Julian Dodson’s Fanaticos, Exiles, and Spies: Revolutionary Failures on the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1923 – 1930
My book, Fanaticos, Exiles, and Spies: Revolutionary Failures on the U.S.-Mexico Border: 1923-1930, explores the connections between Mexican exile populations in the United States, and political and social ferment in Mexico throughout the 1920s. It tells the story of the embattled post–revolutionary Mexican government’s attempts to protect its northern border from multiple plots, hatched among exile groups, to overthrow the regime of President Plutarco Elías Calles (1924-1928). The battle was fought in the field of espionage, between the undercover agents of the Mexican Confidential Department (Departamento Confidencial) and political exiles, among them already seasoned spies who had provided their services to previous Mexican regimes. In successive waves, political and military exiles from the period of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), sought refuge in urban centers along the international boundary. The 1920s witnessed a series of popular and military rebellions along the border that were funded by politically connected exiles. I argue that the conflicts that marked the 1920s—rebellions led by military and political elites, produced exile communities in the United States whose activities led to a tightening of the border against further threats of violence against the Mexican government by the end of the decade. Mexican and US government concerns about exile plots, the still local nature of authority along the border, and recurring political and social instability in Mexico led to a reinforcement of the border by the end of the 1920s that would make rebellion from the borderlands a losing proposition for Mexican political dissidents. State building and the process of consolidating the gains of the Revolution in the 1920s have often been analyzed from within the territorial boundaries of the nation. My methodological approach widens the scope of analysis to consider the ways in which state control of the border and the ability of the Mexican state to exercise sovereignty over exile populations in the United States complicated the process of state reconstruction. The rebellions that marked the decade of the 1920s were not limited to networks that stopped at the international border. They were nurtured by larger transnational networks of political and social dissent that stretched well into the United States. I also recently published an article treating the diplomatic problems associated with the operations of the Confidential Department along the border in the United States. “‘Bandits,’ ‘Revolutionists,’ and other ‘Insult[s] to the Constitutional Government of My Country’: Espionage, Exiles, and the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1924-1929,” appears in the December 2018 edition of The Latin Americanist.
My next project examines bureaucratic attitudes toward public urban spaces in Mexico City in the 1920s and how those attitudes changed in the 1940s and 1950s as succeeding governments sought to institutionalize the gains of the Mexican Revolution. The nineteenth-century scientific advisors to President Porfirio Díaz adhered to global trends that sought to purify the environs of major metropolitan population centers. They undertook a variety of city planning projects modeled on those initiated in Western European nations. These projects were intended to order the urban environment and to transplant and sculpt nature in the city. When nineteenth-century city planners tamed putrid sewage and stagnant waters, sculpted parks and gardens, and paved muddy streets, they expected that this ordering of nature would be reflected in society. Post revolutionary governments inherited these projects from their predecessors, but also sought to break with the dictatorial past and approach urban planning with a new revolutionary urgency. This research seeks to understand how revolutionary city planners shaped the attitudes and approaches to urban spaces in conjunction with health and hygiene initiatives in Mexico City from the 1920s to the 1950s.