Latin American History
8 January 2013
Ben Smith (Warwick)
La Dictablanda: Soft Authoritarianism in Mexico, 1940-1968


In 1929 the National Revolutionary Party (PNR) was formed and later renamed Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).  Between 1940 and 1970 this administration became increasingly authoritarian and at times oppressive.  This talk by Ben Smith examines what he calls soft authoritarianism in the acts of the PRI.

Ben Smith believes that historiography on this period in Mexican history is missing the everyday experiences of families under soft authoritarianism, or as the Mexicans would call it La Dictablanda.  He talks about the paradox of revolution and state, of how the revolutionary authority turned from democracy to an increasingly authoritarian state and of how extreme violence was used against the people even during periods considered relatively peaceful.  The paper focuses on four principal elements:

1)      Description of twin-paradoxes of the Mexican state.

2)      Historiography on the subject.

3)      Conclusions regarding the PRI state.

4)      La Dictablanda described.

Smith finishes his paper by examining one way people were able to make political statements with minimum fear of persecution – this was the use of humour as an act of subversion.

To listen to this podcast click here.