Abstract: Transnational Liberalism: Two German Mining Firms in Nineteenth-Century Mexico

Nathan D. Delaney

Abstract

My presentation will examine two German mining firms in Mexico—one during the early years of the republic, the other during the Porfiriato&—in an effort to help answer the questions: when is foreign business beneficial to domestic communities and when is it merely extractive and disruptive? I argue that the answer to this question depends less on the mentalite of the foreign business migrants and more on the technology and legal structures of nineteenth-century Mexico. Mining groups such as the Deutsch-Amerikanischer Bergwerksverein (1824-1838) lacked the technological and institutional support to succeed over the long term and thus contributed very little to the well-being of local communities through taxes, infrastructure investment, and steady wages. Conversely, during the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz (1876-1910), mines owned by the Frankfurt firm Metallgesellschaft (MG) reaped tremendous profits and raised revenues for local and national governments in Mexico. While MG contributed to local infrastructure development, imported new mining technologies, and provided work for thousands of people, it also benefited (largely at the expense of the working poor) from strict anti-union laws and generous land subsidies.