The impressive economic performance of Mexico during the first years after signing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and the United States has generated much interest as an example for other Latin American countries in their transition towards market-led economies. However, there is also evidence of increasing inequalities between regions, economic sectors and social groups, depending on specific local conditions and practices. Detailed case studies are needed to understand why the outcomes are successful in certain specific contexts whereas in others they are not. The object of study concerns the dynamics of development in Coahuila, a state situated in the northeast of Mexico. In particular since the start of NAFTA, Coahuila has become one of Mexico’s most successful states in terms of exports, mainly as a result of substantial investments in the automotive and the garment industry. Although these new investments contributed strongly to the growth of gross domestic product, this study proposes a more thorough and critical approach with regard to its regional and social distribution, as well as the sustainability of the dominant development model.