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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Currents of Progress, Toy Store for Tourists: Nineteenth-Century Mexican Liberals View the Niagara Falls


The essay addresses the depiction of the Niagara Falls as an ambivalent symbol of progress in nineteenth-century Mexican travel accounts of the United States. At that time, various Mexican intellectuals spent some time in the USA. In diaries and travelogues, some of them articulated their views of their host country but also reflected on their own society through the contrast with their northern neighbor. The Mexican visitors expressed a particular fascination with signs of modernity in the United States. Interestingly, such signifiers included not only political and social institutions and economic and industrial advancements, but also the Niagara Falls as a site of both natural and technological wonders. Examining the depiction of the Falls in major nineteenth-century Mexican travelogues of the United States, the essay illuminates some of the metaphorical “uses of nature” for articulating socio-political ideas as well as experiences of mobility.

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