Routes of Compromise


Routes of Compromise

Building Roads and Shaping the Nation in Mexico, 1917-1952

Michael K. Bess

The Mexican Experience Series

234 pages
5 photographs, 2 maps, 8 tables, 3 graphs, index


December 2017


$30.00 Add to Cart

December 2017


$60.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

December 2017


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

December 2017


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

In Routes of Compromise Michael K. Bess studies the social, economic, and political implications of road building and state formation in Mexico through a comparative analysis of Nuevo León and Veracruz from the 1920s to the 1950s. He examines how both foreign and domestic actors, working at local, national, and transnational levels, helped determine how Mexico would build and finance its roadways.

While Veracruz offered a radical model for regional construction that empowered agrarian communities, national consensus would solidify around policies championed by Nuevo León’s political and commercial elites. Bess shows that no single political figure or central agency dominated the process of determining Mexico's road-building policies. Instead, provincial road-building efforts highlight the contingent nature of power and state formation in midcentury Mexico.

Author Bio

Michael K. Bess teaches history at the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas in Mexico. 


"Michael K. Bess's new book on road building in post-Revolutionary Mexico uses the network of federal highways and local dirt roads constructed in the first half of the twentieth century as an apt metaphor for the mediated and uneven penetration of state power during that era."—Casey Marina Lurtz, Journal of Social History

"This book is not just an important piece of political economy, but also a microcosm of the broader functioning of postrevolutionary politics."—Paul Gillingham, Americas

"Michael K. Bess has provided us with an easily readable and very valuable book. He weaves strands of economic development and political struggle into a cohesive and coherent analytic narrative. Routes of Compromise will prove valuable to historians of Mexico and students alike, as well as to anyone interested in transnational comparisons of roadbuilding in other situations."—Bruce A. Castleman, Hispanic American Historical Review

"Michael Bess's tight analysis, exhaustive research, and effective prose will surely be required reading for students interested in nation-building, political economy, and the realization of revolutionary ideals of twentieth century Mexico."—Matthew A. Redinger, Pacific Historical Review

"Routes of Compromise is a lucidly written, deeply researched, and much-needed study on road building after the Mexican Revolution. Given the economic and cultural importance roads have for any society, this book should attract investigators beyond the field of Mexican history. Scholars researching economic development, state formation, and transportation elsewhere in the twentieth century should consider Routes of Compromise a necessary read for comparison with Mexico."—Salvador Salinas, American Historical Review

“A richly documented study of the national, regional, and local politics surrounding road construction in Mexico. Obligatory reading for students interested in state-building, economic development, and everyday conflicts over the spoils of modernization.”—Barry Carr, professor emeritus at La Trobe University and coeditor of The New Latin American Left: Cracks in the Empire


“Comparative in approach and sensitive to the transnational dimension and the agendas of politicians, bureaucrats, and members of an array of social groups, Michael Bess’s nuanced treatment of Mexican road-building is a must-read for anyone interested in Mexico’s postrevolutionary experience.”—Samuel Brunk, professor of history at the University of Texas, El Paso, and author of The Posthumous Career of Emiliano Zapata: Myth, Memory, and Mexico’s Twentieth Century

“A compelling analysis of the essential but overlooked impact of road building in modern Mexico. Exhaustively researched and cogently argued, few recent works are as important to understanding how state power, economic modernization, and nation-building converged in twentieth-century Mexico.”—Susan Gauss, associate professor of Latin American and Iberian studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston 

Table of Contents

List of Figures    
Introduction: Revolutionary Roads    
Chapter 1: “A Good Road . . . Brings Life to All of the Towns It Passes”: The Fight for a National and Public Road-Building Program    
Chapter 2: “Everyone Was Ready to Do Their Part”: Road Politics and State Bureaucracies Take Shape in Nuevo León and Veracruz    
Chapter 3: “So That These Problems May Be Placed in the Hand of the President”: Roads and Motor Travel under Cardenismo    
Chapter 4: “We March with Mexico for Liberty!”: Road Building in Wartime    
Chapter 5: “Those Who Do Not Look Forward Are Left Behind”: Alemanismo’s Road to Prosperity    
Chapter 6: Charting the Contours: State Power in Mexico’s Road-Building Efforts    
Appendix A: Comparing the Real Cost of Federal and State Spending on Roads    
Appendix B: Comparing the Budgets for Program for Cooperation on Roads and the Comisión Nacional de Caminos Vecinales    
Appendix C: Minimum Wages in Nuevo León and Veracruz for Road Workers    

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