Making an Urban Public: Popular Claims to the City in Mexico, 1879-1932
(University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019) by Christina Jiménez
is a social history of the city of Morelia, located in Western Mexico in the state of Michoacán. Set in an era of political and economic change in Mexico, this book brings attention to the ways that ordinary people experienced modernization and attempted to shape the organization of urban space. While English-language urban histories of Mexico tend to focus on the nation’s capital, Jiménez examines a regional hub through its rich local archival sources, especially petitions. She documents the relationship between urban residents and city officials through the language and arguments used by citizens to make claims for resources and justice. The author points out that members of Morelia’s popular classes both wielded the rhetoric of liberalism and made use of ideas about urban belonging that dated to the colonial period. Examining various facets of city life, from popular culture to street vending and political organizing, Jiménez shows the everyday texture of “politicking” in Morelia before, during, and after the Mexican Revolution. She shows that nonelite citizens of Morelia, despite attempts from above to exclude them, enthusiastically participated in urban political culture and creatively deployed various rhetorical strategies to pursue their right to the city.
Rachel Grace Newman is Lecturer in the History of the Global South at Smith College. She has a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University, and her dissertation was titled “Transnational Ambitions: Student Migrants and the Making of a National Future in Twentieth-Century Mexico.” She is also the author of a book on a binational program for migrant children whose families divided their time between Michoacán, Mexico and Watsonville, California. She is on Twitter @rachelgnew.