This essay explores Mexico City's electrification in the early twentieth century through the lens of power theft. The arrest and resulting trial of dozens of capitalinos (Mexico City residents) suspected of power theft allow us to document the nuances of policing and prosecuting a modern crime and thus to explore how notions of policing, private property, space, honor, and even decency influenced how people secured and used electricity. Using 63 cases tried before the Tribunal Superior de Justicia del Distrito Federal (Federal District Higher Court) and newspaper and legal debate on power theft, this article examines how capitalinos could flip seamlessly between the elitist, scripted, proper use of electricity and the ad-libbed, improper use that fit their needs in specific circumstances. By grounding electrification in everyday life, this article argues that capitalinos emerge as agents of technological change, people who understood the importance of electricity to transform their lives and spaces.

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