Week 5: Caudillos vs The Nation State

It is interesting to me, how the peg leg of a former Mexican president is still held in an American museum. If this were the other way around, I wouldn’t imagine the Americans being all too pleased about it. Or do the Mexicans not want it back because it’s a reminder of the terrible national disasters they suffered? Even more fascinating is why the Illinois Guardsmen took his leg, and not something of more value, like his head or his body. If this was the so-called “North American Invasion”, coined by the Mexicans, then why wouldn’t the Guardsmen have just killed the Mexican leader? Did they intend to just take his leg?

Another intriguing facet of the Caudillos age to me, was why the Caudillos assumed control. If the countries pushed so hard for independence, did the countries not have a backup system to stabilize their society? It seemed as if the countries losing territory were extremely divided and not as unified as they were when wanting independence. It is also ironic how Dawson writes of the “internal violence, economic catastrophes and territorial losses” of the Caudillo period, yet, “poor rural people often found that they were able to live and work under… more equitable (conditions)”. It also seems to me how the Caudillos could be portrayed like a dictatorship or a gang. Filling the void of previous powers, they can assume control through delivering promises in return for loyalty. For example, the Caudillo Juan Manuel de Rosas of Argentina, “show[ed] no mercy, and his opponents lived in fear of his personal army, the mazroca”, in return, the people received the “economic spoils and personal security gained from order”.

Another compelling aspect of this chapter was how the young, liberal Mexicans were able to pass so many legal reforms and so quickly and seemingly without any opposition. Did the church and others who opposed the reforms ever have any say? It was also interesting to see how much sway the indigenous had in these matters, whether they chose liberals or conservatives, it always depended on which offered them the best deal. In contrast, here in Canada, many of the indigenous peoples have been oppressed and to this day still not have much influence.

~ Austin Chang

One thought on “Week 5: Caudillos vs The Nation State

  1. I like how you debated the value of the leg but wouldn’t the leg be a better trophy than the head as it would last longer. I understand the impactfulness of having a head as a trophy but you could mount that wooden leg onto a wall and have it last years

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