Reconciling Modernity challenges the academic consensus of a simplistic Church-State reconciliation in postrevolutionary Mexico and reveals instead a cultural power struggle between entrenched elite factions, each intending to define Mexico’s national identity. Using documents found in regional archives, Daniel Newcomer provides a new interpretation of how radically opposed conservative and revolutionary elites came to a political détente in the traditional Catholic stronghold of León, Guanajuato, during the 1940s.
León’s conservatives sought to limit the influence of the revolutionary government because state-sponsored modernization projects threatened local character and institutions. Tensions regarding the extent of state power culminated in the 1946 León massacre, during which government troops gunned down more than two dozen citizens. As the defining moment in local history, the violent confrontation helped solidify a new elite consensus, or an “official story,” that hinged on negotiated tenets of modernity—particularly ideals of industrialization and democracy—and supposedly validated state power among the general population.
Newcomer argues that advocates of the revolutionary state and their local opposition, including the pro-Catholic Sinarquistas, attempted to create “hegemonic appearances” to legitimate their claims to political power but ultimately relied on a rationalization of the use of state violence to enforce the social order they idealized. Reconciling Modernity concludes that the postrevolutionary government proved unable to legitimize its rule among the popular classes and reveals how history written by the victors can obscure the processes of historical change.
Daniel Newcomer is an assistant professor of history at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas.