The Mexican pedagogues who launched a standardized national curriculum during the 1960s would likely be dismayed by the attitudes that Natividad Gutiérrez encountered among indigenous intellectuals thirty years later. Having largely rejected the assimilationist goals of the Ministry of Education (SEP), the students educated in these programs are now Mexico’s most ardent advocates of multiculturalism and self-empowerment for indigenous peoples. According to Gutiérrez, indigenous Mexicans rejected the SEP’s project because it failed to address their own “myth-symbol complexes.” They find nationalist narratives rooted in Aztec origin, the mestizo nation, and the valorization of heroes such as Benito Juárez either irrelevant or racist, and have instead looked within their own communities to promote cultural revival.

While these observations vis-à-vis the efficacy of SEP nationalism do not shed much new light on state formation in twentieth-century Mexico, Gutiérrez’s focus on the changing role of indigenous intellectuals in civil society represents an original...

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