Perceptions and Realities of Public Safety in the Emerging Industrial City of Monterrey, Mexico
Jaime Eloy Rodriguez, Division of Social Sciences, College of Professional Studies
Monterrey has played a critical role in the development of Mexico’s urban and industrial profile. Best known as Mexico’s primary industrial city, it has developed into one of Latin America’s leading centers of economic advancement. In the burgeoning historiography of Mexico, however, too little attention has been given to the relationship between public order and the economic success of this Mexican city. Since the late 1800s, civic leaders from this city just 150 miles from the Texas border have promoted the city as a safe and stable destination for capital investment from foreigners and Mexicans alike. State and municipal government, inspired by European and North American models, modernized criminal codes and municipal ordinances, and also attempted to facilitate this growth by developing new instruments of social control. For example, they built a new penitentiary in the center of the city as a symbol of the city’s dedication to civic order and public safety, as well as a warning to the city’s inhabitants of the consequences of disturbing public order. But as waves of migrants from the Mexican countryside moved into the city for jobs, the rapid pace of population growth challenged the ability of authorities to maintain their vision of public order and economic progress. Although the growth of urban slums accelerated in the 20th century, civic leaders were nevertheless successful in promoting public order policies that enhanced the city’s reputation as business capital. By focusing on Monterrey, Mexico’s most important industrial city, I offer a transnational perspective on the perceptions and realities of public safety in modernizing cities of the developing world. Comparing the historical experience of Monterrey to that of American cities such as New York provides a distinctive model for examining how the relationship between economic success and public order transcended national borders to exhibit common themes.