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The Political Evolution of the Mexican People

The Political Evolution of the Mexican People
Translated by Charles Ramsdell; introduction by Edmundo O'Gorman; prologue by Alfonso Reyes

This classical synthesis of Mexican history, written on the eve of the Mexican Revolution, gave direction to the generation that furnished the Revolution's intellectual leaders.

January 1969
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426 pages | 6 x 9 |

Are the Mexican people the children of Moctezuma or the children of Cortés? This question, long the central problem of Mexican historians, Justo Sierra answered by saying, "The Mexicans are the sons of the two peoples, of the two races … to this we owe our soul."

Because Sierra recognized the dual parentage, he was able to view his country's history as an evolutionary process. Formed in both the indigenous past and the colonial past, the Mexican people, after three hundred years of slow and painful gestation, were finally born with the arrival of Independence. They came of age when the Reform, the Republic, and the nation achieved a single identity.

This classical synthesis, written on the eve of the Mexican Revolution, gave direction to the generation that furnished the Revolution's intellectual leaders. Although the author was Secretary of Public Instruction in the dictatorial regime of Porfirio Díaz, he was the first historian to show sympathy for the plight of the masses, and his book ends with the warning that political evolution has lost its way unless the result is freedom.

As Edmundo O'Gorman points out in an important essay on Mexican historiography, written especially for this edition, Sierra was also the first to write a history of his nation in a sincere endeavor to get at the truth, instead of shaping his account to prove a thesis or to preach some political faith. And yet, his work "owes its originality and its lasting merit to his vigorous interpretation of Mexico's history in the light of his convictions, of his keen insight, even of his fears." Though the chapters on the pre-Columbian Indian have been rendered obsolete by later archeological discoveries, the rest of the history is still valid and needs only to be brought up to date.

  • Publisher’s Note
  • Introduction by Edmundo O’Gorman
  • Foreword by Edmundo O’Gorman (1948 Edition)
  • Prologue by Alfonso Reyes (1940 Edition)
  • Book One: Aboriginal Civilizations and the Conquest
    • Chapter 1: Aboriginal Civilizations, I
    • Chapter 2: Aboriginal Civilizations, II
    • Chapter 3: The Conquest
  • Book Two: The Colonial Period and Independence
    • Chapter 1: Founders and Settlers
    • Chapter 2: The Peacemakers
    • Chapter 3: Social Organization
    • Chapter 4: Political Organization
    • Chapter 5: Social Growth (Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries)
    • Chapter 6: Social Growth (Eighteenth Century)
    • Chapter 7: Independence, I
    • Chapter 8: Independence, II
  • Book Three: The Republic
    • Part I: Anarchy
      • Chapter 1: The Empire (1821–1823)
      • Chapter 2: Federation and Militarism (1823–1835).
      • Chapter 3: Centralism and Conflict with the United States (1835–1848)
    • Part II: The Reform
      • Chapter 1: Reorganisation and Reaction (1848–1857)
      • Chapter 2: The Three-Years War (1858–1860)
      • Chapter 3: The French Intervention (1861–1867)
    • Part III: The Present Era
  • Index

Justo Sierra (1848-1912) was awarded first place in Mexican literature by Alfonso Reyes (1889-1959), foremost man of letters in his time. Of Sierra's most important work, Reyes wrote, "Whosoever does not know this history does not know us, and whosoever does know it will hardly deny us his sympathy."

Charles Ramsdell (1909–1973), a Texan who has lived in Mexico, was a staff writer for the San Antonio Express Sunday Magazine and contributed to The Saturday Evening Post, Encyclopedia Britannica, Southwest Review, and other publications.