Jenkins of Mexico: How a Southern Farm Boy Became a Mexican Magnate

Jenkins of Mexico: How a Southern Farm Boy Became a Mexican Magnate

by Andrew Paxman


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In the city of Puebla there lived an American who made himself into the richest man in Mexico. Driven by a steely desire to prove himself-first to his wife's family, then to Mexican elites-William O. Jenkins rose from humble origins in Tennessee to build a business empire in a country energized by industrialization and revolutionary change. In Jenkins of Mexico, Andrew Paxman presents the first biography of this larger-than-life personality.

When the decade-long Mexican Revolution broke out in 1910, Jenkins preyed on patrician property owners and bought up substantial real estate. He suffered a scare with a firing squad and then a kidnapping by rebels, an episode that almost triggered a US invasion. After the war he owned textile mills, developed Mexico's most productive sugar plantation, and helped finance the rise of a major political family, the vila Camachos. During the Golden Age of Mexican cinema in the 1940s-50s, he lorded over the film industry with his movie theater monopoly and key role in production. By means of Mexico's first major hostile takeover, he bought the country's second-largest bank. Reputed as an exploiter of workers, a puppet-master of politicians, and Mexico's wealthiest industrialist, Jenkins was the gringo that Mexicans loved to loathe. After his wife's death, he embraced philanthropy and willed his entire fortune to a foundation named for her, which co-founded two prestigious universities and funded projects to improve the lives of the poor in his adopted country.

Using interviews with Jenkins' descendants, family papers, and archives in Puebla, Mexico City, Los Angeles, and Washington, Jenkins of Mexico tells a contradictory tale of entrepreneurship and monopoly, fearless individualism and cozy deals with power-brokers, embrace of US-style capitalism and political anti-Americanism, and Mexico's transformation from semi-feudal society to emerging economic power.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780190455743
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 05/01/2017
Pages: 544
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Andrew Paxman teaches history and journalism at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) in Mexico City and Aguascalientes. He is the co-author of El Tigre, a biography of the Mexican media mogul Emilio Azc rraga Milmo.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Black Legend of William O. Jenkins

Chapter 1: Coming of Age in Tennessee
Chapter 2: Fortune-Seeking in Mexico
Chapter 3: How to Get Rich in a Revolution
Chapter 4: Kidnapped, Jailed, Vilified
Chapter 5: Empire at Atencingo
Chapter 6: Resistance at Atencingo
Chapter 7: With Maximino
Chapter 8: Mining the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema
Chapter 9: Enterprise, Profiteering, and the Death of the Golden Age
Chapter 10: The Jenkins Foundation and the Battle for the Soul of the PRI
Chapter 11: Jenkins' Earthly Afterlife

Epilogue: The Mixed Legacy of William O. Jenkins


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