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During the presidential administration of Porfirio Díaz (1876–80; 1884–1911), Mexican forests became fully commodified, that is, converted from “natural landscapes” into commodities that could be bought, transformed into lumber. Railroads and mining financed by United States investors were at the leading edge of this process, particularly in the nation’s north. The Díaz government’s political liberalism promoted the rapid expansion of commercial logging that led to the massive dispossession of village land, including the forests claimed by indigenous peoples. In Michoacán, timber barons such as Santiago Slade gained access to woods owned by native Purépecha people (a.k.a. Tarascans) by signing long-term...

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