor working-class neighborhood of the Mexican capital; and an examination of how, when, and why they seek to change their political worlds, and how, when, and why they participate in or eschew the politics of politics. This is a book about what these men and women think about national and neighborhood democracy, about their dreams of a better society, and about their sense of themselves as cultural citizens.


  6. CHAPTER 2 The Children of (Oscar) Lewis
    (pp. 26-60)

    Oscar Lewis (1914–1970) was a North American anthropologist who lived and worked in Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, as well as among Native Americans and in India, for three decades from the 1940s until his death in 1970. He was the author of such classic studies asLife in a Mexican Village(1951),Five Families(1959),The Children of Sánchez(1961), andLa Vida(1965). Although Lewis is still read by anthropology students in Mexico, few of my undergraduates in the United States have heard of him, much less studied his ethnographies. Nevertheless, curiously enough, in the United States...

  7. CHAPTER 3 1968—The Massacre at Tlatelolco
    (pp. 61-72)

    Gustavo Díaz Ordaz was president of Mexico from 1964 to 1970. On October 2, 1968, he presided over, and many feel ordered, the massacre of hundreds of students and protesters in the Tlatelolco housing complex just north of downtown Mexico City.² The reference in the chapter’s epigraph to Bill Clinton, of course, recalls the Monica Lewinsky affair that provided front-page titillation to so many people around the world in 1999. Indeed, as I was gathering material for this book, I often asked friends in Santo Domingo about one or another aspect of political life in Mexico City, and they often...

  8. CHAPTER 4 For Whom the Taco Bells Toll
    (pp. 73-96)

    For Angela, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) always held the promise of greater access to goods from the United States.¹ In her case, what she most wanted were size 10½ wide shoes for her badly swollen grandmother feet. As for Angela’s neighbor Toño, like most men in Colonia Santo Domingo he has had a hard time finding steady employment in the 1990s. To Toño, the treaty represented the potential for growth of U.S. business investment in central Mexico. Even if it might mean slaving in a low-wage maquiladora assembly plant, Toño had high hopes for better job prospects...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Crossing Borders
    (pp. 97-108)

    Not so many years ago, I worked as a waiter in a restaurant in the swanky Galleria mall of Houston, Texas. Among the wait staff there was regular grousing about the Mexican customers who would arrive on a Friday evening for a weekend of shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord and Taylor, and Neiman Marcus, returning to the restaurant over the course of the weekend to snack and compare shopping purchases . . . and who would leave us 5 percent tips. These were the weekend Houstonians, the Mexicans who flew in to Hobby and Intercontinental airports on Friday afternoon...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Rituals of Resistance, or, Diminished Expectations after Socialism
    (pp. 109-142)

    “You must have begun drinking when you were six,” I teased Gabriel, as we sat in the warm June sun on a wall atop the extinct volcano Xitle in the mountains ringing southern Mexico City.

    “No, even before that,” he corrected me. “You know why I began before? Because maybe I’ve inherited something from my father. Maybe I began when I was conceived. That’s when I began to drink. It might be. It might be something inherited.”


    “Might be. Maybe an escape; it’s the most likely. Sometimes, because of the way I think, I feel like I don’t fit,...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Chiapas and Mexican Blood
    (pp. 143-157)

    Depending on the myth invoked, Mexico is populated either by three great ancestral cultures or one overarching race—or both. The three cultures, Mexican schoolchildren are taught, are Spanish, Indian, and Mestizo. The one race is mestizo, and refers to a metaphorical hybrid of Spanish and Indian blood that has, through centuries of miscegenation, combined to form something unique: the Mexican. The fact remains, however, that regardless of the fabled power of this folklore, the living indigenous peoples of Mexico—roughly 10 percent of the population overall, or ten million people in 2000—are ignored and/or despised by most of...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Engendering Popular Political Culture
    (pp. 158-191)

    Many studies of women and politics in Mexico and Latin America have documented women’s recent participation in formal events such as voting, as well as in more rough-and-tumble activities involving women asmilitantesin popular social movements in neighborhoods like Colonia Santo Domingo. In part because women were ignored in earlier mainstream political science research—or, if addressed at all, gender was treated as simply one more variable in multiple regression analyses of voting patterns—these new studies on women have sought to reveal some of the engendered qualities of political culture.

    Using the presidential campaigns of 1988, 1994, and...

  13. CHAPTER 9 UNAM Strike
    (pp. 192-206)

    On April 20, 1999, a student strike was launched to protest announced tuition hikes at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Mexico’s National University. With nearly 300,000 students, UNAM is one of the largest universities in the world and has been essentially a tuition-free public institution. The nominal payment required of students has amounted to pennies a year and had been in effect since the 1940s. Generations of political, scientific, and intellectual leaders from Mexico and Latin America more broadly have been trained at the UNAM; indeed, four of the last six Mexican presidents and, apparently, Subcomandante Marcos attended...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Political Fantasies
    (pp. 207-232)

    A few weeks after the presidential election in July 2000, when I mentioned to Gabriel that I was headed to a bookstore to buy a new edition of a book titledLa democracia ausente(Absent Democracy), he shot back, “Bueno, ahora está presente, !pero vale madres¡” (Good, now it’s present, but it’s worth shit!).¹ His was just one voice, of course, but when the PRI lost the presidency in the summer of 2000, Gabriel was hardly alone in feeling more worried than elated about the future for poor people in Mexico. In marked contrast to the jubilant perspective offered by...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 233-248)
  16. Glossary
    (pp. 249-252)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-280)
  18. Index
    (pp. 281-289)