Because of the long dominance of Mexico's leading political party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, the campaigns of its presidential candidates were never considered relevant in determining the victor. This book offers an ethnography of the Mexican political system under PRI hegemony, focusing on the relationship between the formal democratic structure of the state and the unofficial practices of the underlying political culture, and addressing the question of what purpose campaigns serve when the outcome is predetermined. Discussing Mexican presidential politics from the perspectives of anthropology, political science, and communications science, the authors analyze the 1988 presidential campaign of Carlos Salinas de Gortari--the last great campaign of the PRI to display the characteristics traditionally found in the twentieth century. These detailed descriptions of campaign events show that their ritualistic nature expressed both a national culture and an aura of domination. The authors describe the political and cultural context in which this campaign took place--an authoritarian presidential system that dated from the 1920s--and explain how the constitutional provisions of the state interacted with the informal practices of the party to produce highly scripted symbolic rituals. Their analysis probes such topics as the meanings behind the candidate's behavior, the effects of public opinion polling, and the role of the press, then goes on to show how the system has begun to change since 2000. By dealing with the campaign from multiple perspectives, the authors reveal it as a rite of passage that sheds light on the political culture of the country. Their study expands our understanding of authoritarianism during the years of PRI dominance and facilitates comparison of current practices with those of the past.
Larissa Adler-Lomnitz (PhD) is a socio-cultural anthropologist, specializing in social networks analyses. She is a full-time professor and researcher at the Institute for Applied Mathematics at the National University of Mexico (IIMAS - UNAM). In 1995 she received the National Prize of Science in the Humanities. She is the author of several books that include: Networks and Marginality, A Mexican Elite Family, Becoming a Scientist in Mexico, and Chile's Political Culture and Parties. She has also written the article "Informal Networks in Formal Systems," among others. Her latest book is Lo formal y lo informal en las sociedades contemporaneas. Rodrigo Salazar Elena (MD) is a political scientist. He is a full-time professor and researcher at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) in Mexico. He has authored and co-authored papers on Mexican electoral dynamics, Latin American politics, and political culture. His current research interests involve populism in Latin America, the causes and consequences of presidential reelection, and social science methodology. Ilya Adler (Ph.D.) specializes in international and intercultural communications. He has been a professor for many years teaching in the areas of communications, business and international relations at Mexican and U.S. universities, including the University of Illinois-Chicago, the Tecnologico de Monterrey, the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and Alliant International University. He has also held several academic administrative positions. He has authored a number of articles and a book dealing with social, political and cultural issues in Mexico and has been a regular columnist of Mexconnect, an electronic magazine dedicated to Mexico, writing about the cultural challenges faced in the Mexican business world. He has also been a successful consultant to business and public institutions both in the U.S. and Mexico.