- Industry & Revolution: Social and Economic Change in Orizaba Valley, Mexico by Aurora Gómez-Galvarriato
This carefully researched book by the head of the Archivo General de la Nación de México, ranks high among studies that broaden our understanding of the Mexican Revolution. Through its focus on the textile industry, the author provides the reader a greater understanding of the transformative nature of the Industrial Revolution and how it penetrated Mexico and played a determining role in generating one of the great social revolutions of the twentieth century. [End Page 744]
To demonstrate precisely the extent to which the Industrial Revolution affected Mexico, this study focuses on the textile industry in the Orizaba Valley in the state of Veracruz, the region in Mexico most dramatically affected by the forces of change wrought by the Industrial Revolution. While Gómez-Galvarriato explores in great detail the technical and economic questions of how the introduction of the mechanized textile industry occurred, she is even better at explaining the social and economic changes it unleashed in the region, as well as in greater Mexico. Accordingly, a major objective of this study is to connect these changes to the nature of the Mexican Revolution. By focusing on the Orizaba Valley, the scene of major labor unrest leading up to the overthrow of Porfirio Díaz in 1911, the author provides keen insight into how industrial workers participated in the Mexican Revolution and shaped its outcome.
Showing how workers from the Orizaba Valley created the most powerful labor organization in Mexico, the author makes the case that organized labor played a more prominent role in the Mexican Revolution than what others have suggested in the literature. The author argues that despite their relative weakness numerically versus the peasantry, industrial workers in the Orizaba Valley enjoyed a strategic geographic importance that gave them influence in the outcome of the Revolution. Located in the corridor running along the railroad line between the port of Veracruz and Mexico City, control over this area by the Constitutionalist Army proved crucial during the final stages of the Revolution.
Gómez-Galvarriato points out that much of the focus on workers in the Revolution has centered on those who took up arms and joined the Red Battalions. The author suggests that in Orizaba and also Puebla and Mexico City, a more significant revolutionary strategy emerged among industrial workers. This strategy focused on agitation around many long-standing grievances of industrial workers and at the same time explored ways in which the Revolution could permanently change working and living conditions in their factories and communities. Through extensive use of secondary sources and the records of the Compañía Industrial Veracruzana S.A. (CIVSA), Gómez-Galvarriato documents textile workers’ agitation years before the overthrow of Díaz and shows how it reached new levels of intensity once the Revolution began.
Díaz regime policies promoted investment in the expansion and upgrading of Mexico’s textile industry, which resulted in more employment. As Orizaba attracted workers from all parts of Mexico, the region became the most heavily concentrated area of industrial workers in the nation. Meanwhile, the Porfirian regime’s protectionist strategy to promote industry resulted in high profits for the industry. These factors set the stage for unionization in pursuit of higher wages and better conditions. As reflected in the successful integration of the Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana (CROM) and its principal leader, Luis Morones, into post-revolutionary governments, textile workers were instrumental in making organized labor an important pillar of the party of the Mexican Revolution, which ruled Mexico for 71 years.
This book is required reading for specialists in Mexican history. The only criticism of this reader is that the author relies too much on a single source, the records of CIVSA. [End Page 745] Otherwise, the work succeeds in presenting a clear account of how an industry and its workers played crucial roles in the process and outcome of the Mexican Revolution.