The Borderlands: 1880 - 1940
The time of change in the region called the "borderlands" occurred during the period between 1880 and 1940. The region became urbanized and ended its years of isolation from the rest of the world. In the past the region s economy was based on ranching and farming. As the region became more urbanized the economy changed. The economy did not change equally between the United States and Mexico, the United States side of the border boomed while Mexico s side did not. The cities that did prosper in region were based on the actions of the United States. Actions that affected the cities in Mexico were Prohibition and the Great depression. Events in the United States were not the only economic factor to effect the region. The Mexican Revolution had great social and economic influence to the region.
On November 10 1910, the Mexican Revolution began and did not end until President Diaz was overthrown. The United States and its border towns were heavily involved in the conflict. The fighting was mainly in the north and they need supplies. The majority of the weapons and supplies for the Revolution was brought in the United States. The border cities in the United States became the chief suppliers of guns to the Revolution. This form trade was illegal and mainly done on the Black Market. The legal trade that existed before the Revolution disappeared with the outbreak of war. Mexico had closed the border during the conflict to prevent the supply of arms. The United States had also tried to stop the flow of arms but not successful. Eventually the United States had sent troops to the region when the fighting spilled over the border. The troops stayed in the region after the Mexican Revolution and were an economic boom to the region.
The United States at the turn of the century was under going a major social movement. The United States was trying to change its society to a more moral country. The groups involved in the movement consisted of many groups from around the United States. Some of the most notable groups involved in the social reform movement were the churches in the country. They targeted many aspects of life of the normal Americans. The social reforms targeted social ills such as adultery, crime, and lastly, drinking. These groups had large number of followers, and had considerable height in government. The social reformers political power extended from small town mayors to U.S. Congressmen and Senators. The reformers were able to get many local governments to become "dry" county, that is to outlaw alcohol. The reformers ultimate goal was to outlaw alcohol entirely in the United States. They succeeded in the late 1920 s with the passage of the Volstead Act and an amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Once the Volstead Act was passed it was illegal to produce, sell, or consume alcohol in the United States. Many refineries, distilleries and bars closed in the United States and moved across the border. Mexico benefited greatly from Prohibition when drinking moved across the border. The area of greatest economical boom was at the border towns, in particular Ciudard Juarez and Tujauna.
Cuidad Juarez and Tujuana both benefited from U.S. tourism before Prohibition. The cities mainly benefited from adult tourism, in particular bars and prostitution. This business was started during the Mexican Revolution when President Wilson sent U.S. troops to guard the border. The soldiers stationed on the border, numbering as high as 10,000 men, needed entertainment. The troops would go across the border to engage in activities not widely available on the U.S. side. After the Mexican Revolution the U.S. troops remained on the border, so the adult entertainment industry continued to grow. This growth was mainly limited to the number of troops and where they were stationed. It was not until Prohibition that the adult tourism exploded on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The passage of the Volstead Act outlawed alcohol in the United States, but this did not apply to Mexico. Many bars closed and moved to a location across the border. The bar s patrons also followed the bars south of the border. Before Prohibition, the bars in the Mexican border towns main clientele was U.S. soldiers, after Prohibition everybody from the United States visited the bars. The two cities that benefited the most from Prohibition were Cuidad Juarez and Tujauna. In Cuidad Juarez there were 72 bars and 11 liquor distilleries catering mostly to Americans. El Paso, across the border from Cuidad Juarez, becomes the largest convention center in the United States. Many conventions were held in El Paso because of its location along the border. The convention meetings would be held in hotels and convention centers on the U.S. side, and after hours entertainment would move across the border to Cuidad Juarez.
Although the towns along the border boomed from the adult tourism, very few Mexican citizens benefited. Most of the bars located in the Mexican cities were owned by U.S. citizens. Mexican citizens did work in these establishments, but were paid a very lowly wage. The money spent by the visiting Americans eventually went back to the United States in the pockets of the bar owners. The distilleries that supplied the bars were no different then the bars in terms of ownership. With prohibition, many liquor distilleries moved their plant across the border and remained in business. The distilleries could not legally import liquor into the United States, so they supplied the countless bars in the Mexican cities, or smuggled them into the United States.
Prohibition ended in 1933 and many of the bars that relocated into Mexico moved back to the United States. As result of this mass exodus of bars back to the United States, tourism to Mexico saw a sharp decline. Tourism had already been on the decline, before Prohibition ended, with the Great Depression. The Great depression was a result of the crash of the U.S. stock market and crop failures in the Midwest. Many Americans became unemployed and homeless. This was the first time migration along the border had reversed, now Americans were going into Mexico. The effects of the Great Depression were not limited to the United States, the whole world was affected and Mexico was no different. The industry that was affected most in cities along the border was tourism. Americans now had very little money to spend on food and housing, and no money to spend on entertainment. Mexico had to change their economy to one that was not so dependent on the United States. The Mexican government started civil projects in the region to provide jobs for the people in the region and to modernize the region.
The United States had also started civil projects in the region. The projects started under the "New Deal" plan to pull the United States out of the Great Depression. The Southwest United States benefited greatly from the New Deal, in fact this was the first time they received money from the government. Aid from the government came in the form of public works projects. The public works projects focused mainly in on infrastructure and water projects. The Colorado river is a good example of kind of aid the Southwest received. The river had dammed in many areas to provide water and electricity in the region. The most notable dam built is the Hoover Dam. The public works projects provide many jobs for the people in the region, but not for Mexicans living in the region. President Hoover had blamed the Mexicans living in the region for the unemployment there. As a result, Hoover started to force Mexicans into reparation back to Mexico. As many as + million Mexicans were forced to leave the United States. Many of the people forced to move during the Great Depression, but eventually moved back during World War II.
In conclusion, Northern Mexico s economy is greatly effect by the United States. The region s prosperity is direct connected to the actions of the United States. This is due to the people s sense of regionalism and is isolation from the rest of Mexico. The economic ties with the United States is seen by analyzing three events, the Mexican Revolution, Prohibition and the Great Depression. The Mexican Revolution had closed the border to trade from both sides. The Mexican and U.S. government had tried to stop the flow of weapons and supplies to the Revolution and failed. What the border closures did accomplish is shut down all legal trading in the region. The next example of the regions economic ties with the United States is with Prohibition. Prohibition turned a quiet, sleepy border towns into boom towns. People in the United States would travel across the border of drink alcohol, which was illegal in the United States. During this time both sides of the border benefited from Prohibition, but this ended with Prohibition. The last example were Mexico s dependence on the United States is the Great Depression. The Great Depression was a result of the crash of the U.S. stock market and crop failures in the U.S. midwest. The Great Depression had reversed migration patterns and sharply reduced tourism into Mexico. With these three examples one can easily see how Northern Mexico s dependence on the United States. Events in the United States greatly affect the region s economy. Actions by Mexico also had an effect on the region, but not as greatly as the actions of the United States. The reason for this is due to the fact the region s dependence of U.S. consumers.