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The chapter opens with the ill-fated effort by the “apostle of Mexican democracy,” Francisco I. Madero, shortly before the Mexican Revolution to unite his fellow landowning, riverine Laguneros to lobby the government for a high dam on the Nazas River—a project President Díaz already supported. It then describes the longer-term historical ecology of the Laguna since the colonial period; how land tenure and water rights fit into and affected that ecology through irrigated cotton growing; and the emergence of agrarian reform as a broad process of social, legal, environmental, and technological change during the late Porfiriato and the Revolution. This change culminated in Article 27 of the 1917 Constitution, a historic and yet contradictory provision that mandated both conservation and development of agricultural resources. Indeed, the rest of the book shows how these mandates could be carried out simultaneously or, more often, worked at cross-purposes.

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