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Accueil du site → Doctorat → États-Unis → 2009 → Water and revolution : The politics, ecology and technology of agrarian reform in ’La Laguna’ Mexico

UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO (2009)

Water and revolution : The politics, ecology and technology of agrarian reform in ’La Laguna’ Mexico

Wolfe, Mikael

Titre : Water and revolution : The politics, ecology and technology of agrarian reform in ’La Laguna’ Mexico

Auteur : Wolfe, Mikael

Université de soutenance : UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy Ph D (2009)

Résumé
On October 6, 1936, in response to a summer human flood of massive rural and urban worker mobilization, Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas decreed Latin America’s most ambitious experiment in agrarian reform until that time in the arid north-central cotton-rich Laguna district – the expropriation of over 225 profitable haciendas for the creation of as many or more agricultural collectives or ejidos and small landholdings in their place. Ever since, this dramatic historical episode has been considered, on one hand, the emblematic postrevolutionary state attempt to fulfill the promises of the 1910-1917 Mexican Revolution ; and, on the other, the epitome of the tragic flaws and shortcomings of that same attempt, in terms of its long-term failure to significantly improve the lot of the rural poor. As a grand motif of Mexico’s twentieth century history chiefly symbolized by agrarian revolutionary martyr Emiliano Zapata and his battle cry of “land and liberty,” la reforma agraria as institution, law and public policy has been the subject of an enormous historiography and interdisciplinary literature. Yet the vast majority of studies have approached the topic by primarily focusing on its social, political, economic and legal dimensions. By contrast, this dissertation examines the little explored ecological and technological dimensions of agrarian reform in the emblematic Laguna as integral – and not subordinate or marginal – to its historical process, course and outcome as the ideological raison d’être of postrevolutionary Mexican state formation. Specifically, the thesis shows that at the heart of agrarian reform as a broad process of sociopolitical, technological and environmental change was the modernization of the Laguna’s unstable Nazas river regime to which capitalist agriculturalists successfully adapted a centuries-old and ecologically benign flood farming method of irrigation known as “aniego.” It argues that the long-term agro-ecological and ethnohistorical practices associated with aniego beginning in the colonial period were not only instrumental in making the Laguna’s 19th century “miracle” of cotton ; they also paradoxically set the stage for a decades-long campaign throughout the 20th century to deploy on a massive scale the very hydraulic technologies – high dams, upgraded canals and pump-powered wells – that suppressed aniego in order to ostensibly liberate the region from the destabilizing vagaries of nature. By integrating political and environmental history, the dissertation demonstrates that the decline and ultimate demise of Cardenista agrarian reform in La Laguna reflected the irresolvable contradiction between social liberation and ecological deterioration in the pursuit of agro-industrial modernization through technological progress – the story of which, based on a variety of technical and nontechnical archival documentation from this key agricultural region of Mexico, has broad historiographical and policy implications for Latin America and many other areas of the world where similar socio-ecological conditions of water scarcity prevail.

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