The Shrine of Progress: Pan-American Civilization, Community Rights, and Environmental Conflict in Mexico City, 1890–1900

Thursday, January 5, 2017: 2:10 PM
Room 403 (Colorado Convention Center)
James A. Garza, University of Nebraska
The Gran Canal, completed in 1900, exemplified the mantra of order and progress that came to define Mexico’s Porfirian Era (1876-1911).   Utilizing foreign expertise and technology, engineers dredged the 50-kilometer long canal across the northern part of the Valley of Mexico in an effort to drain the capital city of the floodwaters that periodically flooded homes and spread disease.  In the process, the canal hastened the end of Lake Texcoco and threatened the livelihood of ancient communities that lay along its path, communities dependent on the waters the canal sought to drain.  Mexican officials, influenced by positivist ideals, equated the urban and rural poor with immorality and disease and viewed the project, known as the desagüe, as part of a larger effort to permanently transform the capital’s ancient lacustrine environment into a more orderly and productive space.  Echoing the language employed in Pan-American sanitation congresses and conventions, the Porfirian government sought the instill the ideals of hygiene, good morals, and cleanliness in a population under increasing social and economic stress.