Paying for progress : politics, ethnicity and schools in a Mexican Sierra, 1875-1930
This thesis studies the secular schools sustained by two rural municipalities of majority Indian population in the Sierra Norte de Puebla in the periods before and after the 1910 Revolution (1875-1930). In order to assess the role of schools in the community and their contribution to nation-state building, it examines changes in the tax system that affected educational provision, the mutual interaction between schools, politics and inter-ethnic relations at the local level, and the methods used and problems faced when teaching Indian children to read and write in Spanish. The approach of social history is followed to address these questions, seeking to strike a balance between the necessary recognition of the agency of subordinate groups and the complexities of power relations that kept them dominated. Taking a local perspective and using a variety of sources including previously untapped municipal archives, this study both complements and challenges the history of education and nation-state building in modem Mexico. This thesis shows how, before 1910, municipal schools were successfully sustained by locally-controlled taxes and how post-revolutionary policies, contrary to the prevalent view in Mexican historiography, did not necessarily have positive consequences for education. In this case they had a negative impact by abolishing the tax system that had sustained schools, without providing an effective alternative. In organising themselves to fund schools, communities proved to be stronger than the post-revolutionary state. Seeking to contribute to an incipient but growing history of Indian education, this study analyses classroom practice, showing how speakers of Indian languages were at a disadvantage in school. After the revolution, there was a growing awareness of the specific needs of Indian children, but the methods adopted did not necessarily result in more effective learning of Spanish. In fact, the thesis argues that throughout the period of study schools contributed to non- Indian domination by reproducing and reinforcing Indians' linguistic disadvantage.