Week 7: The Export Boom as Modernity

Originally, I was going to talk about the bulk of Dawson’s 4th chapter “The Export Boom as Modernity”. I was going to discuss Dawson’s interview and how he talked about the different features that constitutes a “Modern Society” (Innovation, ethos of emancipation, secularization, and universalism”… But then I read the excerpt in the textbook: James Creelman’s “Porfirio Díaz, Hero of the Americas”, and now I don’t think I have enough time to talk about anything else.

Before this day, I had never heard of President Díaz. Not because he is not a famous character, but because I simply never learned the history of Mexico (which is sad and ignorant of me, considering that I am half Mexican.) After reading this, I feel like I have learnt a lot. I want to start out by saying that it is evident that Creelman has a certainly biased view of Díaz, as the way he portrays him is extremely idolized. However, being able to read what Díaz says about Mexico and his hopes and dreams for her… It moved me a lot. It also made me sad, but more on that later.

Creelman talks about Díaz’s accomplishments. I have made a table:

Before Diaz

After Diaz


Bankrupt, divided, infested with bandits, a pretty to a thousand forms of bribery

Life and property are safe from frontier to frontier of the republic

Foreign Trade





34, assets of nearly $700,000,000 and capital stock of $158,100,000


4,850 schools, 163,000 pupils

12,000 schools, ~1,000,000 pupils


2 small lines

19,000 miles of railways

Revenues of the Government


$115,000,000 and reduced taxes

It seems like Díaz did a lot for the country, and in the interview it is clear that he has a passion for improving the country as a whole, wishing to advance it so that one day, it could become a modern and prosperous democratic society. However, as Alec Dawson said in the interview, some “came to believe that a miraculous transformation has taken place but ignored all the signs of crisis”. It is true that Mexico grew a lot under Díaz’s 7 terms, but his regime was much like a dictatorship, as it was violent and oppressive in the sense that people had their land taken from them, and there were large injustices throughout his rule. It was even explicitly mentioned by Díaz, as he admits “We were harsh. Sometimes we were harsh to the point of cruelty.”

So this clearly brings me to a dilemma… Díaz mentions that “If there was cruelty, results have justified it”, and I’m having a very hard time with this line. If mass suffering and cruelty built a magnificent city, does this justify the mass suffering and cruelty? I highly doubt it, because in that case, almost all cruelty could be justified. Slavery justified by growing economies. Child labour and poor working conditions justified by cheap clothes for many. Underpaid and overworked farmers justified by cheap produce and affordable meats. I’m happy that Mexico gained some order under Díaz, but I am saddened that many had to suffer for its growth. Yet, without him, Mexico wouldn’t be the home that I call today.

What are your thoughts? If Díaz is a villain and a hero, would you consider him more of a villain or more of a hero?

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