Book by Michael Matthews explores role of music and poetry in modern Mexico

In "Mexico in Verse: A History of Music, Rhyme, and Power", Associate Professor of History Michael Matthews, along with Stephen Neufeld of Cal State Fullerton, use music and poetry to gain access to the worldviews and beliefs of ordinary people often overlooked in the historical narrative. 

Matthews and Neufeld examine Mexican history through its poetry and music, the spoken and the written word, from 1840 to the 1980s.

Published by the University of Arizona Press, “Mexico in Verse: A History of Music, Rhyme, and Power” explores the cultural venues in which Mexicans articulated their understanding of the social, political and economic change they witnessed taking place during times of tremendous upheaval, such as the Mexican-American War, the Porfiriato and the Mexican Revolution. The words of diverse peoples—people of the street, of the field, of the cantinas—reveal the development of the modern nation.

Neufeld and Matthews selected sources unexplored by Mexicanist scholars in order to investigate the ways that individuals interpreted—whether resisting or reinforcing—official narratives about formative historical moments. 

The contributors to this volume offer new research that reveals how different social groups interpreted and understood the Mexican experience. The collected essays cover a wide range of topics: military life, railroad accidents, religious upheaval, children’s literature, alcohol consumption and the 1985 earthquake. Each chapter provides a translated song or poem that encourages readers to participate in the interpretive practice of historical research and cultural scholarship.

In this regard, “Mexico in Verse” serves both as a volume of collected essays and as a classroom-ready primary document reader.  

According to Chris Frazier, author of “Fighting Words: Competing Voices from the Mexican Revolution”, “[Mexico in Verse focuses] on understanding the subjectivities of subaltern social groups through their own forms of lyrical expression or the discursive engagement between dominant elites and subalterns. It helps open a window to understanding the lives and world views of ordinary people and oppressed social groups, challenging or legitimating the dominant discourse of power and the historical formation of national and social identities.”