Technology was lacking; from the beginning it was not understood that merely shifting
the title to the land could not produce the miracle of greater profits from labor that
operated under exactly the same physical, economic, and technological conditions. No
serious effort was made to discover what changes in methods and in crops could best
overcome the unfavorable conditions in which our agriculture has always existed.
daniel cosío villegas, “La crisis de México”
We opened our mouths to say that we didn’t want the plain, that we wanted what was by
the river. From the river up to where, through the meadows, the trees called casuarinas are,
and the pastures and the good land. Not this tough cow’s hide they call the Plain.
But they didn’t let us say these things. The official hadn’t come to converse with us. He
put the papers in our hands and told us,
“Don’t be afraid to have so much land just for yourselves.”
“But the Plain, sir—”
“There are thousands and thousands of plots of land.”
“But there’s no water. There’s not even a mouthful of water.”
juan rulfo, They Gave Us the Land
his investigates how people managed their water—via dams, canals,
groundwater pumps—in a great crucible of the Mexican Revolution, the
arid north- central Laguna region. In so doing, it demonstrates how Mexican
federal engineers, also known as técnicos, were not merely passive implementers
of large- scale state development schemes such as agrarian reform. Instead, to
implement it, they actively mediated knowledge between state and society,
identifying what they thought was technologically pos si ble and predicting its
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