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A Land Between Waters

Environmental Histories of Modern Mexico

Edited by Christopher R. Boyer

Publication Year: 2012

Mexico is one of the most ecologically diverse nations on the planet, with landscapes that range from rainforests to deserts and from small villages to the continent’s largest metropolis. Yet historians are only beginning to understand how people’s use of the land, extraction of its resources, and attempts to conserve it have shaped both the landscape and its inhabitants.

A Land Between Waters explores the relationship between the people and the environment in Mexico. It heralds the arrival of environmental history as a major area of study within the field of Mexican history. This volume brings together a dozen original works of environmental history by some of the foremost experts in Mexican environmental history from both the United States and Mexico.

The contributions collected in this seminal volume explore a wide array of topics, from the era of independence to the present day. Together they examine how humans have used, abused, and attended to nature in Mexico over more than two hundred years. Written in clear, accessible prose, A Land Between Waters showcases the breadth of Mexican environmental history in a way that defines the key topics in the field and suggests avenues for subsequent work. Most importantly, it assesses the impacts of environmental changes that Mexico has faced in the past with an eye to informing national debates about the challenges that the nation will face in the future.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This book is the first time a transnational collection of environmental histories about modern Mexico has been published on either side of the US-Mexican border. Although historians have written for decades about the relationship between people and their environment in Mexico, only recently ...

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1. The Cycles of Mexican Environmental History

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pp. 1-21

The native Mexica who ruled the Valley of Mexico at the eve of the Spanish conquest called their homeland “Anáhuac,” a term usually translated as “the land by the water” or “the land between the waters.” Their cities lay alongside a labyrinth of shallow lakes and manmade channels that covered ...

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2. Downslope and North: How Soil Degradation and Synthetic Pesticides Drove the Trajectory of Mexican Agriculture through the Twentieth Century

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pp. 22-49

The physical landscape of Mexico was transformed by the way the Mexican government responded to the nation’s age-old problem of soil degradation. The response involved a commitment to large-scale irrigation works and the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. This transformation of the ...

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3. Mexico’s Breadbasket: Agriculture and the Environment in the Bajío

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pp. 50-72

For more than 250 years, the alluvial valleys of the Lerma River’s middle basin were the scene of intense human efforts to convert them into cropland for grain production. The region, which is one of Mexico’s principal river basins and stretches from the Valley of Toluca to its mouth in Santiago ...

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4. Nature as Subject and Citizen in the Mexican Botanical Garden, 1787–1829

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pp. 73-99

The Mexican Royal Botanical Garden, funded by King Charles III in 1787, was no ordinary royal garden. Typically, eighteenth-century European royal gardens mapped their patron’s territorial domination. In Versailles, for instance, land nearest the palace emphasized legibility, rationality, and

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5. Besieged Forests at Century’s End: Industry, Speculation, and Dispossession in Tlaxcala’s La Malintzin Woodlands, 1860–1910

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pp. 100-123

Mexican forests are in a precarious condition today. Forests and jungles cover somewhere between 55 and 67 million hectares, or around 28 percent of Mexico’s total landmass, and they are disappearing at an alarming rate. About 600,000 hectares of woodland vanish every year, giving Mexico ...

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6. Water and Revolution in Morelos, 1850–1915

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pp. 124-149

In 1892, the French prospector and consular official Louis Lejeune announced that Mexico had made significant strides toward modernity thanks to the political stability and economic efficiency that had become the hallmark of the 1876–1911 Porfiriato, as the regime of President Porfirio Díaz ...

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7. King Henequen: Order, Progress, and Ecological Change in Yucatán, 1850–1950

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pp. 150-172

A popular expression in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula suggests that Yucatán is “the motherland” of fiber. Cordage fiber from the region’s native hene - quen and sisal plants forever changed the history of Yucatán when North American cordage companies discovered that henequen was the best commodity ...

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8. Class and Nature in the Oil Industry of Northern Veracruz, 1900–1938

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pp. 173-191

Edward L. Doheny, Cruz Briones Rodríguez, and countless American drillers met in northern Veracruz in the early 1900s, but their experience of place differed so much an observer might have never guessed they shared the same geography. In 1900 Doheny, an oil magnate who multiplied his ...

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9. Parables of Chapultepec: Urban Parks, National Landscapes, and Contradictory Conservation in Modern Mexico

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pp. 192-217

Perhaps the oldest nature preserve in the Americas, the verdant oasis of Chapultepec Park, lies within the depths of Mexico City, a metropolis so large it literally chokes on itself. The 850 hectares of arboreal integrity reach outward to the skyscrapers and sinewy highways that grasp its foliage. The ...

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10. The Illusion of National Power: Water Infrastructure in Mexican Cities, 1930–1990

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pp. 218-244

According to Eric Hobsbawm, the twentieth century will be remembered as a time of revolutionary change that saw the end of a period of seven or eight thousand years since the discovery of agriculture, during which time most of humanity lived on the land.1 One impact of this transformation...

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11. Episodes of Environmental History in the Gulf of California: Fisheries, Commerce, and Aquaculture of Nacre and Pearls

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pp. 245-276

Pearl oysters (Pinctada mazatlanica and Pteria sterna) have played a fundamental role in the environmental history of the Gulf of California region for nearly five hundred years.1 Pearls’ value derived from geographic and temporal coincidences in which ancient myths and legends that linked ...

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12. Conclusion: Of the “Lands in Between” and the Environments of Modernity

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pp. 277-296

The contributions to the present volume on the environmental history of modern Mexico bring innovative research on a variety of topics spanning over two centuries. Taken together, they honor the deeply rooted traditions of environmental history for Mexico, based on cultural geography and the ...

About the Contributors

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pp. 297-300


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pp. 301-307

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599509
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816502493

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2012