Jonathan Hill: “Currents of Change: Water, Electricity and the State in Late Porfirian Mexico”

Jonathan Hill

“Currents of Change: Water, Electricity and the State in Late Porfirian Mexico”

March 21, 2014


When ground was broken on La Boquilla in 1905, it was one of the largest and most ambitious damming projects in the world. Built in the narrow canyon mouth of the seasonal Rio Conchos in Mexico’s arid northern state of Chihuahua, La Boquilla represented the cutting edge of engineering and hydroelectric technology, featuring the concave arch, structural concrete, and high-tension transmission lines characteristic of later projects. The first two of these allowed for the production of smaller, stronger dams and far larger reservoirs, while the latter made long-distance electrical transmission viable for the first time. With a booming copper mining industry located nearby, La Boquilla became an attractive opportunity for both investors and state officials interested in increasing economic activity in the region. By the eve of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, Mexico’s hydropower ambitions rivaled those of United States, Germany, and British India.