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Nuevo León

Nuevo León

Nuevo León, a province in northeastern Mexico. The Hispanic settlement of Nuevo León followed patterns developed elsewhere in northern New Spain: the search for silver, the enslavement of nonsedentary indigenous peoples, the attempts to pacify the frontier through colonization by sedentary Tlaxcalans (more a northeastern phenomenon), and the development of livestock raising as the major economic activity of the colony. The Hispanic presence dates from the 1580s and 1590s, when Luis de Carvajal and later Diego Montemayor established settlements in the vicinity of present-day Monterrey. By the mid-seventeenth century, Indian slaving in the region gave way to the raising of sheep and cattle and the exploitation of relatively limited silver deposits at Boca de Leones, Cerralvo, and Vallecillo. Livestock and mining remained mainstays of the economy at least through Independence.

While little affected by the independence struggle, subsequent wars—Texas independence, the U.S. invasion in 1846, the U.S. Civil War, and the French Intervention—transformed Nuevo León, particularly in commerce. Monterrey merchants acted as middlemen in the trade with the United States, especially inensuring an outlet for Southern cotton during the blockade of Confederate ports in the 1860s. Although many of the mercantile fortunes were dissipated in the depressed Mexican economy of the 1870s and 1880s, some survived to provide the basis for Nuevo León's economic revival, spurred by the expansion of railroads in the northeast in the late 1880s. This extensive railroad network, with Monterrey as its northeastern hub, prompted the revival of mining and stimulated the growth of an industrial sector funded almost exclusively by local capital. Monterrey's present role as a major industrial center had its roots in the latter years of the nineteenth century.

Close cooperation between the region's business elite and politicians facilitated Nuevo León's development, with governors Santiago Vidaurri and General Bernardo Reyes Ogazón particularly supportive of business interests. But such support was difficult to secure after 1910. By late 1913, Nuevo León felt the violence of the civil war, as armies of the various revolutionary chieftains contended for power; industrial production and trade declined precipitously. Even the relative stability of the postwar period brought scant comfort to business interests: the pro-labor provisions of the 1917 Constitution and the perceived anticapitalist stance of Mexican presidents between 1920 and 1940 deepened the conservatism of the business sector and the nascent middle class alike. The region's staunch opposition to Lázaro Cárdenas in 1934 and the elite's support of Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) candidate Juan Andreu Almazán in the 1940 election contributed to the rightward tilt of the government Partido de la Revolución Mexicana (PRM) after 1940 (the PRM was later renamed Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI). Nuevo León remains among the more politically conservative states, and Monterrey's industrial elite are among the most prominent supporters of the PAN. When the PRI began a slow process of democratization in the 1990s, the PAN won the election for governor in 1997. Reflecting the competitive electoral landscape, the PRI in 1993 surprisingly took back the governor position. Also, in the 1990s, Mexico opened up its economy, which increased foreign investment and trade. Generally, Nuevo León has benefited from this transition. Despite global competition, in the early twentieth century large Mexican corporations, such as cement producer CEMEX and the food company Bimbo, have thrived. With this economic success, Nuevo León has the highest standard of living in Latin America.

See alsoCárdenas del Río, Lázaro; Carvajal, Luis de; Cementos de Mexico; Mexico, Political Parties: National Action Party (PAN).


Vito Alessio Robles, Monterrey en la historia y en la leyenda (1936).

Eugenio Del Hoyo, Historia del nuevo reino de León (1527–1723) (1972).

Peter Gerhard, The North Frontier of New Spain (1982), esp. pp. 344-357.

Alex M. Saragoza, The Monterrey Elite and the Mexican State (1988).

Stephen Haber, "Assessing the Obstacles to Industrialization: The Mexican Economy, 1830–1940," in Journal of Latin American Studies 24, no. 1 (1992): 1-32.

Additional Bibliography

Cavazos Garza, Israel. Breve historia de Nuevo León. México: Colegio de México, 1995.

Hernández, Marie Theresa. Delirio: The Fantastic, the Demonic, and the Reél: The Buried History of Nuevo León. Austin: University of Texas Press Austin, 2002.

Mora-Torres, Jua. The Making of the Mexican Border: The State, Capitalism, and Society in Nuevo León, 1848–1910. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.

                                      Leslie S. Offutt

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