The Americas 59.1 (2002) 114-116
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This interesting book is an attempt to study different aspects of the Porfirian and early post-Porfirian textile industry of the Puebla region. While the title promises the study of labor and political conflict, the book also considers diverse other aspects including elite networks, working class life and politics, and regional politics. Coralia Gutiérrez Álvarez weaves together data and discussions from the significant published literature with extensive and very diverse archival sources.
The first section of the book is dedicated to the formation of entrepreneurial groups and their industrial investments and interests since the 1830s, and how they came to cohere as a class. This section's strength lies in its extensive research into entrepreneur groups, their networks, investments, and sources of capital. While this section includes valuable insights and data into the coherence of Porfirian industrial elites in Puebla, it fails to link this Porfirian-era entrepreneurship to Puebla and Veracruz's earlier industrial development. Unfortunately, this section does not provide [End Page 114] a general geographic, quantitative review of the scale and structure of the region's industrial development for any period, including the "core" period covered in the book of the 1890s. Still, the archival research behind this section is formidable.
The second section of the book discusses the connections of Puebla's industrial entrepreneurs to the region's political elite and their close integration with larger Porfirian economic and political elites. It moves from this to examining industrialists' attitudes towards workers and how industrialists and administrators resisted the early attempts by workers to organize and to make workplace demands. During this period, industrialists had to navigate through the different sources of resistance to industrial discipline by workers still closely attached to the agrarian world.
Section three begins with a discussion of how workers' organizations and demands matured during the first years of the twentieth century, leading to a major set of strikes and confrontations in 1906. The text examines carefully the emergence and organization of working class demands and employer responses, including the emerging role of the Porfirian state as both intermediary for and repressor of working class demands. This wave of mobilizations culminated in repression that only ended with the arrival of the Maderista revolution.
The final section of the book examines the period between 1911 and 1914 and provides the most narrative and detailed section of the book. In this discussion the book confirms by now familiar visions of Maderismo's ambiguous and contradictory relationship with the social demands of the working classes and peasantry. It also documents the economic instability and intense political activism of many workers in the struggle against the Huerta regime. We see the basic demands of the 1906 movement reemerge repeatedly in this period, with the added complexity of working class leaders and organizations having to navigate alliances and relations with the changing and unstable factions of this period.
One weakness of the book is that it mostly (although not entirely) follows a traditional labor/political history of class and class relations. This reader would have liked to get a sense of what the social life of both workers and industrialists were like, especially in the context of factory or company housing settings. Similarly the connection of workers with the agrarian world is mentioned but not discussed. The same applies to the elites, who are repeatedly presented as diversified, with factory owners extending their activities to marketing, hacienda ownership, and other investments, but this "other side" of the industrial class is not discussed, even in obvious questions that closely connect rural and industrial work like labor discipline and wages. Elite networks are studied but not to the same degree for different...