Summary and Keywords
In his 1950 study, Mexico: The Struggle for Peace and Bread, historian Frank Tannenbaum remarked that “physical geography could not have been better designed to isolate Mexico from the world and Mexicans from one another.” He recognized, like others before him, that the difficulty of travel by foot, water, or wheel across the country’s troublesome landscape was an unavoidable element of its history. Its distinctive topography of endless mountains but few navigable rivers had functioned, in some sense, as a historical actor in the larger story of Mexico. In the mid-19th century, Lucas Alamán had recognized as much when he lamented that nature had denied the country “all means of interior communication,” while three centuries before that, conquistador Hernán Cortés reportedly apprised Emperor Charles V of the geography of his new dominion by presenting him with a crumpled piece of paper. Over the last half-millennium, however, technological innovation, use, and adaptation radically altered how humans moved in and through the Mexican landscape. New modes of movement—from railway travel to human flight—were incorporated into a mosaic of older practices of mobility. Along the way, these material transformations were entangled with changing economic, political, and cultural ideas that left their own imprint on the history of travel and transportation.
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