Hijos del Pueblo is a redo with nearly the same title as Deborah Kanter’s 1993 doctoral dissertation. For the book, she has added some 20 years to her study, through the Mexican-American War. Her purpose is to study women and how their lives changed during the post-independence era. She selected Toluca, a sizable region west of Mexico City, which was always too close to the capital to become a distinct, independent entity yet maintained its rural character. It was a district of maize and maguey that shifted somewhat to livestock ranching and then in the nineteenth century to intensive agricultural production. By the Porfiriato, one town in the Toluca basin, Tenango del Valle, was the most populous in the state of Mexico.

As expected, Kanter finds great continuity of colonial practices over the period studied, but she also observes increasing disadvantage for some sectors of society. She depends largely on...

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