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Why Mexico is messed up

After reading _Lies_ it occurred to me that I know more about the history of Europe, Japan, or even India than I do of Mexico (Aztecs and Maya, Conquest, there was an independence war, we stole their land, some revolution thingy, done) and I checked out some books to rectify that. One is Mexico: What Everyone Should Know. Still reading it, so this is superficial, but some things stood out already.

Spain had a strong monarchy (I think? Though also a Cortes-General; stronger before 1500 perhaps), and replicated that for the colonies, with viceroys over New Spain (Mexico+) and Peru. A viceroy was the political (with legislative powers) and military leader, and vice-patron of the Church, whatever that means exactly. So, 300 years of authoritarian power. Plus, close alliance with the Catholic Church, and censorship by the Church of ideas like other religions or challenges to the monarchical system. The Church also owned half (!) the land in Mexico, the rest mostly being owned by pureblood Europeans, whether peninsulares (European born) or criollo (aka creole, American-born purebloods.) Which also brings us to the finely gradated racial caste system of the Spanish Americas, from peninsulares to criollos to mestizos to indios, and that's leaving out lots of gradations, as well as Africans.

By contrast, while I'm not up on the details of North American colonial government, strong legislatures seem ubiquitous. The Constitution was approved by state conventions, i.e. a rare taste of quasi-direct democracy, citizens elected for an express purpose rather than by general legislators. Religious pluralism was baked in, what with Puritans, Quakers, Anglicans, Catholics, and Baptists, and nominal freedom of speech came for the ride. Finally, and more darkly, English colonies have less in the way of persistent racial problems (at least with natives) because they mostly eliminated indigenous races and refused to mate with them. It's not that the US (and Canada, and Australia) don't have racial inequality, it's that whites are (or are considered to be) effectively criollo, not mestizo, so most of us are at the top rather than in the middle, and our indios are a much smaller proportion of the population. US reservations are largely shockingly unhealthy and poor, but it's easier to ignore them.

So, in part a combination of more democratic and pluralist heritage, vs. Catholic authoritarianism, and of reducing racial inequality by keeping racial diversity down in the first place. (And, statistically, Mexico isn't that much more unequal than the US these days.)

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Damien Sullivan
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