Sons of the Sierra

Juárez, Díaz, and the People of Ixtlán, Oaxaca, 1855-1920

By Patrick J. McNamara

296 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 3 illus., 1 table, 1 map, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5787-8
    Published: February 2007
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-0672-9
    Published: September 2012
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8088-8
    Published: September 2012

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The period following Mexico's war with the United States in 1847 was characterized by violent conflicts, as liberal and conservative factions battled for control of the national government. The civil strife was particularly bloody in south central Mexico, including the southern state of Oaxaca. In Sons of the Sierra, Patrick McNamara explores events in the Oaxaca district of Ixtlán, where Zapotec Indians supported the liberal cause and sought to exercise influence over statewide and national politics.

Two Mexican presidents had direct ties to Ixtlán district: Benito Juárez, who served as Mexico's liberal president from 1858 to 1872, was born in the district, and Porfirio Díaz, president from 1876 to 1911, had led a National Guard battalion made up of Zapotec soldiers throughout the years of civil war. Paying close attention to the Zapotec people as they achieved greater influence, McNamara examines the political culture of Díaz's presidency and explores how Díaz, who became increasingly dictatorial over the course of his time in office, managed to stay in power for thirty-five years. McNamara reveals the weight of memory and storytelling as Ixtlán veterans and their families reminded government officials of their ties to both Juárez and Díaz. While Juárez remained a hero in their minds, Díaz came to represent the arrogance of Mexico City and the illegitimacy of the "Porfiriato" that ended with the 1910 revolution.

About the Author

Patrick J. McNamara is associate professor of Latin American history at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
For more information about Patrick J. McNamara, visit the Author Page.


"A nuanced portrayal of the Porfirian era, with excellent insights not just into the politics of the Zapotecs but also into the officials, from president on down, who interacted with them. . . . Scholars of modern Mexico will read it to their benefit and, given the exemplary clarity of its writing, they may well want to pass it on to advanced undergraduates when they have finished."--Hispanic American Historical Review

"Gives a deeper and richer understanding of the liberal betrayal by the mestizo children of many of the veterans who took control of the state and broke the bonds and promises Diaz had made to the serranos. . . . Recommended."--CHOICE

"Much more than just a regional history. . . . This is an outstanding work that will have broad application and relevance way beyond its Mexican context to studies of postcolonial societies and struggles over national membership the world round."--The Americas

"A fine monograph. . . a sampling of the flood of illuminating studies on the Mexican Revolution in English."--Latin American Research Review

"Beautifully written and succinct . . . succeeds in contributing many regional nuances to our understanding of sixty years of Mexico's Liberal revolution."--Latin American Studies

"Extensively researched, persuasively argued, and engagingly written, Sons of the Sierra is a major contribution to the history of Nineteenth century Mexico. McNamara breaks new ground through painstaking archival research."--A Contracorriente