Research Matters

Research Matters

Civil Rights Influence

An investigator exposes the Mexican Revolution's influence on U.S. civil rights.

Aired January 31, 2010

2 minutes (2.7 MB) | Download mp3


An investigator exposes the Mexican Revolution's influence on U.S. civil rights. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

Like the United States, Mexico has been beset by challenges of race and culture. Ruben Flores, assistant professor of American Studies at KU, examines how the state resulting from the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century spearheaded integration of Mexico's population under the PRI party.

Flores: In the case of Mexico the question was, 'to what extent should we allow the vital elements of Native American an cultures to become a part of the institutional state?' "Are you going to have political practices among the Maya or the Yaqui Indians of Sonora that become a part of the PRI party, for example?

Mexico's post-revolutionary government pushed reforms like the creation of 15,000 public schools, which taught Spanish to groups that had spoken only their own languages. Flores says that American social scientists that saw these successes brought lessons back to the U.S.

Flores: They continued to study Mexico in the 1930s and 40s as the American civil rights movement was ratcheting up. Mexico became a model for these individuals of how government might use its institutional power to help unite people into a single political unit.

Flores is working on a book about the Mexican Revolution's impact on U.S. political history. The National Academy of Education and the Spencer Foundation fund his research. Flores says there are valuable lessons to be learned from his investigations.

Flores: The civil rights movement and the movement for assimilation in Mexico took place in the context of a strong federal government," Flores said. "One of the big lessons is that there is a role for government as a mediator of social conflict in American society. We have to disagree about what that role is. But I think that's a conversation that has to be had, rather than saying that the government has no role.

For more about the Mexican Revolution and its impact on the U.S. civil rights movement, log on to Research Matters dot K-U dot E-D-U. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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Civil Rights Influence

The power of social changes in post-revolutionary Mexico had a profound impact on civil rights in the United States, according to research by Ruben Flores, assistant professor of American Studies at KU.

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