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As articulated in Ignacio Manuel Altamirano’s Romantic novel El Zarco (1888) and the accounts of contemporary travelers, various interpretations about the pace and course of the country’s development abounded in Mexico during the late nineteenth-century. The current project evaluates El Zarco as a historical text and uses it as a window into the Porfirian nation-building project. By comparing the vision outlined in the novel with the published accounts of contemporary travelers this project demonstrates the contested nature of development among Mexico’s national elites during the Porfiriato. This thesis argues that from the competing visions of national development specific categories for negotiating inclusion in the nation emerged. In this respect, the foremost category was the citizen and in a context of authoritarian liberalism and industrial modernization citizen violence held the potential to invest the country’s “suspect” populations with the full rights of the authentic citizen. Citizenship equated with inclusion in the nation, making its definition a comment about what it meant to be Mexican.