First Advisor

Friedrich Schuler

Term of Graduation

Fall 1997

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Signs and symbols -- Mexico -- History, Nationalism -- Mexico -- History, Mexico -- Politics and government -- 1867-1910



Physical Description

1 online resource, (121p.)


When General Porfirio Dfaz became president of Mexico the country was unstable. During his years of leadership, 1876-1911 he managed an uneven stability. One method he used to promote nationalism was the use of symbols. This thesis derives from the theory introduced by the historian of Mexican economy, Barbara Tenenbaum, that the Porfirian administrators attempted to establish themselves as the legitimate rulers of the Mexican nation by forging a line of succession from the ancient Aztecs to themselves through association with indigenous symbols and territory. The intention of this thesis is to demonstrate that the Mexican government manipulated images of indigenous peoples to inspire nationalism aimed at legitimizing Porfirio Diaz's administration.

Chapter one discusses the domestic backdrop against which the alteration of the Aztec image took place. Chapter two discusses the international opinion regarding the Aztecs. Chapter three describes the appropriation process by which the images were manipulated through the creation of the position of the national archaeologist. Archaeological symbols leaked into federalized public art. Chapter four examines the public monuments erected bearing European and Aztec symbolism. Chapter five looks at Diaz's involvement in the appropriation of symbols and the public's critical attitude of the process.

An important aspect of this thesis is the evidence on which I based my ideas. The evidence is a mixture of political and archaeological writings, government reports, travel and newspaper accounts, brochures, advertisements, monuments, art works, artifacts, codices, photographs, speeches and fiestas. These various sources come from the layers of international and Porfirian society. They explain the persuasiveness of the "noble savage" image of Aztecs throughout these levels of Mexico. Through the attitudes of the upper classes these sources reveal the way in which domestically and internationally the Aztec image was sometimes embraced and sometimes rejected as a national emblem for Mexico. Ultimately, the evidence explains the failure of indigenous images as an positive international symbol for Mexico.


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