Unintended Lessons of Revolution: Student Teachers and Political Radicalism in Twentieth-Century Mexico by Tanalís Padilla

This new book by Professor Padilla traces the history of the rural normales, showing how they became sites of radical politics.


In the 1920s, Mexico established rural normales—boarding schools that trained teachers in a new nation-building project. Drawn from campesino ranks and meant to cultivate state allegiance, their graduates would facilitate land distribution, organize civic festivals, and promote hygiene campaigns. In Unintended Lessons of Revolution, Tanalís Padilla traces the history of the rural normales, showing how they became sites of radical politics.

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Praise for the book

Unintended Lessons of Revolution demonstrates that Mexico’s rural normal schools may be the most durable legacy of the 1910 revolution. Rural schoolteachers in postrevolutionary Mexico served communities not only as instructors but also as community organizers, social workers, and secular confessors and pastors. Tanalís Padilla weaves together oral histories with local and national documentary evidence into an empirically rich study of how the rural normales endured as incubators of political radicalism despite their original purpose as instruments to co-opt resistance into the postrevolutionary regime.”

— Jocelyn Olcott, Professor of History, Duke University

“This is a tremendously impressive study of the rural normal school, which became a vibrant locale of social mobility, cultural change, and political mobilization of student-teachers at various stages in Mexican political history. This book transcends the constricted scope of a narrow institutional study to throw new light on a series of larger questions concerning Mexico’s legacy of revolution, its failed rural policies, and the explosion of unrest among rural teachers and activists. It is a pleasure to read.”

— Brooke Larson, author of Trials of Nation Making: Liberalism, Race, and Ethnicity in the Andes, 1810–1910