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Animal Perspectives: Nonhuman Creatures’ Roles in Modern Latin America  

Stephen Neufeld

In the national era of Latin American history, animals played various and significant roles. The 19th century brought to bear forces of industrialization and urbanization that altered how humans and animals interacted. While humans continued to rely on animals through the 20th century, the changes spurred during the 19th century Anthropocene (the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment) led to new human–animal relations and reshaped traditional ones. Animals represented a driving economic force as a commodity, as transport, as labor, and as raw capital in the growing national republics. In and of themselves, they embodied the nation as symbols and as a part of the broader discourses that marked rural lifeways. As companions and pets, they enjoyed human protection and care, yet as prey and props, they also faced cruel destruction through hunting, blood sports, and vermin control. They caused disease and carried vaccines. And so, from the deepest wilderness of the region to the busiest city boulevard, the human history of Latin America took form in venues inhabited by fauna whose uses, and presence, shaped human life. A better understanding of these nonhuman animals’ histories changes our focus and situates animals as a vital element in Latin American societies.

Article

Coffee and the Formation of Modern Brazil, 1860–1914  

Rafael de Bivar Marquese

The coffee economy was decisive for the construction of independent Brazil. By the middle of the 19th century, the country was responsible for about half of the coffee global supply; in 1900, that number had increased to about three-quarters of the world’s production. In the Brazilian monarchical period (1822–1889) the center of the activity was located in the valley of the Paraiba do Sul river. Brazilian coffee production from its very beginnings demonstrated an inherent spatial mobility and a great demand for workers. Before 1850, labor supply was guaranteed by the transatlantic slave trade; after that, by an internal slave trade. The two basic characteristics of the coffee economy created during the era of slavery (the intensive exploitation of workers through the extensive exploitation of natural resources) were maintained after the crisis and the abolition of the institution (1888), when the center of the coffee economy moved to the West of São Paulo. Now counting on a new arrangement of free labor (the colonato) and on the subsidized immigration of European peasants, the São Paulo coffee economy in the new republican regime (founded in 1889) underwent a huge productive leap. Overproduction and falling prices became the new problem. The coffee valorization policy adopted by the State of São Paulo after 1906 and then the federal government indicates the reconfiguration of the class relations experienced in the new republican era, which nevertheless kept many of the historical structures of the slave legacy intact.

Article

Digital Resources: The Hijuelas Collection  

Matthew Butler and David A. Bliss

The Hijuelas project is a multi-domain international collaboration that makes available in digital form a large and valuable source on nineteenth-century indigenous history––the so-called libros de hijuelas or deed books recording the statewide privatization of indigenous lands in Michoacán, Mexico. These deed books, 194 in total, have been digitized and described over a two-year period by a team of History students from Michoacán’s state university, the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás Hidalgo (UMSNH), trained by and working under the supervision of archivists of the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies-Benson Latin American Collection of (LLILAS Benson) of the University of Texas at Austin. Additional logistical support has been provided by the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS) as a partner institution in Mexico of the University of Texas at Austin and by the state government of Michoacán via the Archivo General e Histórico del Poder Ejecutivo de Michoacán (AGHPEM), which is custodian of the hijuelas books. The project was generously funded by the British Library through its Endangered Archives Programme (EAP 931, “Conserving Indigenous Memories of Land Privatization in Mexico: Michoacán’s Libros de Hijuelas, 1719–1929”). The project seeks to be innovative in two ways. As a post-custodial archiving project, first and foremost, it uses digital methods to make easily accessible to historians, anthropologists, and indigenous communities the only consolidated state-level record of the land privatizations (reparto de tierras) affecting Mexican indigenous communities in the 19th century. It therefore projects digitally a key source for historians and one that possesses clear identitarian and agrarian importance for indigenous communities. It also makes widely available a source that is becoming physically unstable and inaccessible because of the difficult public security conditions affecting Michoacán. As a collaboration involving diverse institutional actors, furthermore, the project brings together institutions from three different countries and is an example of what may be achieved through equitable international collaborations.

Article

The History and Visual Culture of Mexico City’s Xochimilco Potable Water System during the Porfiriato  

Jeffrey M. Banister and Stacie G. Widdifield

Historians have extensively explored the topic of water control in Mexico City. From the relationship between political power and hydraulics to detailed studies of drainage and other large-scale infrastructure projects, the epic story of water in this megalopolis, constructed over a series of ancient lakes, continues to captivate people’s imaginations. Securing potable water for the fast-growing city is also a constant struggle, yet it has received comparatively less attention than drainage in historical research. Moreover, until quite recently scholars have not been especially concerned with water control as a process of representation—that is, a process shaped by, and shaping, visual culture. Yet, potable water brings together many stories about people and places both within and outside of the Basin of Mexico. As such, the history of potable water is communicated through a diverse array of objects and modern infrastructures not limited to the idea of waterworks in the traditional sense of the term. A more expansive view of “infrastructure” incorporates more than the commonplace objects of hydraulic management such as aqueducts, pumps, wells, and pipes: it also involves architecture, photography, and narrative history, official and unofficial. Built in the first decade of the 20th century as a response to acute water shortages, the impressively modern Xochimilco Potable Water Works exemplifies a system that delivered far more than fresh drinking water through its series of modern electric pumps and aqueduct. The system was a result of a larger modernization initiative launched by the administration of Porfirio Díaz (1876–1911). It wove together an official history of water, which included the annexation of Xochimilco’s springs, through its diverse infrastructures, including the engineering of the potable water system as well as the significance of the structures themselves in terms of locations and architectural elaboration in neo-styles (also known as historical styles) typical of the period. Demonstrably clear from the sheer investment in making the Xochimilco waterworks appealing to the public is that infrastructure can possess a rich visual culture of its own.

Article

Mountain and Forest Communities and Their Changing Landscapes in 19th-Century Mexico  

Alejandro Tortolero Villaseñor

For several years, some of Mexico’s most influential literary figures associated mountains with the presence of certain characteristics: wildlife, botanic variety, and most importantly, backwards and/or mysterious indigenous communities. Order and civilization, it seemed, for writers like Ignacio Altamirano and Manuel Payno, ceased to exist in mountainscapes. For these writes, mountains constituted social afterthoughts—places lacking history and dynamism, places that did not matter. They were, in Braudelian terms, the margins of civilization and factories that supplied human resources to cities. Such portrayals were not derived from reality, however. Far from solely being dull or dangerous sites where banditry and romantic indigeneity prevailed, Mexico’s mountains were, between the colonial era and the Porfiriato, the places where dramatic transformations took place. Impresarios’ mastery of Mexico’s natural resources fueled the country’s economic growth during the 19th and 20th centuries. Concomitant with this growth came dramatic alterations of the country’s landscape that left much of Mexico’s environment in disrepair. Mountains, thus, have histories. They are not landscapes where civilization parts ways with society. Such an argument has relevance in parts of the world like Latin America, where nearly half of the people who reside there live at elevations above sea level, and where only 7 percent reside under an elevation of 1,000 meters above sea level.

Article

Public and Private in Everyday Spaces of Water Use in Jalisco during the 19th and 20th Centuries  

Lourdes Sofía Mendoza Bohne

Water use in everyday life occurs and is reproduced in specific spaces designed for the supply, conservation, and use of water. The objectives of this article are: (a) to document the places in which water is supplied, used, and replenished in Guadalajara City from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century; (b) to analyze these practices from the perspective of social spaces as axes of interaction between the city and its experience through the use of water in daily life; (c) to use the concept of public and private to understand and analyze these spaces as they relate to the analytical axes of shared habits for public spaces and survival strategies for private spaces; (d) to explore the ways in which people transit between public and private spheres and change their notions and practices with regard to space, and how these are metabolized in public and in private. Public contexts are understood in terms of shared behaviors at local springs, swimming pools, public baths, streams, public laundries, watering troughs, and public fountains; these include locations with religious significance such Chapala Lake, considered sacred by both Catholics and the Wirrarika, an indigenous community in northern Jalisco. Private contexts are related to survival behaviors such as cooking, daily showers, domestic cleaning, cleaning one’s body, self-image, personal hygiene, and using the toilet. In this sense, the places in which Guadalajaran society interacts with water become daily spaces where the presence of water offers cultural meanings as points of reference for the city in that period and the spaces of water are metabolized as points of reference for life. In the early 20th century, new tools, infrastructure, and uses of water bring about the transformation and the re-signification of a new Culture of Water.