The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 156
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156 Southwestern Historical Quarterly July
pifiata breaking, and the scallop shell design found on a college escutcheon, to
name a few. This approach generates examples that not only support the
authors' theses, but also substantiate their vision of Borderlands culture as a
unique blend of complementary traditions.
Southwest Texas State University ELIZABETH MAKOWSKI
The Makzng of the Mexzcan Border: The State, Capitalism, and Soczety zn Nuevo Le6n,
i848-z19o. By Juan Mora-Torres. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.
Pp. xi+346. ISBN 0-292-75255-5. Acknowledgments, introduction, epi-
logue, notes, selected bibliography, index. $23.95, paper.)
Mora-Torres examines the dynamics by which the Nuevo Le6n-Texas frontier
changed when it became a border in 1848. Chapters one and two cover the peri-
od from the founding of Monterrey in 1596 to 1890 before the city's industrial
take-off. The Kingdom of Nuevo Le6n was unique during its more than two cen-
turies under Spain. Settlers received free lands and water and exemption from
taxation in return for military service to defend against the "barbarians" With no
silver and gold and few potential converts, few elites settled except in southern
Nuevo Le6n and these were absentee landowners. The result was a more egali-
tarian society that included Tlaxcalan Indian settlers. There was no concentra-
tion of lands except in the south. As population increased the land grants were
subdivided, and by 1700 most had become comunidades de acczonistas. Individuals
in these communities owned a percent of land collectively but without location
specificity. Eventually these persons became peasants forced to sharecrop,
become debt peons, or flee to Texas.
After independence was achieved in 1821 the inhabitants resented their loss
of autonomy from the central government and having to pay taxes and be con-
scripted. At the same time they were confronted with the expansion of the
United States and the creation of the border along the Rio Grande in 1848. Up
to 188o neither the United States nor Mexico was able to control the Indians,
secessionists, smugglers, and bandits. Two groups benefited. The opening of the
port of Matamoros in 1826 and the cotton trade with the Confederacy allowed
merchants to amass capital. Debt peons could now escape to Texas, where wages
were much better. After the fall of the Confederacy and the loss of the cotton
trade Nuevo Le6n experienced an economic depression.
Chapters three to seven explain why Monterrey took off in 1890 while the
countryside declined and stagnated. Much credit is given to Gov. Bernardo
Reyes, who took a pro-business stance but also provided the most advanced
labor legislation in Mexico. He neglected agriculture but abolished debt peon-
age and established a minimum rural wage in 1908. Porfirio Diaz's railroad
nationalization, mining codes, abolition of internal taxes, elimination of the
Free Trade Zone, and high protective tariffs also helped. But the major catalyst
was some twenty families in Monterrey who invested their own funds and
attracted foreign capital and labor when the United States imposed its high
McKinley tariff in 1890.
Mora-Torres uses a myriad of sources to give us an in-depth view of the polit-
ical, economic, and social life of both the entrepreneurs and the laboring
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/184/: accessed December 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.