Visible Ruins: The Politics of Perception and Legacies of Mexico’s Revolution

The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) introduced a series of state-led initiatives promising modernity, progress, national grandeur, and stability: state surveyors assessed land for agrarian reform, engineers utilized nationalized oil for industrialization, archaeologists reconstructed pre-Hispanic monuments for tourism, and anthropologists studied and photographed indigenous populations to achieve their acculturation. However, far from their stated goals, these initiatives dissembled violence, permitting land invasions, forced displacement, environmental damage, loss of democratic freedom, and mass killings. Mónica Salas Landa uses the history of northern Veracruz to demonstrate how these state-led efforts reshaped the region’s social and material landscapes, affecting what was and is visible. Relying on archival sources and ethnography, she uncovers an aesthetic order of ongoing significance, which was established through post-revolutionary projects and which perpetuates inequality based on imperceptibility.

Mónica Salas Landa is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Lafayette College. She is a historical and political anthropologist with regional expertise in Latin America. Her work examines the processes of state formation, nation-building, and the aesthetic dimension of politics in post-revolutionary and contemporary Mexico. Trained as an anthropologist and archaeologist in Mexico, she obtained an MA in Museum Studies from New York University and a PhD in Anthropology with a concentration in Latin American Studies from Cornell University. Prior to joining Lafayette College, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University. Her work has been featured in the Hispanic American Historical Review, the Journal of Latin American Studies, Environment and Planning A, among other journals. Her first book, Visible Ruins: The Politics of Perception and the Legacies of Mexico’s Revolution, was recently published by the University of Texas Press.

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