Jenkins of Mexico: How a Southern Farm Boy Became a Mexican Magnate

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9780190455743: Jenkins of Mexico: How a Southern Farm Boy Became a Mexican Magnate

In the city of Puebla there lived an American who made himself into the richest man in Mexico. Driven by a steely desire to prove himself-first to his wife's family, then to Mexican elites-William O. Jenkins rose from humble origins in Tennessee to build a business empire in a country energized by industrialization and revolutionary change. In Jenkins of Mexico, Andrew Paxman presents the first biography of this larger-than-life personality.

When the decade-long Mexican Revolution broke out in 1910, Jenkins preyed on patrician property owners and bought up substantial real estate. He suffered a scare with a firing squad and then a kidnapping by rebels, an episode that almost triggered a US invasion. After the war he owned textile mills, developed Mexico's most productive sugar plantation, and helped finance the rise of a major political family, the Ávila Camachos. During the Golden Age of Mexican cinema in the 1940s-50s, he lorded over the film industry with his movie theater monopoly and key role in production. By means of Mexico's first major hostile takeover, he bought the country's second-largest bank. Reputed as an exploiter of workers, a puppet-master of politicians, and Mexico's wealthiest industrialist, Jenkins was the gringo that Mexicans loved to loathe. After his wife's death, he embraced philanthropy and willed his entire fortune to a foundation named for her, which co-founded two prestigious universities and funded projects to improve the lives of the poor in his adopted country.

Using interviews with Jenkins' descendants, family papers, and archives in Puebla, Mexico City, Los Angeles, and Washington, Jenkins of Mexico tells a contradictory tale of entrepreneurship and monopoly, fearless individualism and cozy deals with power-brokers, embrace of US-style capitalism and political anti-Americanism, and Mexico's transformation from semi-feudal society to emerging economic power.

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About the Author:


Andrew Paxman teaches history and journalism at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) in Mexico City and Aguascalientes. He is the co-author of El Tigre, a biography of the Mexican media mogul Emilio Azcárraga Milmo.

Review:


"Historian Paxman's exhaustive biography of the enigmatic William O. Jenkins reveals that his life had romance, high adventure, mystery, and (movie) magic... [Jenkins of Mexico] is an impressive accomplishment, and readers interested in the evolution of the modern Mexican state will find a fascinating treasure trove here."--Booklist


"Researched with care and written with verve, Andrew Paxman's highly original study of the long and convoluted life of William Jenkins-entrepreneur, patriarch, philanthropist, and political fixer- is a fascinating read; it also sheds ample light on business and political (mal)practices during the Mexican Revolution and subsequent decades of state-formation and economic growth. For once, a book that manages to combine cogent scholarly research and stylistic flair." --Alan Knight, author of The Mexican Revolution


"No one has shown the life of any other US businessman in such engaging detail during these decades. Through Jenkins's life Andrew Paxman has been able to show very clearly Mexican political and economic development outside of but impinging on Mexico City."--Linda B. Hall, University of New Mexico


"Paxman's masterful biography is the story of an enigmatic American in Mexico. Above all, Jenkins of Mexico demonstrates the chameleon-like character of capital's-and the capitalist's-pursuit of financial and personal rewards wherever they could be found, on farms, in cinema, and in charitable foundations. Given the staggering inequalities of our own times, it's a lesson as valuable today as it was during the days of Jenkins." --Geraldo L. Cadava, author of Standing on Common Ground: The Making of a Sunbelt Borderland


"A wonderful achievement and a path-breaking example of what good biography can achieve. Andrew Paxman's impressively researched study of a hugely influential US businessman is also a rich political and economic history of twentieth-century Mexico. William Jenkins, traditionally caricatured as benevolent hero or imperialist meddler, emerges as a complex and contradictory figure." --Barry Carr, La Trobe University


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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2017. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the Mexican city of Puebla, several decades ago, there lived an old American as wealthy as a Rockefeller. He strode the streets with a purposeful step and his head slightly bowed, as though he wished not to be interrupted. For daily visits to his country club, he had his chauffeur drive him, in one of his second-hand Packards. But he walked often enough that his aspect was familiar to all who lived or worked near his downtown home: tall and well-built, cropped hair beneath a black fedora, and seeming always to wear the same black tie and shabby dark suit. His head was large and solid, like a marble bowling ball, the roundness interrupted by a stern jaw and heavy chin. His blue eyes were sharp. William O. Jenkins, said to be the richest man in Mexico, had an austere routine. He rose early and worked all morning in his office, which shared the same vast space as his apartment: the penthouse above Puebla s leading department store. Though his assets included several hundred movie theaters, substantial rural and urban real estate, various textile mills, and Mexico s second-largest bank, his entire staff consisted of a personal assistant, an accountant, and a secretary. People who came to him for money - a farmer hoping for a loan, a businessman seeking venture capital, a state governor keen for him to finance a school - all had to climb the ninety stairs to his rooms. Even as an octogenarian, he refused to install an elevator, for he was a champion of physical fitness and advancement by merit. And of course he was frugal. On more than one occasion, visitors entered his office to find him peeling an unmarked stamp from an envelope. He would explain: I hate to see anything go to waste. The biography looks at the significance of William Jenkins within the formative period of the Mexican Revolution and the several decades of political institutionalization and evolution that follow it. The author shows Jenkins involvement, particularly in the state of Puebla, in politics and economics, and details his ability to survive and keep and develop major holdings despite the anti-American ethos of the Revolution itself. It also delves deeply into his personal life and the choices that he made between the well-being of his wife and daughters and his own desire to maintain his important social, political, and economic position in Mexico. It explores at length Jenkins s kidnapping in 1919 which some U. S. politicians tried unsuccessfully to exploit to cause U. S. intervention in Mexico. At the same time, it explores anti-American sentiment in Mexico extensively, and it also discusses a kind of Black Legend that developed around Jenkins that lasted for many years, indeed, until the present. Nevertheless, he shows that Jenkins overcame the setbacks and bad publicity to become exceptionally wealthy and active in many areas, ranging from sugar production to the development of a huge and virtually monopolistic network of movie theaters in the country. However singular his persona, Jenkins illustrated how much the revolutionary state depended on the business elite: at first for its very survival, then for the ascendance and supremacy of its conservatives, whose ideological descendants remain in power today. This book is a larger than life biography featuring Mexican history, American history of the late 19th/early 20th century, borderlands history, the history of business, and US-Mexican diplomatic history. Written with verve, it should appeal to general readers interested in business history, readers of biography, and those interested in the Mexican Revolution. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780190455743

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2017. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the Mexican city of Puebla, several decades ago, there lived an old American as wealthy as a Rockefeller. He strode the streets with a purposeful step and his head slightly bowed, as though he wished not to be interrupted. For daily visits to his country club, he had his chauffeur drive him, in one of his second-hand Packards. But he walked often enough that his aspect was familiar to all who lived or worked near his downtown home: tall and well-built, cropped hair beneath a black fedora, and seeming always to wear the same black tie and shabby dark suit. His head was large and solid, like a marble bowling ball, the roundness interrupted by a stern jaw and heavy chin. His blue eyes were sharp. William O. Jenkins, said to be the richest man in Mexico, had an austere routine. He rose early and worked all morning in his office, which shared the same vast space as his apartment: the penthouse above Puebla s leading department store. Though his assets included several hundred movie theaters, substantial rural and urban real estate, various textile mills, and Mexico s second-largest bank, his entire staff consisted of a personal assistant, an accountant, and a secretary. People who came to him for money - a farmer hoping for a loan, a businessman seeking venture capital, a state governor keen for him to finance a school - all had to climb the ninety stairs to his rooms. Even as an octogenarian, he refused to install an elevator, for he was a champion of physical fitness and advancement by merit. And of course he was frugal. On more than one occasion, visitors entered his office to find him peeling an unmarked stamp from an envelope. He would explain: I hate to see anything go to waste. The biography looks at the significance of William Jenkins within the formative period of the Mexican Revolution and the several decades of political institutionalization and evolution that follow it. The author shows Jenkins involvement, particularly in the state of Puebla, in politics and economics, and details his ability to survive and keep and develop major holdings despite the anti-American ethos of the Revolution itself. It also delves deeply into his personal life and the choices that he made between the well-being of his wife and daughters and his own desire to maintain his important social, political, and economic position in Mexico. It explores at length Jenkins s kidnapping in 1919 which some U. S. politicians tried unsuccessfully to exploit to cause U. S. intervention in Mexico. At the same time, it explores anti-American sentiment in Mexico extensively, and it also discusses a kind of Black Legend that developed around Jenkins that lasted for many years, indeed, until the present. Nevertheless, he shows that Jenkins overcame the setbacks and bad publicity to become exceptionally wealthy and active in many areas, ranging from sugar production to the development of a huge and virtually monopolistic network of movie theaters in the country. However singular his persona, Jenkins illustrated how much the revolutionary state depended on the business elite: at first for its very survival, then for the ascendance and supremacy of its conservatives, whose ideological descendants remain in power today. This book is a larger than life biography featuring Mexican history, American history of the late 19th/early 20th century, borderlands history, the history of business, and US-Mexican diplomatic history. Written with verve, it should appeal to general readers interested in business history, readers of biography, and those interested in the Mexican Revolution. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780190455743

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