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Revista Interamericana de Bibliografía (RIB)
Número: 1-4
Título: 1997
Sección: Reseñas Informativas / Informative Reviews

Florencia E. MALLON. Peasant and Nation: The Making of Postcolonial Mexico and Peru. Berkley, CA: University of California Press, 1995. xx, 472 p., maps, notes, index.

In her book Peasant and Nation, Florencia Mallon presents a comparative archaelogy of popular political cultures in Mexico and Peru and the reinsertion of those cultures into the so- called political history.

The analysis of the author starts from a relatively simple premise: at the beginning of Latin America’s postcolonial history, Mexico and Peru were roughly comparable. They had the great centers of pre-Columbian indigenous civilizations and of Spanish imperial rule.They had the richest silver mines, the wealthiest colonial elites, and the largest indigenous populations in all of Spanish America. Both countries entered the so-called national period in political disarray, and each faced a good half-century of civil war before efforts at political stabilization began to take hold. In both cases, foreign intervention and occupation interrupted the first attempts at state formation.

But despite these broad similarities, Mexico and Peru followed different historical paths that diverged dramatically by the first decades of the 20th century and certainly by the 1930s. Why? This book provides a partial answer to this simple question by analyzing popular movements and discourses during the second half of the 19th century. Even as these movements and discourses were repressed, defeated and submerged by elite state makers, they marked each country’s political structures and future potential, but it must be emphasized that the book only partially explains the differences between Mexico and Peru.

The organization of Peasant and Nation reflects the author’s theoretical, methodological, and empirical concerns. After an initial theoretical chapter in which Mallon lays out her new approach to nationalism and popular political culture and provides some historical context for Mexico and Peru, the rest is divided into three parts. The first part treats only the Sierra de Puebla where she develops her perspective on popular nationalism, community politics and alternative nationalist discourses. The second part includes three case studies in order to examine the limits as well as the dynamics of popular nationalism. The last one takes a broad comparative view of Mexico and Peru by exploring the differences in historical and political processes in both countries.

Florencia Mallon, professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, provides the reader with extensive information regarding comparative history in order to rethink the relationship between the “national” and the “popular”, and to have a better understanding of the role that peasants play in modern state formation.


1. Estas reseñas fueron preparadas por las sugientes funcionarias de la Secretaría Ejecutiva para el Desarrollo Integral/These reviews were prepared by the following staff members of the Exeuctive Secretariat for Integral Development: María del Carmen Barreneche, María de Icaza, María Teresa Mellenkamp, y Rosario Villanueva Popovici.