Across the late nineteenth century, Latin American rural economies transformed and expanded to meet the demands of urban and industrial markets in the North Atlantic. In examining these transformations, historians have long failed to register the ways smalltime producers as well as foreign and local elites integrated Latin America into global trade. Yet it is impossible to understand the export boom without understanding all those who produced for market. Neither the liberal policies of Latin American elites nor the capital and connections of migrant investors could absolutely disentail regional participants in the shifting political and economic landscape of the era. From the first years of production, numerous factors constrained commercial investors as they attempted to turn places like the Soconusco into model plantation economies serving global markets. Chief among these was the active participation of local villagers in the self-same global market and the institutions that undergirded it.
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