Water politics have long figured prominently in Mexico, and scholars have addressed such critical topics as irrigation, dam and canal building, and resource management,...

Water politics have long figured prominently in Mexico, and scholars have addressed such critical topics as irrigation, dam and canal building, and resource management, but few have examined how everyday people think about and use the waters in the daily lives. Casey Walsh‘s Virtuous Waters: Mineral Springs, Bathing, and Infrastructure in Mexico (University of California Press, 2018) fills this hole by with a compelling history of bathing, the use of mineral and hot springs, and water politics in central Mexico from Aztec rule to the 21st century.  Through Spanish colonialism, state efforts to police bathing, and capitalist initiatives to appropriate aqueous commons, healing waters have become increasingly commodified and entrapped in infrastructure.  However, as Walsh demonstrates with close attention to popular understandings of health and water, and the efforts of subaltern communities to maintain access and rights to local resources, water continues to be open to alternative, intimate interpretations of its value, powers, and uses.  Rather than a uniform, abstract resource, water is also a plural, heterogeneous substance; appreciating this heterogeneity may help address the water crises of the 21st century.

Virtuous Waters is freely available in electronic format here.


Lance C. Thurner is a doctoral candidate in History at Rutgers University, where he has recently defended his dissertation on race, medicine, and scientific exploration in 18th-century Mexico.

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