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The Imagined Underworld, The Imagined Underworld, 0803222157, 0-8032-2215-7, 978-0-8032-2215-1, 9780803222151, James Alex Garza , , The Imagined Underworld, 0803215835, 0-8032-1583-5, 978-0-8032-1583-2, 9780803215832, James Alex Garza , , The Imagined Underworld, 080322804X, 0-8032-2804-X, 978-0-8032-2804-7, 9780803228047, James A Garza

The Imagined Underworld
Sex, Crime, and Vice in Porfirian Mexico City
James Alex Garza

2008. 232 pp.
3 photographs, index
$24.95 x
Out of Stock
2009. 232 pp.
3 photographs, index
$24.95 s

Emerging from decades of turmoil, late nineteenth-century Mexico City was a capital in transition. Yet as the city (and its republic) embraced technological and social change, it still faced perceptions of widespread crime and disorder. Accordingly, the Porfirian government relied on an elite group of government officials, prominent citizens, politicians, urban professionals, and newspaper editors to elevate the Mexican nation from its perceived backward condition. Influenced by prevailing social theories, such as positivism and social Darwinism, this ruling class sought not only modernization but also the imposition of national morals. While elites sought to guide and educate the middle class toward this ideal, they viewed the growing underclass with apprehension and fear.
Through a careful examination of judicial records, newspapers, government documents, and travelers’ accounts, The Imagined Underworld uncovers the truth behind six of nineteenth-century Mexico’s most infamous crimes, including those of the serial killer “El Chalequero.” During his sensational trial, ruling elites linked the killer’s villainous acts with the impoverished urban world he inhabited and victimized. This pattern was not limited to the most nefarious criminals; rather it would be repeated for all crimes committed by the poor. In an effort to construct a social barrier between the classes, elites invented a dangerous urban periphery populated by imaginary Mexicans—degenerate, deviant, and murderous. However, the Porfirian elite did not count on middle-class and police involvement in crime—and in numerous incidents, including a deadly love triangle, elites were betrayed by their own role in criminality. By analyzing the cases used to forge the underworld and those that defied its myth, Garza uncovers the complex reality that existed beyond the Porfirian ideals of order and progress.

James Alex Garza is an assistant professor of history and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

"This is an accessible and welcome contribution to the expanding historiography or Porfirian crime and criminality that has provided another means by which Mexican historians have understood capitalist modernization in the belle époque capital city and beyond."—Steven B. Bunker, The Americas

"James Alex Garza has written a thoughtful social history of sex, crime, and vice in late nineteenth-century Mexico. . . . Chapters from this valuable work would perfectly complement university courses on Mexican history and the Porfiriato and Mexican Revolution."—Lee M. Penyak, Hispanic American Historical Review

"The Imagined Underworld offers a fascinating look at media representations of crime and criminality in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Mexico City. . . . The Imagined Underworld [is] an eminently readable and teachable book, one that will likely fascinate and educate students of Mexican history for some time."—Robert Buffington, Journal of Latin American Studies

"Garza's detailed case studies and alluring depiction of the construction and experiences of crime and criminality in Porfirian Mexico City will nicely complement courses on modern Mexico and the Mexican Revolution."—Mark Overmyer-Velazquez, American Historical Review

Also of Interest

Judas at the Jockey Club and Other Episodes of Por
William H. Beezley

Criminal and Citizen in Modern Mexico
Robert M. Buffington

Everyday Nation-State
Justin Wolfe

Santa Anna of Mexico
Will Fowler