Electrifying Mexico: Technology and the Transformation of a Modern City (Hardcover)
Winner, The Alfred B. Thomas Book Award, Southeastern Council of Latin American Studies (SECOLAS), 2022
Winner, The Bolton-Johnson Prize, Conference on Latin American History (CLAH), 2022
Co-winner, Best Book in Non-North American Urban History, Urban History Association, 2022
Many visitors to Mexico City’s 1886 Electricity Exposition were amazed by their experience of the event, which included magnetic devices, electronic printers, and a banquet of light. It was both technological spectacle and political messaging, for speeches at the event lauded President Porfirio Díaz and bound such progress to his vision of a modern order.
Diana J. Montaño explores the role of electricity in Mexico’s economic and political evolution, as the coal-deficient country pioneered large-scale hydroelectricity and sought to face the world as a scientifically enlightened “empire of peace.” She is especially concerned with electrification at the social level. Ordinary electricity users were also agents and sites of change. Montaño documents inventions and adaptations that served local needs while fostering new ideas of time and space, body and self, the national and the foreign. Electricity also colored issues of gender, race, and class in ways specific to Mexico. Complicating historical discourses in which Latin Americans merely use technologies developed elsewhere, Electrifying Mexico emphasizes a particular national culture of scientific progress and its contributions to a uniquely Mexican modernist political subjectivity.
— Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Electrifying Mexico is an essential book for all students of the history of urban technologies...Electrifying Mexico provides an original contribution to the field by offering a far more complex history of electricity than had existed in previous studies, focusing on the urban cultural history of human imaginations around technology and the intangibility of electrical energy...this engaging book makes a remarkable contribution to the historiography of studying electricity in urban space from the material and symbolic point of view in Mexico, Latin America, and other geographical areas.
— Planning Perspectives
A rich and lucid narrative about how electric power weaved into the myriad imaginations that forged Mexico City and conceptualizations of a national utility from the late nineteenth until the mid-twentieth century...the author has produced a foundational text on the history of electrification in Mexico, which will feature heavily in future scholarship on electrification in the Americas...Even if readers’ expertise or research interests lie outside of Mexico and Central America, Montaño’s thematic approach will prove invaluable as a tool for asking useful and productive questions about the history of electrification.
Montaño’s excellent cultural history of electricity in Mexico [is] a pioneering work in the field…Electrifying Mexico is very well-written and avoids the pitfalls of jargon-heavy cultural history. The book also successfully employs the tools of cultural history to capture Mexico City residents’ everyday experience of electrification and untangle the cultural practices and meanings they attached to its use...the book deserves ample praise for its elegant writing, meticulous research, the original use of sources, and as the first (as far as this reader knows) cultural history of electrification in Mexico.
— The Americas