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The Conjunction of the Lettered City and the Lettered Countryside in 19th-Century Mexico

Summary and Keywords

A persuasive literature has argued that the course of Latin American history from the arrival of Europeans to the present has been shaped to a large extent by a small but expanding group of literate bureaucrats, church officials, lawyers, and intellectuals, known as letrados, who made their lives in urban centers. Those marked by this combination of power, urban living, and the written word, an assemblage that Angel Rama has dubbed the lettered city,” utilized literature, history, the law, politics, and higher education to imagine the country into existence textually and to justify the hierarchies and inequalities that characterized their rule. Yet in Mexico, as elsewhere in Latin America, writing has a long history in nonelite settings, a venue that, in recognition of this fact, has now been referred to as “the lettered countryside.” Moreover, as understandings of a single literacy are giving way to a concern with “literacies,” defined in the plural and operating in relationship rather than opposed to such things as orality and visuality, traces of literacy practices are being discovered in many locations. Foregrounding the conjunction of the lettered city and the lettered countryside is an attempt to bring these venues into conversation while doing away with the binary that associates literary with the city and orality with the rural.

Over the course of the 19th century in Mexico, although the written word was still pressed into the service of national imagining, a number of other characteristics shaped the conjunction of the lettered city and the lettered countryside. A struggle over secularization was one new development, as authority came increasingly to be invested in the written word itself rather than justified in religious terms. New forms of literacies emerged, especially those associated with the novel and other forms of publications, including newspapers, periodicals for and by women, and the penny press, creating new publics with distinct senses of themselves as communities of readers and listeners; oratory, public discussion of politics and other issues in various venues, and the phenomenon of indirect readers also brought together these two locations. As early as the 1840s, rural residents in some parts of the country had made writing their own, drafting political proclamations in which they defined such things as federalism in their own terms and asserted themselves in national politics. While elite diarists, both men and women, left traces of their emotional lives in various forms of life writing over the course of the entire period, ordinary people, including mine workers, agricultural laborers, and women who carried out household duties, wrote love letters to each other by the last third of the century, if not before. Composed and exchanged by means of cooperation, the use of intermediaries known as evangelistas, or by individuals with various degrees of facility in reading and writing, love letters served as privileged means of communicating the emotions they brought into being while often ending up as evidence in legal proceedings that continued to assert the prerogatives of the lettered city even as it came ever more intimately conjoined with the lettered countryside.

Keywords: lettered city, lettered countryside, literacies, love letters, print culture, novel, oratory, proclamations, penny press, women’s publications

With the evocative phrase “the lettered city,” the title of his book published posthumously in 1984, Angel Rama provided not only a means of expressing the intimate and enduring relationship linking power, the city, and the written word in Latin America but also a metaphor or key concept for thinking through the changing nature and significance of the relationship between these entities and, as a result, of Latin American history more broadly, from the arrival of Spaniards and Portuguese to well into the 20th century.1 Initially deriving power from their ability to command writing in an overwhelmingly illiterate society, letrados—those scribes, chroniclers, bureaucrats, churchmen, and intellectuals so central to the colonial order—crafted an ideal city as, or even before, actual cities were being established, continually renovating this space, by means of writing laws, proclamations, edicts, and regulations and through justifying colonial hierarchies and inequalities as needed, that is, in the face of changes and challenges from those actually living there. Far from disappearing with the end of colonial rule, letrados continued to write newly formed countries into existence in Latin America, becoming the lawyers, clerks, bureaucrats, and notaries responsible for the drafting of constitutions, legal codes, and the writing of novels and other works that would serve, in the words of Doris Sommer, as the foundational fictions of these new nations.2

Rama’s provocative concatenation of power, writing, and the city continues to capture the imagination of scholars working in a number of disciplines, even if to disagree with or modify his arguments. Recent works, especially on the Andean region, have attempted to move beyond the lettered city to such venues as the lettered mountain; still others have charted the lettered city’s decline and fall or pointed to the source of its nightmares—violence and rule without regard for the written word associated, on the part of those doing the writing, with banditry.3 While there is not sufficient space here to comment on or even set out in any great detail the various perspectives developed by these authors, at least two important critiques have emerged from this engagement with Rama’s ideas, critiques that are central to establishing the framework of analysis in this chapter and that future work on the lettered city can ignore only at its own peril. The first has to do with the discovery that, rather than the exclusive instrument of those powerful ensconced in the urban center, writing has a long history as a social practice in nonelite societies. In this regard, the work of Frank Salomon and Mercedes Niño-Murcia on Tupicocha, a community in Huarochirí Province in the central Peruvian department of Lima, has been key. It has revealed that not only had some indigenous peoples joined what they refer to as the “empire of letters” during the colonial period, that is, that they had learned to write at almost the same time mass literacy was emerging in Europe, but a broad democratization of the lettered city had taken place in the second half of the 19th century in that community, mostly outside the bounds of formal education and in engagement with writing manuals that circulated there; as these authors put it, many peasants “were becoming their own letrados.”4

A second powerful critique of Rama has to do with the way in which literacy itself is to be conceptualized. Rather than accepting a great divide that situates literacy at the opposite end of a spectrum from orality, usually accompanied by the assumption that broad and universal changes will ensue upon its arrival, recent work, often informed by New Literacy Studies and adopting an “event-centered approach” to literacy, finds in literacy a subject for study rather than a set of preordained conclusions.5 In place of “literacy,” advocates of this approach insist on “literacies”; they study the social practices within which particular literacies are practiced and derive their meanings. For these reasons, Joanne Rappaport and Tom Cummins argue that in colonial Latin America, literacy, far from on its own, must be regarded as a social process that operated in relationship to visuality and orality. To regard literacy as including visuality and orality is to recognize that documents, in addition to their written content, were also objects, visual images, and repositories of forms of oral conventions. Adopting this approach to literacies leads, first, to expanding the lettered city to make room for more residents and practices to be included within its confines and, second, to see it as an arena of contestation, where an entire worldview was both communicated and resisted or reshaped. Although, like Salomon and Niño-Murcia, Rappaport and Cummins find the existence of an indigenous lettered city in parallel to the official one, a lettered city writ small, as they call it, it is their sense of locating literacy beyond texts, in the world, and their ability to uncover its traces among those formerly thought least likely to be affected by it that most changes the contours of the lettered city as imagined by Rama.6

Given these observations concerning the Andes, it should not come as too much of a surprise to discover, when turning to the case of Mexico in the 19th century, that, outside of the lettered city, far removed from centers of power, individuals possessing various levels of familiarity with the written word, including the ability to read and write, have also been encountered; an even greater number, both in cities and without, participated in various forms of literacies, especially those shaped in conjunction with orality and visuality. At times, these engagements with the written word took the form of love letters exchanged among mine workers, campesinos, and women with domestic duties in the mining camps and small agricultural communities of northern Mexico during the late 19th century—their writing and exchange helps determine the contours of the terrain referred to as the “lettered countryside.”7 The term itself is somewhat polemical—using it offers a means of acknowledging Rama’s central role in focusing scholarly discussion on the relationship between power and literacy while simultaneously enabling a questioning of the dichotomy that links the city with literacy and the countryside with orality. The sources themselves—love letters circulating among people who testified that they could not always read or write—also demand that greater attention be paid to how the term “literacy” should be defined. Conversations in written form, some of them comprehensible only when read out loud so that the freestanding syllables might merge into entire words, composed by scribes or in groups whose members possessed various and discreet skills that together enabled their composition, the love letters of mine workers, artisans, and campesinos reveal the boundaries between the written and the oral to be porous rather than fixed. They make it necessary to locate in particular social contexts the ways that literacy, or, better still, literacies, were practiced and acquired meaning.

Secularizing the Lettered City

If the love letters located in judicial archives in northern Mexico date to the last third of the 19th century, the broader question concerning the imbrication of writing and orality—what might be referred to as the conjunction of the lettered city and the lettered countryside—has a much longer history. And much of this history has to do, initially in the colonial period, with religious conversion and, subsequently, with the continuing centrality of religion. The use of religious texts was not usually associated with solitary reading on the part of individuals. As Carlos Monsiváis reminds his readers, as late as the mid-18th century, the Bible was regarded as the exclusive preserve of priests, its teachings, especially in the form of catechisms, to be memorized and recited, rather than read.8 Central to achieving this end was the catechism of Padre Ripalda, written by a Jesuit priest born in Spain in 1536 and who died in 1618. His work, the most widely circulated text of its genre in the Spanish-speaking world, including in New Spain and, subsequently, Mexico, is known as the Catecismo y exposición breve de la doctrina cristiana con un trato muy útil del orden en que el cristiano debe ocupar el tiempo y emplear el día. In addition to being published in Spanish, Ripalda’s work had been translated into ten indigenous languages over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries; much of its efficacy, in these languages as in Spanish, came from its mnemonic character, as attested to in the following excerpt:9

Luego recemos

Then we pray

lo que debemos,

as we must

lo que la Iglesia

that which the Roman

Romana nos muestra,

Church teaches us,

lo que manda saber,

that which it commands us to know,

creer y hacer.

believe, and do.

Credo y mandamientos,

Creed and commandments

Oraciones y sacramentos.

Prayers and sacraments.

Bien pronunciado,

Well articulated

Creido y obrado.

Believed and worked.

Dígamos así.

Let’s say it thusly.

Invoked to attest to the purity of belief by means of privileging recitation over reasoning rather than to explain the finer points of church doctrine or dogma, the catechism was read out loud, learned by memory and repeated, and, as this scene of a “reading” from the beginning of the 19th century attest to, even publicly performed: “Every Friday the students of Xochimilco, one hundred or more, parade through the principal streets with two young men singing the questions of the Christian doctrine and the rest answering.”10 The scene also helps illustrate that, whereas early in the 19th century, the lettered city occupied much of the same territory its ecclesiastical variant had during the colonial period, the rest of the century would witness a struggle over the secularization of its practices. Rather than from God or religious authorities, the power of the printed word itself came increasingly to form the basis of authority for print culture, just as print culture was starting to become the arbiter in defining contested understandings of nation, citizen, modernity, and progress.11

Novel and Nation

Central to this process was the novel. In two novels that bookended the 19th century, the reading out loud of the authors’ printed work is envisioned, even expected, revealing that the intertwining of the oral with the written was not limited to the incantation of rhyming religious versus from a catechism on Fridays. Reading novels out loud brought into being a listening public much larger than the one encompassed by the private reading of these works. Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi, the author of El periquillo sarniento (The Mangy Parrot), published initially in weekly installments in 1816 and often regarded as the first Latin American novel, not only includes in his novel popular speech and the language of the street but has its narrator direct his, and the novel’s, moral lessons to his children, that is, readers, by means of “those who read these words, hear them read, or ask about them.”12 Despite being delivered in writing, this novel constituted a challenge to the lettered city, mocking teachers who are unable to write with proper punctuation, venal and deceitful notaries, pompous physicians who employ Latin in their speech and medical diplomas only as a means of asserting their authority and taking advantage of patients, and other members of the lettered city, letrados all. Lizardi himself claimed a new class of readers, whom he described as “plebeians, Indians, mulattos, blacks, criminals, fools, and idiots.”13 Writing not only for those who might listen in but also for a newly literature public who, he hoped, would be able to buy his work, Lizardi revealed the existence of a group of letrados who had not managed to enter the lettered city, the very center of power, but who could only attempt to challenge it, as Rama puts it, on the “battlefield of writing.”14 Far from omnipotent or uniform, the lettered city itself faced increasing challenges as the 19th century progressed from those new social groups that, although gaining access to literacies, were barred from living the dreams that such literacies promised.

Written at the other end of the century and also first published as installments in newspapers, Los bandidos de Río Frío by Manuel Payno was similarly envisioned as a moral inheritance to be handed down to subsequent generations of Mexican citizens. So, too, did Payno in this novel take great glee in mocking the pretentions and spurious learning of the lettered city while celebrating popular expressions and local manners of speaking, enabling readers to see in written form (or hear when the novel was read out loud) what might be uttered on the streets as part of everyday life. Describing one of the letrados in his novel, for example, Payno writes: “The poor barber dedicated his five senses to the education of his only son, on whom he had concentrated all his hope and affection. Crisanto stayed in school learning, as they say, neither to read with punctuation nor write with orthography. His signature, a complicated rubric forming laborious swirls and tails on all sides, was impossible to understand. In place of Crisanto Bedolla, some read Espanto Pesadilla . . .”15 Despite disparaging the lettered city, Payno’s character, and his novel more generally, attests to the possibility of new groups gaining access to it. In fact, almost every character in the novel, from the most humble curandera, to female servants, to children taken in off the streets, is shown in various stages of learning to read and write. All characters are similarly portrayed as engaging with a growing number and variety of texts—newspapers, criminal expedientes, recipe books, secret notes, letters, manuscripts of various forms—that call them into being as part of a public or publics formed by the texts of their times.

Love letters feature in the novel and form an important part of the expanding corpus that Payno sees characterizing life in the late 19th century; they are read and exchanged by all its characters, from the most humble to the most aristocratic. In part, they allow Payno to point to the ways that literacy and orality are not separate but fundamentally intertwined. Illustrating his argument that the heart wants what it wants, that is, that it cannot be controlled, love letters, above all, are ideally suited for revealing the leveling, even revolutionary, function of writing in its ability to overturn social, cultural, class, and, perhaps especially, gender hierarchies. Central to this discussion are the love letters received by Cecilia, a voluptuous fruit vendor who serves as the embodiment of the land and the epitome of the local, the popular, and, throughout much of the novel, the oral. Receiving love letters from a butcher, a political functionary, and a storeowner, all copied out for readers’ perusal and offering a means of illustrating Payno’s assumptions about the ways in which letters reveal the inner character, qualities, and social standing of those writing them, Cecilia turns down these suitors verbally. Beseeched, in writing, by the son of a powerful hacienda owner to whom she is attracted yet who proposes a kind of surreptitious concubinage in place of marriage, Cecilia takes up the pen herself. In both form (the use of writing) and in content (as a boss, a business owner, a provider, and as a writer), she asserts that she is every bit his equal. Just as love could transcend social barriers, so could love letters, however their writing might be accomplished, reflecting the ideal that modern love was meant to be an exchange between equals.

Often cited as belonging to a genre through which the nation, in Mexico, as elsewhere in Latin America, was written into existence, these novels, along with other forms of writing, including life writing and letters, have received less attention to the manner of their reading in the 19th century. If El periquillo sarniento drew on enlightened and universalistic ways of imagining the nation, Los bandidos de Río Frío called for reading the nation more genealogically, in a romantic and historicist way. After about 1850, history, emplotted in ways that drew on romance, became central to forging national unity in these and other texts.16 Under the influence of this new sense of historical consciousness, past and present came to be more closely related, as did individual destinies with those of society; the present increasingly came to be explained in terms of the past as a means of imagining certain kinds of futures, at times almost utopic ones comprised of unified nations and homogeneous citizens, all brought about by the fulfilment of the desire for the romantic love plot. Given that novels were published as serial installments in newspapers and thus more fully beholden to the emerging market in these and other consumer goods and that they were not only read but also heard by illiterate readers through various forms of public readings, new ways of reading were also required. Often, these new ways focused on the possibility of social mobility and change, offering entertainment and accessibility while including those formerly excluded from literature. The emotions evoked in the novels were meant to yoke together sentimental and patriotic ways of reading in order to move readers to pursue moral, political, cultural, and national goals.17

Forms of Literacies

While the spread of literacies and the expansion of reading publics were certainly themes of novelists and other letrados whose self-appointed task it was to imagine the nation into being by having all citizens reading on the same page of the national novel, forms of literacies did continue to grow during the 19th century, often through the building of a number of bridges that brought together the educated elite and the popular classes. One such bridge was oratory, a practice that, as Pablo Piccato has shown, members of the “political country,” those educated males willing to expose their reputations to criticism as the price for representing public opinion, employed as a means of civic education and nation building.18 In its multiple genres, oratory not only came to define patriotic celebrations after independence but was also an essential aspect of the workings of Congress, of jury trial debates, of eulogies at funerals, and of the proceedings of local celebrations. Characterized by one letrado as “conversations with the masses about its antecedents and its future,” oratory, rather than literacy alone, formed one of the weapons that, in Justo Sierra’s evocative phrase, those who “carried the pen, the word, and the sword” might wield in defense of the Mexican nation.19

Oratory offered one indication of the manner in which the tangled web of orality and literacies might be woven together. The presence of indirect readers, those listening in on the margins, also hinted at the existence of, as well as helped sustain, new and expanding forms of print publication. In her comments introducing the multivolume, multidisciplinary compendium on the Republic of Letters published by the Universidad Autónoma de México, Elisa Speckman uses the trope of an imagined visitor to Mexico City in the 19th century as a means of setting out for her own readers the extent and characteristics of the growing boom in publications becoming available.20 In addition to the catechisms discussed above, such a visitor might encounter published books on various themes, sold individually or in collections; conduct manuals; pamphlets of various sizes; and printed single leaflets and flyers, along with a growing number of periodicals (newspapers, magazines, travel guides, calendarios), many driven by a passion for politics; by the end of the century, such publications had led to the emergence of new kinds of residents of the lettered city, including reporters of various stripes in search of either “news” or “scandal” or some combination of the two, and women, who were steadily making their way into some of its neighborhoods. If newspapers, flyers, and leaflets were some of the forms helping to compose the shifting contours of the lettered city, its spaces also included theatres, coffee shops, bars, restaurants, workshops, and other venues where much of this reading material was announced publicly, read out loud, overhead, and/or discussed. Whereas recent estimates place the literacy rate in Mexico City at 20 percent in 1880 and perhaps as high as 50 percent for the entire Federal District by 1910, many likewise concur that the public for these printed materials was greater than that comprised by readers or the literate alone.21

By the end of the 19th century, a thriving working-class penny press had also emerged in Mexico City, one of the forms through which urban workers were able to constitute a distinct public, or counterpublic, and a sense of themselves as a community of readers and listeners.22 Boasting such evocative titles as La Guacamaya (The squawking parrot), El Diablito Rojo (The little red devil), and El Diablito Bromista (The little joking devil), this press proclaimed its sympathies (“scourge of the bourgeoisie and defender of the working class”) as it drew its editors, writers, illustrators, and printers from the “marginally respectable” sector of those who self-identified as members of that class. Through the use of illustrations and the vocabulary, word games, and compelling rhythms of everyday speech in columns that pretended to eavesdrop on “street talk,” the penny press validated everyday speech as it gave voice to the concerns of the capital’s working poor. Use of this language not only helped contest the “domain of the sayable” but joined together diverse readers and listeners while extending the press’s appeal to all those who might be in on the joke.23

Women and the Lettered City

In addition to the penny press, the appearance of the first periodicals written by women in the 1870s was both a milestone marking the entry of women into the lettered city and the culmination of efforts of female poets and other writers throughout the century to bring into being spaces of female authorship and authority, spaces in which they could write “as women,” as Susan Kirkpatrick puts it, rather than “in spite of being women.”24 Whereas if at the beginning of the century elite parents may have regarded the teaching of young women to read and write as a threat to parental authority, in that it seemed to grant to women an independence that came from the ability to communicate directly with their novios rather than having parents remain in control of the marriage process, by the end of the century, a discourse that called for women to be suitably educated in order to fulfil their roles as mothers and guardian angels of the home and to raise the next generation of suitably patriotic citizens as well as an interest in selling more magazines, especially calendarios, cookbooks, albums, and other forms of print culture, led to growing numbers of female readers and authors.25 As one measure of the changes occurring in women’s ability to gain access to the lettered city, parental preoccupation with the consequences of women’s access to reading and writing had yielded, over the course of the century, to the publication of model love-letter-writing manuals by popular presses like that of Antonio Vanegas Arroyo that could be used by women as well as men.26

Such tensions over reading and writing and the relative power over the written word granted to parents and children as well as to men and women are not only apparent but discussed explicitly in sources such as personal diaries, especially those dealing with courtship. In the twelve-volume courtship diary of Luciano J. Gallardo and Carlota Gil, for example, written over a five-year period between 1864 and 1869 in Guadalajara and other parts of the state of Jalisco, for the most part, it is the discovery of their courtship, begun by means of the exchange of written letters, that causes her father to move the family from Guadalajara to La Barca, a day’s journey away, in hopes of controlling her choice of marriage partner, or at least slowing down their rush up the aisle to the altar.27 It could have been even worse, according to Carlota, who was fifteen years old when the courtship began and whose letters have also been copied into the first few volumes of the diary. As much as she hated La Barca, referring to it as “Barca odiosa” and “Barca orrible,” she was convinced that a much worse fate awaited her should their courtship become public knowledge—a life permanently endured within the confines of a convent.

In addition to attesting to the struggle over women’s autonomy vis-à-vis their parents regarding marriage choice, reading and writing was the subject of constant negotiation between men and women, at least if Luciano and Carlota are any indication. As social commitments, including the near-constant visiting of friends and relatives, made finding the time for writing difficult for Carlota, she consistently negotiated with Luciano over the relative weight of the written and spoken word, obtaining his agreement early in the courtship to accept limits on the number of letters she be required to write (two per week), especially given their ability at that time to speak to each other directly, at her window, in the evenings and into the wee hours of the morning. She also characterized her own letters as “foolish,” “annoying,” “bothersome,” and even “boring,” attempting through the use of this highly gendered rhetoric of self-disparagement to limit her commitment to putting words on paper. She only agreed to use the “tu” form in letters to Luciano in exchange for the privilege of regularly reading what he had written in what she increasingly regarded as “their” diary. Despite her stated reluctance, Carlota continued to write and to find tremendous consolation in letters, both in the words they contained and as material objects that stood in for the absent Luciano; it was as if the shape, extent, and tone of the written word was the very measure of courtship and how it was progressing. She asked often to read the diary he was compiling, and she continued to assert in her writing her own perspective on their courtship, rejecting his pleas that she write more or more warmly and insisting that their love was equal, thus wielding in epistolary form a kind of power denied to her in other aspects of her life.

If their diary represented the crafting of a mutual narrative biography, their exchange of letters revealed the presence of a functioning mail system, if supplemented with great initiative and personal connections, that enabled the delivery of letters both between La Barca and San Antonio del Potrero, the hacienda near Tequila, Jalisco, owned by Luciano’s family and where his presence was increasingly required, and between the many cities that Luciano visited on business and La Barca. Stage drivers could be approached, servants dispatched, travelers deployed, and existing informal networks put to use, all in the service of enabling correspondence between the lovers. Letters seldom went missing, even if they could take weeks to arrive, although one did so, much to the chagrin of the two, with the wax seal, that guarantor of confidentiality, broken. One of the first tasks that Carlota took up on upon her arrival in La Barca was to inquire about the weekly operation of the stage and to speak to neighbors and townspeople about the sending and receiving of mail; she eventually discovered another woman living there with a long-distance novio who had an epistolary lifeline already in place, one of which she and Luciano could make use. For his part, Luciano, perhaps because of his experience with writing and sending the business correspondence of his father, seemed particularly adept at making informal arrangements for mail delivery. He was also absolutely convinced as to the efficacy of the written word, not only to accomplish courtship in the absence of proximity but to deceive those who might be opposed to it: he went so far as to write a false letter to Carlota at one point in their courtship in which he announced their breakup, proof positive, he felt, as it was in writing, that paternal vigilance over her was unnecessary. He also insisted at times that the two use false names when corresponding, keeping Carlota apprised of the pen names he had chosen for himself and for her; one can only wonder at the reaction of those intermediaries involved in facilitating their correspondence when attempting to deliver letters addressed to people who didn’t even exist.

Love Letters and the Lettered Countryside

While, in this case, distance necessitated the exchange of love letters as a means of maintaining the courting relationship, the properties of letters as material and symbolic objects and the relative weight of the written word over the spoken, especially as expressed in promises of marriage, made the exchange of love letters increasingly common over the course of the century, even among those living in close proximity and at much different ranks in the social strata than that occupied by Luciano and Carlota. Such was the case among artisans and mine workers with varying levels of skills, people like Liberato and María in Hidalgo District, Chihuahua, who testified before judicial authorities that they could neither read nor write on their own. Their story is somewhat unusual in that their method of accomplishing the writing, reading, and exchange of letters is spelled out in the legal record, with various relatives and acquaintances possessing varying skills and degrees of “literacy” and contributing them to accomplishing the task, and not through the use of a professional amanuensis, as in other cases encountered in the archive. In part, the mobility introduced by the arrival of the railroad in northern Mexico and the concomitant movement of workers in search of wage labor created a situation much like that uncovered by Judy Kalman in Mixquic, a town near Mexico City, in the 1940s when drought forced men to migrate elsewhere in search of work while love compelled them to find ways to communicate, often by learning to write in groups or using scribes, with those left behind.28

Yet migration, either temporary or more permanent, was far from the only incentive compelling a turn to writing. For many, the written word seemed to be synonymous with love, as even the act of accepting a letter indicated the initiation of a courting relationship while the return of letters to their writers surely marked its definitive end, at times literally as well as figuratively. Material objects that seemed to make tangible feelings and states that were much more transitory or ambiguous, letters seemed capable of standing in for the missing lover as well as delivering their touch, or at least the traces of it. Letters were also performative, in that they brought into being the very thing discussed in them, romantic love between the couple. The legal system, that pillar of the lettered city, leant additional weight to the power of the written word, even as it reached beyond the urban centers to spread its norms, however unevenly, to the mining camps, agricultural towns, and others communities across the nation. Concerned in one section with crimes against the order of families, public morality, or good customs, penal codes of the last third of the 19th century, both state and national, mandated differing treatment for those committing crimes associated with the removal of young women from the control of parental authority, known as rapto, and that of the initiation of sexual relations with underage women under certain circumstances, known as estupro, depending on whether or not a written promise of marriage had been offered. With reference to estupro, the national code stipulated five to eleven months of arrest and hefty fines when that particular offense had been carried out under the following set of circumstances: the woman was older than fourteen; she had been given a written promise of marriage; the male had subsequently refused to follow through on the promise without just cause; and the male was over the age of majority.29 Although these provisions privileging written promises over those merely spoken were eliminated in the revised penal codes of the 20th century, it was at this point in the legal proceedings when the lettered countryside met the lettered city: at some times parents and at others, depending on the circumstances, young women submitted their love letters to judicial officials in hopes of obtaining recourse to the mechanisms offered by the law for forcing boyfriends to comply with their promises. In this, however, they were often greatly disappointed.

Proclamations from the Lettered Countryside

Just as the state, in the form of the legal system, extended its reach, however tenuously, into the countryside over the course of the 19th century, its inhabitants borrowed its terms and its tools, especially that of writing, as means of achieving their own ends, that went well beyond the expression of their love. While Eric Van Young has stressed the overwhelming orality of Mexican culture at the beginning of the 19th century, finding that popular protest during the Independence era took the form of public and private speech acts rather than written documents and that “much of the ideological business of the insurgency . . . was carried on orally in face-to-face settings,”30 by the 1840s this was no longer the case, at least in some regions of the country. In the southern Mexican district of Chilapa, for example, now part of the State of Guerrero but at the time, between 1821 and the late 1840s, belonging to the State of Mexico, peasant unrest between 1842 and 1846, involving as many as ten thousand individuals, not only engaged with the issues upon which politics at the national level turned, including demanding a change of regime in Mexico City, but did so using the most common form of elite political expression in postindependence Mexico, the written plan or proclamation.31 Unknown during the colonial period, the War of Independence, and the struggles of the 1820s and 1830s, proclamations written by peasants date to the mid-1840s, a product of the struggles between centralists and federalists as well as the sense that the remedy for pressing grievances at the local level could only be found nationally.

Critical to both the writing of these proclamations and their circulation locally was that a number of villagers had become residents of the lettered countryside, that is, they had learned to read and to write. To explain this, Guardino points to the long tradition of village schools that the region enjoyed, with schools existing in at least twenty-four indigenous villages and the three largest towns, and to the fact that village elites came to see the skills taught in these schools, especially reading, writing, and commercial arithmetic, as useful to them.32 Although the number of students was not large, it was sufficient for the purposes of the locally powerful, those who often came to dominate village politics, and it was among members of this local elite that the plans and proclamations circulated. Written in sometimes halting Spanish (most villagers in Chilapa spoke Nahuatl, while in others close by Mixtec, Tlapanec and Amuzco speakers dominated village politics), the plans grew out of the need for communication with greater numbers of unknown people across more extensive distances in an attempt to win allies in struggles that increasingly became national in scope. As centralists came to power in Mexico in the 1830s and 1840s and attempted to impose their vision throughout the country, one that included restricting the number of municipalities and increasing taxation, not only was their national political project contested in the name of federalism at the local and regional level, but the term federalism itself was given meaning there in writing.

Through the writing of plans and proclamations, indigenous peasant leaders of southern Mexico participated in the creation of a lettered countryside, a venue closely linked to the lettered city yet characterized by its own particular geographies. If federalists found in peasants a means of influencing events at the national level, peasants found in federalism a rhetoric that could be made to support local political autonomy characterized by low taxation, the election of local officials through widespread suffrage, and the creation of more municipalities. In the case of these plans, the conjunction of the lettered city and the lettered countryside became characterized by a certain flexibility of definition, where common terms and their means of expression could often yield different meanings or interpretations at the various levels. Just as with terms like federalism, the form of their representation, the written word, must also have taken on meanings depending on their context. As in the case of love letters, where the act of receiving them or the act of returning them held symbolic meaning greatly in excess of their actual written message and in which their writing helped bring into being the very categories being inscribed, plans and proclamations may have carried similar symbolic and performative dimensions—as symbols of leadership, as means of self-defense, as catalysts for bringing into being communities around specific grievances and demands, and as ways of creating a written record. Similar to the connotations characterizing other forms of print culture, in which the form of the book was associated with Europe and, as we have seen, the form of the serial publication of novels in newspapers with Mexico, villagers, whether writing plans or love letters, must have found in form a way of making writing their own.33

As proclamations made their way from countryside to city, pamphlets, flyers, almanacs, and other print materials flowed in the other direction, perhaps helping to influence both their form and content. Travelers as early as the 1840s reported seeing almanacs in homes located on rural estates and ranchos. Containing, along with political satire, information on such things as planting, weather, and religion and available from peddlers and at fairs, they might also be read out loud by orators.34 Critical to their production were evangelistas, letter-writers who made a living writing and mailing letters for those who needed their services to achieve literacy, and tinterillos (often disparagingly referred to as “scribblers” by elites),adepts at transcribing and then getting notarized official documents like land titles and contracts. Such figures, serving as a bridge between elite and popular groups, the lettered countryside and the city, could, during periods of political strife like the 1840s and the first fifty years of independence more generally, turn into “agitators and organizers,” or, as those who agreed with their opinions might put it, defenders of their communities. Throughout the century, letter-writers and scribblers remained influential, serving, as Carlos Forment has concluded, as the “first link in a communicative chain that extended from plebeian neighborhoods in the city all the way down to village hamlets.”35 Facilitating all kinds of political, legal, and personal transactions, marginal political pamphleteers enjoyed a heyday of sorts in Mexico City through the 1820s, while scribes continued to make possible such processes as petitioning for pardons (indultos) through the 19th century, as studies of the judicial system during the Maximiliato are now revealing.36

Rather than distinct locales, the lettered city and the lettered countryside were intimate, even conjoined, neighbors In constitutions, legal codes, catechisms, novels, and the press, the written word was pressed into service in the project of national imagining that comprised one of the main tasks of letrados in the 19th century. This is not to say, however, that the ideal nation peopled by suitably motivated and regulated citizens, as nation builders imagined them, was the result, or that literacy, envisioned in the singular, can be said to have slowly triumphed over orality. Instead, residents of the lettered countryside made writing their own, drafting plans and proclamations as early as the 1840s in places like Guerrero to put forward their own definitions of federalism in order to participate in politics at the national level. Novels, more than merely texts of the lettered city, included passages drawn from everyday speech and enjoyed an audience that extended beyond those reading them as installments in a burgeoning press to those listening in. Patriotic discourses and political events, in addition to being crafted in writing, were also discussed in various venues in the cities, including bars, workshops, and coffee shops, just as their written expression in pamphlets and almanacs reached increasingly into the countryside. By the end of the century, new forms of print publications, like the working-class penny press and periodicals for and by women, brought into being new publics with distinct senses of themselves as communities of readers and listeners. Meanwhile, in the mining camps and small communities of states like Chihuahua and elsewhere, a form of literacy, often accomplished in groups or by means of amanuenses and revolving around the composition and exchange of love letters, was being crafted. Even if such a strand of writing took place outside the lettered city, its missives and their composers often found themselves entangled in the workings of one of its main bulwarks, the legal system, a venue in which the association of the written word with power was one of its most adamant claims.

Discussion of the Literature

A contribution to ongoing debates over the supposed differences distinguishing communities possessing literacy from those based on orality, La ciudad letrada, written by Angel Rama and published posthumously in 1984 and subsequently translated into English as The Lettered City in 1996, foregrounds the close relationship between power, the written word, and the urban center beginning in colonial Latin America as it attempts to trace the consequences of the ever-expanding circuits of the written word from the city into the countryside over the course of the 19th century there.37 Rama’s ideas and especially the evocative title of his book continue to inspire discussion and debate to this day. Writing in 2011, Frank Salomon and Mercedes Niño-Murcia, working in Andean Peru, established the contours of the lettered mountain there, a term they use not only to highlight the fact that some indigenous peoples had learned to write simultaneous to the emergence of mass literacy in Europe but also to refer to a broad democratization of the world of letters that had taken place in the community they studied in the second half of the 19th century, one in which peasants, informally and through the use of writing manuals, had become their own letrados.38 The following year, Joanne Rappaport and Tom Cummins moved the discussion beyond the strictly European and alphabetic bounds of the lettered city to reveal the existence of an indigenous lettered city in the Andes, a venue that paralleled the official one discussed by Rama and one that came into being in close relationship to visuality and orality.39 William E. French, in 2015, venturing out of the lettered city, charted the composition of the lettered countryside in northern Mexico in the late 19th century by means of the exchange of love letters among such people as mine workers, agricultural laborers, and women carrying out domestic labor, a kind of reading and writing practice or event that was often accomplished in groups or through the use of amanuenses.40

As well as finding literacy in places previously thought to be characterized by widespread functional illiteracy and expanding our understanding of the term to regard it as a social process operating in relationship to such things as visuality and orality, scholars now find in the term “literacy” a problem to be addressed rather than a set of preordained conclusions. Referring to literacies, in the plural, rather than literacy, in the singular, those adopting what has come to be called the “event-centered” approach to literacy focus on one particular social setting to ask how literacy, in that particular instance, derives its meanings from the broader contexts in which it is practiced; each of many possible literacies is associated with different domains of life, different social groups, different institutions, and different genders, and shaped by—as it helps to shape—power in different ways.41 Thus, writing about working-class letter writing among migrant workers in early 20th-century South Africa, Keith Breckenridge charts the emergence of a “lettered private sphere” there growing out of the exchange of letters, particularly love letters, within and between households.42 Also writing about Africa, Karin Barber points to an “explosion” of writing there, a development she refers to as “tin-trunk literacy,” and which enabled the imagining of “new kinds of personhood, new ways of being social, and new ways of relating to the world of officialdom.”43 Lynn Thomas shows how the letters written by schoolgirls in central Kenya that ended up in pregnancy-compensation-case records constituted what she refers to as a form of “collective privacy,” along with particular kinds of publics.44 In the case of western Europe, Martyn Lyons has discovered that what he refers to as the “democratisation of writing” took a “quantum leap forward” there between the 1860s and the 1920s. In his book, he explores the significance of writing for peasants, workers, and the illiterate, focusing on what he refers to as the “scribal culture of ordinary people.”45

Along with literacies, scholars have been concerned with the changing contours of the “Republic of Letters” or developments in print culture in Latin America over the course of the 19th century. In a general treatment of the subject of “print” for Spanish America, Christopher Conway defines print culture as referring to any and all kinds of printing, as well as to its “themes, status, distribution, institutionalization, and reception.”46 He points to the secularization of reading and to the emergence of new forms of print culture in the 19th century, including many of the genres discussed in this essay. These forms are much more fully discussed in La República de las Letras: Asomos a la cultura escrita del México decimonónico, a multivolume work focusing on Mexico edited by Belem Clark de Lara and Elisa Speckman Guerra.47 Moving from a focus on movements, themes, literary genres, environments, associations, and groups in the first volume, the work takes up periodicals and other forms of print in the second, and specific authors in the third. Bringing together an impressive number of contributors and featuring an interdisciplinary focus, the work can be read, according to one of its editors, as an “atlas of writing culture” for 19th-century Mexico or thematically, given that various chapters return to a number of common themes over the course of the three volumes.48 While numerous authors, in this collection and elsewhere, treat various genres of print, the satirical penny press for workers seems to have particularly captured the imagination of many, perhaps no one more so than Robert M. Buffington. In A Sentimental Education for the Working Class Man: The Mexico City Penny Press, 1900–1910, he pays particular attention to the alternative masculine scripts for workers being articulated in the pages of this press in the capital in order to chart the bringing together of a diverse readership, one that he refers to as a “counterpublic” in recognition of its potential to contest the norms, styles, and speech of dominant society while generating new ones of their own.49

Primary Sources

Although some collections of love letters have been published, they usually feature the correspondence of prominent political or literary figures. Incredibly moving, the love letters of Jaime Sabines, for example, gathered and published in Cartas a Chepita, date to the mid-20th century and bear little resemblance to the love letters written in groups, by scribes, or by everyday people in the last third of the 19th century in Mexico. These latter have been submitted as evidence of a written promise of marriage in the crime of estupro or as part of the investigations of murder/suicides and are located in local-level judicial archives when available and accessible. Letters have been found in judicial archives in Parral, Chihuahua; Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala; Guanajuato, Guanajuato; and Oaxaca City, Oaxaca. Letters and other personal documents, including some diaries, can be found in the Acervo Histórico de Testimonios Familiares (Biblioteca Manuel Orozco y Berra de la DEH); some of this material may be accessed through the site Papeles de Familia.

Many novels written in the 19th century have been republished and are available; some of these have been translated, including the two used in this entry that bookend the 19th century, The Mangy Parrot and Bandits of Rio Frio. Some novels can be heard in the form of audio recordings as radionovelas on the site of the Enciclopedia de la Literatura en México.

Collections of 19th-century Mexican periodicals, including some of the penny press, can be searched by title at the site of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Hemeroteca Nacional Digital de México.

Further Reading

Barber, Karin, ed. Africa’s Hidden Histories: Everyday Literacy and Making the Self. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006.Find this resource:

    Buffington, Robert M. A Sentimental Education for the Working Man: The Mexico City Penny Press, 1900–1910. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

      Clark de Lara, Belem, and Elisa Speckman Guerra, eds. La República de las Letras: Asomos a la cultura escrita del México decimonónico. 3 vols. Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma de México, 2005.Find this resource:

        French, William E. The Heart in the Glass Jar: Love Letters, Bodies, and the Law in Mexico. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015.Find this resource:

          Monsiváis, Carlos. “La tradición de la memoria religiosa: El catecismo del Padre Ripalda.” In Imágenes de la tradición viva, by Carlos Monsiváis, 123–138. 2d ed. Mexico City: Landucci, 2006.Find this resource:

            Piccato, Pablo. The Tyranny of Opinion: Honor in the Construction of the Mexican Public Sphere. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

              Rama, Angel. The Lettered City. Translated by John Charles Chasteen. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996.Find this resource:

                Rappaport, Joanne, and Tom Cummins, Beyond the Lettered City: Indigenous Literacies in the Andes. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

                  Salomon, Frank, and Mercedes Niño-Murcia. The Lettered Mountain: A Peruvian Village’s Way with Writing. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

                    Sommer, Doris. Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.Find this resource:

                      Speckman Guerra, Elisa. Temblando de felicidad, me despido: Formulas y lenguajes de amor en las publicaciones de Vanegas Arroyo (1880–1920). Mexico City: Ediciones Castillo, 2007.Find this resource:

                        Unzueta, Fernando. “Scenes of Reading: Imagining Nations/Romancing History in Spanish America.” In Beyond Imagined Communities: Reading and Writing the Nation in Nineteenth-Century Latin America, ed. Sara Castro-Klarén and John Charles Chasteen, 115–160. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2003.Find this resource:


                          (1.) Angel Rama, The Lettered City, translated by John Charles Chasteen (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996). Rama’s book was published posthumously in 1984 as La ciudad letrada before being translated into English in 1996.

                          (2.) Doris Sommer, Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

                          (3.) Joanne Rappaport and Tom Cummins, Beyond the Lettered City: Indigenous Literacies in the Andes (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012); Frank Salomon and Mercedes Niño-Murcia, The Lettered Mountain: A Peruvian Village’s Way with Writing (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011); Jean Franco, The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America in the Cold War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002); and Juan Pablo Dabove, Nightmares of the Lettered City: Banditry and Literature in Latin America, 1816–1929 (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007).

                          (4.) Salomon and Niño-Murcia, Lettered Mountain, p. 293.

                          (5.) The “event-centered approach” to literacies set out in Niko Besnier, Literacy, Emotion and Authority: Reading and Writing on a Polynesian Atoll (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995), and in David Barton, Mary Hamilton, and Roz Ivanic, eds., Situated Literacies: Reading and Writing in Context (New York: Routledge, 2000).

                          (6.) Rappaport and Cummins, Beyond the Lettered City, pp. 115–116.

                          (7.) William E. French, The Heart in the Glass Jar: Love Letters, Bodies and the Law in Mexico (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015), see chapter 2, entitled “The Lettered Countryside.”

                          (8.) Carlos Monsiváis, “Del saber compartido en la ciudad indiferente: De grupos y ateneos en el siglo XIX,” in La República de las Letras: Asomos a la cultura escrita del México decimonónico, vol. 1, ed. Belem Clark de Lara and Elisa Speckman Guerra (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2005), p. 90.

                          (9.) Excerpt is from Carlos Monsiváis, “La tradición de la memoria religiosa: El catecismo del Padre Ripalda,” in Carlos Monsiváis, Imágenes de la tradición viva, 2d ed. (Mexico City: Landucci, UNAM, and Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2006), p. 124. Information on the translation of Ripalda into indigenous languages from Arnulfo Uriel de Santiago Gómez, “Educar en el siglo XIX: Ediciones para culturas diferentes,” Intercultural Communication Studies 21.1 (2012): 56. All translations from Spanish to English are given by the author.

                          (10.) Dorothy Tanck quoted in Santiago Gómez, “Educar en el siglo XIX,” p. 57.

                          (11.) See the discussion of “print” in Christopher Conway, Nineteenth-Century Spanish America: A Cultural History (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2015), chapter 2.

                          (12.) José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi, The Mangy Parrot: The Life and Times of Periquillo Sarniento, Written by Himself for His Children, trans. David Frye (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2005), p. 6.

                          (13.) Lizardi quoted in Conway, Nineteenth-Century Spanish America, p. 72.

                          (14.) Rama, The Lettered City, pp. 43 and 49.

                          (15.) Manuel Payno, The Bandits from Río Frío: A Naturalistic and Humorous Novel of Customs, Crimes and Horrors, vol. 1, trans. Alan Fluckey (San Francisco: Heliographica, 2005), pp. 148–149.

                          (16.) Fernando Unzueta, “Scenes of Reading: Imagining Nations/Romancing History in Spanish America,” in Beyond Imagined Communities: Reading and Writing the Nation in Nineteenth-Century Latin America, ed. Sara Castro-Klarén and John Charles Chasteen (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), p. 135.

                          (17.) Unzueta, “Scenes of Reading,” pp. 153–155.

                          (18.) Pablo Piccato, The Tyranny of Opinion: Honor in the Construction of the Mexican Public Sphere (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), p. 107. “Political country” is Justo Sierra’s phrase; see the discussion by Piccato on p. 6.

                          (19.) Sierra’s quote is from Piccato, Tyranny of Opinion, p. 2; the letrado being quoted is Guillermo Prieto, from Piccato, Tyranny of Opinion, p. 107.

                          (20.) Elisa Speckman Guerra, “Las posibles lecturas de La República de las Letras. Escritores, visiones y lectores,” in La República de las Letras: Asomos a la cultura escrita del México decimonónico, vol. 1, Ambientes, Asociaciones y grupos. Movimientos, temas y géneros literarios, ed. Belem Clark de Lara and Elisa Speckman Guerra (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2005), p. 47.

                          (21.) The estimate for 1880 from Piccato, Tyranny of Opinion, p. 68; for the estimate for 1910, see Robert M. Buffington, A Sentimental Education for the Working Man: The Mexico City Penny Press, 1900–1910 (Durham, NC: Duke, 2015), p. 8. Nora Pérez Rayón and Alberto del Castillo Troncoso conclude that the public of the periodical press was greater than that formed by readers alone, quoted in Speckman Guerra, “Las posibles lecturas,” p. 66.

                          (22.) Buffington, Sentimental Education, p. 14.

                          (23.) Buffington, Sentimental Education, pp. 9, 91–96.

                          (24.) Kirkpatrick quoted in Lilia Granillo Vázquez and Esther Hernández Palacios, “De reinas del hogar y de la patria a escritoras profesionales: La edad de oro do las poetisas mexicanas,” in Clark de Lara and Speckman Guerra, La República de las Letras, vol. 1, p. 126.

                          (25.) Monsiváis cites Luis Pérez Verdía, “Guadalajara a principios del siglo XIX,” on parental fears at the beginning of the century; see Monsiváis, Imágenes de la tradición viva, p. 150.

                          (26.) Elisa Speckman Guerra, Temblando de felicidad, me despido: Fórmulas y lenguajes de amor en las publicaciones de Vanegas Arroyo (1880–1920) (Mexico City: Ediciones Castillo, 2007).

                          (27.) Luciano J. Gallardo, Diaries Recollecting Courtship of Carlota Gil: Guadalajara, San Luis Potosí, etc. 1864, 1869, Bancroft Library: BANC, MSS M-B 13 Box 1, microfilm version consulted.

                          (28.) Judy Kalman, Discovering Literacy: Access Routes to Written Culture for a Group of Women in Mexico (Hamburg: UNESCO Institute for Education, 2005), p. 48.

                          (29.) French, Heart in the Glass Jar, pp. 26–30.

                          (30.) Eric Van Young, The Other Rebellion: Popular Violence, Ideology, and the Mexican Struggle for Independence, 1810–1821 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001), p. 311.

                          (31.) Peter Guardino, “Barbarism or Republican Law? Guerrero’s Peasants and National Politics, 1820–1846,” Hispanic American Historical Review 75.2 (May 1995): 205–206.

                          (32.) Ibid., p. 206; for a discussion of education in Mexico during the 19th century, see Mary Kay Vaughan, “Primary Education and Literacy in Nineteenth-Century Mexico: Research Trends, 1968–1988,” Latin American Research Review 25.1 (1990): 31–66.

                          (33.) Nancy Vogeley, cited in Amy E. Wright, “Novels, Newspapers, and Nation: The Beginnings of Serial Fiction in Nineteenth-Century Mexico,” in Building Nineteenth-Century Latin America: Re-Rooted Cultures, Identities, and Nations, ed. William G. Acree Jr. and Juan Carlos González Espitia (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2009), 63.

                          (34.) Carlos A. Forment, Democracy in Latin America, 1760–1900, vol. 1, Civic Selfhood and Public Life in Mexico and Peru (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 200.

                          (35.) Ibid., pp. 197–200.

                          (36.) Georgina López González, “Cultura Jurídica y Imaginario Monárquico: Las Peticiones de Indulto durante el Segundo Imperio Mexicano,” Historia Mexicana 55.4 (April–June 2006): 1289–1351. On the marginal status of pamphleteers in Mexico City during the 1820s, see Rafael Rojas, “Una maldición silenciada: El panfleto político en México independiente,” Historia Mexicana 47.1 (July–September 1997): 35–67.

                          (37.) Rama, Lettered City. Originally published as La ciudad letrada (Hanover, NH: Ediciones del Norte, 1984).

                          (38.) Salomon and Niño-Murcia, Lettered Mountain.

                          (39.) Rappaport and Cummins, Beyond the Lettered City.

                          (40.) French, Heart in the Glass Jar.

                          (41.) For an author concerned with an “event-centered” approach to literacy or “literacy events,” see Besnier, Literacy, Emotion and Authority.

                          (42.) Keith Breckenridge, “Love Letters and Amanuenses: Beginning the Cultural History of the Working Class Private Sphere in Southern Africa, 1900–1933,” Journal of Southern Africa Studies 26.2 (June 2000): 337–348. Breckenridge summarizes as follows: “Working class South Africans have constructed private lives, and individual selves, out of an unusual combination of literary affect and collaborative authorship (and reading),” p. 338.

                          (43.) Karin Barber, “Introduction: Hidden Innovators in Africa,” in Africa’s Hidden Histories: Everyday Literacy and Making the Self, ed. Karin Barber (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006).

                          (44.) Lynn M. Thomas, “Schoolgirl Pregnancies, Letter-Writing, and ‘Modern’ Persons in Late Colonial East Africa,” in Barber, Africa’s Hidden Histories.

                          (45.) Martyn Lyons, The Writing Culture of Ordinary People in Europe, c. 1860–1920 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 3, 8, 18.

                          (46.) Conway, Nineteenth-Century Spanish America, p. 54.

                          (47.) Clark de Lara and Speckman Guerra, La República de las Letras.

                          (48.) Elisa Speckman Guerra, “Las posibles lecturas de La República de las Letras. Escritores, visiones y lectores,” in Clark de Lara and Speckman Guerra, La República de las Letras, vol. 1, p. 49.

                          (49.) Buffington, Sentimental Education, pp. 6, 96.