a1 Professor of History and Dìrector of the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies at Northern Illinois University
No topic encapsulates better the fundamental contradiction in capitalist development in Porfirian Mexico than the turbulent history of the copper industry. Within the space of a few years, the industry simultaneously experienced rapid growth, labour conflict and political controversy with international implications. This historical dynamic was unleashed, in part, by the Mexican government's policy of attracting overseas investors to Mexico through generous concessions and tax breaks that facilitated foreign control over key industries. The privileged position that public policy afforded foreign companies resulted in a nationalist backlash and exacerbated tension between native labour and foreign capital. The famous strike at Cananea, Sonora, in 1906 brought to national attention the grievances of Mexican workers over wage scales that favoured foreign workers over natives, falling real wages, and the power and arrogance of United States companies in Mexico. The strike became a scandal when armed North Americans from nearby Arizona crossed the border and assisted local authorities in crushing Mexican workers. This violation of Mexican sovereignty caused a storm of protest from both liberals and conservatives and unsettled the Díaz regime on the eve of the Mexican Revolution.
* The author thanks Mr Peter Steere of the Special Collections division of the University of Arizona library for helping to locate documentary sources for this article, and acknowledges the valuable assistance of the staffs of the Arizona Historical Society, the Centro Regional de Sonora, and the Compañía Minera de Cananea, S.A.