In the late nineteenth century, Latin American exports boomed. From Chihuahua to Patagonia, producers sent industrial fibers, tropical fruits, and staple goods across oceans to satisfy the ever-increasing demand from foreign markets. In southern Mexico's Soconusco district, the coffee trade would transform rural life. A regional history of the Soconusco as well as a study in commodity capitalism, From the Grounds Up places indigenous and mestizo villagers, migrant workers, and local politicians at the center of our understanding of the export boom.
An isolated, impoverished backwater for most of the nineteenth century, by 1920, the Soconusco had transformed into a small but vibrant node in the web of global commerce. Alongside plantation owners and foreign investors, a dense but little-explored web of small-time producers, shopowners, and laborers played key roles in the rapid expansion of export production. Their deep engagement with rural development challenges the standard top-down narrative of market integration led by economic elites allied with a strong state. Here, Casey Marina Lurtz argues that the export boom owed its success to a diverse body of players whose choices had profound impacts on Latin America's export-driven economy during the first era of globalization.
About the author
Casey Marina Lurtz is Assistant Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University.
"Casey Lurtz's book is a remarkable contribution to our understanding of capitalist development in Mexico through the last 150 years. Her subject is the coffee business in Chiapas, not in the much studied highlands, but down on the coast, where the stakes were in cash and credit. Her research is original, her discoveries new, her arguments clear, sharp, and strong, and her exemplary stories a joy to read."
—John Womack, Jr., Harvard University
"A creatively conceived, meticulously researched, beautifully written, and cogently argued fusion of environmental, socioeconomic, and political history. Lurtz combines local specificity and global perspective in a fascinating account of how a region in Chiapas that went from cradle of the cacao trade to forgotten backwater became Mexico's main exporter of coffee and a multinational hub of local and Guatemalan farmers, German colonists, Chinese merchants, and others."
—José C. Moya, Barnard College, Columbia University