French Migration and Crony Capitalism during Porfirian Mexico (1876-1911)

José Galindo

From the mid-nineteenth century until the end of the Porfirian era, 1911, a group of middle-class French immigrants from the region of the Low-Alps known as the Barcelonnettes relocated to different parts of Mexico, establishing a large colony mostly involved in the textile industry. The Barcelonnettes created a strong network, forming exclusive social clubs where they established fruitful relationships with other members of the Mexican economic elite.

The network they created gradually began to include politicians. In fact, this allowed them to work around Mexico's inadequate institutional framework: weak enforcement of contracts and restricted capital markets. 

The Barcelonnettes were able to permeate some of the most important sectors of the Mexican economy: industry, commerce, banking, housing, among others. Ironically, the business strategies implemented during the Porfiriato, which helped overcome institutional weaknesses, have contributed to the persistence of these deficiencies still visible in Mexico.

This paper seeks to understand the long-term effects of social networks and crony capitalism on political and economic systems. In my paper, I will illustrate these ideas by focusing on one prominent Barcelonnette family in particular, the Jean family.