Civic boosters have often portrayed the northern Mexican city of Monterrey as a modern metropolis separate, in many ways, from the rest of Mexico—an industrial paradise where local capital has operated efficient factories and maintained relatively peaceful labor relations. While Michael Snodgrass’s excellent new study does trace the development of regionally distinct patterns of labor relations in Monterrey from the Porfiriato until 1950, it dispels the notion that the city has enjoyed a tranquil labor history. The book also shows how this history has not solely reflected local processes but rather has been intimately connected to major national events.

What made Monterrey’s industry exceptional in the decades after the Mexican Revolution, Snodgrass argues, was the prevalence of paternalist labor relations at the city’s factories. The author defines paternalism as an industrial-relations system emphasizing nonwage benefits and promoting an identifiable corporate culture. Other employers...

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