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Creating Mexican Consumer Culture in the Age of Porfirio Díaz

Steven B.Bunker

Publication Year: 2012

In Gabriel García Márquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, a character articulates the fascination goods, technology, and modernity held for many Latin Americans in the early twentieth century when he declares that “incredible things are happening in this world.” The modernity he marvels over is the new availability of cheap and useful goods. Steven Bunker’s study shows how goods and consumption embodied modernity in the time of Porfirio Díaz, how they provided proof to Mexicans that “incredible things are happening in this world.”

In urban areas, and especially Mexico City, being a consumer increasingly defined what it meant to be Mexican. In an effort to reconstruct everyday life in Porfirian Mexico, Bunker surveys the institutions and discourses of consumption and explores how individuals and groups used the goods, practices, and spaces of urban consumer culture to construct meaning and identities in the rapidly evolving social and physical landscape of the capital city and beyond. Through case studies of tobacco marketing, department stores, advertising, shoplifting, and a famous jewelry robbery and homicide, he provides a colorful walking tour of daily life in Porfirian Mexico City. Emphasizing the widespread participation in this consumer culture, Bunker’s work overturns conventional wisdom that only the middle and upper classes participated in this culture.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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p. v


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pp. vi-viii

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pp. ix-x

In the beginning of his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez expresses the intertwined fascination with goods, technology, and modernity of many Latin Americans early in the twentieth century.1 In the first forty pages he recounts the powerful ideas and goods brought by a ragged family of gypsies ...

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pp. xi-xiv

As an undergraduate at the University of British Columbia I could not have foreseen that research for my honours thesis would eventually lead to my first book, a career that I love, and a network of friends and colleagues to whom I owe a great debt for their support over these many years. ...

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pp. 1-11

J. Figueroa Domenech captured the modernizing essence of the regime of Porfirio Díaz (1876–1911) in his eight-hundred-page compendium of Mexican economic development, the Guía general descriptiva de la República Mexicana.1 His paean to material progress belongs to an extensive body of contemporary literature ...

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1: Personalized Progress: The Production and Marketing of the Machine-Rolled Cigarette

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pp. 12-56

On Christmas Eve 1907 Madame Calvé came to town. Never one to miss out on free publicity, the famous French opera singer visited one of the republic’s largest stages: the El Buen Tono cigarette factory in Mexico City. At the invitation of the general director, Ernesto Pugibet, Madame Calvé toured the state-of-the-art industrial facility ...

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2: Selling in the City: The Growth of Popular Advertising

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pp. 57-98

Late in August 1874 Mexican entrepreneur Ildefonso Estrada y Zenea petitioned the ayuntamiento of Mexico City to establish permanent advertising kiosks in the Zócalo and other principal plazas in the capital city in preparation for the Independence Day celebrations of September 16. ...

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3: Capital Investments: Porfirian Department Stores and the Evolution of Mexico City Retailing

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pp. 99-133

Nothing made modernity more tangible for urban Mexicans than the department store. Born in 1891, midway through the Porfiriato, the Mexican department store signaled a maturing and deepening consumer market capable of supporting no less than nine such stores by the Revolution. ...

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4: Modernizing Capital: Constant Innovation and the Expression of Progress

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pp. 134-173

From their beginning, department stores thrived on innovation and novelty. Their readiness to adopt new retailing practices, new products, and new displays placed them as the representative institution of a progressive age. Yet while these stores reflected the values of a modernizing culture, they also shaped and constructed that culture. ...

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5: An All-Consuming Passion: Desire, Department Stores, and the Modernization of Crime

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pp. 174-204

Two impeccably dressed young women walked into the Palacio de Hierro and took seats at the counter of the cashmere department. This was not an ideal moment for leisurely shopping. The clock neared six, marking the middle of the early evening shopping rush hour, when capitalino society left work and flooded the main traffic arteries in carriages and on foot. ...

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6: Hot Diamonds, Cold Steel: The La Profesa Jewelry Store Robbery

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pp. 205-231

On the night of February 20, 1891, five men, wearing five finely tailored suits and carrying one sharp knife, slashed through the patina of order and progress that Mexican elites and social reformers had cultivated and polished over the preceding fifteen years of rule by President Porfirio Díaz. ...

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pp. 232-237

This study has shown the Mexican experience of a global phenomenon during the presidency of Porfirio Díaz: the rise of a modern consumer culture. To be sure, the cultural and economic processes that gave it form long preceded and outlived the political periodization of the Porfiriato. ...


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pp. 238-305

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 306-323


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pp. 324-333

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780826344564
E-ISBN-10: 0826344569
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826344540
Print-ISBN-10: 0826344542

Page Count: 364
Illustrations: 20 halftones
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 822667198
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Creating Mexican Consumer Culture in the Age of Porfirio Díaz

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Consumers -- Mexico -- History -- 20th century.
  • Consumption (Economics) -- Mexico -- History -- 20th century.
  • Mexico -- Commerce -- History -- 20th century.
  • Mexico -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Mexico -- History -- 1867-1910.
  • Díaz, Porfirio, 1830-1915.
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