The Civilizing Machine: A Cultural History of Mexican Railroads, 1876-1910 available in Paperback
- Pub. Date:
- UNP - Nebraska Paperback
In late nineteenth-century Mexico the Mexican populace was fascinated with the country’s booming railroad network. Newspapers and periodicals were filled with art, poetry, literature, and social commentaries exploring the symbolic power of the railroad. As a symbol of economic, political, and industrial modernization, the locomotive served to demarcate a nation’s status in the world. However, the dangers of locomotive travel, complicated by the fact that Mexico’s railroads were foreign owned and operated, meant that the railroad could also symbolize disorder, death, and foreign domination.
In The Civilizing Machine Michael Matthews explores the ideological and cultural milieu that shaped the Mexican people’s understanding of technology. Intrinsically tied to the Porfiriato, the thirty-five-year dictatorship of Gen. Porfirio Díaz, the booming railroad network represented material progress in a country seeking its place in the modern world. Matthews discloses how the railroad’s development represented the crowning achievement of the regime and the material incarnation of its mantra, “order and progress.” The Porfirian administration evoked the railroad in legitimizing and justifying its own reign, while political opponents employed the same rhetorical themes embodied by the railroads to challenge the manner in which that regime achieved economic development and modernization. As Matthews illustrates, the multiple symbols of the locomotive reflected deepening social divisions and foreshadowed the conflicts that eventually brought about the Mexican Revolution.
About the Author
Michael Matthews is an assistant professor of history at Elon University.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations ix
1 The Discourse of Development: The Railroad Debate of the Early Porfiriato 23
2 De Viaje: Elite Views of Modernity and the Railroad Boom 55
3 Festivals of Progress: The Railroad Ceremony 103
4 The Price of Progress: Popular Perceptions of the Railroad Accident 143
5 La Loco-Matona: The Railroad in the Popular and Opposition Press 199