Subject Area



This dissertation argues that the borderland region from the Nueces River to the Sierra Madres has been a crossroads of trade since the era of Spanish colonization, and that after Mexico won its independence from Spain, the region became the focus of intense commercial modernization projects initiated by both state agents and individual businessmen from all over Western Europe. These entrepreneurs wanted to transform the Rio Grande and its surroundings from a regional crossroads to a hub of the Atlantic economy. However, their efforts to create rapid change were often stymied by mismanagement, notions of ethnic and cultural superiority, and eruptions of violent conflict. I argue that elucidating the many failed attempts of European-born entrepreneurs to reform the Rio Grande borderlands into the commercial utopia they imagined ultimately shows the contingency of American westward expansion in the 19th century. Their persistent presence, relationships with European governments, and open competition with American projects reveal that European-born entrepreneurs actively pushed against American expansion into the borderlands.

Degree Date

Spring 5-16-2020

Document Type


Degree Name





Dr. Neil Foley

Second Advisor

Dr. Alicia Dewey

Third Advisor

Dr. Erin Hochman

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Ariel Ron

Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License