The Silver of the Sierra Madre
John Robinson, Boss Shepherd, and the People of the Canyons
In the great barranca known today as Copper Canyon, the small mining town of Batopilas once experienced a silver bonanza among the largest ever known. American investors, believing that Mexico offered an unexploited cornucopia, began purchasing mines in the Sierra Madre, seeking to expand their hold on natural resources outside U.S. borders. From 1861 until the Revolution of 1910, the men of the Batopilas Mining Company ruled the region using their wealth, armed might, and extensive connections. The technology, industrialism, and politics their interests brought to this remote community tied the Tarahumara, Yaqui, Mayo, and other peoples of the barrancas directly to the economies of the United States and China. Local society was revolutionized, and a dramatic tapestry of human interactions was created. Based on many volumes of mining company records, The Silver of the Sierra Madre exposes the mentality and methods of mine owners John Robinson and Alexander “Boss” Shepherd, vividly detailing their exploitation of the people and the natural resources of Chihuahua. Hart aptly demonstrates the human and financial losses resulting from President Porfirio Díaz’s development programs, which relied on foreign investors, foreign managers, and foreign technology. This unprecedented work also provides a highly interesting ethnographic and social description of one of the least-known areas of Mexico. It is a tale of power and desperation, respect and arrogance, adventure and tragedy, and, ultimately, triumph and survival.