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Pueblo en Vilo: History as longing for Home

February 7, 2010


[In Image: Grandma, Great Grandfather, Tio, and Pops]

Don Luis Gonzalez Gonzalez is often labeled one of Mexico’s greatest historians. At the young age of 12 he left his small town of San Jose de Gracia for the then sprawling city of Guadalajara. For migrants and son/daughters of migrants his experiences as a rural migrant to GDL resonate: he describes being made fun of for his attire and speech. He would go onto study with Fernand Braudel of the French Annal school and produce in the 1960s a history of a village that did not take part or benefit from the Mexican revolution:  a slap in the face to the PRI and a much needed corrective to state narratives of the Revolution.

As an arrogant and naïve undergraduate at UCLA I often frowned upon the entrance of romanticism and nostalgia in academic works. Little did I realized that my entire academic pursuit is guided by both…

Below are two quotes from Gonzalez:

From the traditional microhistory spoken or sung by the old ones has evolved the microhistory written by numerous village enthusiasts. Mexico abounds in local histories by persons who do not see themselves as intellectuals. These are microhistorians unacquainted with universities but well acquired with community life. They are found in the cafes and bars rather than in classrooms. But beyond this, they are difficult to define; microhistory attracts people from widely disparate walks of life. Nevertheless, one general characteristic is notable among them—their romanticism.

To quote, “Sentiment, not reason, stimulates the study of microhistory. Microhistories most common flow from a love for one’s origins,” as from the love for a mother. “Unimpeded, the small world which nourishes and sustains us is transfigured into the image of mother….Thus, the so-called patria chica would be better called the matria, and the narrative which reconstructs its temporal dimension ca be known alternately as microhistory or as historia matria. The spontaneous microhistorian works “toward the clearly unhealthy goal of returning to a lost time, to his roots, to the illusory Eden, to the womb.”

How does one write a history of  Zacatecas, Guadalajara, Mexicalli, El Monte, Pico Rivera, Goleta, and Pomona–a history of what Americo Paredes called “Greater Mexico.” One that is outside of both nation-states…thats the journey.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2010 4:20 pm

    Sounds like only a tour of dive bars in the greater Mexican Republic of LA can provide the answer. I have a recorder and a mixed tape of Jose Alfredo tunes… Its all we need to make history.ii

  2. February 16, 2010 12:51 pm

    I'll bring some Chente. We can start in El Paso go west to LA, then all south.

  3. February 21, 2010 5:36 pm

    I believe it's hard to write a microhistoria of Mexico (or anywhere, for that matter) without letting some emotion trickle in. I mean, for Luis González y González, it was clear that he would not be able to "disentangle" himself from the subjectivities of writing about his 'terruño'. The best part about microhistoria is that you can choose any topic you want. How about norteño musicians in NY? How about Coyoacán in DF? History doesn't need to be about the grand (priísta) narrative anymore. We are all part of the story now.

  4. February 22, 2010 2:18 am

    I think ive only seen Mexican musicans one or two times, both times on the 1. Anyone know what train to catch them on??? Always gives me a boost. Though el porton on broadway near 124th always has good music and a small bar. tengo ganas de mariachi!! como dice la cancion: "con el mariachi ire." Donde???

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