An exploration of the social and environmental consequences of oil extraction in the tropical rainforest. Using northern Veracruz as a case study, the author argues that oil production generated major historical and environmental transformations in land tenure systems and uses, and social organization. Such changes, furthermore, entailed effects, including the marginalization of indigenes, environmental destruction, and tense labor relations. In the context of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), however, the results of oil development did not go unchallenged. Mexican oil workers responded to their experience by forging a politicized culture and a radical left militancy that turned 'oil country' into one of the most significant sites of class conflict in revolutionary Mexico. Ultimately, The Ecology of Oil argues, Mexican oil workers deserve their share of credit for the 1938 decree nationalizing the foreign oil industry – heretofore reserved for President Lazaro Cardenas – and thus changing the course of Mexican history.
List of illustrations, figures, and appendices
Part I. The Huasteca Before Oil:
1. 'Paradise' and 'progress': the Huasteca in the 19th century
Part II. The Ecology of Oil:
2. Controlling the tropical forest: the shift in land tenure systems
3. The anatomy of progress: changing land use patterns
4. 'Masters of men, masters of nature': social change in the Huasteca
Part III. Challenging the Ecology of Oil:
5. 'Rude in manner': the Mexican oil workers, 1905–1921
6. Revolutionaries, conservation, and wasteland
7. The revolution from below: the oil unions, 1924–1938
A note on the sources
Myrna I. Santiago is Associate Professor of History at St. Mary's College of California. Before earning her Ph.D. in History from the University of California at Berkeley, she travelled to Mexico on a Fullbright Fellowship and later worked in Nicaragua as a Human Rights investigator. Her work has appeared in Environmental History.