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Building the Borderlands

A Transnational History of Irrigated Cotton along the Mexico-Texas Border

By Casey Walsh

Publication Year: 2008

Cotton, crucial to the economy of the American South, has also played a vital role in the making of the Mexican north. The Lower Río Bravo (Rio Grande) Valley irrigation zone on the border with Texas in northern Tamaulipas, Mexico, was the centerpiece of the Cárdenas government’s effort to make cotton the basis of the national economy. This irrigation district, built and settled by Mexican Americans repatriated from Texas, was a central feature of Mexico’s effort to control and use the waters of the international river for irrigated agriculture. Drawing on previously unexplored archival sources, Casey Walsh discusses the relations among various groups comprising the “social field” of cotton production in the borderlands. By describing the complex relationships among these groups, Walsh contributes to a clearer understanding of capitalism and the state, of transnational economic forces, of agricultural and water issues in the U.S.-Mexican borderlands, and of the environmental impacts of economic development. Building the Borderlands crosses a number of disciplinary, thematic, and regional frontiers, integrating perspectives and literature from the United States and Mexico, from anthropology and history, and from political, economic, and cultural studies. Walsh’s important transnational study will enjoy a wide audience among scholars of Latin American and Western U.S. history, the borderlands, and environmental and agricultural history, as well as anthropologists and others interested in the environment and water rights.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

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pp. vii-

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. ix-

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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION: SOCIAL FIELDS OF COTTON

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pp. 1-17

¡Era la jungla! [It was the jungle!],” exclaimed Doña Elisa, telling of her arrival in the summer of 1939 to the dense mesquite thickets of rural Matamoros, just south of the Mexico-U.S. border at Brownsville.1 ...

PART I: THE BORDER, MEXICO, AND THE WORLD

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pp. 19-

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CHAPTER 2: COTTON AND CAPITALISM IN THE BORDERLANDS, 1820–1920

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pp. 21-43

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, mestizo and indigenous peasants from Mesoamerica settled near water sources throughout northern Mexico and the southwestern United States, learning to live with aridity and battling nomadic groups of indigenous people.1 ...

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CHAPTER 3: DEVELOPMENTALISM IN NORTHERN MEXICO, 1910–1934

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pp. 44-64

Cotton agriculture in the borderlands gathered momentum after 1900. The expansion of the Laguna cotton region in the Porfiriato went a long way toward solving a chronic development problem in Mexico by removing the bottleneck in the national cotton fiber supply that had plagued the textile industry since independence. ...

PART II: THE R

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pp. 65-

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CHAPTER 4: THE SOCIAL FIELD OF DEVELOPMENT: LAND AND LABOR IN THERÍO BRAVO/RIO GRANDE DELTA, 1780–1930

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pp. 67-90

In 1935 Mexican federal government engineers began building a regional irrigated agricultural development project in the southern half of the Río Bravo/Rio Grande delta. Like the Don Martín project before it, the Valle Bajo Río Bravo project was an effort to create a new productive landscape, with irrigation and flood control works, roads, schools and houses,...

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CHAPTER 5: CRISIS AND DEVELOPMENT IN THE RÍO BRAVO DELTA, 1930–1935

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pp. 91-111

The crisis of the 1930s has attracted a great deal of interest from historians and social scientists. Economic historians debate the causes of the economic crash of 1929–1933 in Europe and the United States, and differ over the nature of recovery. The unique experiences of Latin American countries in this process have received close atten-...

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CHAPTER 6: CARDENISTA ENGINEERING, THE ANDERSON CLAYTON COMPANY, AND RURAL UNREST IN THE RÍO BRAVO DELTA, 1935–1939

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pp. 112-134

This chapter examines the importance of cardenista development ideology in the realization of the Bajo Río Bravo project. Cardenista visions of collectivized agriculture were generated in, and adjusted to respond to, the particular historical conditions present in the mid- to late 1930s. ...

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CHAPTER 7: REPATRIATION IN THE RÍO BRAVO DELTA, 1935– 1940

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pp. 135-153

Beginning in the 1920s, U.S. intellectuals and social workers focused on the question of migration with new interest, and the social issues involving Mexican migrants were well represented in this literature.1 The politics of immigration restriction, emblemized in the passing of the immigration law of 1924 and in the repatriation...

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CHAPTER 8: DEFINING DEVELOPMENT IN THE RÍO BRAVO DELTA, 1940–1963

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pp. 154-173

In this chapter I discuss the intertwined socioeconomic process and language of regional development as it continued to shape regional dynamics in the Bajo Río Bravo through the cotton boom years of the 1940s and 1950s. ...

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CHAPTER 9: CONCLUSION: HISTORICIZING THE BORDERLANDS

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pp. 174-178

Don Marcelo, Don Fausto, and Don Roberto had known each other since the 1930s, and as they sat talking on Roberto’s porch, they helped each other remember names, dates, events, and places.1 Don Marcelo was born and raised on the Rancho Santa Adelaide, a rural outpost at that time, now being swallowed by the city of Matamoros...

NOTES

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pp. 179-204

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 205-219

INDEX

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pp. 221-234


E-ISBN-13: 9781603444361
E-ISBN-10: 160344436X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603440134
Print-ISBN-10: 1603440135

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 7 b&w photos. 4 maps. 5 tables.
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Environmental History Series

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Cotton farmers -- Mexican-American Border Region -- History.
  • Cotton trade -- Mexican-American Border Region -- History.
  • Irrigation farming -- Mexican-American Border Region -- History.
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