The Porfiriato: the Economy, the Land and the People. Modern Mexico Lecture Week 9. Lecture. “19 th C Mexico so far....” from Politics to Economics and (rural) Society Economic Reforms and Porfirian growth The Countryside. 19 th C Mexico so far.
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The Porfiriato: the Economy, the Land and the People
Modern Mexico Lecture Week 9
In 1830 Lorenzo de Zavala foresaw decades of conflict in central and southern Mexico that would remain firmly “in the grip of the military and ecclesiastical arm as a penalty for their prejudices.”
“in the bosom of these states a few generous and enlightened individuals will make efforts to lift their fellow citizens up to the level of the adopted (US) institutions and will seek to give them lessons in liberty and tolerance. . . (and) . . . the American system will obtain a complete though bloody victory.”
social change would then follow:
“a glorious and enlightened generation . . . would. . . bring the civilised family into association with the indigenous class, until now debased and vilified, and will teach them to hold in esteem their dignity by elevating their thoughts to a higher level.”
Fist visit to US in 1859: Ocampo-McClane Treaty:
“The best means of impeding annexation is to open the country to the United States...with the objective of making annexation unnecessary, and even undesirable” (Romero, 1859)
“Better to yield markets than territory, dollars than dominion.”
(Richard Salvucci, “The Origins and Progress of US-Mexican Trade, 1825-1884: ‘Hoc opus, hic labor est’”, Hispanic American Historical Review Vo.71, 4, 1991, 607-735.)
Height of Civil War in February 1862, Matias Romero to Montgomery Blair, US Postmaster General, :
“We can celebrate…commercial arrangements, in virtue of which the manufacturing states of the North acquire in Mexico the market they have lost in the South, and from which they have been prohibited until now because of the natural jealousy and distrust with which Mexico has viewed the United States. Since our political tendencies and interests are identical, we can make other arrangements…which will result in the United States obtaining all of the advantages…(of) annexing Mexico to the American Union, but without suffering any of the inconveniences.”
In 1865 Romero’s openness and trust of the Yanquis extended even to proposing a deputation of US soldiers to train the Liberal Army !
“We (Mexicans) desire to have some of the best soldiers from the United States go to Mexico as much that they would serve as a species of nucleus for our army as for making more useful the sympathies of that people for our cause.”
William Schell, Integral outsiders The American Colony in Mexico City 1876-1911 Scholarly, 2001)
“Porfirian planners encouraged Yanqui investment as a calculated programme of ‘defensive modernisation’ designed to make the best of Mexico’s geo-political situation”
- US investors and entrepreneurs were greater risk takers. Mexicans preferred safer investments.
-- the Porfirian political elite used the “ambitious northern neighbour to gain domestic political advantage”
1910 10, 000 (largest US community in LA) in a population of 471,000
Trade between Mexico and US rose from $7 million in 1867 to $117 million in 1911
Investment in Mexico from a “few millions” in 1867 to $1 billion in 1911
85% of US investment was in railways and mining in 1911
1856 Laws of desamortización (towns, clergy and Indian communities to transfer communal and corporate landholding )
Lat 1860s and 70s: Matías Romero’s reforms: removal of alcabalas (sales taxes), monopolies and abolition of state (but not national) custom duties. Aim to open national market ready for the railways.
Colonization and Land Survey Laws of early 1880s (surveyors got half), removal of all restrictions on foreigners owning land
Selective reduction of import tariffs (protecting industry)
1880s Mining Code: state ceded rights to subsoil
1880s, Commercial and Company codes: limited liability now allowed
1890s, new banking Laws: credit available for the first to more Mexicans, paper money etc.
- “Poor Mexico, So far from God, so near to the United States” (P.Díaz) ?
Paolo Riguzzi in ¿Reciprocidad imposible ? La política del comercio entre México y Estados Unidos, 1857-1938 (Mexico, 2003) asks whether the asymmetry in power and wealth between US and Mexico was reflected in unequal trade relations ?
i) “On the eight occasions that the two countries met to negotiate commercial treaties..., Mexico was able to influence, at times decisively, in defining the agendas, the timing and limits of the negotiation, and in obtaining outcomes suited each time to its interests and preferences”
ii) periods of greater integration with the US coincided precisely with the moments in which Mexico enjoyed greater autonomy and power in its interaction with the US, while moments of lesser integration coincided with greater weakness in negotiations (US more flexible on tariffs).
Riguzzi concludes that Mexico was not “avasallado” to, or dominated by, the pretensions and preferences of the US
Economic integration with the US did not act to reduce sovereignty rather it strengthened the negotiating capacity of the weaker over the stronger......
Crisis is this after 1900 ?....more on this next week
Stephen Haber, Armando Razo & Noel Maurer, eds., The Politics of Property Rights, Credible Commitments and Economic Growth in Mexico, 1876-1929 (Cambridge, 2003)
In spite of the “invasión pacífica”, Liberal reforms and independent trade policy, Haber et al emphasise the determining role of the Mexican state, suggesting that “the Porfirian regime was characterised not by laisser faire and market rules, but rather by a politicisation based on an extensive network of privileged contracts between the president and selected groups of asset holders” (VPI or amiguismo)
Railways achieved Lorenzo de Zavala’s 1830 vision of populating the North and galanising the economies and societies of the Centre and South
Railways broke more bottlenecks in a mountainous country….
David Pletcher, Rails, mines, and progress: seven American promoters in Mexico, 1867-1911. (Cornell, 1958)
John Coatsworth, Growth against Development: The Economic Impact of Railroads in Porfrian Mexico Northern Illinois, 1981
- restored Mexico City’s commercial centrality
- by linking remote mines to centralised smelters ensured Mexico’s recovery as world leader in mineral production. Precious metal and more importantly, non precious metals(iron, copper, lead, zinc…) (US dominance: Guggenheim in San Luis Potosi, Greene at Cananea in Sonora)
- permitted the development of industrial poles beyond Mexico City: textile triangle of Puebla, Tlaxcala and Veracruz (centre of labour radicalism after 1900) and the industrialisation of Monterrey Nuevo Leon) : beer, iron and steel, now with a national market.
- recovery and transformation of agriculture: after 1900 Chihuahua cattle went in box cars to Chicago, long stagnant colonial staples - Morelos sugar and Atlixco wheat – found a national market; cotton shifted to the Laguna, henequen boomed in Yucatan, sugar in the Valle Nacional in Oaxaca, coffee in Chiapas.
- growth of international demand and improved commodity prices.
- increase in foreign and domestic investment
-favourable political and administrative environment: protective tariffs, close overlap between economic and political power
- liberal lands laws extended from communal lands to all empty lands (baldias)
- first proper policing of the countryside (Rurales policied settled peasantry plus effective prosecution of Indian wars)
1860 compared with 1910:
1860: 8 million pop:
tiny middle class,
a large artisanate and small working class,
immobile hacienda and village peasantry,
North sparsely populated
1910: 15 million
- still small - but far richer - elite (regionally oligarchies)
- greatly expanded middle class, especially in N Mexico where wages were higher
- much greater mobility - consequences for political education - of rural population (except for nomadic Indians whose mobility almost ceased: wars against the Mayo, Yaqui and Maya, captives exported as slaves to Cuba and Yucatan)
- decline in artisanate and growth of modern working class, even in remote locations (such as Cananea copper mine in Sonora) increasingly difficult to incorporate politically.
Friedrich Katz, "Labor Conditions on Haciendas in Porfirian Mexico: Some Trends and Tendencies," Hispanic American Historical Review 54 (February, 1974)
Centre, North and South
Frontier society became a border society.
- Close integration with US economy: Pullman from Mexico City to Boston by 1900.
- Mobile labour force in north where the wage ruled. Wages were higher: choice between estates, railways, factories, mines or the US. Socially problematic only when there was a general economic down turn (1906-1911)
- Serrano communities: alongside its great estates, N. society developed a village peasantry based upon military colonies established during the 18th C and continued throughout the 19th. Enormous extensions of Sierra land granted in exchange for military service. Prospered for one hundred years and developed a distinctive “serrano” politics & culture: valuing political autonomy, land ownership, rather macho and patriarchal.
Another Mexico: see J.K. Turner Barbarous Mexico (1908):
- export enclaves and plantation complexes, poorly linked with the national system. Labour scarcity resolved by penal and oppressive contract labour. With demand for tropical commodities paternalism on estates declined and slave like conditions became common (see Handout, “Porfirio Diaz visits Yucatan”). Enclosed on haciendas, peasants lacked tactical potential for improving their lot.
Moreover, poles of exploitation were distant from Indian communities of origin (Highland Chiapas), controlled by labour contractors in cahoots with Indian official.
Emilio Kouri, HAHR, 2002
Andres Molina Enriquez “Los Grandes Problemas Nacionales” (1909)
“The pueblo had not been the problem, but rather, the solution” (Kouri)
Abolition of the Indian community: “...like taking a fish out of water to force it to breathe just because lungs are more perfect organisms than gills” (A Molina Enriquez)
See also article by Donald Stevens, “Agrarian policy”
Holden, Robert, Mexico and the survey of public lands: the management of modernisation, 1876-1911 Dekalb, 1994
- concentrated in a small number of states
- mostly land or poor quality, desert or semi desert, unsuitable for large scale production
- activities of Survey Companies elicited thousands of challenges, lawsuits and annulments
-”When procedures for measuring and selling land threatened to disturb social stability, government preferred to freeze or annul them”
-many concessions to surveyors never claimed
Yet, perceptions – including perceived landscapes - after 1900 are what mattered.......