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Diana Montaño, Washington Univirsity in St. Louis

For: “Ladrones de Luz: Policing Electricity in Mexico City, 1901–1918,” Hispanic American Historical Review (2021) 101 (1): 35–72.

In “Ladrones de Luz: Policing Electricity in Mexico City, 1901-1918,” Diana J. Montaño examines the capital’s electrical network during a period of substantial population growth, sociopolitical upheavals, and economic turmoil. By researching a wide range of primary and secondary sources including 63 trial cases and several newspapers, Montaño explores the city’s electrification through the modern lens of power theft committed by the residents of the capital city (Capitalinos). There are various themes that run through Montaño’s article: policing, the notion of crime, private property, consumer rights, moral values and justifications, and most importantly, the entanglement between technology and the larger social, economic, and political factors. In the story that Montaño masterfully shares with us, the agents of historical and technological change are not the inventors or trained engineers necessarily, but a constellation of unconventional practitioners of electrotechnology including the users of the electrical network, lawyers, government officials, electrical expert witnesses, and the inspectors for the electrical companies. Montaño tells us that the Capitalinos did not want to be passive participants in the city’s electrification; their theft was an act of protest and a demand for inclusion in the “wonder of modern, electrified Mexico City.”