The life in Mexico during the nineteenth century was complicated since the political instability and changes affected ordinary people. During that time, Mexicans experienced wars, revolutions, and numerous rebels. However, their primary aim was to establish stability in their everyday life. The problems with food, shelter and work changed relations between people and helped them to appreciate their culture and families. Mark Wasserman did immense job combining and organizing all the available data in one book. Although, Wasserman’s description of life and politics in nineteenth century Mexico is narrowed due to the lack of space, the book is extremely important for students and specialists since it gives a profound knowledge of that period in the history of the country.
In the book “Everyday Life and Politics in nineteenth Century Mexico” Mark Wasserman reveals the connections between the lives of ordinary people and social elite. The average men and woman struggled for living since they worked hard and still could not satisfy their demands in food, dressing and housing. At the same time, the elite who had enough to conduct secure lives aimed to pursue economic development in the country, stop the political changes and provide stability. It was not easy as far as during the nineteenth century the power in the country changed almost fifty times, thus weakening the social and political situation. Elite’s views on a modern nation differed from the suggestions of common people who refused to change their values and lifestyle. Consequently, the national, regional and local politics and well as everyday life of ordinary people influenced each other.
Common people in the countryside suffered from the injustice of local police officials and political fluctuations. Since the instability in food and shelter affected their everyday lives the ordinary people wanted to regulate their existence and improve living conditions. The Indians had to pay high taxes that made their lives unbearable. Under these circumstances people tried to find ways how to control and protect their everyday lives. Hence, despite the civil conflicts the average Mexicans managed to save their cultural heritage and national traditions that define the originality of the nation. Consequently, the political camps promised to improve their well-being and got support of ordinary men and women and small landholders who controlled almost all fields in Mexico. However, the mass violence was a response to people’s volitions and aims.
Between the 1821 and 1880 Mexico experienced the stagnation of the country’s economy due to the war, differences in views of people from different regions and partisan formations. Moreover, it was a period of industrialization and people, especially women from the villages moved to the cities. The constant warfare altered the economy and society, the lands were devastated and people not certain in their future. The country used its resources not for the development but for damage of its economy and Mexican people experience the consequences till today. The political life of Mexico in the nineteenth century played a significant role in the social and economic history of the country. The foreign aggressors and national leaders were as influential as the ordinary people who were ready for everything in order to save their families and conduct peaceful life.
This period from gaining independence by Mexico till the outbreak of revolution affected cultural, social, political and economic situation in the country. During the war, women were the principal workforce, supplying the Mexican army with food, transportation and equipment. What is more, the author reveals that quite often in the ranks of soldiers were not only men but women as well. The war with the United States left Mexico without its northern territories and caused a reevaluation of country’s politics. However, it led to another tragedy of Mexican nation that was a civil war. The political chaos also resulted in tightening of mutual understanding and aid between people that helped them to overcome this destructive period.
The Mexican society suffered from the wars and reforms that caused violence, unemployment, and damaged major industries. However, people tried to find happiness in their everyday lives. They highly valued the religion and their families as the backbones of their well-being. Furthermore, they find entertainment in drinking that helped to forget about the problems and gambling that became a national obsession. However, after the short period of economic development, creation of working places and building of railroads came revolution. Nevertheless, these average people created the history of Mexico aiming to combine their everyday lives and politics in one mutual and successful symbiosis.
The book gives a solid knowledge of the history of Mexico in the nineteenth century. The thorough organization of the book shows bright description of the political events, life of people and social chaos within that period. I cannot but agree with the author who argued that due to the effort and lives of ordinary people the political, social and economic situation in Mexico had changed. The author narrows presentation of the material to the role of ordinary men and women in the history of Mexico of the nineteenth century. It adds special interest to the books and allows providing in-depth description of the culture besides the social and political sectors. I was amazed by the vivid descriptions of the everyday life and culture of the Mexicans.
Before this substantial work of Mark Wasserman, the history of Mexico in the nineteenth century was not so sufficiently described in any other book. The period seemed to lack information, and all data was limited to the descriptions of the foreign aggressors and their impact. Hence, the author created a unique synthesis of the available historical works, articles and books revealing the true events and realities of that time. Before his book, the historians had to consult a large number of sources separately if they wanted to see the exact events of the nineteenth century. According to the acknowledgment chapter and the footnotes, the author studied almost all available researches and writings that concerned that period. Moreover, he managed to include all the necessary data in one book omitting the unnecessary details and creating “elisions dictated by lack of space”. This fact provides the reliability of the events discussed in the book since the author used a sufficient number of sources and examined the wide variety of books and evidences.
The book is a well written, clear and expert analysis of the everyday life and politics in the country. Its special strengths are in the well-written chronological flow of the events and excellent description of personalities who created the history of Mexico in the nineteenth century. The author divides the history of the nineteenth century into three main parts that reflect events after gaining independence from Spain to the war with the United States, the civil wars of the reform that led to the liberalist governors and preconditions and consequences of the revolution. Wasserman provides the timeline and introduces personalities of Antonio López de Santa Anna, Benito Juarez and Porfirio Diaz who were the leaders during those periods respectively.
What is for me, the book appeared to be extremely thought-provoking since it helped me to realize to full extent the difficulty of this period in the Mexican history. Also, this book largely widened my understanding of the Mexican history in the nineteenth century and gave me profound knowledge of the major personalities. It is essential for me since I realized that those events were the consequences of previous centuries and thus I created links with the current-day Mexico. For instance, Wasserman described the “changes in gender relations” that one can observe in the modern society as well. The author embraces numerous topics including politics and economics and their influence on society, culture and religion. In addition, however, this comprehensive work is not very deep in any mentioned subject it created the overall image of the life and politics during that period. Moreover, the author revealed the true history and supported it with facts, dates and descriptions that helped to destroy the misconception of chaos and disorder in that time.
Consequently, the book “Everyday life and politics in nineteenth century Mexico” by Mark Wasserman gives profound knowledge of the actual history of the country. The author showed the acting personalities, aggressors and ordinary people and their role in the development of country during those days. Thanks to Wasserman we have a perfect symbiosis of the writings and articles reflecting the history of nineteenth century. The book is easy-to-read and would be interesting for the wide audience including students and specialists in the historical studies. The author thoroughly organized the book describing the timelines, personalities and defining the further topics at the end of each chapter. Hence, the historical analysis and research made in the book gives comprehensive idea of Mexican history during the nineteenth century. The book of Mark Wasserman is a treasure for those who are interested in the history of Mexico and especially for the citizens of the country since the successful future is impossible without knowledge of the history.