These papers show how six entrepreneurs in Mexico City (Escandón, Martínez del Río, Béistegui, Mier y Terán, de la Torre, and Somera) and similar businessmen in Nuevo León managed to use the dislocating Mexican political scene for their own advancement and profit. According to the essays, after 1830 these operators became indispensable to national governments by providing such essential services as road maintenance, toll collection, and the like. Every study has something interesting and provocative to offer; Morales’s depiction of Francisco Somera and his creation of subdivisions in Mexico City and Urías Hermosillo’s well-rounded portrait of Manuel Escandón are particularly notable. In addition, Meyer’s account of Béistegui’s holdings even contains startling revelations of portfolios of European railroad and utilities shares. Ultimately, however, the collection falls short.
First, the essays are based primarily on evidence from the Notarial Archives. Despite the wealth of material to be found there, its records, when used alone, have to distort any rendering of a historical situation. Further, few essays connect individual activities to general Mexican political or economic events. This flaw is magnified in the volume because, in spite of afterwords by well-known scholars and a summary of subsequent discussion, there is no real attempt to tie the essays together into a coherent whole. Worse still, there is no evaluation of how the material presented in the essays relates to the general knowledge of the period currently accepted by historians.
Furthermore, although the essays indicate quite clearly how greatly Western European examples influenced Mexican entrepreneurial vision, they do not discuss the effect of European ideas, demand, and power on the formation and development of the Mexican entrepreneurial class and whether it was indeed, in the words of another debate, a “dependent bourgeoisie.” Yet the volume clearly indicates that the Mexican bourgeoisie, and one can infer all such groups in Latin America, cannot be evaluated according to models based on the Western European experience. The delineation of the prototype for the Latin American bourgeoisie awaits the publication of many more studies as stimulating as this one.