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Electrifying Mexico

Electrifying Mexico
Technology and the Transformation of a Modern City

This detailed cultural history of technological change argues that ordinary Mexicans became electrifying agents who actively negotiated the extent and manner electricity entered their lives and lived spaces in Mexico City.

Series: Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Endowment in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture

August 2021
Not yet published

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392 pages | 6 x 9 |

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 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.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • 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!)
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Diana Montaño is an assistant professor of history at Washington University in St. Louis.