The Course of Mexican History

By Michael C. Meyer; William L. Sherman et al. | Go to book overview

27
The Process of Modernization

ECONOMIC REFORM AND THE IMPROVEMENT
OF MEXICO’S IMAGE

As Porfirio Díaz consolidated his political position and stabilized the country, Mexico entered a period of sustained economic growth the likes of which it had never before experienced. In the process, Mexico entered the modern age. Steam, water, and electric power began to replace animal and human muscle. A number of new hydraulic- and hydroelectric-generating stations were built as the modernization process tied itself to the new machines it supported. The telephone arrived amid amazement and wonder in the 1880s. The Department of Communications and Public Works supervised and coordinated the installation of the wireless telegraph and submarine cables. A hundred miles of electric tramway connected the heart of Mexico City to the suburbs.

A major breakthrough in health and sanitation occurred when Díaz hired the British firm of S. Pearson and Son, Ltd., to bring modern technology to the drainage problem of Mexico City. For 16 million pesos the English engineers and contractors, with the experience of the Blackwell Tunnel under the Thames and the East River Tunnel in New York behind them, successfully completed a thirty-mile canal and a sixmile tunnel that relieved the Mexican capital of the threat of constant flooding and resultant property damage and disease. At approximately the same time the face of the country was scoured to bolster the country’s own self-respect and its image abroad. A public building spree changed the contours of boulevards, parks, and public buildings. Monuments and statues were dedicated to the world’s leading statesmen, intellectuals, and military figures. A new penitentiary costing 2.5 million pesos opened in 1900, and a 3-million-peso post office in 1907. A new asylum for the insane, a new municipal palace, and a new Department of Foreign Relations were dedicated prior to the centennial celebrations of 1910. The white marble National Theater, however, missed the centennial target date, and the heavy structure began to

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