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Working Women, Entrepreneurs, and the Mexican Revolution

The Coffee Culture of Córdoba, Veracruz

Heather Fowler-Salamini

Publication Year: 2013

In the 1890s, Spanish entrepreneurs spearheaded the emergence of Córdoba, Veracruz, as Mexico’s largest commercial center for coffee preparation and export to the Atlantic community. Seasonal women workers quickly became the major part of the agroindustry’s labor force. As they grew in numbers and influence in the first half of the twentieth century, these women shaped the workplace culture and contested gender norms through labor union activism and strong leadership. Their fight for workers’ rights was supported by the revolutionary state and negotiated within its industrial-labor institutions until they were replaced by machines in the 1960s.

Heather Fowler-Salamini’s Working Women, Entrepreneurs, and the Mexican Revolution analyzes the interrelationships between the region’s immigrant entrepreneurs, workforce, labor movement, gender relations, and culture on the one hand, and social revolution, modernization and the Atlantic community on the other between the 1890s and the 1960s. Using extensive archival research and oral-history interviews, Fowler-Salamini illustrates the ways in which the immigrant and women’s work cultures transformed Córdoba’s regional coffee economy and in turn influenced the development of the nation’s coffee agro-export industry and its labor force. 

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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p. 5-5


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pp. v-6

List of Illustrations.

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pp. vi-7

List of Maps

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pp. vi-7

List of Tables

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

This project has led me down many different paths that I could hardly have anticipated when I started. Many people have offered me their wholehearted support on this marvelous journey. I want to first acknowledge the warm and continuous support that I received from so many Veracruzanos in this endeavor. ...


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pp. xiii-xvi

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pp. 1-16

In March 1965 the coffee exporters of Córdoba, Veracruz, laid off all the women workers who cleaned their green coffee, and replaced them with electronic sorting machines in their preparation plants (beneficios). This decision marked the conclusion of a seventy-year period of enormous expansion and gradual mechanization of the state’s coffee agroindustry. ...

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1. Emergence of a Coffee Commercial Elite in Córdoba, Veracruz

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pp. 17-82

When the recent Spanish immigrant Antonio García Menéndez entered into a commercial agreement with a British and a German entrepreneur in Córdoba, Veracruz, to buy, prepare, and export coffee to Europe and the United States in 1895, he created the first major agro-export business that functioned as a commercial intermediary between Mexican coffee producers and the Atlantic community. ...

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2. Work, Gender, and Workshop Culture

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pp. 83-120

The semimechanization of coffee preparation in the 1880s and 1890s in Central Veracruz’s highland towns necessitated the hiring of a new labor force to remove the inner skins, dry, polish, classify, and sort the beans to prepare the green coffee for export. ...

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3. Sorters’ Negotiations with Exporters and the State

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pp. 121-160

The political and socioeconomic chaos and insecurity brought on by the Mexican Revolution of 1910 opened new spaces and opportunities for Veracruz seasonal workers to organize, take to the streets, and demand rights. In certain respects, they enjoyed more opportunities for mobilization than any other coffee-producing state. ...

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4. Caciquismo, Organized Labor, and Gender

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pp. 161-198

If you were to enter the headquarters of the local federation of the CROM in Córdoba, Veracruz, you would find a plaque, installed in 1972, with the names of the six most outstanding union leaders of the region. Two of the names are those of escogedoras, Inés Reyes Ochoa and Sofía Castro González. ...

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5. Everyday Experiences and Obrera Culture

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pp. 199-234

When the anthropologist Julio de la Fuente observed that the escogedoras were one of the key social groups in Córdoba’s emerging working class in the early 1940s, he was highlighting their singular importance among the city’s working poor.1 Understanding the nature of this women-centered community involves exploring the interrelationships between their everyday experiences in the workplace, ...

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6. Coffee Entrepreneurs, Workers, and the State Confront the Challenges of Modernization

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pp. 235-278

The full mechanization of Veracruz’s coffee plants and the replacement of its thousands of coffee sorters with electronic sorters were inevitable by the 1950s, but the ways in which labor, the agro-export industry, and the state responded to this process of modernization needs exploration. ...

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pp. 279-288

This regional history from below sought to tease out the interrelationships between entrepreneurs, workers, labor movements, gender relations, and culture on the one hand and social revolution, immigration, modernization, and the Atlantic coffee market on the other. ...


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pp. 289-362


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pp. 363-366


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pp. 367-402


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pp. 403-418

E-ISBN-13: 9780803246409
E-ISBN-10: 0803246404
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803243712

Page Count: 456
Illustrations: 13 illustrations, 2 maps, 13 tables
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women coffee industry employees -- Mexico -- Córdoba (Veracruz-Llave) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Coffee industry -- Mexico -- Córdoba (Veracruz-Llave) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Córdoba (Veracruz-Llave) -- Economic conditions -- 20th century.
  • Córdoba (Veracruz-Llave) -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
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