El Fracaso del Mestizo by Pedro Ángel Palou

Document Type

Book Review

Subject Area(s)

Languages, Literatures and Cultures


El fracaso del mestizo studies the rise and fall of the Modern Mexican State through the lens of the mestizo and mestizaje. Pedro Palou acknowledges these concepts as Mexico’s master signifier and unifier after the end of the Revolution in 1917. This ground-breaking work accompanies his earlier La culpa de México, la invención de un país entre dos guerras. In his new work, Palou offers a careful intellectual history of Mexico grounded in Pierre Bourdieu’s sociological concept of the habitus, that is, the values and expectations acquired through everyday life, which depend on history and memory. Thus for Palou, the Mexican habitus is created and recreated through José Vasconcelos’s and others’ mythical and mystical interpretations of mestizaje. El fracaso del mestizo examines how literature and film reproduce this myth, which has been forcibly remembered in Mexico throughout the twentieth century.

The book, Palou’s first written from his academic position in the US, examines Mexico from an outside perspective that remains deeply ingrained in Mexico’s cultural and academic milieu. El fracaso del mestizo’s greatest strength is that it proposes a post-identity politics for Mexico while engaging with theories of identity, gender, sexuality and race. The book begins by accepting the importance of this problematic master signifier, and continuing a discussion begun by critics such as Joshua Lund and Estele Tarica, whose works have enhanced the study of mestizaje and the Mexican State in significant ways.


Janzen, Rebecca. "El fracaso del mestizo by Pedro Ángel Palou (review)." Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, vol. 49 no. 1, 2015, pp. 210-212. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/rvs.2015.0011