This article concerns the concept and rhetoric of “el pueblo” in Yucatán during the regime of Mexican president Porfirio Díaz, from the 1870s forward. In Yucatán, this era was one of radical change, bringing the transformation and expansion of the region's henequen hacienda economy, the rise of the institution of debt servitude, affecting both indigenous Yucatec Mayan and working-class mestizo populations, and the rise of encompassing political rhetorics of order, progress, and nation building among Porfirian government officials and pueblo-level landowning gentry.
El pueblo both mediated these transformations and was reshaped by them. Local gentry worked as cultural and political brokers, joining forces with state officials in remaking Yucatán as a “modern” and “civilized” state through infrastructural improvements and education aimed at transforming largely indigenous, rural pueblos into staging areas of a modern Mexico. At the same time, the gentry, many of them also of mestizo background, avidly boosted mestizo pueblo “traditions” as forms of statecraft, appropriating pueblo cultural styles as a repertoire through which state and nation might be constructed and the social hierarchies of henequen society might be legitimated. More than just a place, el pueblo became a strategy through which modernity and tradition were collaboratively produced by state officials and local elites. Such performative renderings of el pueblo became paradigmatic signifiers of both mestizo culture and regional Yucatecan identity, occupying pride of place in the cultural repertoire of rule embraced by Yucatán's regional elites from the Porfiriato forward.