In this outstanding and provocative collection of essays Tutino seeks to cast new light on how "New Spain, Mexico, and Mexicans have been involved in every aspect of making the United States" (31)—from capitalist foundations, racial and ethnic relations, and literary literary/cultural traditions to the Civil War, southwestern settlements, migration and labor, and the rise of the middle class.
In his 2011 book, Making a New World, Tutino found more evidence of capitalism prior to 1810 in the Bajío region of northern Mexico than he anticipated. This is not surprising given his broad definition of it to include commercial, agricultural, [End Page 415] financial, and industrial profit-taking activity—a conception that can be supported by commodity circulation and connected social relations involving specific enterprises. Eric Wolf's pioneering study (The Mexican Bajio in the Eighteenth Century, 1953) comprehensively analyzed capitalist development in the region and established the thesis of Bajío exceptionalism embraced and elaborated upon by Tutino as the core of his notion of a northward-thrusting Hispano-Mexican capitalism detached from the Mesoamerican heartland to the south. Hence, Anglo Americans moving westwards after 1800 grabbed the reins of pre-existing Hispano-Mexican capitalism in mining, agriculture, and cattle ranching through marriage, purchase, legislation, or outright theft and marginalized the bulk of the Mexican population. Tutino opposes this scenario to the more familiar one associated with historians like Friedrich Katz and J. M. Hart of how nineteenth-century Mexico was transformed by U.S. capital.
For all practical purposes, the thesis of Bajío exceptionalism eliminates Mexico's Indian south from a role in national capitalist development but, in so doing, is unable to explain the roles of two Oaxacans, Benito Juárez and Porfirio Díaz, in the capitalist development of the Mexican political economy during the second half of the nineteenth century. Perhaps Tutino's focus on Bajío exceptionalism is also responsible for his view that mestizaje in Mexico has made race relations less polarized there than in the United States; this assertion seems to run counter to the program of the re-energized Indian autonomy movement in states like Oaxaca and Chiapas, not to speak of its recent success in achieving constitutional reforms.
Aside from Tutino's introduction and Chapter 1, the book consists of seven additional essays. Especially noteworthy for their new research content are the chapters by Shelley Streeby, "Imagining Mexico in Love and War: Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature and Visual Culture"; David Montejano, "Mexican Merchants and Teamsters on the Texas Cotton Road, 1862-1865"; and Benton Cohen, "Making Americans and Mexicans in the Arizona Borderlands."
I especially liked Montejano's chapter, which examines the critical role played by Brownsville and Matamoros-based businessmen and Mexican-descent teamsters in the transport and export of baled cotton during the U.S. Civil War across South Texas, then across and down the Rio Grande to the Mexican port of Bagdad below Matamoros. This study is notable not only for its thorough analysis of business records to establish the financial intricacies and large volume of the trade, but also for its insights into the plight of the Mexican-descent teamsters who in the late 1850s had been run out of business by Anglo Texans, but took advantage of the wartime circumstances to take up their diminished source of livelihood along the cotton road.