Mexico’s Industrial Revolutions: Capitalism and the State in Monterrey, 1600-1915

Rodolfo Fernández Ph.D.

Contributed by Rodolfo Fernandez

El Instituto’s Assistant Professor in Residence Rodolfo Fernández finished a complete draft of a new book manuscript, titled Mexico’s Industrial Revolutions: Capitalism and the State in Monterrey, 1600-1915. This book is the culmination of a decade of work, begun while Fernández was a doctoral student in History at Georgetown University.  The book tells how an urban industrial political economy was built in the Mexican city of Monterrey, and how the construction of said political economy could not have existed without a functioning state or a social structure designed to negotiate the distribution of power.  The manuscript aims to explain two linked processes, one, Monterrey’s process of industrialization, the other, the city’s transformation during the Mexican Revolution.

The first part of the manuscript traces the evolution of politics in the northeast and the construction of the state structures that eventually led to industrial revolution.  In the first three centuries of its existence, Monterrey evolved from a diverse frontier trading post, to a node in the dynamic political economy of the north, to the economic engine of the northeastern U.S.-Mexico borderlands.  This first part culminates in an analysis of an environmental and political crisis that exposed the shortcomings of the industrial revolutions and contributed to the eruption of a social and political revolution in 1910.

Part II deals with a longer period of crisis that began just one year after the great loss of life and property suffered in Monterrey’s flood of 1909.  Because Monterrey was the richest and most productive city in Mexico before the Mexican revolution, it was the site of an early and unique, though ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to use urban industry as the economic base for a popular revolution.  Monterrey was the richest and most productive city in northern Mexico in 1910; it provided textiles for regional markets, steel for expanding Mexican railroads, beer and the glass to contain it for Mexican consumers, and refined silver for export to the United States.  As the leading urban area of the north, as well as the capital of the state of Nuevo León, Monterrey was the political, strategic, and economic center of the Revolution in the borderlands.

Completing the book manuscript has led Fernández to contemplate how writing and researching is a both a solitary process and a collective endeavor.  Fernández credits the encouragement, help, and intellectual stimulation provided by his students, colleagues, friends, and family for the support he needed to get through uncounted solitary hours spent reading, thinking, and staring at the page.  We at El Instituto look forward to Fernández publishing his original vision of the Mexican Revolution as an urban and industrial project.