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the valleys have a continuous growing season, while the surrounding mountains, some of which have summit areas large enough to be cultivated, extend well up into the frost region. On the other hand, the district includes a long tongue of land which borders the right wall of the Rio Blanco gorge and reaches down into the zone of tierra caliente.

Having a rich soil, a plentiful rainfall, and an altitudinal range of 5,000 or 6,000 feet extending both above and below the frost line, the Orizaba district is capable of producing a wide variety of products. Sugar cane and corn are the principal crops of the larger estates situated at intermediate altitudes. Of corn, which is the chief bread grain of the working people, two crops are produced annually on some of the estates." Black beans, the second staple food of the native population, are grown in the more elevated and less humid valleys of the canton. Much of the valley land is devoted to grass crops, and numerous herds of cattle furnish meat and dairy products for the city population. Fruits of many kinds reach the Orizaba market place, forming an important part of the food supply, and emphasizing, by their wide variety, the location of the city between regions of contrasted climate. ·

The agricultural development of the district began probably more than 1,000 years ago and has formed the basis for its commercial and industrial progress. The Spaniards found there a peaceful agricultural community which for many years had paid to the Moctezuma empire an annual tribute of grain and cotton cloth.12 The products of native industry were carried over the approximate route now followed by the Mexican Railway. During the conquest, the forces of Cortez kept up frequent communication with their companions on the coast, their messengers traveling over the routes marked out by Aztec traffic. Upon the inauguration of Spanish trade with the new colony, commodities for the overseas commerce were carried over the old trails, and the native village which occupied the present site of Orizaba became a way-station. It marked the accomplishment of half the total ascent, the climate was agreeable, it was above the fever zone, water and pasturage for the pack animals were abundant, and supplies could be procured from the agricultural inhabitants.13 Soon a Spanish village was

" Naredo: Orizaba, Vol. I, Book I, p. 73.

12 Arroniz: Ensayo de la historia de Orizaba (1867), quoted by Naredo, op. cit., Vol. I. Book I, pp. 20, 24. 13 Naredo, op. cit., Vol. I, Book I, pp. 24, 38, 39.


established, the foreign residents carrying on trade in those local products for which a demand was created by the pack trains. As trade along the route increased, agricultural production was stimulated, and the village grew into a city characterized chiefly by its importance as the market center for a rich agricultural district.

While this development in agriculture and trade was going on, the ancient art of cotton spinning continued to thrive. By the bebinning of the nineteenth century it had taken on definite commercial characteristics and had grown to such importance that it employed a considerable number of people, who carried on the work in their own homes. Something of specialization had developed, the spinners purchasing raw cotton from the growers and selling yarn either to merchants or direct to the weavers. A change took place in 1836, for in that year a power-driven cotton mill was erected on a small tributary of the Rio Blanco.!4 At this early date began the utilization of Orizaba water power for the making of cotton cloth.

The new industry led to a marked increase in population, which, five years later, was estimated at 24,000.15 In 1876 it was 41,000, an average of seventy-three people to the square mile for the whole district, which includes a large proportion of mountain slope too steep even for pasture. This population density was so great as to tax severely the developed resources, consequently, the standard of living was low. Emigration as a means of relieving the stress was not easy. The group of converging valleys which make up the district is enclosed by barrier boundaries. The plateau above already had a dense population, and the fever-infested plains of tierra caliente hold many terrors for the orizabeño. The wants of the laboring people were supplied almost entirely by local products, and little currency passed their hands.

The comparatively dense population existing in the district in the 1870's formed the potential labor supply whose availability influenced the location of the modern mills. Human conditions were particularly favorable for the textile industry. Through the utilization of rich agricultural and commercial advantages, the resident social group had reached a stage of economic development higher than that prevailing in most parts of Mexico. The people, moreover, had been trained for many generations in the textile art. Finally, since the population density was approaching the saturation



Ibid., p. 16.
Baz and Gallo: History of the Mexican Railway, p. 119.

point under existing conditions, a low standard of living was neces. sary, and a high wage scale would not be demanded.

The introduction of large-scale manufacturing awaited certain changes which were to occur within the closing decades of the nineteenth century. In 1873 railroad connections from Veracruz to Mexico City, established through Orizaba, gave ready access to the chief port and the chief commercial center of the Republic. Highgrade fiber grown in the United States and in Egypt became economically available for the first time, and the industry was freed from dependence upon the local supply, to the production of which only a small area could be devoted. Within a few years there began a period of political stability under a strong government with an avowed policy favoring the investment of foreign capital for the development of the country's resources. In the early 1880's there were erected two small mills employing about 300 laborers each and utilizing power from minor sites where development was comparatively simple. Before the end of the century scientific discoveries made possible further adjustments to environment. Long-distance transmission of electrical energy rendered available the important power of the major sites, which are located where the Rio Blanco flows through a deep and narrow gorge without sufficient room for the erection of factories at the foot of the falls. The larger mills, established after 1890, and enlarged repeatedly since their erection, are situated in the open valley five to ten miles up-stream from the hydro-electric plants which supply their power.

Climatic conditions contribute in several ways to the success of the industry. The atmosphere has, in general, that high degree of humidity favorable for fine spinning. Healthfulness of climate facilitates supervision by Europeans. There is an entire absence of that climatic monotony which is considered to be one of the great disadvantages of tropical regions. The maximum shade temperature is not high, but the winter minimum is barely above the freezing point, and in that season changes are abrupt. Especially noticeable is the sudden drop in relative humidity which occurs when the drizzly rain accompanying a norther gives way to the down-slope wind which frequently blows in winter. Human energy is not wanting. The mildness of the winter influences the cost of living and of manufacturing, since fuel for heating homes and factories is not required, and the laborers are clad in cotton garments, with no radical change from season to season.


Certain influences due to human initiative should not be over. looked. The high protective tariff has been mentioned. It was described in 1909 as the third highest in the world.6 Being purely specific, it is prohibitive on coarse and medium grades of goods. The personnel of the cotton-manufacturing companies is such as to facilitate the marketing of the goods, for the principal stockholders are French wholesale dry-goods merchants in Mexico City,” the great wholesale center of the country. Thus, Orizaba cottons are sold into a protected market, and largely through the company's own stores.

The development of cotton manufacturing has been accompanied by increased economic opportunity for residents of the district other than those employed in the mills. The volume of business transacted at the city market has increased greatly, and the Indians of the agricultural villages find there an active demand for their fruits, vegetables, and flowers. The corn, sugar, and other food commodities produced in the district are consumed almost entirely by the local market. The domestic fuel supply is furnished by charcoal burners on the neighboring mountains. The numerous small mills which supply local needs are an expression of Orizaba's growing importance as an industrial center. Among these are a clothing factory, a cracker and macaroni factory, and the thirty small mills which grind soaked corn into the doughy "masa" used for tortillas, the bread of the common people. Increases in industrial opportunity is reflected in the upward trend of prices for local products, in higher wages, in the growing independence of the working classes, and in an increasing density of population. Old residents recall, with regret, the days before the completion of the railroad, when the Indians at the market did not demand outrageous prices for their vegetables, and when domestic servants were plentiful, devoted to their employers, and content with a nominal wage.

The industrial development at Orizaba has affected economic conditions in distant parts of Mexico. Upon the opening of the district to foreign supplies of raw cotton, local production of the fiber was discontinued. The Mexican demand for cotton, of which the needs of the Orizaba mills form an important part, was sufficient to justify the installation of irrigation works in the semi-desert

Clarke: Cotton goods in Latin America, U. S. Dept. of Com. Special Agent Series, No. 31, pp. 38, 39.

" Merican Yearbook 1908, pp. 524, 525.



Northern Basin Region. Agriculture under irrigation led to an increase in the population density and the establishment of new industries. A few years ago cotton growing in the Laguna district had reached a point where in good years the crop supplied the domestic market and a small surplus was exported.

The development of cotton manufacturing in Orizaba, beginning in legendary times and culminating with the establishment of the modern mills, is a series of adjustments to environment. The major changes were made in harmony with world progress. Each new adjustment made possible the fuller utilization of available resources and led, consequently, to an increase in population. With successive adjustments the industry reached out into a wider and wider field of influence, until, in the present stage, it sells its finished product in all parts of the Republic and engages in world trade to procure its supply of raw material.

BAZ, GUSTAVO, and GALLO, E. L.: History of the Mexican Railway (translated into English by G. F. Henderson), Mexico, 1876. BÖSE, DR. EMILIO: "Geología de los alrededores de Orizaba con un perfil de la vertiente oriental de la Mesa Central de México", in Boletín del Instituto Geológico de México, Num. 13 (1899), Mexico.

CLARKE, W. A. GRAHAM: "Cotton goods in Latin America", in U. S. Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of Manufactures Special Agent Series No. 31, pp. 19-41.

FEELY, EDWARD F.: "Cotton textile industry of Mexico", in U. S. Bur. For. and Dom. Com., Commerce Reports, Oct. 29, 1920, pp. 473-475.

Mexican Yearbook, The, 1908, comprising historical and fiscal information, London and New York.

MEXICO, SECRETARIA DE FOMENTO, COLONIZACIÓN E INDUSTRIA: Boletín de la Dirección General de Estadística, Números 1-5, 1912-1914 (census statistics).

NAREDO, JOSE MARÍA: Estudio geográfico, histórico y estadístico del cantón y de la ciudad de Orizaba, 2 vols. Orizaba, 1898.

PEREZ MILICUA, LUIS: Veracruz, reseña geográfica y estadíctica, Mexico, 1912.

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