The Counternarratives of Doña Lucha: Popular Politics, Democracy, and Citizenship on the Peripheries of Guadalajara, Mexico (1965-1994)

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Wright, Brad H
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Middle Tennessee State University
This study seeks to better understand the heterogeneous lives and political cultures of the poor majorities during a period in Mexican history (1970s-1990s) of capitalist transition to neoliberalism and political democratization. The emerging historiography on 1970s and 1980s Mexico has yet to explore how rural migrants to urban centers survived, resisted domination and control, and advanced their own interests. Given the difficulties some Left movements experienced in building the mass working-class bases they envisioned in the post-1968 period, what was the nature and impact of popular politics in urban Mexico? This dissertation reconstructs a powerful social movement and explores its intersections with everyday life in the city. The case of Guadalajara underlines the vital role religious thought and practice played in power relations in Mexico’s regions. In Mexico’s second biggest city, Christian base communities (CEBs) and Freirian popular education projects converged in the urban popular movement to fuel contentious politics and democratic imaginaries among residents of the urban peripheries. Liberationist Christianity shaped the development of a grassroots, oppositional presence in the local public sphere. The CEB-led movement elaborated a political repertoire during the 1970s that broader movements capitalized on in the 1980s and 1990s. In a period characterized by the severing of social fabrics, and a place known for its conservatism, groups anchored in popular religion and led by working-class women provide models for collectively acting against the odds to negotiate with and occasionally defeat oppressive powers. Women’s leadership is only hinted at in conventional archival sources and suppressed in public representations across the city. Oral histories reveal the outsized roles of neighborhood women and Catholic nuns in galvanizing important urban sociocultural and political transformation. Building upon collaborations with community organizations on public history projects, I offer an interpretive history of independent popular organizing in one urban context in Mexico. This inverted local history from Guadalajara contributes to literature on democracy, citizenship, and the public sphere in twentieth-century Latin America.
Latin American history, Latin American studies