Jason RuizApr 11, 2014
Americans in the Treasure House
Travel to Porfirian Mexico and the Cultural Politics of Empire
University of Texas Press 2014
In Americans in the Treasure House: Travel to Porfirian Mexico and the Cultural Politics of Empire (University of Texas Press, 2014), Jason Ruiz explores the role of a distinct group of actors in the relationship between the United States and Mexico: American travelers, travel writers and photographers who visited and worked in Mexico during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With the junction of rail lines between the United States and Mexico in the 1880s, travel to Mexico became accessible to many in the populous U.S .East and Midwest. Through their photography and written accounts, These new travelers produced a popular representation of Mexico to the U.S. public which influenced both contemporary U.S. policy and modern U.S. attitudes towards Mexico. Drawing on the vast body of documentation and representation left by American travelers to Mexico, Ruiz argues that these travelers helped shape a form of U.S. cultural and economic imperialism distinct to Mexico. Travelers replicated many of the common tropes of imperialist discourse, viewing Mexicans, and especially indigenous Mexicans, as infantile, sensual, and backwards. At the same time, however, travelers also saw in the regime of Porfirio DÃaz the possibility that Mexico could become a productive, modern, "sister republic" to the U.S. Ruiz notes that to this end, American travelers promoted a range of social and economic transformations in Mexico: the uplifting of the mestizo class, U.S. economic interventionism and investment, and finally - as the Porfiriato collapsed in the Mexican Revolution - direct U.S. military intervention. And while the specific economic vision of American travelers was curtailed by the Revolution, Ruiz argues that their depictions of Mexico continue to influence Americans today through the modern tourist industry. Jason Ruiz is an Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame.