Accepted Papers:

Military history, memory and politics in Mexico  


Thomas Rath (UCL)

Paper Short Abstract:

Analyzes the construction of military history under the PRI, and its contemporary legacy; focuses on the role of General Francisco Urquizo from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Paper long abstract:

Mexico's military has often been seen as an intensely secretive institution and a taboo subject for public discussion. In the last twenty years, public criticism of the military has increased, although polls reveal that it enjoys considerable public trust and legitimacy. This paper aims to place contemporary debates in historical context by examining how military history and memory were constructed during the formation of the PRI regime. It argues that the government controlled the public image of the military not only through negative sanctions and censorship, but also by promoting its own version of military history. The paper analyzes this process through the career and works of the army officer, historian, and novelist General Francisco Urquizo, focusing on the 1930s-1960s. It focuses on how Urquizo blended the genres of academic history and personal memory, and how his representations of the past aimed to legitimize projects of military reform and state building in which he was deeply involved. In conclusion, the paper suggests that a fuller understanding of the military's relationship with public culture in the past might help explain why the institution has successfully resisted calls for reform during democratization.

panel P33
On Mexican time: politics and the past in twentieth and twenty first-century Mexico