DISORDER AND PROGRESS: Bandits, Police, and Mexican Development by Paul J. Vanderwood

DISORDER AND PROGRESS: Bandits, Police, and Mexican Development

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An informative account of the Mexican Rural Police Force, from its establishment in 1861 to its disintegration in 1914--which Vanderwood (History, San Diego State Univ.) has unfortunately tried to turn into a study of ""order and disorder, their constant presence, overlap, and blend."" In the very long introductory section, he traces Mexican history from the late colony onward, emphasizing the relative political and social calm before the Independence wars, and the rise of brigandage in the first half of the 19th century. Soldiers, patriots, guerrillas, and bandits, he maintains, were all interchangeable. Then he examines the role of Liberals in the restoration of public tranquility, and shows that the original Rurales were partially recruited from the ranks of outlaws. Succeeding chapters contain a perceptive overview of changes caused by capitalist modernization during Porfiriato; miniportraits of several famous bandits of that time; data on the composition of Rurales (by age, occupation, place of origin); and a discussion of the gradual decline of the force after 1900, with increasing lack of discipline, alcoholism, and desertion. One chapter also deals with the overblown image of the corps, carefully nourished for political reasons by Díaz himself. But despite an impressive amount of data--more than a quarter of the book is taken up by notes and bibliography--the overall result is unsatisfying. Generalizations constantly intrude--many of them vague, superficial, and banal (e.g., ""order and disorder remain in opposition, all the time, everywhere""). Vanderwood repeatedly compares the Rurales with police forces in other countries, then acknowledges the police always reflect the characteristics of the home-country. And, finally, the link between disorder and progress is not presented in any new light: it has been known for a long time that rising expectations often lead to rebellion.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1981
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska Press