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Americans in the Treasure House

Travel to Porfirian Mexico and the Cultural Politics of Empire

By Jason Ruiz

Publication Year: 2014

Through extensive engagement with archival sources, this book traces the history of travel to Mexico during the Porfiriato and the Revolution, exploring how travelers’ representations created an image of Mexico as a country requiring foreign intervention to reach its full potential.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Enrolling in graduate school at the University of Minnesota was a life-changing decision, in large part because it allowed me to work with my advisor, Roderick Ferguson, and with Kevin P. Murphy. I owe Rod and Kevin many more thanks than I can enumerate here. Reluctantly, it will have to suffice to thank them for serving as my guides ...

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Notes on Usage

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pp. xv-xviii

Because American travelers to Porfirian Mexico rarely spoke or wrote Spanish, they made frequent spelling and grammatical mistakes in representations of their journeys. To maintain the historical integrity of quoted material and to avoid frequent interruptions in this text, I do not correct original sources with diacritical marks or italics. In the...

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Introduction. Keep Close to a Kicking Horse

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pp. 1-18

In the October 1909 edition of The American Magazine, muckraking American journalist John Kenneth Turner published the first in a series of scintillating articles detailing the oppressive practices of Porfirio Díaz, the dictator who had ruled Mexico with an iron fist and an eye toward foreign capital for more than thirty years....

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1. Desire among the Ruins: Constructing Mexico in American Travel Discourse

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pp. 19-64

In January of 1911, an American named Frank Hamilton dropped into the mail a letter accompanied by a photograph featuring the ruins of Mitla in the state of Oaxaca. This complex of ruins, as the sender might have known, was the most important religious site in ancient Zapotec culture and a well-known symbol of Mexico’s pre-Hispanic...

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2. “The Greatest and Wisest Despot of ModernTimes”: Porfirio Díaz, American Travelers, and the Politics of Logical Paternalism

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pp. 65-102

The humble beginnings of José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori, who was raised by a downwardly mobile mother in remote Oaxaca, could not have foretold his enduring relevance to Mexican history. As one American reporter grandly put it, the “slender, dark-eyed Oaxacan boy, with the Spanish-Mixtec blood in his veins, who was to do these ...

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3. American Travel Writing and the Problem of Indian Difference

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pp. 103-162

The Porfiriato coincided with a period in which savage but subdued native people populated travel books. From Kipling’s British colonial adventure stories set in India to Boy Scout novels that transported young American readers to the Philippines, colonized or semicolonized native people played important roles in travel discourse during...

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4. “The Most Promising Element in Mexican Society”: Idealized Mestizaje and the Eradication of Indian Difference

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pp. 163-178

The port city of Veracruz shocked an American traveler named Helen Sanborn when she arrived there in 1886. Like many who traveled through that port city before and after her, she was less than pleased with the locals. Hot and fatigued by the time she disembarked from the steamer that brought her to Veracruz, she regarded the city’s infamous ...

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5. Reversals of Fortune: Revolutionary Veracruz and Porfirian Nostalgia

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pp. 179-216

During the Porfiriato, American travelers optimistically predicted that Mexico’s marvelous progress and stable relationship with the United States would continue forever. Porfirio Díaz was aging rapidly in the final decade of his rule, however, and some timidly wondered what would happen when the man who seemed to have ...

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pp. 217-224

Americans in the Treasure House has shown that travelers played a powerful role in shaping American ideas about Mexico during the Porfiriato and in its aftermath. Travel discourse that circulated in the United States imagined many Mexicos, ranging from a dangerous backwater...


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pp. 225-246


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pp. 247-260


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pp. 261-275

E-ISBN-13: 9780292753815
E-ISBN-10: 0292753810
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292753808
Print-ISBN-10: 0292753802

Page Count: 293
Illustrations: 32 photos
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 867012913
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Americans in the Treasure House

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Investments, American -- Mexico -- History -- 19th century.
  • Tourism -- Mexico -- History -- 19th century.
  • Americans -- Travel -- Mexico -- History -- 19th century.
  • Mexico -- History -- 1867-1910.
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