Required Reading:

In lieu of prerequisite courses for Conexiones 2010, we are asking students to complete a series of readings on Mexican history and culture. This way we are assured that all students will have a shared, minimum level of knowledge about Mexico when the Field Session begins. It has been our experience that the more information our students have on Mexico, the better and richer the experience of Conexiones will be. And so, we ask our students to do the required reading described below and to document their completion of that reading by handing in written answers to the four essay questions that are likewise listed below:


Reading List, The Mexico Reader

Conexiones 2010 Mexico: Pre-Departure Essay Questions:
( download)

The following questions are based on the reading list for The Mexico Reader. All students who are participating in Conexiones 2010 are required to complete the readings and the following essays. Your essays must be turned in to Dr. Michael Thomas no later than June 25, 2010. Students who do not complete this requirement will not be allowed to participate in the program.
Each essay should be at least two typed, doubled-spaced pages in length.

#1 Intellectuals both in and outside of Mexico have dedicated considerable attention to the question of what it means to be Mexican. This quest to define the essence of the Mexican character (lo mexicano or mexicanidad) is represented by five different authors in Section I.
In your essay, you should discuss how each author conceptualizes Mexican society. What sorts of problems or contradictions does each author identify? Do these essays express similar ideas of mexicanidad or do they offer divergent characterizations? Do you think it is feasible to make such generalizations as these authors have done? Be sure to incorporate specific quotes or examples from the readings.

#2 Mesoamerica, which includes the modern country of Mexico, was home to multiple, complex societies at the time of the Spanish arrival in 1519. The violent meeting between the Spanish and the Aztecs—and the latter’s defeat—is one of the most important narratives in New World history. Based on the readings from Sections II and III, please address the following:
What was Aztec society like before the arrival of the Spanish? In your discussion, you should address things such as social stratification, the military/political system, and the role of religion. What were some of the factors that allowed the Spanish to conquer Montezuma and the Aztec empire? What sorts of religious and economic transformations did Mexico’s indigenous population experience as a result of the Conquest? Support your argument with examples from the readings.

#3 Two key events forever altered the course of Mexican history: Mexico’s Independence from Spain (1821) and the socialist Revolution (1910-1917). Both events were marked with a great deal of bloodshed and political turbulence. For the essay, you should consider the readings from either Section IV or V of the Reader. You may address the questions below in reference to either Mexican Independence or the 1910 Revolution—in other words, choose one event and answer the following:
What were some of the social, economic, and political conditions that set the stage for the movement? What groups of people were involved with each struggle and why? Describe some of the outcomes of either Independence or the Revolution? Who benefited (or not) and why?

#4 The final essay asks you to consider Mexico’s uneven growth into a modern nation during the twentieth century. From 1940-1970, the country’s economy grew at an impressive average rate of 6.5% per year, a phenomenon often referred to as the “Mexican Miracle.” Despite this tremendous growth, Mexico demonstrated one of the world’s most unequal patterns of income distribution. The growing disparities between social classes and ethnic groups, along with political oppression and media censorship, were catalysts for a range of social mobilizations.
Based on your readings from Section VI, describe some of the major problems facing Mexico in the period of 1940-1970 (e.g. land distribution and agricultural production, migration and the growing urban poor, and the stagnation of the revolutionary ideals). How were the events or phenomena described in Section VII (Student Movement of 1968, El Santo, the rise of the EZLN in Chiapas, etc.) a response to the worsening of socioeconomic conditions for the majority of the nation’s citizens? Use examples from the text in making your argument.