"Visions of the Emerald City" is an absorbing historical analysis
of how Mexicans living in Oaxaca City experienced "modernity"
during the lengthy "Order and Progress" dictatorship of Porfirio
Diaz (1876-1911). Renowned as the Emerald City (for its many
buildings made of green cantera stone), Oaxaca City was not only
the economic, political, and cultural capital of the state of
Oaxaca but also a vital commercial hub for all of southern Mexico.
As such, it was a showcase for many of Diaz's modernizing and
state-building projects. Drawing on in-depth research in archives
in Oaxaca, Mexico City, and the United States, Mark
Overmyer-Velazquez describes how Oaxacans, both elites and
commoners, crafted and manipulated practices of tradition and
modernity to define themselves and their city as integral parts of
a modern Mexico.
Incorporating a nuanced understanding of visual culture into his
analysis, Overmyer-Velazquez shows how ideas of modernity figured
in Oaxacans' ideologies of class, race, gender, sexuality, and
religion and how they were expressed in Oaxaca City's streets,
plazas, buildings, newspapers, and public rituals. He pays
particular attention to the roles of national and regional elites,
the Catholic church, and popular groups--such as Oaxaca City's
madams and prostitutes--in shaping the discourses and practices of
modernity. At the same time, he illuminates the dynamic interplay
between these groups. Ultimately, this well-illustrated history
provides insight into provincial life in pre-Revolutionary Mexico
and challenges any easy distinctions between the center and the
periphery or modernity and tradition.
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