Cotton Production in the Borderlands
Ruifeng Zhou
La Laguna

In the early 1860s, the global cotton economy grew rapidly in north Mexico, especially the textile industries in Monterrey. These companies in turn acquired more lands in the Laguna region surrounding Monterrey because of demand for cotton products. By the 1880s, large scale industry was established in northern Mexico due to the efforts of the Porfirio Diaz government to promote national and foreign investment. Railroads were built in this region to connect to the existing U.S. rail grid. Furthermore, irrigation works, land rents and purchases, machinery, and wages were also introduced to the area.


Other places in the series

Magic Valley

La Laguna

La Valle Bajo Rio Bravo


Cotton production in the borderlands

In late 19th and 20th century, commercial cotton production dominated the society and economy of the border region. Together with the growth of railroads and mining, commercial agricultural enterprises defined the character of borderlands in a regional sense.

Cotton is an indigenous agricultural product in the borderlands of United States and Mexico, but the situations of cotton production on each side underwent significant change after the 19th century. Before the Civil War in the United States (1861-1865), most of the world’s cotton was grown in New Orleans and East Texas in the United States. In contrast, cotton production in Mexico was of relatively small scale. By 1843, 80 percent of domestic cotton fiber came from Veracruz which only occupied 20 percent of cotton need for Mexico's textile industry. During the American Civil War, the northern US states imposed a naval blockade to prevent southern cotton from reach market, resulting in a global impact on textile industries. Cotton cultivated in southern states during this time was often smuggled through Texas into Mexico to be shipped to Europe. As the textile center of northern Mexico, Monterrey saw a large amount of capital and labor force concentrated within the textile industry in a very short time. The accumulation of capital resulted in the development of the cotton zones in the border region.



Walsh, C. (2008). Building the borderlands a transnational history of irrigated cotton along the Mexico-Texas border. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.