An exploration of the social and environmental consequences of oil extraction in the tropical rainforest. Using northern Veracruz as a case study, the author argues that oil production generated major historical and environmental transformations in land tenure systems and uses, and social organisation. Such changes, furthermore, entailed effects, including the marginalisation of indigenes, environmental destruction, and tense labour relations. In the context of the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), however, the results of oil development did not go unchallenged. Mexican oil workers responded to their experience by forging a politicised culture and a radical left militancy that turned 'oil country' into one of the most significant sites of class conflict in revolutionary Mexico. Ultimately, the book argues, Mexican oil workers deserve their share of credit for the 1938 decree nationalising the foreign oil industry - heretofore reserved for President Lazaro Cardenas - and thus changing the course of Mexican history.
• Integrates labour and environmental history • Analyses the environmental consciousness of Mexican oil workers • Adds new interpretation to the 1938 expropriation debate in Mexican history
List of illustrations, figures, and appendices; Acknowledgements; Introduction; Part I. The Huasteca Before Oil: 1. 'Paradise' and 'progress': the Huasteca in the 19th century; Part II. The Ecology of Oil: 2. Controlling the tropical forest: the shift in land tenure systems; 3. The anatomy of progress: changing land use patterns; 4. 'Masters of men, masters of nature': social change in the Huasteca; Part III. Challenging the Ecology of Oil: 5. 'Rude in manner': the Mexican oil workers, 1905–1921; 6. Revolutionaries, conservation, and wasteland; 7. The revolution from below: the oil unions, 1924–1938; Conclusion; Epilogue; Appendices; A note on the sources; Archives consulted; Selected bibliography; Index.