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    Torreon, Mexican boomtown: A historical geography of Porfirian Mexico

    by  • May 13, 2016 • 2015-2016 Provost Digital Innovation Grant Winners

    Project Name: Torreon, Mexican boomtown: A historical geography of Porfirian Mexico
    Grantee: Hector Agredano
    Discipline: Earth and Environmental Science
    Funding Cycle: 2015-2016
    Project Status: Cycle Complete

    Torreón 1907 photo detail

    Histories of railroad workers before the Revolution are quite scarce and research on their lives, social environments and labor geographies remains missing. Torreon, Mexican boomtown: A historical geography of Porfirian Mexico aims to build a historical geographic information systems (HGIS) database composed of archival materials from local archives housed in Mexico. Besides being a project organically related to my dissertation this digital initiative seeks to take this project beyond a traditional dissertation to disseminate its findings to a broader public beyond the academy through a curated digital archive and interactive multilayer cartography. Furthermore, the goal of this project is to build a multimedia environment that can become a hub for database sharing between different researchers working with HGIS and to share the project’s database so that future scholars can build on it. As a bilingual project this digital initiative also seeks to foster the growth of HGIS in Latin America and the use of open-source online tools.

    Although the Mexican Revolution has been extensively documented, for the most part the role of the railroads, railroad workers and the use of rail infrastructure during the Revolution remain largely unexplored from a historical, as well as a geographical, perspective. However, railroad labor and railroads are present throughout the entire revolutionary process and they are part of the democratic and revolutionary heritage of Mexico. So strong is this connection that they have become associated with the movements of troops and rebels in films, literature, the arts and popular culture. Yet, despite their presence in the popular imagination the Mexican Revolution is usually thought of as series of agrarian revolts and military battles where industrial labor remained mostly at the margins. Nevertheless, ample evidence suggests that industrial workers, especially railroad workers, were central to the geography of the Mexican Revolution.

    Torreón map detail

    This HGIS project specifically aims to reconstruct the urban agglomeration of the Laguna Region in northern Mexico. In this semi-arid region of Mexico the introduction of the railroads—first in 1883 with the Mexican Central Railroad and then in 1887 with the Mexican International Railroad—brought about an economic boom that transformed this primarily agricultural region into an industrial center and a transportation hub in the north. The Laguna Region became the crown jewel of Porfirio Diaz’s dictatorship, and the city of Torreon became a boomtown.

    Torreón Digitized