Technology and the Transformation of a Modern City
392 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.60 in, 29 b&w illus., 2 b&w maps
Sales Date: September 14, 2021
Winner, The Alfred B. Thomas Book Award, Southeastern Council of Latin American Studies (SECOLAS), 2022
Co-winner, Best Book in Non-North American Urban History, Urban History Association, 2022
Many visitors to Mexico City’s 1886 Electricity Exposition were amazed by their experience of the event, which included magnetic devices, electronic printers, and a banquet of light. It was both technological spectacle and political messaging, for speeches at the event lauded President Porfirio Díaz and bound such progress to his vision of a modern order.
Diana J. Montaño explores the role of electricity in Mexico’s economic and political evolution, as the coal-deficient country pioneered large-scale hydroelectricity and sought to face the world as a scientifically enlightened “empire of peace.” She is especially concerned with electrification at the social level. Ordinary electricity users were also agents and sites of change. Montaño documents inventions and adaptations that served local needs while fostering new ideas of time and space, body and self, the national and the foreign. Electricity also colored issues of gender, race, and class in ways specific to Mexico. Complicating historical discourses in which Latin Americans merely use technologies developed elsewhere, Electrifying Mexico emphasizes a particular national culture of scientific progress and its contributions to a uniquely Mexican modernist political subjectivity.
Drawing on a wide source base, Electrifying Mexico is a beautifully written history of the technology and cultural manifestations of electricity in Mexico City. The stories are delightful and illustrative and speak to Mexican history beyond electricity.~Susie S. Porter
Diana Montaño's Electrifying Mexico is impressive. Examining all things electric, Montaño explores how technological systems were socially constructed, not only by their creators, but also by their consumers. The book is innovative in its approach, combining economic and cultural history with science and technology studies.~Justin Castro
Professor Montaño’s cultural history of electricity in Mexican society is a real tour de force. Bringing out the reactions of ordinary Mexicans to electric light, trams, and modern household machinery, the author emphasizes the contested character of this technology. Rather than being blinded by the promises of this new form of energy, many people despised the penetrating brightness of electric light and were appalled by the cruel consequences of tram accidents. The technological landscape of electricity was slow in emerging, and it was shaped largely by issues of class, race, and gender.~Mikael Hård
[Electrifying Mexico] shines as an in-depth exploration of the social and cultural dimensions of the introduction of electrification…indispensable to the literature on modern Mexico.~Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Diana Montaño offers an innovative model for understanding the relations among technological, cultural, and political change. Electrifying Mexico spectacularly illuminates how the new nation 'Mexicanized' electricity, from its introduction by foreign companies in the late nineteenth century to government nationalization in 1960. Along the way, the author deftly shows the agency of citizens, who invented, adapted, and operated new technologies and manipulated billing meters. Housewives embraced electric stoves and male labor unions invoked their 'masculinidad energética' in behalf of nationalization. Montaño expertly reveals how all came to see themselves and their country differently under the light of new technologies.~John Lear
Electrifying Mexico is an essential book for all students of the history of urban technologies...Electrifying Mexico provides an original contribution to the field by offering a far more complex history of electricity than had existed in previous studies, focusing on the urban cultural history of human imaginations around technology and the intangibility of electrical energy...this engaging book makes a remarkable contribution to the historiography of studying electricity in urban space from the material and symbolic point of view in Mexico, Latin America, and other geographical areas.~Planning Perspectives
- Part I
- Chapter 1. Sensing the Beautiful Stranger
- Chapter 2. Exhibiting the Electric City
- Part II
- Chapter 3. Trapped under the Wheels of Modernity
- Chapter 4. Ladrones de Luz: A Scripted Electricscape, 1901-1918
- Part III
- Chapter 5. Becoming Electro-Domésticas: Electrical Appliances, Maids, and Middle-Class Domesticity, 1930s–1950s
- Chapter 6. The People, Their Electricscape, and the Vanguard of Labor, 1930s-1960
- Conclusion. ¡La Electricidad Es Nuestra! (Electricity Is Ours!)
The publication of Electrifying Mexico was made possible by the support of the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Endowment in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture.