Coahuila, third largest state in Mexico. With a population of 2,495,200 (2005) and an area of 58,522 square miles, Coahuila lies south of Texas along the big bend of the Rio Grande known to Mexicans as the Río Bravo. The Spanish settlement of Coahuila, known as Nueva Extremadura, began in the late sixteenth century, and in 1577 the present-day capital of Saltillo was founded. Due to its scarcity of water, fertile land, and valuable minerals, and because of the presence of nomadic and often hostile native groups, Coahuila remained a sparsely occupied ranching, farming, and mining frontier during the colonial era. As part of Spain's administrative reorganization of the northern frontier during the eighteenth century, Coahuila was incorporated into the Interior Provinces, and in 1785 it became part of the Comman-dancy of the East, along with Texas, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas. In 1824, after Mexico had gained its independence, Coahuila and Texas (and for a brief time, Nuevo León) were established as one state. The union of Coahuila and Texas was challenged in 1836 by the Texas declaration of independence, and again in 1845 with the annexation of Texas by the United States. As a result of the Mexican-American War, Coahuila lost all of its territory north of the Río Bravo, and U.S. soldiers occupied Saltillo and other areas of the state.
During the Reform period of the mid-nineteenth century, Coahuila was annexed to the neighboring state of Nuevo León (1856–1864). It regained independent status by order of President Benito Juárez, who briefly sojourned in Saltillo during the French intervention in Mexico (1862–1867). The era of Porfirio Díaz (1877–1911) and the relatively peaceful conditions of the late nineteenth century encouraged the growth of Coahuila's agriculture, ranching, and mining sectors. The construction of railroads added to the state's prosperity and promoted the development of a manufacturing sector. During the Mexican Revolution, Coahuila played a prominent role, producing several leaders and serving as an important strategic base. Francisco Madero's revolt against Porfirio Díaz began in Coahuila, and the later Constitutionalist revolution was led by another native son, Venustiano Carranza. The state suffered severe destruction during the revolution, as competing armies struggled for control of this important northern area. Coahuila emerged from the revolution with a depressed economy, and during the 1920s and 1930s it continued to experience periodic unrest, including two minor manifestations of the Cristero Rebellion. During the 1940s, Coahuila began a slow economic recovery, visible in the growth of industry and an increase in population.
Generally speaking, economic development has been very important, and Coahuila has remained a center of foreign, especially American, investment. The Saltillo-Ramos Arizpe industrial "corridor" is home to two large auto plants operated by Chrysler and General Motors, and Coahuila is the site of Mexico's largest steel plant, Altos Hornos de Mexico.
Throughout the twentieth century as well, Coahuila has remained a center of the Mexican workers' movement. In 1918, Saltillo hosted the conference that gave rise to the Confederación Regional de Obreros Mexicanos (CROM), and the governor at that time, Gustavo Espinosa Mireles, played a key part in its organization. Workers in Coahuila's coalmining region have always been especially active, and in the 1950s they struck against the American Smelting and Refining Company, which operated mines in the areas of Nueva Rosita and Cloete. Miners' demands for better working conditions were met with repression by the government and the mining company, which tried to starve workers into submission (blocking supplies of food sent by union sympathizers in the Laguna region), thereby precipitating the Caravan of Hunger—a protest march of some 5,000 workers from Coahuila to Mexico City, where workers were repressed, and many thrown in jail.
See alsoJuárez, Benito .
Calderón, Roberto. Mexican Coal Mining Labor in Texas and Coahuila. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2000.
Cuéllar Valdés, Pablo. Historia de la ciudad de Saltillo (1975), and Historia del estado de Coahuila (1979).
Favret Tondato, Rita. Tenencia de la tierra en el estado de Coahuila (1880–1987) (1992).
Jones, Richard. Ambivalent Journey. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1995.
Pasztor, Suzanne. The Spirit of Hidalgo: The Mexican Revolution in Coahuila. Calgary, Canada: University of Calgary Press, 2002.
Robles, Vito Alessio. Coahuila y Texas, desde la consumación de la independencia hasta el tratado de paz de Guadalupe Hidalgo, 2 vols. (1945–1946).
Terrazas, Eduardo Enríquez, and José Luis García Valero. Coahuila: Una historia compartida (1989).
Terrazas Eduardo Enríquez, and Martha Rodríguez García, comps. Coahuila: Textos de su historia (1989).
Villarello Vélez, Ildefonso. Historia de la revolución mexicana en Coahuila (1970).
Suzanne B. Pasztor