Political Landscapes

Forests, Conservation, and Community in Mexico

Political Landscapes

Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: 25 illustrations Published: March 2015

Environmental Studies, History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Mexico

Following the 1917 Mexican Revolution inhabitants of the states of Chihuahua and Michoacán received vast tracts of prime timberland as part of Mexico's land redistribution program. Although locals gained possession of the forests, the federal government retained management rights, which created conflict over subsequent decades among rural, often indigenous villages; government; and private timber companies about how best to manage the forests. Christopher R. Boyer examines this history in Political Landscapes, where he argues that the forests in Chihuahua and Michoacán became what he calls "political landscapes"—that is, geographies that become politicized by the interactions between opposing actors—through the effects of backroom deals, nepotism, and political negotiations. Understanding the historical dynamic of community forestry in Mexico is particularly critical for those interested in promoting community involvement in the use and conservation of forestlands around the world. Considering how rural and indigenous people have confronted, accepted, and modified the rationalizing projects of forest management foisted on them by a developmentalist state is crucial before community management is implemented elsewhere.


"[Boyer's] work is always an excellent addition to the literature, and this book is no exception." — Forest History Society

"Christopher R. Boyer’s superb history of forests, forestry, and conservation in Mexico makes innovative contributions to the historiography of the Mexican Revolution and postrevolutionary state formation, as well as to Mexico’s environmental history." — Thomas Klubock, American Historical Review

"Boyer’s book is a significant accomplishment because it points a practical way forward in ongoing policy debates over the use of Mexico’s temperate forests—which will always represent contested, political landscapes—as well as reinforcing the nation’s overwhelming drive toward modernity over the long arc of the twentieth century." — Evan R. Ward, Hispanic American Historical Review

"This volume offers a much-needed, detailed historiography of Mexican forestry.... [T]he analysis of community forestry, especially, contains offerings that make the read worthwhile." — Nora Haenn, Agricultural History

"Documenting one hundred years of forest history is not easy, but Boyer has accomplished it in a book that has much to recommend it for classroom use.... [A]n excellent book that includes something not typical in history texts: a dose of humor. If you have never heard of 'pyromaniac campesinos' (p. 97), pick up this book." — Myma Santiago, The History Teacher

"Political Landscapes is an incredible work of scholarship and an energetic example of environmental history’s potential.... You need not be interested in Mexico or even in forests to appreciate how this book excavates the repeating patterns of environmental history as a more complete rendering of the past." — Emily Wakild, Environmental History

"[A]n impressive and important contribution to a number of fields. It will be necessary reading for scholars of Latin American environmental history, and deserves an audience among broad-minded policy-makers concerned with contemporary ecological problems. It will also be of great interest to historians of rural transformations and state formation in modern Mexico. The book’s clear prose and able blend of national trends with compelling local detail will benefit students in upper-level undergraduate courses and above."  — Thomas Rath, Journal of Latin American Studies

"This book will be essential reading for scholars interested in the postrevolutionary Mexican state, environmental histories of Latin America, and the role of experts in twentieth-century development initiatives. It should provoke excellent conversation in seminars on Mexican history and histories of sustainability and/or resource use." — Timothy Lorek, H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews

"Political Landscapes is engaging and easy to follow. . . . Perhaps the strongest draw is Boyer's passion, which is evident through the meticulous research and colorful descriptions." — Isabella Pacheco, Natural Resources Journal

"Thoroughly researched and engagingly detailed, the book will interest scholars and practitioners concentrating in community forestry, natural resource management in Mexico, and environmental history. Recommended." — J. L. Rhoades, Choice

"Boyer’s book represents a signal achievement by persuasively documenting the ways forests in Mexico were shaped less by market forces, management policies, or population pressures than by the effects of political negotiation among the people and institutions that vied to determine how and for whose benefit they would be used. This book should be required reading for anyone interested in postrevolutionary Mexico and is ideal for use in upper-division undergraduate classes." — Steven J. Bachelor, The Latin Americanist

"[Political Landscapes] makes an important contribution to the history of Latin America accessible to specialists and non-specialists." — Mikael Wolfe, Pacific Historical Review

"Christopher R. Boyer has written an empirically rich, conceptually sophisticated, and analytically sharp history of Mexico’s forests from the era of Porfirian development to the neoliberal present." — Matthew Vitz, EIAL

"Political Landscapes seamlessly blends environmental and social history to expose how forest conservation reflected larger social and political processes in twentieth-century Mexico. . . . [It] makes an important contribution to the growing body of literature on Latin American environmental history." — Anna R. Alexander, H-Environment, H-Net Reviews

"A pioneering history of environmental politics, the timber industry, and community activism in twentieth-century Mexico. . . . Impressive in its scope. Few histories of modern Mexico explore such a broad period." — Michael Snodgrass, Labor

"Mexico has a reputation for being in the global vanguard of community forest management, with positive outcomes in reducing deforestation, increasing community incomes, and protecting biodiversity. But until now, the history of how that happened has been fragmentary and incomplete. Christopher R. Boyer's sweeping history of the development of forest policy and community forestry in twentieth-century Mexico pieces together how those policies emerged and the forest community struggles that drove them forward. He also ably shows that the outcomes of those policies have varied by state, with less encouraging outcomes in Michoacan and Chihuahua. Political Landscapes is an important contribution to Latin American environmental history."
— David Barton Bray, coeditor of The Community Forests of Mexico: Managing for Sustainable Landscapes

"Political Landscapes is an excellently researched and meticulously documented environmental and political history of modern Mexico. Christopher R. Boyer's focus on the forests shows us a new way of writing Mexico's history from the Revolution forward. A masterful narrative, this will become a very important and influential book."
— Cynthia Radding, author of Wandering Peoples


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Price: $28.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Christopher R. Boyer is Professor of History and Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He is the editor of A Land between Waters: Environmental Histories of Modern Mexico.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations  xi

Preface  xiii

Acknowledgments  xvii

Introduction  1

Part I. The Making of Revolutionary Forestry

1. The Commodification of Nature, 1880–1910  25

2. Revolution and Regulation, 1910–1928  60

3. Revolutionary Forestry, 1928–1942  93

Part II. The Development Imperative

4. Industrial Forests, 1942–1958  129

5. The Ecology of Development, 1952–1972  167

6. The Romance of State Forestry, 1972–1992  203

Conclusion. Slivers of Hope in the Neoliberal Forest  239

Appendix 1. Federal Forestry Codes, 1926–2008  259

Appendix 2. UIEFs, 1945–1986  261

Notes  263

Bibliography  309

Index  327
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Winner, 2016 Best Book in Social Sciences, presented by the Mexico Section of the Latin American Studies Association

Winner, Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Award, presented by the Forest History Society

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5832-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5818-3
Publicity material