The building of motor roads in Latin America, as elsewhere, was an activity essential to the history of modernization and state formation in the twentieth century. Governments, private companies, and regional boosters launched construction efforts with the goal of reducing travel times, linking cities and towns together, and stimulating economic development. In the process, these initiatives also changed the way citizens thought about the nation-state. New highways helped give shape to national identity, not only by making more of the countryside traversable, but also by putting citizens and foreigners in greater contact. Likewise, motor tourism identified and reified regional cultural symbols, transforming them into representations of that nation, and packaging them for easy consumption by travelers on weekend getaways.
Michael K. Bess
The historical literature on mobility and transport in Mexico reveals the impact of infrastructure development on the country’s economic and political modernization in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. From 1876, when Porfirio Díaz first ascended to the presidency, until the eve of the 1910 revolution, Mexico built nearly twenty-five thousand kilometers of railroads. Initially launched by foreign-dominated consortiums, and later centralized under the state-owned Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexican National Railways), the burgeoning rail network linked the country’s major cities and ports together, facilitating regional industrial development and export-oriented economic growth. Following a decade of armed conflict, the postrevolutionary state faced the task of rebuilding devastated transportation infrastructure. Beginning under President Plutarco Elías Calles (1924–28), the national government repaired and built thousands of miles of railroads and motor highways, relying on a combination of domestic taxes and foreign-direct investment to fund the work. This policy improved regional and national mobility and contributed to a thirty-year period of robust economic growth, called the “Mexican Miracle,” from 1940 to 1970.
Michael K. Bess, David Lipset, Kudzai Matereke, Stève Bernardin, Katharine Bartsch, Harry Oosterhuis, Samuel Müller, Frank Schipper, Benjamin D'Harlingue and Katherine Roeder
Penny Harvey and Hannah Knox, Roads: An Anthropology of Infrastructure and Expertise (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015), 264 pp., 16 illustrations, $26.95 (paperback)
Noel B. Salazar and Kiran Jayaram, eds., Keywords of Mobility: Critical Engagements (New York: Berghahn Books, 2016), 196 pp., $90 (hardback)
Lutz Koepnick, On Slowness: Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 336 pp., 43 illustrations, $40 (hardback)
Gérard Duc, Olivier Perroux, Hans-Ulrich Schiedt, and François Walter, eds., Histoire des transports et de la mobilité: Entre concurrence modale et coordination (de 1918 à nos jours) [Transport and mobility history: Between modal competition and coordination (from 1918 to the present)] (Neuchâtel: Editions Alphil-Presses Universitaires Suisses, 2014), 462 pp., $54 (paperback)
Kimberley Skelton, The Paradox of Body, Building and Motion in Seventeenth- Century England (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015), 204 pp., 60 illustrations, £70 (hardback)
Ruth Oldenziel, Martin Emanuel, Adri Albert de la Bruhèze, and Frank Veraart, eds., Cycling Cities: The European Experience—Hundred Years of Policy and Practice (Eindhoven: Foundation for the History of Technology, 2016), 256 pp., 100 illustrations. €37.50 (hardback)
Glen Norcliffe, Critical Geographies of Cycling: History, Political Economy and Culture (London: Routledge, 2015), 290 pp., 24 illustrations, $119.95 (hardback)
Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman, Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016), 328 pp., 31 illustrations, $29.95 (hardback)
Mathieu Flonneau, Léonard Laborie, and Arnaud Passalacqua, eds., Les transports de la démocratie: Approche historique des enjeux politiques de la mobilité [The transport of democracy: A historical approach to the political issues of mobility] (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2014), 224 pp., €19 (paperback)
Erik M. Conway, Exploration and Engineering: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Quest for Mars (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015), 416 pp., 21 illustrations, $32.95 (paperback)
Hariton Pushwagner, Soft City (New York: New York Review Books, 2016), 160 pp., $35 (hardback)