Eduardo Flores Clair* Dirección de Estudios Históricos, INAH. Translation by Denisse Piñera Palacios.
For two decades I have been interested in the history of the mining industry. I think that this productive branch was important not only due to the enormous economic resources it contributed to the public finance, but also because of the spectacular fortunes businessmen accumulated thanks to it.1 In fact, mining exploitation has greatly contributed to the development of science and education in our country. In general, mining historiography has addressed the study of the economic operation of companies, of the social structure of mining peoples, the struggle of workers in defense of their interests and even of the exquisite works of art.2 Nevertheless, such richness has neglected a fundamental lode: the transmission of empiric knowledge.3 Throughout our history, the mining industry has been a laboratory in which scientific knowledge and the development of techniques have been promoted. Mining companies have assigned considerable resources to the adaptation of the most advanced technology from all around the world and simultaneously, since late colonial times, they have stimulated scientific teaching and research through school centers.
This work researches on the links there were between the economic development of the mining industry and the technical education encouraged in the mid XIX century. We shall address training at Fresnillo’s School of Mining, exemplary institution which allows us to analyze the gap between theoretical training and technical learning of mining engineers. It also helps us understand businessmen’s interest and initiatives to attract trained workforce. The participation of the Compañía Zacatecano-Mexicana in the creation of a technical educational institution will be analyzed. This company intended to educate experts in mining and metallurgical activities to reduce production costs. In order to do this, the academic plans, economic resources, goals and contributions of Fresnillo’s School of Mining will be examined.
For the purpose of orienting this research we have presented a series of questions that will help us delimit the relationships between education and mining. What was the role of technical education in the industrial development of XIX century Mexico? How much did education for work become a key part in the good technical performance of capitalist development? Which were the systems or methods for the transmission of knowledge used in workforce training? Who should be charged for the expenses of workforce training: the State or the capital?
It is obvious that these lines try to call the attention to the history of an institution that is little known, but it must be said that it represents a novel education project. Besides, we think that Fresnillo’s School of Mining -like any other education center- was an inexhaustible source of initiatives that, among other things, wanted to improve the economic situation and increase the cultural level of our society.
Education for work
The origin of the Real Seminario de Minería, in 1792, was preceded by several projects that analyzed the general situation of the mining industry, all of which were based on the ideas of the Enlightenment and had a marked utilitarian character. Since the second half of the XVIII century, plans on mining stood out as one of the most severe problems of the industry due to the lack of “trained individuals”. Work efficiency was obstructed by the workers’ “ignorance”, and the mistakes in planning provoked the translation of strong investments into negative results.4
The Real Seminario de Minería was created to support technological development and research of applied sciences in different fields. The academic plan included four years of theoretical studies and two more years of field practice.5 According to what was stipulated in the bylaws, after concluding the academic courses, the students had to be placed at one of the mining centers for two years. There they would remain assigned to the local mining delegations, which had the duty of taking care of and getting these students familiarized with the mining work. During that time, the students prepared a detailed report on their experience. This writing-a thesis in its modern sense- had to include the deficiencies of exploitation and process of minerals, as well as the techniques and methods to correct them.6
This new knowledge opened a space to encourage the productive techniques that could best be adapted to the mining development of European countries. For this reason, the Seminario became a weapon against certain obsolete work processes, that provoked a considerable increase in production costs.7 Technical changes had been very slow; changing habits and traditions that were deeply rooted in history was difficult. But we cannot overlook that the educational institution took much from the “popular wisdom”, modified its conception and theorized it with the help of applied science.8
All along its history, a series of problems to reconcile theoretical training and practical instruction appeared. Even before it opened its doors, there was the idea that the school would bring more benefits if installed at any mining center of the viceroyalty-following the Spanish and Saxon models-; it was believed that in this way the students would directly face the situations that troubled the field and therefore, education could accomplish its utilitarian mission. Selecting the capital of the viceroyalty as headquarters of a mining school was always considered to be a severe strategic mistake.9
In general, when young men came out to the mining field, they faced the mistrust of those who were “practical”, men brought up by daily work and with great experience in mining, who felt threatened by these “beginners”, who were seen as unequal competition.10 For instance, in 1820, one of the greatest critics against this situation, Fermín Reygadas, miner of Tlalpujahua, wrote about the students coming out of practice work:
…some of them were disperse, and filled with strange ideas, exotic terms, and they boasted of being wise; because of their pride, they make themselves despicable in the eyes of practical miners and amalgamators, who abandon them to their selfishness. [He noted that] the owners of mines use practical miners, and they are far from employing Students of the School, nor will they ever think of using their services while this school is not run in a different way.11
Apart from the biting criticism, there are other testimonies that point out the effort of young miners to solve the main mechanical problems of mining; many of them provided support at different tasks, and some of them directed the exploitation and benefit of the main colonial companies. But it is also true that they had rare opportunities to show what they had learned at school because of a sense of rejection.12
After the war of Independence, both miners and educators, aware of the problem of technical training, tried to call the attention of the officials of the different governments to encourage practical education. An anonymous author, in defense of the new times and needs of the industry, wrote in 1823:
Notorious is the protection received by the studies in Latinity and rancid Philosophy, in which many young men uselessly waste their first years, and the truth is that a fairly used chemist or physicist will be able to do more useful things for society than all the crowd of grammarians and Peripatetics who have fun hallucinating themselves with the sophisms of their schools.13
Another effort directed to the education for work in independent Mexico was the General Bylaws for Public Instruction, which promoted the opening of “Universidades de Provincia”, which were intended to be established in cities like Puebla, Querétaro, Mérida, Villahermosa, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí, Chihuahua and Durango. These universities would implement academic plans similar to those of the Seminario de Minería and would cover other important disciplines such as agriculture and commerce. In the same way, there were plans to open other mining schools in Zacatecas, Taxco and Guanajuato, oriented to the technical teaching of fields such as machinery, mineralogy, melting and mining exploitation.14
This advantageous project was filed for many years. During the fourth decade of the XIX century, the interest in workforce training was reborn.15 In fact, the Juntas de Fomento (Development Boards), mainly devoted to the textile industry, highlighted the lack of technical training. They considered that workforce instruction, responsibility of colonial guilds, had been abandoned the moment these groups disappeared, with no other institution taking their place.16 The Boards acknowledged the capacity of the government of providing elementary education, but they considered that technical education was not taken care of with the necessary urgency, and they criticized the sad situation that prevailed in workshops:
…these improvised teachers do not hesitate in receiving young men at apprentice classes who only go there to be demoralized and to learn all kinds of vices instead of the art from which they intend to make a living; the former because their teachers cannot teach them anything, since they ignore it all; and the latter because of the bad example of the officials.17
Around the fifties, the government shown a greater sensitivity to reinforce what was called “practical careers”. An important step was then taken towards the creation of the Veterinary, Commerce and Industrial of Arts and Crafts schools, in San Jacinto.18 With the creation of the Ministry of Development, education for work started a long consolidation process. According to Alejandro Tortolero, between 1856-1863, the National School of Agriculture and Veterinary
…is relatively stable: it has created an academic plan, it has an established teaching staff and a number of students that remarkably increases until it is interrupted in 1863 by the French Intervention.19
It must be said that in those times there was a significant cultural environment and education was considered to be a key element to achieve the desired material progress. For instance, when Antonio López de Santa Anna took office in 1853 for his last presidential period, he made it clear with his speech that his government project intended to encourage national prosperity and promote the country’s industrial development. The president was committed to develop arts, to preserve the right to own property and to guarantee public order.20 Although it results contradictory, Santa Anna set the basis to improve and pay attention to the lag of technical education.
The scenario of Fresnillo’s School of Mining
The immediate precedent for the creation of Fresnillo’s School of Mining is found near 1851. In March of that year, Antonio del Castillo, professor at the Colegio de Minería and congressman at the time, presented a bill before the Chamber of Deputies to reorganize mining industry and teaching. As to education, he suggested to rearrange the degrees in engineering in two branches: civil engineering (which gathered the specialties of land and hydrographic surveyor, roadway engineering and mechanical engineering), and mining engineering (which included the specialties of mine surveyors, precious metals assayer, metal process expert and specialized mine expert). In order to reinforce knowledge, a Practical School of Mining would be established, “where the students will alternate theory and praxis”. Long before, there was the need to form professionals who could direct and survey works in different productive branches such as mines, telegraphic lines, roadway construction, and develop river navigation. For the professor, Mexico was a country with immense natural resources and an excellent potential for development, but “heads full of knowledge were needed”.21
We can separate the novel aspects of the project in two. First, the interest of building roadways to expand and integrate different regional markets of agricultural production, beyond the sole silver production for export, that is, there was the intention to stimulate the growth of local markets by means of the exchange of different products. Then, the project proposed the expansion of mining through the exploitation of “industrial” minerals (manganese, sulfur, saltpeter, coal, copper, iron, etc.). People were aware of the need of training engineers exhaustively in industrial tasks, because “the students who excelled in praxis and were assigned to mine businesses were rare”. In other words, the training of engineers was incompatible with the industrial needs, and graduates had little chance in the work market.22
The bill was discussed for several months. On the well-known newspaper El Siglo XIX, the expository part of the project was spread, and a very suggesting polemic around “higher education” in Mexico was published.23 One of the greatest criticisms to the academic plan was due to the exclusion of disciplines such as zoology and botany. However, the project originated great interest in different social sectors, and thanks to the initiative of the deputy and renowned miner José Sebastián Segura the reform in education was performed.
In September 1853, President Santa Anna, through his Development Minister, Joaquín Velázquez de León, issued the decree to establish “a practical school of mining and metallurgy, which, for the moment, will be located at the mineral source of Fresnillo”. It was a school to reach a high level of perfection and to develop industrial change in the country. This experience resulted significant, because the project was intended to put and end to the gap that existed between academic and empiric knowledge. It represented a great opportunity to stimulate scientific development and it would become the talent of these new men devoted to drive the industrialization of the country.
Why was Fresnillo chosen as headquarters? We do not have a definite answer, but there is a set of factors that made the choice of Zacatecas possible. In the first place, a historic claim to build in this region a school of mining to train the youth from Zacatecas.24 In the second place, we can refer to an economic reason, since this was one of the mining regions that came out less hurt from the Independence war. Mercedes de Vega affirms that ever since “1831 to 1835, Zacateca’s participation in the national production reached its highest point of the XIX century. For this period, the state contributed approximately 46.5% of Mexico’s silver production”.25
In the third place, during the first decades of the XIX century, Zacateca’s governments implemented a development policy for the mining industry, provided the necessary conditions for capital investments, reduced tax impositions and eliminated the legal obstacles to own mines. In the same way, with the help of the federal government, they supported the reduction of basic inputs such as powder. In this sense, in September 1849, Governor Manuel González Cosío decreed:
…no mining company can be imposed any extraordinary tax, regardless of its denomination and of the causes that might justify it. All new mining companies shall only pay three fourths of the established taxes. Miners who undertake with their own funds or the funds of a foreign partnership the work of the old mines abandoned as a consequence of the independence war or any other, and in which they have to make use of steam or any other device to drain the water out of mines or to make improvements, are free from all taxes and duties on their products for a period of ten years.26
Finally, another factor that helped Fresnillo was friendship (or corruption, as we will see) between public officials and businessmen. In fact, the Compañía Zacatecano-Mexicana and the federal government executed an agreement in order to support and offer the greatest opportunities for the creation of the new school. The Compañía agreed to provide an adequate location and to allow the students to access the administration’s accounting registers; it authorized technical visits to the mines and process facilities, it offered to provide all its help for handling machinery and to grant financial support for the expenses of the institution.
What was the interest of the Compañía Zacatecano-Mexicana in participating in technical education? Even if it is true that there are some other examples of businessmen who founded night schools and craft schools for workers, until then there were no precedents of an educational project of this extent. We can suppose that the Compañía, for its time, was maybe one of the most important companies in economic terms, and that it stood out due to its remarkable technological advance, modern administrative organization and high performance levels.27
Nevertheless, its origin is related to the abuse of power of the central government authority. Towards 1835, Santa Anna attacked and subjugated Zacatecas with the excuse that Governor Francisco García Salinas had refused to dismantle civil armed forces, and had been insubordinate. Prior to this, García Salinas had organized the “Compañía de Minas Zacatecana”, in order to exploit the abandoned mines in Fresnillo.28 This company achieved good results and is considered to be the first State initiative to have directly participated in the economy and organized investment in the mining industry.29 However, these changes-of a great extent- were stopped by Santa Anna, who decided to privatize the mines and rent the Casa de Moneda to private companies, in order to obtain resources and support the central government.30
To a great extent, in 1835, the Compañía Zacatecano-Mexicana and the political authorities signed an agreement that clearly shows the abuse of power. The company offered to pay 1 300 000 pesos, in a period of seven months, amount that would become a part of the central government’s treasure and of the Zacatecas Commissioner’s Office. Once the payments in advance and indemnities were covered, profits would be divided in equal shares between the government and the shareholders. Businessmen agreed to cover their old debts, in exchange of an unlimited right to direct and exploit the mines. The agreement would have an extent of 12 years. For a greater protection of the new businessmen, it was stipulated that if this period turned out insufficient to satisfy their investment, then it would be considered paid with the third part of the profits that a new company would generate.31
We would like to call the attention to two significant facts in the history of the company. First, the Compañía became attractive and raised expectations among the main businessmen in the country, and this never caused the loss of control of certain families, as is the case of the González Echeverría family.32 Second, to be a part of this company it was necessary to risk a considerable amount of money.33 Thanks to the studies of Rosa María Meyer, we know that this kind of businessmen belonged to the group of Spaniards that had survived the Independence, who had stayed in the country and enjoyed a good financial health. As the author affirms,
…Spanish businessmen played an important role in all businesses related to public debt and to the concessions granted by the government to its creditors. Their relations to power were evident and we may say there was virtually no sector of the economy in which they did not participate.34
Through the scarce reports there are about the company, it is possible to note the changes introduced in different areas. José González Echeverría, its director, performed important advances in exploitation and transformed the administration. He modernized the accounting systems in order to keep a record of each of the operations and to be able to immediately perform a comparative analysis of the costs and benefits to know the development of the company.
In technical terms, transformations became evident from the beginning,. The 1838 report offers us details on the important changes in the area of the subterraneous exploitation of mines and the process of minerals, such as the centralization of carting, the concentration of all the extracted mineral at the “new” plant, the improvement of draining through a steam machine, the building of a test office where the quality of the minerals was verified and the extraction of minerals was more efficiently planned.
The secretary of the company, Mario Baylleres, summarized his experience in a text that gives us the chance to know with detail the problems they faced and the determination of the businessmen to continue working the mines. He said that
…six months after enormous investments, the veil started to draw, and due to the continuation of them, our spirit was ready to lower, having needed a lot of energy not to abandon a negotiation, which because of old evils and the inexperience with which we got in charge of it, has been for a long time the image of chaos; but due to consistency and sacrifices and at the mercy of a happy choice, obstacles have been overcome, and the mines of Fresnillo are no longer the abyss that was to absorb our fortunes, but a company that promises to repay our capitals and an abundant profit.35
We think that the innovative spirit that prevailed among the main shareholders of the company led them to look for a way to get in touch with the workforce. In fact, as in any other mining company, businessmen constantly had to struggle so that production costs would not increase at a rate higher than profits, and they worked hard to avoid losses. Until that moment, the tool they used to control the increase of expenses had been the constant modification of the productive system; in other words, they had the concern to make each of the tasks more efficient so that the overall would provide costs that were less than the price of silver.36
Mining exploitation in Fresnillo led to different changes such as the increase of the population, the temporary contribution to wages, the occupation of a great amount of people on activities related to mining, among others. In 1842, José Agustín Escudero wrote a newspaper article in which he pointed out the transfiguration of the landscape of the industrial town. He noted that:
Fresnillo is the main city of one of the most important districts of the Zacatecas department; it has a tax-collector, a tobacco administrator, a post office administrator, and a mining commissioner, whose monthly profits go beyond 10 thousand pesos, without considering taxes on metals. It has a City Hall, with two representatives and three mayors and a court of first instance. The Proaño hill is surrounded by houses, ranches or yards, machines used in mineralogy operations to extract silver, funnels of steam, machines for the draining of mines, melting ovens, etc.37
Technical education in Fresnillo
In its creation decree, Fresnillo’s School of Mining established that mining engineers and metal processors graduated from Mexico City’s Colegio de Minería, would practice for two and a half years. The first year would be dedicated to the exploitation of the mines, the second to the process of metals, and the remaining six months to visit other mining districts. The academic plan covered four areas: 1) subterraneous geometric measurements; 2) roadway and machine construction project, 3) use of metal processing techniques (not only the ones regarding gold and silver, but also those related to other metals such as iron, copper, tin, lead, etc.), and 4) geologic exploration and mine working.
In the same way, the possibility of incorporating other students acquainted with exact sciences, after an exam on the subjects taught at the Colegio de Minería, was opened. The creation of “instruction academies” for all those workers who had a relevant position within the productive process, such as firemen, machine operators, carpenters and shorers was planned. This means that they did not only consider technical training of men dedicated to the planning and direction of productive processes, but also the training of those who directly carried out the work. Said instruction had the goal of performing tasks in a more efficient way, and gave “specialized” workers the possibility of stimulating their wit to discover new techniques that would help them produce better and faster.
Just like in Mexico City’s Colegio de Minería, there were three categories of students: endowments, partial endowments and pupils, that is to say, recipients of scholarships, partial scholarships and external students. The first kind had the right to receive goods up to a yearly amount of 500 pesos, distributed in food, clothes, travels and “support of a horse”. The other students, on the contrary, had to pay 500 pesos, in “tercios adelantados”.
The decree established that students would remain in the hands of experienced professors, in charge of teaching theoretical courses of “recollection” and of taking care of the good progress of the school. In order to fill the professor positions, exams before an “exam board” constituted by renowned academics would be held. All candidates would be examined for their theoretical and practical knowledge, and those chosen would benefit from a salary of 3 000 pesos per year, receiving also food and support for their horse.
The School must have a fine infrastructure and provide the students with excellent pedagogic instruments, for which modern chemistry and metallurgy laboratories were immediately set up, countless minerals for the experimentation of different processing techniques were acquired, an updated library was organized, and a geologic collection was gathered. It is important to add that the finances of the new school were in charge of the Colegio de Minería. To start activities, an investment of 5 000 pesos was made, in order to acquire equipment and habilitate the “chapel”; it was agreed to grant 18 000 pesos as a yearly budget.38
Due to the scarce information on Fresnillo’s School of Mining, it turns out impossible to make a detailed description of its activities. However, we can say that the first students found an elegant building “that can compete not only with the most remarkable ones of the Republic, but with those of the most advanced countries in Europe”.39 As we said before, it was a school of a very high level, with a highly complete academic plan, which included a theoretical and practical course on mining exploitation; a course on qualitative and quantitative mineral chemical analysis; a theoretical and practical course on metallurgy; one on mechanics applied to mining machines and building construction; one on machine drawing, mining accounting lessons, and also some instruction in jurisprudence by means of the study of regulations. During the visits to mining centers, geologic analysis were performed and statistic data of different kinds were gathered.40
The teaching staff was constituted by three professors; in 1859, the regular teachers were Miguel Velázquez de León, Pascual Arenas and Diego Velázquez de la Cadena.41 Apart from their teaching activities, they were in charge of the school’s accounting, internal order, supervision of study hours and, reluctantly, they pointed out they had to perform “the work of prefects or inspectors and butlers”.((AGN, Fomento, minas y petróleo, box 45, page 81.))
How many students signed up for the practical school? In fact, there is not much information to help us, and it is well known that, in those times, high education levels were very exclusive. In the decree, it was stipulated that only eight endowment students would be registered each year; in 1853, the school had only four students.42 But in 1855 they increased to eleven, four of whom practiced in Fresnillo, since the other were on an exploration trip.((AGN, Fomento, minas y petróleo, box 45, page 1.)) In 1858, five years after the school’s opening, a balance was performed; during that period, 24 students had registered, 11 of whom had obtained the title of mining engineers and metal processors. Two of the graduates found a job as substitute professors in Mexico City’s Colegio de Minería, and another one held the same position at the Practical School. At that year, four students were still performing their practices at the mines and locations in Zacatecas. Another three abandoned their studies due to “organic diseases they suffered and which stopped them from continuing with the dangerous exercise of the mines, and another one died half through the exploitation course”.43 Finally, in 1859 there were only six students left.44
For professors Joaquín Velázquez de León, Joaquín de Mier y Terán and Miguel Velázquez de León, the academic advance and technical training had achieved their goal. They believed Fresnillo’s Practical School of Mining encouraged a new modernization stage of education in Mexico, and that it would soon get a place among the education institutions at a global level. They affirmed that “it is a source of enlightenment that, as a matter of fact, had not existed up to this day in the provinces, even if exact and natural sciences had appeared in the programs of different universities though not in actual lessons”.45
The Minister of Development, Manuel Siliceo, referred to Fresnillo’s School as an important advance in Mexico’s education. He said that all engineers certified by this School had the ability to direct any mining negotiation and that mining was depressed due to the lack of engineers, situation that did not help job opportunities nor the resources of the Treasury, which urgently needed to increase its revenues.46
In spite of this enthusiasm, the school suffered its first setback because of the crisis faced by the Compañía Zacatecano-Mexicana. In September 1853, a few months from the decree for the creation of Fresnillo’s school, Francisco Iturbe and Manuel Gargollo, representatives of the company, requested from the government an extension of twenty years on the three-per-cent tax exemption on metals; privilege in force since November 1821. The businessmen, trying to obtain the government’s subsidy, argued that their economic difficulties were due to a series of factors, among which they mentioned “the terrible epidemic” of 1850, which had considerably undermined the population, and which had been accompanied by a severe drought that extraordinarily added to the price of seeds. Apart from the incursions of “barbaric” Indians, insecurity was an obstacle for the “transport of animals, fuel, seeds, and countless effects consumed by mining companies; the outrageous price of all these items”. The mines had started to flood due to the “lack of fuel”, and extracted metals were “notoriously poor”. In the same way, businessmen affirmed to have invested 350 000 pesos to purchase English machines to “sieve and mill” minerals, and that in the previous four years, partners had received “not a single penny of profits”.47
In order to get this “dowry”, businessmen agreed to support the practical school, since they had already built a 100 000-peso building and, in exchange, they asked for a greater economic and administrative control of the school. They also offered to condone the debt generated along 18 years, due to the avertable neglect of four grains per silver mark that the company had presented before the Zacatecas’ Mint. Finally, they warned that, should their request not be favorably considered, the company would suspend all works, with which the Treasury would cease to receive 25 000 pesos per year, donations to the Colegio de Minería would be suspended, agriculture and commerce would suffer a severe contraction of activities, and the population would sink into poverty.48
In November 1856, before the privilege of the Compañía was declared void, President Ignacio Comonfort decreed an extension of ten more years to the tax exemption, in response to the multiple services rendered to society and regarding the “decadence” suffered by the company.49 In spite of this effort, as correctly concludes Rosa María Meyer in a work dedicated to the Compañía Zactecano-Mexicana, “Fresnillo’s shareholders ceased to receive profits since 1850″.50 The deterioration and the lack of support from the part of these businessmen to carry on helping the educational project were remarkable (see chart).
Nevertheless, in the accounting of the Colegio de Minería we find some revealing information. Since November 1849, the Compañía had granted “donations” to the school’s Board and these contributions continued until June 1858. This makes us think that the businessmen had an understanding, long before the government accepted the creation of the practical school and Fresnillo was chosen headquarters, because previously, the Compañía had invested a considerable amount in the building of the new school. In fact, the educational project faced, since the beginning, great economic difficulties, and was related to the fall of the Compañía. The expectations of the Practical School initiators soon broke into pieces, because they thought they were entering a company with a good financial health and that, therefore, the educational project would receive a strong economic support so that, in a short period of time, the “special” school could definitely consolidate.51
Source: AHPM, ML 353A, 1851-1858 and AGN, Development, mines and oil, box 45, 1858.
Along the educational path appeared a second obstacle. The economic resources provided by Fresnillo’s Practical School of Mining came from the Mining Supply Fund. This fund was created since 1774 and, from that date on, miners were forced to contribute with a fee according to the amount of silver presented to the Mint. This amount was used, among other things, to settle the expenses of the Colegio de Minería. However, since the late colonial times, miners had a great debt and therefore their fund was kept sequestered. Since 1850 the government decreed that miners’ credits were to become part of the public debt, causing the creditors of the Supply Fund to think it would be impossible for them to get their money back on time. After a complicated litigation, the government accepted that the miners’ fund had a particular character and that it was not a part of public finances.52
At the beginning of 1858, creditors of the Mining Supply Fund, in their role of fiscal ministers of the mining education budget, elected a commission in charge of revising the academic plans of mining schools. Their mission was to reduce costs in all possible fields. In September, the commission issued their decision: it intended to suppress certain professorships and go back to the colonial academic plan, simply because it was less expensive. They affirmed that the Practical School was an unaffordable project; young people interested in pursuing a career in mining were few, and those to conclude it were even less. Since this was a new project, creditors requested to change the headquarters of Fresnillo’s School to Pachuca, with which they would considerably save, being this city the mining center that was closest to the capital. Once mining education expenses were reduced, creditors were sure they would start collecting their old profits and promptly redeem their capitals.53
Professors Joaquín Velázquez de León, Joaquín de Mier y Terán and Miguel Velázquez de León presented a long document to defend the academic plans. They believed the studies at the Colegio de Minería and at the Practical School had buried the old engineering teaching, and that an educational modernization process was taking place in the country. The subjects that were taught and field experience were beginning to produce very good results, and it was absolutely necessary to continue nurturing this project in order to support scientific research, thus promoting productive investment. According to them, should the educational project be canceled, mining would suffer one of its worst setbacks, natural resources would remain hidden and workers would not abandon unproductive techniques, and the import of foreign experts would go on. They strongly wrote:
By eliminating professorships, closing down schools, you save up a few thousand pesos, but there will be no hope of useful men, the savings will be distributed among few; these men will be needed by society.54
Great polemics in the written press around mining education arose; the existence of schools was defended by different authors and the creditors’ attitude was criticized. Francisco Zarco, following and old solution presented by Luis de la Rosa, suggested to keep Fresnillo’s school, apart from the opening of a new “facility in Pachuca”.55
In spite of the strong protests, the experiment of Fresnillo’s “special school” had come to an end. Nicanor Béistegui, one of the most important shareholders of the Compañía Real del Monte y Pachuca, pulled some strings and convinced the political authorities to move the Practical School to Pachuca. In various circles of public administration there were strong debates, but the economic power and the political strength of the shareholders was finally imposed. In 1860, the government closed down the school in Fresnillo and authorized its relocation to Pachuca.56
In April 1861, Ignacio Ramírez, Minister of Public Education, executed an agreement with the Compañía Real del Monte which, among other things, set forth that future engineers had to go through eight years of theoretical education and only nine months of practice in Pachuca. In general, engineers received a deficient technical education; the experience in Pachuca had unsatisfactory results, far from Antonio del Castillo’s initial project. The school remained open until 1909, when Justo Sierra, Minister of Public Education, decreed that mine working and metallurgy studies were to become part of the National School of Engineering, and that the facility of the San Francisco’s Convent was to become Bartolomé de Medina’s Elementary School.
We think the creation of the “special” school turned out to be a great utopia encouraged by a progress strategy. Industrial techniques around the world had reached a degree of development in which nature was controlled by man. In that time, starting an educational project of this kind represented a huge effort and the scopes that could be reached in a short term were very limited. The Practical School intended to link laboratory and office work with the most urgent needs of the industry; it longed to reduce the production costs of mining exploitation and to put the most advanced science to the service of manufacturing production. The promotion of technical education in a country like Mexico was fundamental to compete with the advance of the most developed capitalist countries.
The Practical School showed that the “Mexican genius” was not enough. Relying on the experience and knowledge inherited through the generations was inadequate. During its short existence, it showed the need of a new pedagogy based on a kind of academic training that would inculcate the new values of the mechanization era. As engineers used to say, in the mining industry there was still a “blind faith in routine and empiricism”. It must be said that among the vast majority of businessmen there was little interest to increase the technical level of the workforce; erroneously, this kind of investment was considered unproductive, reason why the government had to be responsible for its expenses. Nevertheless, as we know, government agencies performed several efforts to listen to this request, although they got little results.
It is impossible not to relate the practical school process and the industrialization process of the country. Even if it is true that its harvest was reduced, this educational center promoted the spread of a wide range of knowledge, which in time would have helped to homogenize techniques and to influence the cost of means of production, from which businessmen would have benefited. By eliminating this kind of education, the possibility of developing local techniques disappeared and, conversely, the dependency towards foreign systems increased. By preventing the creation of new schools for the training of workers, the use of traditional pedagogy was continued, that is to say, the idea that workers are made at work and that knowledge is transmitted orally from one generation to the next, being wit more skillful than tools, was kept. By abandoning their obligation to train their workers, businessmen quit the profits of their capital.
Anales de la minería mexicana o sea revista de minas, metalurgia mecánica y de las ciencias aplicadas a la minería, published by the ancient professors of the Practical School of Mining and sponsored by the government of the free and sovereign state of Guanajuato, Mexico, Imprenta de Ignacio Cumplido, 1861.
Bargalló, Modesto, La amalgamación de los minerales de plata en Hispanoamérica colonial, Mexico, Compañía Fundidora de Fierro y Acero de Monterrey, 1969.
Burnes Ortiz, Arturo, La minería en la historia económica de Zacatecas (1546-1876), Mexico, El arco y la lira, 1987.
Cross, Harry Edward, “The Mining Economy of Zacatecas, Mexico in the Nineteenth Century”, doctoral thesis, Latin America, University of California, Berkeley, 1976.
Díaz y de Ovando, Clementina, Los veneros de la ciencia mexicana: crónica del Real Seminario de Minería, 1792-1892, 3 vols., Mexico, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Facultad de Ingeniería, 1998.
Dublán, Manuel y José María Lozano, Legislación mexicana o colección de las disposiciones legislativas expedidas desde la Independencia a la República, Mexico, Imprenta del Comercio, 1876.
Escritura de asociación de la Compañía de minas Zacatecano-Mexicana en la cual está inclusa la contrata celebrada con el gobierno, Mexico, Ignacio Cumplido, 1835.
Flores Clair, Eduardo, Minería, educación y sociedad. El Colegio de Minería, 1774-1821, México, INAH, 2000.
____________,“Los créditos del Tribunal de Minería de Nueva España, 1777-1823” in Ibero-Amerikanisches Archiv, vol. 24, 1988.
Gamboa, Francisco Xavier, Comentarios a las ordenanzas de minería dedicados …, Mexico, Imprenta Díaz de León y White, 1874.
García González, Francisco, “Artesanos y aprendices y saberes en la Zacatecas del siglo XVIII” in Pilar Gonzalbo (coord.), Familia y educación en Iberoamérica, Mexico, El Colegio de México, 1999, pp. 83-98.
Herrera Canales, Inés, “Historiografía minera mexicana del siglo XX: los primeros pasos”, en Historias, num. 39, October 1997-March 1998, pp. 95-104.
Informe que da la Junta Menor Permanente de la Compañía de minas Zacatecano-Mexicana, del estado de la negociación del Fresnillo en el primer semestre del año de 1838, Mexico, Ignacio Cumplido, 1838.
Informe que da la Junta Menor permanente de la Compañía de minas Zacatecano-Mexicana, del estado de la negociación del Fresnillo en el primer semestre del año de 1841, Mexico, Imprenta de Vicente García Torres, 1841.
Izquierdo, José Joaquín, La primera casa de las ciencias en México; el Real Seminario de Minería, 1792-1811, Mexico, Ediciones Ciencia, 1958.
Macías, Carlos, “La minería en Fresnillo durante el gobierno de Francisco García Salinas”, en Relaciones, vol. IX, num. 34, spring 1988.
Meyer Cosío, Rosa María, “Empresarios españoles después de la independencia”, en El poder y el dinero. Grupos y regiones mexicanos en el siglo XIX, Mexico, Instituto Mora, 1994.
____________, “Los especuladores como empresarios mineros. La formación de la Compañía Zacatecano Mexicana del Fresnillo”, conference presented at the Seminario Crédito y finanzas en la minería, siglos XVI-XX, Dirección de Estudios Históricos, January 2001.
Moreno de los Arcos, Roberto (introd.), Representación que a nombre de la minería de esta Nueva España hacen al Rey Nuestro Señor los apoderados de ella, Don Juan Lucas de Lassaga, regidor de esta Nobilísima Ciudad, y juez contador de menores y albaceazgos: y Don Joaquín Velázquez de León, abogado de esta Real Audiencia, y catedrático que ha sido de matemáticas en esta Real Universidad, Mexico, Sociedad de ex alumnos de la Facultad de Ingeniería, 1979.
Olivera Ochoa, Alfredo, “La actuación política de Francisco García Salinas”, Major thesis in History, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, UNAM, 1968.
Ordenanzas de minería y colección de leyes y ordenes que con fecha posterior se han expedido sobre la materia, arregladas por el Lic. José Olmedo y Lama, Mexico, Imprenta de Vicente García Torres, 1873.
Plan de los establecimientos y estatutos generales de la Compañía Mexicana Científico Industrial […], Mexico, Ignacio Cumplido, 1835.
Ramírez, Santiago, Datos para la historia del Colegio de Minería, México, SEFI-UNAM, 1982.
Ríos Zúñiga, Rosalina, “Educación y transición en Zacatecas de la colonia al México independiente (1754-1854)”, Masters degree thesis in History, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, UNAM, 1995.
Sánchez Flores, Ramón, Historia de la tecnología y la invención en México, introducción a su estudio y documentos para los anales de la técnica, Mexico, Fomento Cultural Banamex, 1980.
Siliceo, Manuel,Memoria de la Secretaría de Estado y del Despacho de Fomento, colonización, industria y comercio de la República Mexicana, Mexico, Imprenta de Vicente García Torres, 1857.
Sonnesmichdt, Federico, Tratado de los beneficios de los metales por azogue, Madrid, Spain, 1831.
Tortolero Villaseñor, Alejandro, De la coa a la máquina de vapor. Actividades agrícolas e innovación tecnológica en las haciendas mexicanas: 1880-1910, Mexico, Siglo XXI Editores, El Colegio Mexiquense, 1995.
Vega, Mercedes de, “Manantial y siembra”, in Historia mínima de Zacatecas. La fragua de una leyenda, Mexico, Noriega Editores, 1995.
Velasco Ávila, Cuauhtémoc, et al., Estado y Minería en México 1767-1910, Mexico, Fondo de Cultura Económica/SEMIP, 1988.
- I would like to thank the judges who due to their pertinent comments made the great improvement of this work possible. [↩]
- See, Inés Herrera Canales, “Historiografía minera mexicana del siglo XX: los primeros pasos”, en Historias, num. 39, pp. 95-104. [↩]
- Ramón Sánchez Flores, Historia de la tecnología y la invención en México, introducción a su estudio y documentos para los anales de la técnica, 1980; Modesto Bargalló, La amalgamación de los minerales de plata en Hispanoamérica colonial, 1969; Eduardo Flores Clair, Minería, educación y sociedad. El Colegio de Minería, 1774-1821, 2000. [↩]
- Mainly in: Francisco Xavier Gamboa, Comentarios a las ordenanzas de minería dedicados …, 1874 and Roberto Moreno de los Arcos, Representación que a nombre de la minería de esta Nueva España hacen al Rey Nuestro Señor los apoderados de ella, Don Juan Lucas de Lassaga, regidor de esta Nobilísima Ciudad, y juez contador de menores y albaceazgos: y Don Joaquín Velázquez de León, abogado de esta Real Audiencia, y catedrático que ha sido de matemáticas en esta Real Universidad, 1979. [↩]
- Ordenanzas de minería y colección de leyes y órdenes que con fecha posterior se han expedido sobre la materia, arregladas por el Lic. José Olmedo y Lama, 1873, pp. 41-43. [↩]
- Historical Archive of the Palacio de Minería (hereinafter, AHPM), M.L. (1801), pages 173-180, “Instrucciones de las reglas a que deben sujetarse los alumnos del Real Seminario de Minería que concluido el tiempo de la teórica se destina a practicar en los minerales, sujetos al mando de las respectivas diputaciones”. [↩]
- For a more complete history on the Colegio de Minería during the colonial period, see José Joaquín Izquierdo, La primera casa de las ciencias en México; el Real Seminario de Minería, 1792-1811, 1958. [↩]
- This is one of the ideas that emerge from the reading of Federico Sonnesmichdt, Tratado de los beneficios de los metales por azogue, 1831. [↩]
- National General Archive (hereinafter, AGN), Minería, vol. 156 (1786), “Juntas formadas para el arreglo del Tribunal del Importante cuerpo de la Minería de Nueva España”. This same idea was repeated by and therefore attributed to Alejandro de Humboldt in his famous work Ensayo Político sobre el reino de la Nueva España, 1991. [↩]
- Eduardo Flores Clair, op. cit., 363-378. [↩]
- AHPM, box 180, doc. 2 (1821), “Sobre variar el método de enseñanza del Seminario de Minería y suspensión del mismo establecimiento según la Junta General”. [↩]
- General Archive of the Indies (hereinafter, AGI), Mexico, 2238, “Representación del Real Tribunal de Minería hecha a nombre de la Junta General al Excelentísimo Virrey”. [↩]
- J.M., “Minería”, in El Sol, num. 14, June 30, 1823, p. 63. [↩]
- “Reglamento general de instrucción pública, decretado por las Cortes de España en 29 de junio de 182”, en El Sol, num. 8, 10 and 12 of June 1823, pp. 30-32, 39-40, 46-49. Another education project for the work was Plan de los establecimientos y estatutos generales de la Compañía Mexicana Científico Industrial …, 1835. [↩]
- See for instante the “Reglamento de la Escuela de Artes” in Manuel Dublán and José María Lozano, Legislación mexicana o colección de las disposiciones legislativas expedidas desde la Independencia a la República, tome IV, pp. 635-639. And the Proyecto de ley para el arreglo del Establecimiento, Colegio y Tribunal de Minería, in AGN, Fomento Minas y Petróleo, box 45, September 6, 1848. [↩]
- In colonial times, the education for work was in charge of the guilds. In the case of Zacatecas, see Francisco García González, “Artesanos y aprendices y saberes en la Zacatecas del siglo XVIII”, in Pilar Gonzalbo (coord.), Familia y educación en Iberoamérica, 1999, pp. 83-98. [↩]
- Semanario artístico para la educación y progreso de los artesanos, August 3, 1844, tome I, num. 26, p. 2, signed by “Some artisans of Mexico”. In this year, Jalisco’s School of Arts was opened. It intended to provide with a living the young people who wanted to work in craftsmanship. [↩]
- AGN, Fomento y Obras Públicas, box 1, exp. 5; box 2, exp. 5 and box 4, exp. 5. [↩]
- Alejandro Tortolero Villaseñor, De la coa a la máquina de vapor. Actividades agrícolas e innovación tecnológica en las haciendas mexicanas: 1880-1910, 1995, p. 51. [↩]
- AGN, Gobernación, box 415, exp. 2. [↩]
- Antonio del Castillo, “Proyecto de ley y parte expositiva sobre el arreglo del Colegio Nacional de Minería, creación de una escuela práctica y un consejo de minería y obras públicas mandado pu0blicar por la misma cámara”, in Periódico oficial del Supremo Gobierno de los Estados Unidos de México, tome V, num. 13, March 29, 1851, pp. 1 and 4. [↩]
- Castillo was very much interested in that engineers had the best training possible in order to reach a high level in the different disciplines. He even thought that the most outstanding students should go and perfection their knowledge to European schools and that, at their coming back, they would be given professorships. [↩]
- The expository part of the project was inserted in El Siglo XIX, March 26, 1851. [↩]
- During the thirties of the XIX century, Zacateca’s authorities tried to preserve part of the mining taxes in order to assign them to the opening of a school of mining. See AGN, Fomento, minas y petróleo, box 45, page 38. [↩]
- Mercedes de Vega, “Manantial y siembra”, in Historia mínima de Zacatecas. La fragua de una leyenda, 1995, p. 116. [↩]
- Quoted by Arturo Burnes Ortiz, La minería en la historia económica de Zacatecas (1546-1876), 1987, p. 153. [↩]
- We will only make general references to the businessmen and some technical changes this time. For an analysis of production in Zacatecas, see Harry Edward Cross, “The Mining Economy of Zacatecas, Mexico in the Nineteenth Century”, doctoral thesis, 1976. [↩]
- Luis Solana, “Elogio fúnebre en honor del ilustre ciudadano Francisco García Salinas, antiguo gobernador de Zacatecas”, in El Siglo XIX, December 1, 1842. [↩]
- See Alfredo Olivera Ochoa, “La actuación política de Francisco García Salinas”, Major thesis in History, UNAM, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, 1968, and Carlos Ma¬cías “La minería en Fresnillo durante el gobierno de Francisco García Salinas”, in Relaciones, vol. IX, num. 34, spring 1988, pp. 31-54. [↩]
- Cuauhtémoc Velasco et al., Estado y Minería en México 1767-1910, 1988, pp. 206-213. [↩]
- Escritura de asociación de la Compañía de minas Zacatecano-Mexicana en la cual está inclusa la contrata celebrada con el gobierno, 1835. [↩]
- Informe que da la Junta Menor permanente de la Compañía de minas Zacatecano-Mexicana, del estado de la negociación del Fresnillo en el primer semestre del año de 1841, 1841. pp. 12-14. [↩]
- In 1835, the company was constituted by 120 shares divided among 33 shareholders. By 1841, the number of shareholders had raised to 77. Many of them only held one fourth or half a share, which were quoted at $15 400 pesos. [↩]
- Rosa María Meyer Cosío, “Empresarios españoles después de la independencia”, in El poder y el dinero. Grupos y regiones mexicanos en el siglo XIX, 1994, p. 233. I would also like to thank the author for having provided me with the list of shareholders found at the Archivo de Notarías. [↩]
- Informe que da la Junta Menor Permanente de la Compañía de minas Zacatecano-Mexicana, del estado de la negociación del Fresnillo en el primer semestre del año de 1838, 1838, pp. 20-21. [↩]
- One of the examples that can prove these ideas is the fact that the Compañía tried to mechanize the milling system and use the largest possible number of machines in the process facilities. See AGN, Gobernación 1852, box 394, exp. 1. [↩]
- It is a newspaper article dated July 8, 1842 and can be found at the Fondo Lafragua, ms. 4227. [↩]
- AGN, Fomento y Obras Públicas, 1853, box 1, exp. 10, “Establecimiento de una escuela práctica de minas y metalurgia en el mineral de Fresnillo, Zacatecas, reglamento interno para estudiantes y maestros”. [↩]
- AGN, Fomento, minas y petróleo, box 44, 1853. [↩]
- AGN, Fomento, minas y petróleo, box 45, page 79. [↩]
- AHPM, box 201, doc. 14, 1859. [↩]
- AGN, Gobernación, caja 410, e.15, file 1. [↩]
- AGN, Fomento, minas y petróleo, box 45, page 1v. [↩]
- AHPM, box 202, doc. 14, 1859. [↩]
- AGN, Fomento, minas y petróleo, box 45, page 71. [↩]
- Manuel Siliceo, Memoria de la Secretaría de Estado y del Despacho de Fomento, colonización, industria y comercio de la República Mexicana, 1857, pp. 76-77. [↩]
- AGN, Fomento, minas y petróleo, box 44, 1853. [↩]
- AGN, Fomento, minas y petróleo, box 44, 1853. [↩]
- Ordenanzas de minería, op. cit., pp. 99-100. [↩]
- Rosa María Meyer Cosío, “Los especuladores como empresarios mineros. La formación de la Compañía Zacatecano Mexicana del Fresnillo”, conference presented at the Seminario Crédito y finanzas en la minería, siglos XVI-XX, Dirección de Estudios Históricos, January 2001. [↩]
- The academic advances of the Practical School were shaped in the Anales de la minería mexicana o sea revista de minas, metalurgia mecánica y de las ciencias aplicadas a la minería, published by the ancient professors of the Practical School of Mining and were sponsored by the government of the free and sovereign state of Guanajuato, 1861. [↩]
- On the origins of the mining debt, see Eduardo Flores Clair, “Los créditos del Tribunal de Minería de Nueva España, 1777-1823” in Ibero-Amerikanisches Archiv, vol. 24, 1988, pp. 3-30. [↩]
- AGN, Fomento, minas y petróleo, box 45, 1858, pages 1-26. [↩]
- AGN, Fomento, minas y petróleo, box 45, 1858, page 79. [↩]
- Francisco Zarco, “La escuela de Fresnillo”, in El Siglo XIX, March 17, 1857; this polemic can be seen in El Eco Nacional. [↩]
- Santiago Ramírez, Datos para la historia del Colegio de Minería, 1982, p. 427. [↩]