Routes of Compromise: Building Roads and Shaping the Nation in Mexico, 1917-1952

Routes of Compromise: Building Roads and Shaping the Nation in Mexico, 1917-1952

Routes of Compromise: Building Roads and Shaping the Nation in Mexico, 1917-1952

Routes of Compromise: Building Roads and Shaping the Nation in Mexico, 1917-1952

Synopsis

In Routes of Compromise Michael K. Bess studies the social, economic, and political implications of road building and state formation in Mexico through a comparative analysis of Nuevo León and Veracruz from the 1920s to the 1950s. He examines how both foreign and domestic actors, working at local, national, and transnational levels, helped determine how Mexico would build and finance its roadways.

While Veracruz offered a radical model for regional construction that empowered agrarian communities, national consensus would solidify around policies championed by Nuevo León's political and commercial elites. Bess shows that no single political figure or central agency dominated the process of determining Mexico's road-building policies. Instead, provincial road-building efforts highlight the contingent nature of power and state formation in midcentury Mexico.

Excerpt

On 1 September 1918, President Venustiano Carranza sat on the dais in the ornate Donceles Legislative Palace in the heart of Mexico City to deliver his annual address to the Chamber of Deputies. “Highways deserve special attention,” he told the gathering, “it is absolutely necessary that the country has a complete road network.” He urged the assembly to rebuild the nation’s transportation infrastructure, which years of armed civil conflict following the 1910 Revolution had significantly damaged. Twelve months later he expounded on this need: “The social reconstruction of the nation is made manifest … in the repair of old roads, in improvements to Mexico City’s streets, in the re-opening of closed thoroughfares, and in the building of new ones.”

Carranza did not live long enough to see his ambition for road building fully realized. By 1919 construction plans had stalled due to political strife and strained finances, and in May 1920 an assassin took the president’s life. More than a year passed before the federal government, now under his rival Álvaro Obregón, attempted a nationwide program to build new motor highways. the country faced an enormous challenge. Mexico in 1921 counted fewer than 28,000 kilometers of roads for a landmass that covered 2 million square kilometers. Most of these routes were rudimentary dirt and gravel paths that could not accommodate motor traffic. in comparison, at this time the United States had already built more than . . .

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