In this carefully researched and well-written study of the “American” colony in Mexico City during the age of Porfirio Díaz, William Schell takes on the Black Legend of powerful, greedy yanqui capitalists who conspire with greedy Mexican elites to impoverish and underdevelop Mexico. Schell portrays, instead, a diverse community of expatriates functioning as key investors at the heart of Mexico’s “defensive” economic modernization, as cross-cultural brokers in the “contact zone” of Mexico City, and as envoys ultimately serving Díaz’s Dollar Diplomacy more than Washington’s.

Using detailed biographical sketches, Schell paints a nuanced portrait of the American community in Mexico City, from its modest origins in the 1870s to its rapid expansion after 1900. He divides this community into a popolo grosso, made up of influential diplomats, leading entrepreneurs, newspaper editors, lawyers, and protestant ministers, and a popolo minuto, made up of...

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