Carranza, Luis E.: Architecture as Revolution: Episodes in the History of Modern Mexico.

Author:Carletta, David M.
Position:Book review
 
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Carranza, Luis E. Architecture as Revolution: Episodes in the History of Modern Mexico. Austin,TX: University of Texas Press, 2010. xiv + 241 pages. Cloth, $60.00.

Under the authoritarian rule of Porfirio Diaz, Mexico experienced rapid economic growth from 1876 to 1911. Transportation and communications systems improved, agribusiness and mining increased, and new industries flourished. Amid this financial expansion, Diaz and his supporters emphasized their cultural ties with Europe. Subsequently, architecture and urban planning reflected nineteenth-century European, especially French, styles. Most of Mexico's architects were graduates of Mexico City's Academia de San Carlos, the Mexican counterpart of the French Ecole des Beaux Arts. The Diaz government maintained the stability necessary to attract international investors and increase foreign trade. However, the benefits of economic expansion were monopolized by Diaz's cronies and foreign interests. Meanwhile, Diaz turned Mexico's political system into a giant patronage machine, but he eventually disaffected the majority of Mexicans through policies that excluded them from sufficiently enjoying their nation's wealth. The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), the twentieth century's first great political and social revolution, began when Mexicans rose up in arms against Diaz, who fled to Paris as Mexico embarked on a decade of violence and political turmoil.

The chaos of the Revolution ended with the election of Alvaro Obregon to a four-year presidential term in 1920. With the ascendancy of Obreg6n, Mexico's political and economic leaders, encouraged by the nation's foremost cultural and intellectual figures, took great interest in the potential of art, architecture, and literature to transform Mexican society. Mexico's post-revolutionary intelligentsia rejected the nineteenth-century European styles associated with the Diaz regime and encouraged the formation of a modern Mexican national identity through class and race consciousness. As the Revolution became institutionalized during the 1920s and 1930s, Mexico became animated by extraordinary cultural activity. Variously inspired by socialism, Marxism and nationalism, as well as by the European and North American avant-garde, Mexican architects, artists, and writers produced distinctive theories and works expressing their interpretations of the Revolution's political, social, and economic aims.

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