In This Review

The Other Rebellion: Popular Violence, Ideology, and the Mexican Struggle for Independence, 1810-1821
The Other Rebellion: Popular Violence, Ideology, and the Mexican Struggle for Independence, 1810-1821
By Eric Van Young
Stanford University Press, 2001, 701 pp
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Van Young revisits Mexico's struggle for independence during the critical and turbulent years between 1810 and 1821. His rich, detailed documentation paints a comprehensive picture of the chaos and human dimensions of the deep divisions cutting across Mexican society. The Mexican struggle for independence, he writes, had two major components: an elite creole struggle to seize power from the colonial authorities and a popular rural uprising. The popular rebellion was deeply conservative and based in ethnic identity and culture. It sought to vindicate long-term animosities or defend embattled communities rather than achieve a military or political independence from Spain, and it was hostile to the values of modernization and commercialization implicit in the language of an Atlantic revolutionary ideology. Van Young also looks at the role of communal violence as he tries to explain some of the lasting paradoxes and ambiguities of the time; indigenous peasant insurgencies, for example, loudly proclaimed their loyalty to the king of Spain while murdering with great enthusiasm any Spaniard they encountered. This monumental book demonstrates why nation building was so difficult for Mexico during the nineteenth century -- and it reveals the enduring patterns of social conflict that reemerged almost a century later in the Mexican Revolution.