Monuments of Progress: Modernization and Public Health in Mexico City, 1876–1910


228 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55238-103-X
DDC 363.72'.082'53




Reviewed by John Walker

John Walker is a professor of Spanish studies at Queen’s University.


Monuments of Progress is the fourth title in an important series of
books on cultural and historical topics relating to Latin America and
the Caribbean. Following earlier studies on the Mexican struggle for
federalism, revolution, and the church, it explores modernization and
public health in Mexico City during the regime of the dictator Porfirio
Dнaz in Mexico City between 1876 and 1910.

The book is divided into five chapters. Chapter 1, “Urban Ideas and
Projects for Mexico City,” is a historical treatment of urban space,
public health, and the aims of the administration to clean up the
unsanitary capital, especially through the 18th-century Enlightenment
ideas of Count Revillagigedo. Chapter 2, “The Control of the
Environment,” portrays the dangerous elements in the geographical
location of the city that caused flooding and other menaces to public
health. Chapter 3, “The Expansion and Diagnosis of the City, outlines
the unplanned urban growth (especially from 1880 to 1910), and the role
of various sanitation councils, codes, and inspectors.

Chapter 4, “The Modern City,” describes the various innovations
during the Porfirio Dнaz dictatorship (architectural constructions,
historical and political monuments) as manifestations of political and
economic. Chapter 5, “The Conquest of Water,” examines water
problems, the drainage and sewage systems, and the importance of hygiene
in the new age of technocrats who put their scientific knowledge at the
disposal of the dictator, as he sought to expand the modernity of the
city and the glory of his own legacy.

This vitally important socio-historical study is enhanced by 35 pages
of notes, a 25-page bibliography, and useful illustrations and tables.


Agostoni, Claudia., “Monuments of Progress: Modernization and Public Health in Mexico City, 1876–1910,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,