Specters of Revolution
Peasant Guerillas in the Cold War Mexican Countryside
Oxford University Press 2014
Since September 2014, much of Mexico has been gripped by the story of the Ayotzinapa kidnappings – the mass abduction of 43 rural schoolteachers in Iguala in the state of Guerrero. The tragic disappearance of the students has raised questions about the origins, nature, and methods of terror that have seized the nation. Alexander Avina’s new book, Specters of Revolution: Peasant Guerrillas in the Cold War Mexican Countryside (Oxford University Press, 2014), details the origins and memories of state violence during the peasant movement in Guerrero in the 1960s and 1970s. While the nation has long been heralded for its economic growth and political stability in the mid-twentieth century–the so-called Mexican Miracle– Avina reveals the deep, but overlooked, forms of everyday violence waged by the state at the local level.
Using declassified military and intelligence records with oral histories of peasants, this work examines the mobilization of two peasant groups from Guerrero know as the Party of the Poor (PLDP) and the National Revolutionary Civic Association (ACNR). Behind leaders from the normales rurales (rural schools), such as Genaro Vazquez and Lucio Cabanas, Guerrero’s peasants challenged the structural violence and methods of domination of national party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), to advocate for inclusion into the democratic process, greater access to markets, and land reform. They looked to the principles of the Mexican Revolution as they organized through direct civic participation, democratic action, and guerrilla resistance. Beyond simply chronicling this overlooked period in the nation’s past, Avina illustrates that the revolutionary struggles of the peasant movement continues to be fought in the historical memory of the people of Guerrero today. This is a tremendously important work and, somewhat tragically, a timely one as well.