Society and Culture
during the Porfiriato
The changes in Mexican society and culture during the Porfiriato were every bit as profound as those in the political and economic realms. Most noteworthy perhaps was the fact that Mexicans began to view themselves differently. Self-esteem replaced the sense of shame that had characterized the introspective diagnoses of the past. For the first time Mexico had shown her potential and had began to catch up with a rapidly changing world. Optimism had replaced pessimism, and xenophilia at least challenged xenophobia.
The stability of the Porfiriato resulted in Mexico’s first period of prolonged population growth. In the absence of war and its social dislocations and with modest gains recorded in health and sanitation, the population grew from 8,743,000 in 1874 to 15,160,000 in 1910. From 1810 to 1874 the average annual population growth had been about 43,000, but during the Díaz era population increased at an average of 180,000 per year. Mexico City and the state capitals grew even more rapidly than the population at large, increasing some 88.5 percent during the epoch. From a population of 200,000 in 1874, Mexico City in 1910 was the home of 471,066 Mexicans.
Railroad development, mining activities, and port improvements caused a number of tiny villages to burgeon into towns and cities. Torreón, at the intersection of the Mexican Central Railroad and the International Railroad (running from Eagle Pass, Texas, to Durango), jumped from fewer than 2,000 inhabitants in 1876 to over 43,000 in 1910; Sabinas, Coahuila, from 788 to 14,555; and Nuevo Laredo from 1,283 to almost 9,000. The two port terminuses of the Tehuantepec Railroad recorded similar gains. Puerto México had only 267 inhabitants in 1884 but reached 6,616 by 1910, while Salina Cruz grew from