Power Lines: Nation, Revolution, and the State in Early Mexican Electrification
Traditional narratives associate the presidency of Porfirio Diaz with intensive state-led development and expanding federal power. By contrast, the Mexican revolution is typically cast as a rejection of exploitative Porfirian policy. But when the revolution expelled both Diaz and U.S. copper interests, most electrical assets including La Boquilla remained in private hands. While the revolution rejected Diaz, it appropriated his complicated project of electrical modernization.
In the post-revolutionary era, new high-tension power lines carried La Boquilla’s surplus southward to Torreon, where famers and manufacturers on the Rio Nazas used Chihuahua power to create the now-bustling comarca lagunera – even as downriver Rio Conchos farmers faced water shortages. General Electric, though series of holding companies, muscled out Canadian promoters and oversaw the expanding Mexican grid until the mid-twentieth century. As during the Porfiriato, the material foundations of state and nation in post-revolutionary Mexico drew on global flows of capital, expertise, and political power.
The case of La Boquilla calls into question the range of practices through which state formation is narrated, as well as the extent and limits of these practices. In seeking to insert materiality into the conversation, this paper seeks to highlight within the Mexican grid the infrastructural manifestation of both state and imperial practices – national and foreign.
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