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A todo vapor : mechanisation in Porfirian Mexico : steam power and machine building, 1862 to 1906. Aviles-Galan, Miguel Angel

Abstract

This dissertation develops readings and interpretations about technological artifacts and machines in relation to mechanical engineering, and social, political, and material culture during the Porfiriato, that period in Mexican history associated with the rule of Porfirio Díaz between 1876 and 1910. It is argued that the Porfiriato facilitated the mechanical revolution of the country that transformed the life experience of Mexicans. To describe the process of Mexico’s mechanisation, this dissertation examines the case of an iron foundry, the Fundición de Sinaloa (The Fundición or ES), that was established in Mazatlán, State of Sinaloa, by the early 1870s. It is argued that this foundry was the site where technological adaptation of steam engineering took place leading to the development of a system for the construction of machines. As a result, from 1891 to 1906, the foundry produced diverse tools and machinery by adapting state-of-the-art thermodynamic technology and machines. The analysis of the Fundición took shape through the interpretation of original engineering drawings and photographs of steam machines built in the workshops of the foundry in Mazatlán. In addition, other archival documents and secondary sources were consulted, including the accounts of those who witnessed and experienced the socio-cultural effects of technoscientific artifacts in Mexico at the turn of the nineteenth century. In order to interpret this rich and complex body of evidence, this dissertation utilises, in combination, Actor-Network-Theory, Technological Systems, and visual analysis as theoretical frameworks. It is argued that machines are historical actors that interact with social groups through the creation of networks. In turn, these interactions establish diverse sociotechnological arrangements while shaping the ways in which machines and artifacts are understood and conceptualised across cultures and time. Finally, it is explored how, by the end of the nineteenth century, there was a favourable combination of local and international conditions that constituted the historical context for this case of technological adaptation.

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