Built by the U.S. Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad beginning in 1880, the Mexican Central Railway eventually became the most extensive of Mexican railroads. Connecting with the Santa Fe at El Paso, Texas, its main line extended south to Mexico City. Significant branches served Tampico and Monterrey in the northeast, and Guadalajara and Colima in west-central Mexico. By 1907, its last year of independent operation, the Mexican Central’s 5,500 kilometers of track totaled more than one-fourth of the Mexican railway network. It also carried nearly one-third of all freight and earned more than one-third of the income of all Mexican railroads combined. It had become Mexico’s most important railroad.

As is often the case for powerful corporations with foreign connections, the Mexican Central’s perception by the public was not always complimentary. Sandra Kuntz Ficker, who teaches at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana at Xochimilco, sets the record straight in this study.

Originally her doctoral dissertation, Empresa extranjera y mercado interno shows how the Mexican Central influenced and, in turn, was affected by both foreign and domestic commerce. Although it served two of the nation’s busiest ports of entry, Ciudad Juárez and Tampico, and carried considerable export and import freight, Kuntz Ficker concludes that the internal Mexican market was more important to the railroad. Even its rate structure was designed to enhance internal mobility. From 1887 to 1902, income from local traffic was more than twice that earned from international traffic. Thus, contrary to the popular belief that the principal function of foreign-built railroads was to unite Mexico to foreign markets, if the Mexican Central was any example, their main contribution was to act as a powerful integrative factor in the internal market.

Using a straightforward, businesslike style, Kuntz Ficker presents her findings in three parts. The first offers a brief history of the development of the railroad. She notes that the railroad construction agreements negotiated by the government of Porfirio Díaz were far better for Mexico than those signed by the earlier Benito Juárez administration. The second part deals with the line’s rate structure and the results of operation. The final segment shows how the Mexican Central related to the nation’s internal market and provides analyses of types of freight carried, points of origin, and destinations.

The work is based on company and government records and a nicely balanced, albeit not exhaustive, selection of secondary sources. It contains numerous helpful tables and graphs. Although Kuntz Ficker mistakenly assumes Chicago to be the capital of Illinois (p. 62), her study is generally well edited and remarkably free of typographical and similar errors. A significant accomplishment that deserves attention, Empresa extranjera y mercado interno will be of special interest to economic and transportation historians.