Riot and Rebellion in Mexico
The Making of a Race War Paradigm
319 Pages, 1 b&w photo, 2 b&w illus., 10 b&w maps
Sales Date: February 8, 2022
2023 Best Book in the Humanities, Latin American Studies Association Mexico Section
Challenging conventional narratives of Mexican history, this book establishes race-making as a central instrument for the repression of social upheaval in nineteenth-century Mexico rather than a relic of the colonial-era caste system.
Many scholars assert that Mexico’s complex racial hierarchy, inherited from Spanish colonialism, became obsolete by the turn of the nineteenth century as class-based distinctions became more prominent and a largely mestizo population emerged. But the residues of the colonial caste system did not simply dissolve after Mexico gained independence. Rather, Ana Sabau argues, ever-present fears of racial uprising among elites and authorities led to persistent governmental techniques and ideologies designed to separate and control people based on their perceived racial status, as well as to the implementation of projects for development in fringe areas of the country.
Riot and Rebellion in Mexico traces this race-based narrative through three historical flashpoints: the Bajío riots, the Haitian Revolution, and the Yucatan’s caste war. Sabau shows how rebellions were treated as racially motivated events rather than political acts and how the racialization of popular and indigenous sectors coincided with the construction of “whiteness” in Mexico. Drawing on diverse primary sources, Sabau demonstrates how the race war paradigm was mobilized in foreign and domestic affairs and reveals the foundations of a racial state and racially stratified society that persist today.
A rigorous, thoughtful, and intellectually inspiring genealogy of how the idea of a “race war” was imputed to social conflicts in New Spain/Mexico during the long nineteenth century, as well as how one can discern a “rebel archive” of challenges to that paradigm from racialized social movements at each and every turn. There is no book quite like Riot and Rebellion in Mexico, and it will surely make a serious and sustained impact on many fields for years to come.
— David Kazanjian, author of The Brink of Freedom: Improvising Life in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic WorldThis groundbreaking study takes the discussion of race relations to the forefront of Mexican colonial and postcolonial history, showing how the question of race pervades governance structures, labor regimes, and the material and symbolic organization of space.
— Adela Pineda Franco, coeditor of Open Borders to a Revolution: Culture, Politics, and MigrationTo undertake such an ambitious spatial and temporal project, Sabau closely analyzes a handful of documents generated by colonial and republican authorities as they sought to manage violent opposition.
— Hispanic American Historical Review
- Part I. The Bajío
- Chapter 1. Vanishing Indianness: Pacification and the Production of Race in the 1767 Bajío Riots
- Chapter 2. “So That They May Be Free of All Those Things”: Theorizing Collective Action in the Bajío Riots
- Coda 1. From the Country to the City: Movement, Labor, and Race at the End of the Eighteenth Century
- Part II. Haiti
- Chapter 3. The Domino Affect: Haiti, New Spain, and the Racial Pedagogy of Distance
- Chapter 4. Staging Fear and Freedom: Haiti’s Shifting Proximities at the Time of Mexican Independence
- Coda 2. Haiti in Mexico’s Early Republican Context
- Part III. Yucatán
- Chapter 5. On Criminality, Race, and Labor: Indenture and the Caste War
- Chapter 6. The Shapes of a Desert: The Racial Cartographies of the Caste War
- Coda 3. “Barbarous Mexico”: Racialized Coercive Labor from Sonora to Yucatán