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1 LEVIATHAN IN THE TROPICS: A POSTCOLONIAL ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE PAPALOAPAN DEVELOPMENT PROJECT S IN MEXICO By PATRICK H. COSBY A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2011
2 2011 Patrick H. Cosby
3 To everyone who has helped along the way
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank my dissertation advisor, Mark Thurn er for guiding me through institutional, intellectual, and metaphorical jungles of graduate school and the Mexican tropics. I would also like to thank members of my Committee, Luise White, Carmen Diana Deere, David Geggus, and Michael Heckenberger for the ir advice and encourageme nt. I would also like to thank Romana Falcn from the Colegio de Mexico for her patience and willingness to meet with a gringo still learning to navigate Mexico you, also to Antonio Escobar O hmstede from the Centro de Estudia s y Investigaciones Superiores en Antropologa Social (CIESAS) for helping to shape my study at an early stage and for making Mexico City a welcoming place to work. I would like to thank Jorge Andrade and the staff at the Archivo Historico del Agua (AHA) for their generosity and collegiality, and the staff at the Archivo General de la Nacin (AGN) the Biblioteca Daniel Coso Villegas at the Colegio de Mxico and the Biblioteca Central de la Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico (UNAM) Closer to home, enthusiastic assistance from Richard Phillips and Paul Losch from the University of Florida Latin American Collection has been invaluable at every stage of this project. The research for this study would not have been possible with out the generous support of The Tinker Foundation for a Field Research Grant, Phi Alpha Theta National History Hono r Society the Department of History ( for the Roger Haigh Latin American History Award and the George E. Pozzetta Research Award ) the Center for Latin American Studies Center and the College of Liberal Arts and Sc iences
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 7 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 8 Chapter Outlines ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 11 Notes on Sources ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 14 RETHINKING LEVIATHAN IN THE TROPICS ................................ .............................. 17 Visions of the Tropics ................................ ................................ .............................. 40 History of Science and the State ................................ ................................ ............. 46 Environmentalism of the Poor and Nativist Environmentalism ................................ 50 THE MEXICAN LEVIATHAN ................................ ................................ ......................... 57 Breakfast of Revolutionary Unity ................................ ................................ ............. 60 Historical Revision ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 68 New Directions ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 72 THE RIVER OF BUTTERFLIES ................................ ................................ .................... 78 Against the Fury of Nature ................................ ................................ ...................... 82 Into the Tropics ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 100 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 117 ................................ ................... 119 Legibility and Economic Development ................................ ................................ .. 120 From Tribal Life to Civilized Life ................................ ................................ ............ 134 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 151 THE MENACE OF DOOMSDAY ................................ ................................ ................. 152 Tireless and Devoted Efforts ................................ ................................ ................. 155 A Little Blunt Talk ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 178 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 185 TO SETTLE ACCOUNTS ................................ ................................ ............................ 187 Agrarian Populism ................................ ................................ ................................ 195 Echeverra in Papalaopan ................................ ................................ ..................... 203 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 224
6 CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 227 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 234 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 252
7 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Flo rida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy LEVIATHAN IN THE TROPICS: A POSTCOLONIAL ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE PAPALOAPAN DEVELOPMENT PROJECT S IN MEXICO By Patrick H. Cosby May 2011 Chair: Na me Mark Thurner Major: History This dissertation is a critical environmental history of one of the largest development projects ever pursued by the Mexican state. Between the 1940s and the 1970s, Mexican policy makers that sought to transform tropical na ture and indigenous peoples as productive subjects of the nation. As a pioneering example of the application Papaloapan Projects provide an excellent case study for consi dering environmental, political, and social change in Latin America and the postcolonial world at large. By drawing together insights from Environmental History, Postcolonial Criticism, and Subaltern Studies, this study makes an interdisciplinary contribut ion to the historiography of twentieth century Mexico.
8 INTRODUCTION This study the Papaloapan River valley and its peoples. The Papaloapan Projects were launched in the 1940s as mo dern scientific means to control the devastating floods caused by the unpredictable seasonal rains of the tropics. However, government planners, engineers, social scientists, and agronomists soon undertook a much more ambitious program -spanning four deca des -that sought to bring the unruly tropical environment and its led development and nation building from a critical historical, postcolonial, and environmental pers pective. Papalaopan Basin I hope to accomplish two things. First, I hope to contribute to critical theoretical discussions of development by deploying insights and theories develope d in the fields of environmental history and postcolonial studies. I argue that the case of Mexico offers a modular opportunity to connect the concerns and methods of environmental history with those of postcolonial and subaltern studies. In a moment whe n environmental historians in the United States seek to expand their horizons to the developing world, I suggest that the insights from postcolonial scholars are well worth and history from the global south. Although its architects were inspired in part by the high modernist development projects of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States, led development and its dissent anywhere in the world.
9 Second, I hope to contribute to a rethinking of the nature of the Mexican one party stat e and the forms of dissent it gave rise to. In this regard, I propose that the Mexican state under the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) neither fulfilled the promises of the Mexican Revolution for rural peoples, as state officials argued, nor wielded authoritarian and hegemonic power, as its many detractors have claimed. Instead, efforts to extend state power into the tropical south faced considerable challenges from both the natural world and from critics who mobilized against state development projects and who questioned the underlying assumptions and discourses that guided state planners. It is not my purpose here to emphasize or necessarily Instead, I hope to reveal the fragility of the one party state and the multiple channels for dissent that emerged over the course o f the projects. I suggest that the strong opposition to the Papaloapan project should cause us to reevaluate dominant narratives not only about the state but also about environmentalism in Mexico. Environmentalism in Mexico (like much else) is often c onsidered to be a state for example that Mexican President Luis Echeverra initiated environmental legislation without pressure from a strong environmental movement. Others have noted that the rise of enviro nmental consciousness has been a middle class response to pollution in Mexico City and other industrial cities. Still others have suggested that Mexican environmentalism emerged ght to challenge the neoliberal reforms of the 1980s and 1990s. Nevertheless, critical social concerns about environmental degradation, and a serious reevaluation of indigenous
10 knowledge were an integral aspect of the history of the Papaloapan projects. As the informed and commercially driven agricultural development came under fire by activists and communities, agronomists re evaluated the value and effectiveness of indigenous land use techniques. In short, the history of the Papaloapan project suggests a revision of the standard narratives of the emergence of environmentalism in Mexico. This study is primarily concerned with understanding discourse deployed by the central Mexican state as it attempted to extend its rea ch into the tropical regions of southern Mexico. It is not a quantitative study of development in the Papal oapan Basin and makes no projects and agricultural development transforme d the region. S pecialists in economics and agronomy have conducted extensice research documenting the transitions initiated by the Papaloapan Commission and the Rockefeller Foundation scientists. 1 I do not seek to replicate their work. Without doubt, their col lection of statistical data and their analysis was meticulous and rigorous according to the conventions of their respective academic disciplines and the assumptions that underpinned their theoretical and interpretive models. It is precisely those conventi ons and assumptions that this study examines as it and explores the complex interacti ons between science and state power. 1 See, Jose Attolini, Economia de la Cuenca del Papaloapan, 2 vol s. (Mexico City: Instituto de The Papaloapan Project: Agricultural Development in the Mexican Tropics, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1964); Juan Ballesteros, M atthew Edel, and Michael Nelson, La Colonizacion en la Cuenca del Papaloapan: Una evaluacion socioeconomic, (Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones Agrarias, 1970); Peter T. Ewell and Thomas T. Poleman, Uxpanapa: Agricultural Development in the Mexican Tro pics, (New York: Pergamon Press, 1980); Sara J. Scherr and Thomas Poleman,, Development and Equity in Tropical Mexico: Thirty Years of the Papaloapan Project, (Ithaca: Department of Agricultural Economics, 1983); Jose Noriega, Control del Ro Paploapan: P reparacin del plan de estudias definitivas y programas de construccin de o bras, Infrome Detallado, (Mexico City 1973).
11 T his study is also not an ethnography of the indigenous groups displaced by the works of the Papaloapan Projects, or of the workers wh o constructed and maintained the complex network of dams, canals, and roads. Again, there are a number of studies that have attempted to chronicle the local processes of social change. 2 As fascinating and informative as those processes are, I do not atte mpt to trace the m here. Instead, I am interested in the prevailing anthropologic al discourses that informed ethnographic studies and linked them to state discourses of national development. T his study is also story t hat chronicles the ris e of social movement s for environmental justice o r indigenous rights. Instead, I hope to chart how politically salient languages of development and environmental responsibility changed over time and made new social movements possible. Chapter Outlines In Chapter 1, I out line a theoretical framework that combines insights from environm ental historians and postcolonial scholars who investigate the ways in which knowledge is constructed and deployed to buttress regimes of power. I argue that the Mexican sta te attempted to bring tropical nature and tropical peoples into the nation by justifying interventions into the region using assumptions of fecund tropical environments and correspondingly backwards, lazy tropical people. Such assumptions res onated with l ong held assumptions about tropical nature. 2 See especially, Alfonso Villa Rojas, Los Mazatecos y el problema indgena de la Cuenca del Papaloapan, 2 vols. (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional Indigenista, 1955); David F. McMahon, Antropologa de Una Presa: Los Mazatecos y el proyecto del Papaloapan, (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional Indigenista, 1973); Alicia Barabas and Miguel Bartolom, Hydraulic Development and Ethnocide: The Mazate c and Chinantec People of Oaxaca, Mexico, (Copenhagen: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, 1973).
12 Chapter 2 situates the history of the Papaloapan projects within the historiography to rethink narratives and periodizations of the Mexican state. The goal is to a new set of archives and [add] 3 Rather, a postcolonial approach to environmental history in Mexico unsettles traditional political narratives about the dominance of the one party state and the variegated forms of discontent to which it gave rise. In C hapter 3 I describe the origins of the Papaloapan River projects as a n official response to the thr eats from floods and the newly perceived opportunities presented by tropical nature. I look closely at the language deployed by Mexican officials to justify bringing the Papaloapan Basin and its people into the modernizing nation. Although state efforts ultimately languished as a result of decreased federal funding, increased fighting among various government agencies, and the unwillingness of local people to confo rm to government dictates, they did establish the authority of scientific knowledge to discursively order nature and culture. Chapter 4 examines the work of social scientists that justified intervention in the region, and simultaneously facilitated the specific forms of the development projects. When President Miguel Alemn initiated the Papaloapan Projects, officials and scientists knew very little about the basin. Researchers f rom Mex ico City poured into the region to catalo gue the flora and fauna so as to de termine the best strategies for economi c development. Anthropologists working under the guidance of the Instituto Nacional Indigenista (INI), took a new interest in the ind igenous groups of Oaxaca, 3 Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 200), 107.
13 particularly the Mazatecas and Chinantecas of the upper Papaloapan basin. Ethnographers were interested in exami ning indigenous culture to describe, and explicitly to facilitate the decline of traditional folkways and the transit ion to modernity. efforts to transform peasants in Oaxaca into modern farmers represented only one aspect of a broader effort to modernize Mexican agriculture according to the dictates of scien ce and commerce. Chapter 5 places government prog rams in the highlands of Oaxaca in the context of modern ization projects informed by developed as the result of collaboration between the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation. The Rockefeller Foundation brought new credibility to the science of agronomy in Mexico and led researchers to address social problems by defining problems specifically in terms of puzzles that science could resolve. In particular, a perceived crisis of food shortages led scientists to fo cus narrowly on increasing production. Resistance to government modernization and development began to experience the negative consequences of using hybrid seeds that required massive amounts of costly chemica l fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation. In Chapter 6 I describe the new forms of peasant political mobilizatio n that emerged as the state attempted to revitalize the Papaloapan projects in the early 1970s. By then, an amorphous coalit ion of students, scholars, and local actors oppose d state development projects This coalition decried the environmental devastation of large scale public works, and it celebrated indigenous knowledge as an alternative to big science Rather than uncritically championing indigenous knowledge and environmental practices, I examine the 1970s as a historical moment in which new
14 languages of environmental stewardship challenged older scientific discourse about the efficacy of modern agricultural techniques In the Conclusion I argue for the utility of a that was always weak and fragmented when it came to remaking nat ure and culture in the Mexican hinterland. Notes on Sources I first traveled to Mexico City in June 2006. On the advice of Antonio Escobar Ohmstede of the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudias Superiores en Antropologa Social (CIESAS), I visited the Arch ivo Historico del Agua. Touring the archive, I was shown a large collection of documents from the Papaloapan Commission. Until scholars and preservationists rescued the collection from the humid tropics and documents available to researchers. When I returned to Mexico in 2008, it was encouraging to see students and scholars from the na tional university, ( Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico UNAM) working diligently and collegially in the or researching the grand works of the laborers who construct ed the Miguel Alemn Dam and the roads and irrigation canals that crisscrossed the basin. Settling in to work, I found that many of the documents from the Papaloapan collection were not yet available to researchers. They remained stored in boxes while t he staff attempted to catalogue and preserve the delicate paper often gossamer thin carb on copies of official state correspondence As I conducted my research, only some
15 2000 of the 40,000 documents, photographs, and reports from the collection had been preserved and catalogued. Nonetheless, the Fondo de Papaloapan at the Archivo Historico del Agua served as the most important reservoir of sources for this study. I was able to access official government proclamations, reports and correspondences from P apaloapan Commission officials and engineers, and petitions to the Commission and the federal government from people demanding indemnification or compensation for damages to their property especially their fruit trees. I also had access to the small but excellent library housed at the archive. The library collection contained almost all of the academic work sponsored by the federal government and the Papaloapan Commission. Others could be found a short metro ride away in the collections at UNAM or the B iblioteca Daniel Coso Villegas at the Colgio de M xico. Published academic work provides much o f the material for Chapter 4 However, I have tried to avoid reading such studies as transparent windows into the world of the past. I avoid using economic, botanical, or ethnographic studies in order to establish a baseline from which to evaluate the changes introduced by the work of the Papaloapan Commission. When the Commission began its construction projects, the Papaloapan Basin was already in transition Though the region was less influenced by the anti clerical battles of the 1920s or the agrarian reform of the 1930s, the Mexican Revolution brought important changes to the region. The Papaloapan Commission, and the scholars it employed to predict and promote economic development, tried to accelerate the process of integrating the residents of the southern tropics into the modern nation. They were outsiders with their own assumptions about tropical nature and tropical
16 people. They deployed an academic, scientific discourse to construct tropical people as objects in need of study and state intervention. Though I have relied heavily on the Papaloapan Collection in the Archivo Historico del Agua, because of the limitations imposed by the ongoing proces s of preservation, I have supplemented those official sources with federal government collections in the Archivo General de la Nacin (AGN). The presidential papers of Miguel Alemn and Luis Echeverr a were particularly helpful, as was the official organ of the Mexican government, the Diario Official Newspaper accounts of travelers, both Mexican and American, were important for constructing an image of the Papaloapan basin and i ts people according to preconceived assumptions about the tropics just ified state intervention.
17 CHAPTER 1 RETHINKING LEVIATHAN IN THE TROPICS During the past decade, two of the more influential historiographic al movements of the twentieth century, environmental history and postco lonial studies, matured, and reached poin ts of crisi s. Scholars from both movement s have wrestled with the problem of breaking free of the modular geographic and theoretical boundaries that have characterized the academic discipline of history in the United States and Europe Increasingly, both environmental historians and postcolonial scholars have expanded the applicability of their fields beyond their initial spatial and temporal limits. Environmental historians have repeatedly proclaimed the need to expand their studies beyond the bord ers of the United States though they have shown little inclination to engage with theoretical insights and historiographies from other regions. Much of the work on environmental history is often, unconsciously perhaps, shaped by research agendas first establ ished among U.S. environmental historians which are then projected onto other places In contrast, postcolonial scholars have criticized and deconstructed Euro and U.S. centric narratives of history, developing theoretical insights derived from Bri tish and French decolonization movements in Asia and Africa and from the global diaspora of postcolonial intellectuals. Notably, Latin Americanists have engaged in a critique of this critique, asserting that the British and French cases have tended to sub ordinate the postcolonial history of the Americas. Notably, i n both the environmental history and postcolonial studies Latin Americ anists figure prominently in recent deb ates. Nevertheless there have been relatively few attempts to engage U.S. centric environmental history from a Latin Americanist postcolonial perspective that challenges
18 the ways in which knowledges of nature have been constructed and deploye d 1 Although postcolonial scholars concerned with processes of state formation, domination, or subjugated, subaltern knowledges in Latin America have often focus ed on popular and political culture, they have tended to ignore the ways in which concepts of nature buttressed state projects that attempt to assert hegemony In this study, I propose t hat postcolonial investigations of the relationship between the construction of environmental knowledge and the exercise of political power a re useful for understanding h ow tropical places and people are discursivel y constructed in ways that facilitate bot h state intervention and the critique of the ses on the organizational potential of peasant which unsettle objective claims to scientific truth, and upset teleological notions of progress toward the [secular/rational of the past. 2 1 Notable exceptions exist, of course with the historical literature, though the emergence of the subfield of colonial/postcolonial power and domination See Richard Peet and Michael Watts, Liberation Ecologies: Environment, Development, Social Movements, (London: Routledge, 1996). 2 Issacman, Florencia E Mallon, William Roseberry, Steve J. Stern, eds., Confronting Historical Paradigms: Peasants, Labor, and the Capitalist World Systems in Africa and Latin America, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993), 318 Michel Foucault Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972 1977, ed. Colin Gordan, trans. Colin Gordan, Leo Marshall, John Mepham, Kate Soper, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980), 81. Dipesh Chakrabarty makes a similar enshrined in the practices of academic historians. See Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, (Princeton: Princ eton University Press, 2000), 106 107.
19 Environmental historians in the U.S. academy have struggled to move beyond the geographic al boundaries and historiographic al traditions within the United States. Richard Grove atta cks American e nvironmental historians who demonstrated a have demonstrated a clear sense 3 Grove argues that American scholars have only recently become aware of the rest of the world as a result the rapid environmental degradation in peripheral, tropical regions. Perhaps responding to such critiques, p ractitioners of environmental history have tried to expand their field of inquiry. In 2005, the editors of the journal Environmental History marked their tenth anniversary by reflecting on the state of the field and speculating about future directions. Man y of the contributors proposed including scholars from other parts of the world in their discussions and expanding the membership of the American Society of ASEH can be o ff 4 And, recently participants in a roundtable discussion published by the American Historical Review environmental history to non 5 In a similar way, postcolonial scholars in the Latin American field have confronted the challenge of extending theoretical insights beyond their original boundaries, in this 3 New Perspectives on Historical Writing, (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania States University Press, 2001), 263 264. 4 Environmental History, 10:1 (January 2005). 5 American Historical Review, 113:5, (Dec. 2008), 1431 1465. Sedrez acknowledges, though, that scholars of Lat in America were concerned the relationship between humans and nature long before such inquiries were
20 case th ose by the normative Anglophone and Francophone literatures. New critiques from the perspective of Latin American and global history have promp ted postcolonial scholars in the Anglophone tradition to re evaluate the limits of the field. 6 Some scholars propose extending the temporal and geographic boundaries of postcolonial studies to look critically and comparatively at different colonial and pos tcolonial experiences, particularly those of Latin America 7 and the contributors to Aft er Spanish Rule have challenged a modular postcolonialism defined by the historical experiences of the decolonized nations of twentieth century Asia and Africa. Thurner follows Peter Hulme in asserting a place for Latin America in discussions of postcolon ialism, though he cautions against uncritically expanding notions of the po stcolonial to such an extent that postcolonial theory becomes the very 6 See work on globalization by Fredrick Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, (Durham: Duke Un iversity Press, 1990); Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996); Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000). For a recent ret hinking of postcolonial studies see Ania Loomba, Suvir Kaul, Matti Bunzl, Antoinette Burton, Jed Etsy, Postcolonial Studies and Beyond (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005). 7 tes questions of agrarian development and environmental history when he asks, metaphorically, about whether scholars Peter 21:1 (Jan. 1995), 117; See also Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post Colonial Literatures (London: Roudedge, 1989); Mark Thurner and Andres Guerrero, eds., After Spanish Rule: Postcolonial Predicaments of the Americas ( Durham: Duke University Press, 2003); Walter D. Mignolo, Local Histories/ Global Designs: Colonilaity, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking (Princeton: Princeton indigenous forms of knowledge from different parts of the world and Anglophone academics to help correct some of the inequities fostered by colonialism and postcolonial regimes of knowledge and power. See also, Bi On Post Colonial Futures: Transformations of Colonial Culture, (London: Continuum, 2001), 21 35.
21 type of universalizing discou rse that its propone nts critique. 8 Thurner notes a deep lizing the postcolonial so as to include Spanish American historicities would only contribute to a nauseating universalization or normalization of a postcolonial panopticon, thus closing the very critical slit that an edgy postcolonial heterodoxy from the criticism could represent yet another discursive conquest of Latin America from the Anglophone centers of academic power. 9 ncializing as Chakrabarty has proposed, but also on provincializing a modular postcolonial theory. For Thurner, a two phase progression from an early modern colonialism in the Americas to a modern colonialism in Asia and Africa is limiting in two attempted to incorporate subaltern populations into modernizing developmentalist pr pronounced than during the formal colonial period of Spanish imperial rule from 8 9 After Spanish Rule: Postcolonial Predicaments of the Americas, ed. Mark Thurner and Andres Guerrero, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 13 14. For a critique of the project to apply postcolonial studies to Lat in America see J. Jorge Klor After Colonialism:Imperial Histories and Postcolonial Displacement s, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 241 278 and Anne Hulme, Margaret Iverson, eds., Colonial Discourse/ Postcolonial Theory, (Manchester: Ma nchester University Press, 1994), 253 266.
22 10 We are a temporal shift critic al work of undermining the developmentalist teleology of the nation as the universal 11 Like Thurner, Florencia Mallon continues to wrestle with the applicability of shifting notions of subalternity an d postcolonialism in Latin America. According to Mallon, such theories were attractive because they o ffered a critical alternative for radical scholars disillusioned with the decline of the left in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 12 As she continues to eng age with the variants of postcolonial theory that emerged from debates within Subaltern Studies, Mallon notes that much of the them to alternative periodizations and 13 10 29. 11 39. 12 The American Historical Review 99:5, (December 1994). 13 Postcolonial Studies and Beyond ed. Ania Loomba, Suvir Kaul, Matti Bunzl, Antoinette Burton, Jed Etsy, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), 273.
23 Like others, Mallon recognizes that Latin American nations had been independent for nearly two centuries before the contemporaneous emergence of both anti colonial liberation movements and postcolonialism as a critical intellectual stance. onialism as a postcolonial analyses can be productively applied to Latin America, and that Latin American case studies can serve to complicate and extend postcolonial theories. 14 Mallon argues that comparisons with the decolonization movements of the mid when decolonization in Asia and Africa reached its peak, Latin America was hittin g the popular period that is, the time when activist and development oriented states attempted a more recognizable national democratic project, complete with broader social, economic, and political inclusion for oppressed gr during the mid twentieth century many Latin American liberati 15 Furthermor e, Mallon urges scholars to re consider indigenous challenges to national developmentalist project s that normally get folded into the amorphous category 14 273. 15
24 yearnings and visions were in national between the failure of national populists experiments and the ongoing desire for national 16 This study follows Mallon and James Scott in examining the vicissitudes of state led developmentalist proje cts in the postcolonial world States throughout Asia and Africa followed Mexican examples as they poured tremendous resources into large scale infrastructure and public works projects aimed at bringing the into national modernity by transforming th e agrarian sector. Indeed, the postcolonial world is 17 Postcolonial governments tried to construct and create new economic and social conditions. In the process, however, they dramatically altered the physical environment and unleashed forms of poli tical mobilization that rallied around a language of native environment al stewardship. Thus, the Papaloapan projects, which count among the earliest and largest development projects in the postcolonial worl d, offer an ideal opportunity to exploring the critical intersection of postcolonial studies and environmental history. Considering the confluence of goals and research agendas, one might expect environmentalists and postcolonial scholars to be natural a llies. Environmentalists and postcolonial scholars share an interest in the transnational forces that shape our 16 17 James Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certai n Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 3.
25 contemporary world. They each focus on the displacement and destruction wrought by planned modernist development. They each celebrate the (more or less) marginalized historical actors who challenged the dominant forms of power and knowledge that have defined the natural world as simply a reservoir of capitalist commodities, though postcolonial scholars have also argue d that the dominant ecological ideologies of wilderness preservation or rational scientific management also environmental historians often stand at odds with scholars from postcol onial traditions. According to one literary critic, four main schisms divide postcolonial scholars and environmentalists. Postcolonialists tend to examine instances of discontinuity or hybridity, while environmentalists and environmental historians often focus on Postcolonial studies often deal with displacement, while environmentalism is rooted in specific natural spaces. Additionally, postcolonial critics of nationali sm often run up against environmental discourses that emerged from nationalist concerns for preserving national identity and natural heritage. Finally, postcolonial scholars remain critical of the tendency among environmentalists to exclude or misrepresen t marginal voices as they 18 This study attempts to bridge the intellectual divide and asserts the usefulness of insights from postcolonial studies for a history of environmentalism in Latin America. 19 18 Rob in Postcolonial Studies and Beyond ed. Ania Loomba, Suvir Kaul, Matti Bunzl, Antoinette Burton, Jed Et sy, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), 234 235. 19 onmentalism and Postcolonialism,
26 Environmental historians have carved out the niche of their own unique subfield by drawing, thoughtfully if eclectically, on a variety of other academic disciplines. They reconcile the others. 20 boundaries among traditional historical subfields, be they national or thema tic, and that translates the jargon and technical, self referential languages of various academic disciplines into accessible narratives. 21 Of course, there is a danger in venturing into the 22 Beyond the issue of the potential limits imposed by the challenges of training in different aca demic vocabularies and debates, environmental historians must demonstrate that they have something unique and interesting to offer a variety of disciplines, that they are not merely handmaidens to historical ecologists or political historians. Environment al historians have had to develop their own sets of questions and methodologies. According to Donald Worster, one of the pioneers of environmental history in the U.S. academy, environmental historians first emerged out of parallel intellectual and politic al movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Intellectually, environmental history was part of a revisionist trend aimed at making historical narratives more inclusive. Where 20 Journal of American History, 76:4, (Mar. 1990), 1122. 21 Environmental History Review, 17:3, (Fall 1993), 4 5. 22
27 other scholars were trying to include the hidden layers of race, class, and gender by wr the earth itself as an agent of historical change. Certainly, there were intellectual precursors. In the United States, historian of the U.S. West had been influenc e d by the the frontier in American life recognized of the dynamic interplay between nature and culture. In addition, environmental historians have drawn inspiration from the French long dure 23 More recently, critics have argued that e nvironmental historians are latecomers to questions about interactions between nature and culture that have long been the preoccupation of historical geographers like Carl Sauer. 24 Environmental history also emerged alongside the environmental movement, th e political and social movement that began to take its modern shape in the United States Silent Spring, and flourished through the 1970s. 25 From the beginning, environmental history has been marked by a sense o f moral purpose and political commitment. As it matured, however, the interests of 23 The Ends of The Earth: Perspectives on Modern Environmental History, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1988), 290. 24 eter Burke, ed., New Perspectives on Historical Writing, (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001), 263 264. 25 There were, of course, important earlier moments of environmental consciousness and activism in the United States before C century romantics, the home and the workplace. Yet, many still credit Carson with inaugura ting the modern environmental movement as a political and social phenomenon. For a discussion of the early development of The American Hi storical Review, 100:4, (Oct. 1995), 1177 1189.
28 environmental historians diverged from those of environmental activists. Many environmentalists see in nature timeless universals that offer a counterpoint to modern, indu healing, modernity. 26 For many environmental historians, such utopian environmental fantasies are ah decontextualized arguments, excessive generalizations, and plain old fashioned wishful thinking. 27 However sympathetic environment al historians may have been to the goals env understanding of how humans have been affected by their natural environments 28 In the broadest terms, environmental historians have devoted themselves to three levels of analysis that illustrate the unique contribution that the subfield can contribute to the study of history. First, environmental historians have examined changes in the natural environmen 29 Finally, environmental 26 11. 27 28 291. 29 ti 1123.
29 historians have scrutinized the perceptions, ideologies, and values that human cultures have imposed on or expressed throu gh their relationship to the natural world. 30 In examining the changes in natural environments of the past, historians have looked toward the natural sciences, particularly the field of ecology. Ecology examines the interactions among organisms and betw een them and their physical environments. changes, the close link between envir onmental history and ecology presents problems and limitations. For example, historians must contend with competing versions of competing explanations of environmental ch ange. The modern scientific discipline of ecology has its roots in the ideas of such thinkers as Fredrick Clements and Eugene Odum, each of whom postulated a sense of an ordered natural equilibrium that would remain relatively stable if freed from outside interferences and disruptions. 31 More recent ecological understandings emphasize instability and dynamic, constant change. 32 Though, the differences in interpretation may actually result from differences in the scale of analysis. What looks like consta nt environmental change in the short term, may seem relatively stable from afar and over the long duration. And, indeed, environmental historians have wrestled with the appropriate scale for their 30 The Ends of the Earth, Perspectives on Modern Environmental History, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 289 307. 31 See Donald Worster, : A History of Ecological Idea s, second edition, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994); but also Eugene P. Odum, Fundamentals of Ecology, second edition, (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders and Co., 1959). 32 See, for example, Daniel Botkin, Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty First Century, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).
30 studies. Many, especially those who admire the work of Bra udel and the French Annalistas emphasize that, as a subfield, environmental history has made its greatest contributions by looking at the development of human societies in ecological, if not geological time. In such cases, changes in the relationship betw een human cultures and the natural world could really only be dramatically altered under truly remarkable circumstances. 33 At its worst, looking at changes in the relationship between human culture and the natural world from such a perspective can lead to e ssentializing complex human history and culture, while offering a crude environmental determinism as the major explanatory factor in historical change. 34 This study asserts that there is a real value in examining environmental change over the short or inte rmediate term. As scholars studying the impact of natural disasters which the routine 35 In times of ecological stress, the ordinary routines of daily life become visible to the historian. Such moments mea ningful comment and reflection. Furthermore, moments of dramatic environmental 33 See Alfred Crosby, The Columbian Exchange: The Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, 30 th Anniversary Edition, ( New York: Praeger, 2003 ). 34 The Pulitzer Prize winning book, Jared Di amond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies, (New York: W. B. Norton and Company, 1999) exemplifies this trend. Though admired by many environmental historians, Diamond offers a narrative of inevitable cultural development in Eurasia as the result of such environmental privileges as East West migration patterns and access to large domesticable his own assumptions express a Eurocentric emphasis on the accumulation of material goods as the ultimate expression of culture. 35 Louis A. Perez, Jr., Winds of Change: Hurricanes and The Transformation of Nineteenth Century Cuba, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 12.
31 change alter the relationship between nature and culture, and between unequal members with society, so completely that new relationships can emerge out of the scarred and flood ed landscapes of the past. Of course, by the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, human technology had progressed to the point where human initiatives, however well intentioned, could provoke disastrous consequences that often rivaled the most dramatic and destructive natural disasters. Humans literally moved mountains and changed the course of rivers, flooding upland valleys to quench the thirst of lowland farmers. Like studies of natural disasters, the present study seeks to understand the impact of env ironmental change in the short and intermediate term in order to include environmental change (in this case man 36 Large scale studies over the long term might suggest an ordered e cological equilibrium that could only be disrupted by extraordinary human interventions, such as the encounter between the Europe and the Americas in the fifteenth century. Without denying some of the benefits of such studies of the long ue dure smaller scale analysis offers the advantage of exploring the contingency of human history, and illuminates those flashpoints when it became possible to re imagine new ways for human cultures to live in nature. The second, and perhaps the most prevalent, level of analysis that has intrigued environmental historians involves not simply changes in the land, but the complex interaction between natural forces and human political economies or modes of production. Environmental historians looking at the evolving and interactive relationship 36 Perez, Winds of Change, 10.
32 between nature and culture have often drawn on the work of materialist cultural anth ropologists, especially that of Julian Steward and Marvin Harris. In his seminal work, Theory of Cultural Change: The Methodolog y of Multilinear Evolution, Steward posits a theor y of cultural ecology to explain the relationship between economic production and the physical environment. He asks pointed questions about which resources people exploited, what technologies they employed and finally, about how people organized themselves in order to undertake such forms of production or environmental exploitation. Steward proposes cultural ecology as a new way of thinking and a new research method. 37 Marvin Harris draws on such notions to purely chance cultural 38 Harris is primarily interested in promoting a scientific theory of historical change, and a scientific way of explaining variations and divergent evolutionary paths among different cultures. In his later work, he develops his ideas into a theory of cultural materialism. According to Harris, the relationship of a 37 Anthropology in Theory: Issues in Epistemology, ed. Henrietta Moore and Todd Sanders, (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 103 106. 38 Marvin Harris, The Rise of Anthro pological Theory: A History of Theories of Culture, updated edition, (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2001), 655; Harris, The Rise of Anthropological Theory, 660 661; most closely related to subsistence activities and economic arrangements. The core includes such social, political, and religious patterns as are empirically determined to be closely connected with these arrangements. Innumerable other features may have g reat potential variability because they are less strongly tied to the core. These latter, or secondary features, are determined to a greater extent by purely cultural historical factors by random innovations or by diffusion and they give the appearanc e of outward distinctiveness to cultures with similar cores. Cultural ecology pays primary attention to those features which empirical analysis shows to be most closely involved in the utilization of the environment in culturally prescribed teward, Theory of Cultural Change, (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1955), 37.
33 given culture. There are a number of serious problems wit many environmental historians have addressed precisely such questions of shifting from one techno to another. In particular, Latin Americanists, have focused on two major shifts in the dominant mode of production. First, they have examined the consequences of the shift away from the variety of Indian agricultural practices as European countries conque red and exploited the Americas in a unique capitalist/colonial mode of production. For environmental historians, a shift to capitalism involved redefining the natural world of the Americas as the reservoir for certain natural phenomena that could be valuab le or profitable as commodities, rather than simply an anthropocentric system in which one human group extracts surplus value from another. 39 Second, environmental historians of Latin America have studied the ways in which the intensification of production of commodities accompanied the shift from colonial to national regimes of knowledge and power. Such shifts involved the search for new knowledges and new technologies that altered the natural world in novel ways and shaped the course of Latin American na tion making. 40 39 sense that an ecological perspective demonstrates that relations o f production should more properly be in the process of labor create the u The Journal of American History, 76:4, (Mar., 1990), 1124 1125. 40 In many ways, defining and labeling the different modes of production is rather arbitrary. One of the that there is no consensus on exactly how many various modes of production exist, or on which criteria should be used to define e
34 Pioneering scholars such as Eleanor Melville and Warren Dean have explored the transition from a traditional mode of production to a European/colonial/capitalist mode focused on producing livestock and commodities most desirable to Eu ropean tastes. 41 altering the natural environments of the Americas in novel ways. 42 Other scholars, especially Dean, see the intensification of production of marketable commodities as a major factor leading to the profound environmental degradation of the tropical forests. While avoiding the pitfalls associated with dependency theory or modernization theory, environmental historians of Latin America acknowledge that the region has pla yed a specific role in the capitalist global economy that has emerged, in large part, as a result of the new modes of production initiated by European colonization of the Americas. 43 Certainly, since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many Latin Amer ican countries have been engaged in producing mineral and agricultural markets at the center of his study of the emerging nations of the Caribbean. He attempts to chart the li nk between nation building elites and botanical scientists, focusing particularly on the export booms of the nineteenth and early twentieth 41 Eleanor Melville, Plague of Sheep : Environmental Consequences of the Conquest of Mexico, (Cambridge: Cambridge Universi ty Press, 1997); Warren Dean, With Broadax and Firebrand : The Destruction of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995); For North American examples see William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the E cology of New England, 20 th Anniversary ed., (New York: Hill and Wang, 2003). 42 Shawn William Miller, An Environmental History of Latin America, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). 43 John Soluri, for example, claims that both modernization th eory and dependency theory focus too much attention on American fruit companies as agents of historical change in northern Honduras. Soluri instead focuses on the agency of non company banana growers, nature (in the form of plant pathogens), and the influ ence of American consumers. See John Soluri, Banana Cultures : Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States, (Austin; University of Texas Press, 2005),
35 centuries. McCook argues that planter elites sought to increase yields (intensification, rather than the extensific ation of simply expanding territory under production). Due to ideological sympathies of the post Enlightenment period, they turned to technology and science to offer solutions to control the natural areas of the national territories. McCook argues that t (particularly American) research institutes but adapted practices to unique tropical conditions. 44 In his c ompelling book on banana cultivation in Honduras, John Soluri employs of Central America. Agroecology is an emerging field that examines the interactions between agricu ltural systems and their surrounding environments. According to Soluri, possess both dynamic pasts and uncertain futures rooted in an ecosocial realm of 45 Tho simply offers a refinement on thinking about the relationship between human society and the specific mode of production defined by agricultural commodity production. Christian Brannstro m and Stephania Gallini have gone as far as declaring that the intersection of territories, commodities, and knowledges represents a promising trend for charting a distinct course for Latin American environmental history. They ask: 44 Stuart McCook, States of Nature: Science, Agriculture, and E nvironment in the Spanish Caribbean, 1700 1940 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002). 45 John Soluri, Banana Cultures 5.
36 1. To what extent was environmental change at the center of territorial conflicts between nation states and indigenous peoples or local communities? 2. What were the environmental implications of the commodities produced in and exported from Latin America? 3. How did new knowle dge encourage territorial expansion and production of new commodities? 46 However, their supposition that a focus on a mode of production characterized by commodity production can represent a unique and singular contribution from Latin American environmenta l history is challenged by the fact the historians from other traditions have presented remarkably similar analytical models. In another context, historians of South Asia have proposed a research agenda centered on a modified understanding of shifting mod es of production. Though they l and Ramachandra Guha focus primarily on writing environmental history in terms of shifting modes of production. 47 Gadgil and Guha present a challenge and critique to the Marxist ing that historians have argued, Gadgil and Guha claim that earlier conceptions ignore the on, 46 Christian Brannstrom, Stephania Gallini. "An Introduction to Latin American Environmental History." In Territories, Commodities and Knowledges: Latin American Environmental History in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries ed. Christian Brannstrom, (London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2004), 2. 47 Madhav Gadgil and Ramachandra Guha, This Fissured Land: An Ecological History of India, (Oxford: University of Oxford Press, 1992), 4.
37 48 As such, they examine historical change in terms of conflict between different modes of resource use, and conflict within a given mode. 49 The f ocus on modes of producti on, especially on the capitalist mode of production, has produced significant insights. Environmental historians have argued that the shift from traditional systems to capitalism over the past five hundred years has led to the comm odification of land, ecological simplification, monocultures vulnerable to pests and disease, and an unequal division of labor. Yet, not all environmental historians agree on a research agenda focused on studying the production of commodities, or indeed on a program that places modes of production at the center of the relationship between nature and culture. While many historians have written about the intersection of economy and ecology, few have successfully integrated all three of the levels that distin guish the field of environmental history. Too often, historians have complex int erdependence of human societies and the natural world. Put another way, some environmental historians have expressed reservations about a research agenda 50 48 Gadgil and Guha, This Fissured Land, 4 13. 49 Marxist foundations to reformulate understandin gs of conflicts over natural resources in terms of politics more centrally, draws upon aspects of discourse theory which demand that the politics of meaning and the construction of knowledge be taken seriously, and engages with the wide ranging critique of development and modernit Watts, L iberation Ecologies 3. 50 ion: Placing Nature in The Journal of American History, 76:4, (Mar., 1990) 1123 1124.
38 William Cronon, for example, argues that the focus on modes of production is limited in three main ways. First, with little effort to reach an agreement on what, multiply to such a degree that the term loses all ana lytical specificity. Second, such various modes. Finally, the overwhelming emphasis on shifts to an ill defined historians to the repetitive task of retelling the same story 51 Instead of focusing simply on modes of production, Cronon suggests that environm ental historians extend pioneering broader cultural systems in which various modes of produ ction are embedded. 52 This third level of analysis for environmental history, then, proves to be the most useful for reconciling environmental history and postcolonial criticism Many scholars believe that environmental historians have done their best wo perceptions and values people have held about the non 53 Such historians often follow literary critic Raymond Williams in noting that the very term he idea of nature contains, though often unnoticed, an extraordinary amount of human 51 1131. 52 1131. 53
39 54 The term carries a multitude of overlapping, and often contradictory, meanings that are the product of historical processes. Environmental historians have scr 55 Such analysis provides a bas is for linking environmental history with the investigations of the relationship between the construction of knowledge and the exercise of power that have come to characterize postcolonial studies. In particular, I argue that ideas about Latin American en vironments are important in three distinct, but related ways. First, following scholars who have examined the ways in which depictions continued to influence Mexican government planners trying to incorporate the Papaloapan River Basin into a broader program of nationalist development. Second, with scientific notions of agronomy tha t marginalized local knowledge and indigenous land use practices. Finally, linking postcolonial studies and environmental history is useful in analyzing the emergence of environmental movements that challenged the state development projects during the 19 70s and 1980s. Whereas other studies of product of middle class chilango concern over air pollution in Mexico City, focusing on marginalized or subjugated voices reveals a discourse of nativist environmentalism 54 Culture and Materialism: Selected Essays, (London: Verso, 1980), 67. 55
40 linked to indigenous rights movements that champion both local knowledge and new priorities of environmental sustainability. Visions of the Tropics Many scholars of Latin America have devoted particular attention t o the ways in colonial projects. According to Felix Driver and Lucianna Martins: The contrast between the temperate and the tropic al is one of the most enduring them es in the h istory of global imaginings. Whether represented positively (as in fantasies of the tropical sublime) or negatively (as a pathological space of degeneration), tropicality has frequently served as a foil to temperate nature, to all that is modest civilized, cultivated. 56 Depictions of tropical environmental abundance often accompany descriptions of European civilization. In addition to justifying coloniali sm, images of the tropics as an earthly paradise led Europeans to project utopian fantasies onto American tropical Europeans to characterize, identify, and organize their perceptions of nature at the popular imaginings of tropical American nature. Grove describes the powerful images of the biblical realm in which Paradise might be recreated or realized on earth, thereby implying a 56 Felix Driver, Lucianna Martins, Tropical Visions in a n Age of Empire, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005) 3.
41 structure for a moral world in which interactions between people and na ture could be 57 In addition to representing a place of earthly paradise, the tropics could also be 58 Tropical nature could stand for many contradictory images diseased environment; for superabun dant fertility but also for fatal excess; for species novelty but also for the bizarre and deadly; for lazy sensuality and sexuality but also for 59 In these narratives, people living in tropical climates becom e mere caricatures. They are depicted as brutal savages or noble savages, or in more recent struggles over environmental preservation, indigenous peoples of tropical environments are silenced by discourses that treat them much like an endangered species w hose habitat must be protected. 60 In either case, tropical nature and tropical peoples become objects to be acted upon by outsiders. According to ropicality about, and representi ng [places and peoples], characterizing [them] in terms of certain 57 Richard Grove, Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600 1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) 13. Though the term predicament of being tropical or postcolonial. Tropicalism would refer to the discourse that essentializes that condition or predicament. 58 Nancy Leys S tepan, Picturing Tropical Nature, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001), 18 59 Stepan, Picturing Tropical Nature, 21. 60 Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature, (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1995), 119 121.
42 stereotypical features, defining [them] in ways which simultaneously express both 61 Jorge Caizares Esguerra goes further and offers a so phisticated reading of how European ideas of nature have inspired efforts to remake the natural world since the sixteenth century. Arguing against North American exceptionalism, Caizares Esguerra focuses on commonalities between Northern European and Ibe rian colonialism, and he asserts that Iberian ideas of nature motivated both Spanish and Puritan conceptions of the Americas. He argues that Europeans viewed America as a domain in which the devil had dominated man and nature for centuries. Colonization, then, became a Manichean contest against the forces of evil, and attempts to assert control of the natural world took on a spiritual urgency. Caizares Esguerra argues that agricultural plantations were more than just economic enterprises, they were a fo 62 Caizares sensitive to the ways in which the fragments of the colonial p ast invade a modernity century Mexican policy makers continued to understand an agricultural transformation as the necessary antidote to the forces of darkness and superstition. Caizares Esg uerra also argues for the colonial Iberian roots of modern science and a link between the emergence of scientific orthodoxies and commercial development. He argues that Creole scientists inspired the work of the famed German 61 David Arnold, The Problem of Nature: Environment, Culture, and European Expansion, (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 1996), 141 142 62 Jorge Caizares Esguerra, Puritan Conquistadors: Iberianizing the At lantic, 1550 1700, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), 186.
43 naturalist Alexander von Humbo ldt. Caizares Esguerra claims to read [the American landscape] as a natural laboratory for the study of geography of plant communities in part because local Spanish American scholars had for decades (if not centuries) been deve 63 Caizares Esguerra also claims that eighteenth century scholars in the Americas moved beyond a study of nature meant to c [to] become a leading 64 process. In her seminal study of travel writers, Mary Louise Pratt argues that, however ideas may have been, his writings influenced generations of European natural scientists. 65 66 indigenous peoples appear onl y as the dead inhabitants of ancient ruins, or as servants mal world of nature, an unclaimed and timeless 63 Jorge Caizares Esguerra, Nature, Empire, and Nation: Explorations, of the History of Science in the Iberian World, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), 116; For a discussion o f the influence of Humboldt and nineteenth century depictions of the American tropics, see Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, (London: Routledge, 1992); Jorge Caiza res Esguerra, How to Wri te the History of the New World : Histories, Epistemologies, and Identities in the Eighteenth Century World (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001 ). 64 Jorge Caizares Esguerra, Nature, Empire, and Nation: Explorations of the History of Science in the Iberian World, (Stanford: Stanfor d University Press, 2006), 62 63. 65 Pratt does not disagree with Caizares Esguerra on the influence of American thinkers, though she places less emphasis on the origins of his though than his influence. See Pratt, Imperial Eyes, 124 130. 66 Pratt, Imperia l Eyes, 120.
44 space occupied by plants and creatures (some of them human) but not organized by 67 co nceptualizing nature as a reservoir of commercial resources that both European colonial powers and the leaders of nearly independent nations hoped to exploit. According to Caizares Esguerra, as Humboldt derived many of his ideas from Iberio American colo nial thinkers, he reinterpreted and gave new value to indigenous sources and earlier Spanish chronicles. He stood apart from, but influenced contemporary debates in which Creole thinkers and exiled Jesuits challenged Eurocentric claims about the degenera tive qualities of American tropical environments. 68 As Creoles anticipated and influenced Humboldt, they developed their own theories about Latin American nature, they altered Eurocentric scientific assumptions and they articulated what Caizares Esguerra Such thinkers as Francisco Javier Clavijero and Juan de Velasco wrote histories of the Aztec and Inca empires that challenged the perceptions of enlightened travel writers and validated the oral history of Amerindians and t he early accounts of Spanish friars as credible sources of historical information. For Caizares Esguerra, investigating such Creole sources is useful for critiquing 69 For the purposes of this study, however, Caizares 67 Pratt, Imperial Eyes, 126. 68 For the classic study of debates between Creole and European thinkers, See Antonello Gerbi, The Dispute of the New World: The History of a Polemic, 1750 1900, Rev. Ed., trans. Jeremy Moyle, (Pittsburgh: Universit y of Pittsburgh Press, 1955); Caizares Caizares Esguerra, How to Wri te the History of the New World 347 348. 69 Cai zares Esguerra, How to Write the History of the New World, 210.
45 European and American. Images of the natural world in the American tropics insp ired colonial attempts to bring order and claim the New World as part of an epic struggle against the devil. With epistemological shifts in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Creoles patriots and the leaders of new nations (who were not necessarily the same people) re imagined an awe inspiring, empty tropical nature that needed to be brought under control to realize the full commercial potential of the nation. Linking science, agricultural development, and the nation unsettles simple chronological d In twentieth century Mexico, the developmentalist state justified encroachments into the lowlands of the Papaloapan Basin by evoking images of a tropical world outside of time, outside of moder nity. According to Thomas Poleman, an American economist on, disease, and an unpleasant climatic environment, they have historically supported only a small population and a spotty type of 70 Poleman evokes a vision of the tropics that is at once abundant and threatening, and in need of massive 71 would express their own vision of tropical nature in need of outside assistance. Anthrop ologists, travelers, and activists in the 1960s and 1970s valorized an indigenous 70 Thomas Poleman, The Papaloapan Project: Agricultural Development in the Mexican Tropics, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1964), 3. 71 Peter T. Ewell and Thomas T Poleman, Uxpanapa: Agr icultural Development in the Mexican Tropics, (New York: Pergamon Press, 1980), x.
46 culture existing close to nature that was threatened by increased development. With the discursive shifts represented by these new images, indigenous groups in southern Mexico expanded the poli tical sphere to make claims on the state using a language of nativist environmentalism. Such claims were supported by the legitimacy of new scientific discourses that drew upon ancient indigenous land use practices to challenge the dominant scientific par adigm of resource management that had driven the agendas of government planners. History of Science and the State The history of science has become an important component for environmental historians trying to understand the role of ideas about nature in shaping human history. Scientists do not exist in isolation from the societies in which they exist. Scientists and their forms of knowledge reflect, reproduce, and reshape cultural values and relationships of power. Such thinking is not new, of course. It resonates with earlier theoretical scholarship which situates the production of knowledge within local and to assert that science is a way of knowing that has a uniquely transcendent value for all claims to objective truth. 72 Though he was not the first to do so, Thomas Kuhn offered an influential challenge to positivist notio ns of scientific progress by arguing that science changed over time as a result of revolutionary paradigm shifts, rather than as a result of the teleological accumulation of observable scientific facts and increasingly accurate 72 Harris, Cultural Materialism 27.
47 explanatory theories. For K as cumulation is entangled with a dominant [Baconian] epistemology that takes knowledge to be a construction placed directly upon 73 Instead, Kuhn argues that normal scientific practices propose and solve puzzles limited by th e parameters of specific interpretive paradigms. As anomalies emerge to demonstrate the ineffectuality of a given paradigm, a crisis emerges among scientists, a crisis which can only be resolved by the rejection of older paradigms in favor of newer explan atory models. For Kuhn, such shifts do not represent the accumulation of scientific progress. Instead, they are something akin to political revolutions in which advocates of competing paradigms square off to win the hearts and minds of the scientific com choice 74 Scientific knowledge, experimental designs, and claims to truth are functions of scientific discourse and they are ultimately political. In their study, Leviathan and the Air Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life, Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer critique the processes by which scientific orthodoxies have been constructed oblem of generating and protecting knowledge is 75 of historical and sociological Instead Golinski proposes what he c which regards 73 Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2 nd ed., (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 96. 74 Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolution, 94. 75 Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985).
48 scientific knowledge primarily as a human product, made with locally situated cultural and material resources. 76 In addition to challenging the ways in which scientific According to Michel Foucault, criti cal historians of science are ge nerally not functioning of an organized scie effect of power that scientific discourses create as they lay claim to objective truth by discontinuous, disqualified, [or] ill 77 The power of scientific discourse to legitimize certain forms of knowledge, and marginalize others, becomes particularly insidious when claims to scientific expertise buttress colonial and postcolonial projects of state domination Constructing and maintaining state power involves ordering social and historical facts to facilitate governance and administration. 78 the tropics opened humid, fecund regions to state development projects, scientific discourse on the need to manage natural resources supported specific kinds of development projects and marginalized local knowledge and local environmental management practices. According to James Scott, large scale government projects often fail because they 76 Jan Golinski, Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), xvii xviii. 77 84. 78 See Bernard Cohn, Colonialism and it Forms of Knowledge: The British in India, in The Bernard Cohn Omnibus, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)
49 arrogan tly neglect local knowledges. 79 a state to govern it must reduce social complexity and the dynamics of the natural world to terms and concepts that were legible to state policy makers. As Scott claims, in, its products and its workforce more legible and hence more manipulable from above 80 transforming the land from a wild tropical jungle to productive agricultural land, and transforming backwards Indians into productive, modern workers/citizens. Though the projects officially centered on the construction of dams and other works for hydroelectricity and irrigation, the Papaloapan Commission employed a s mall army of researchers to map the basin, to catalogue the flora and fauna of the region, and to compile comprehensive ethnographies of the indigenous peoples that w ere displaced, n the modernist nation al development program was managed by scientific experts trained in new techniques developed by the Mexican 0s and early 1950s, researchers fro m the Rockefeller Foundation produced hybrid seeds that were resistant to plant pathogens and could increase yields of corn and wheat. But, the 79 Scott, Seeing Like a Sta te 80 Scott, Seeing Like a State, 2 3.
50 hybrid seeds required tremendous amounts of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation, all of which required capital and a created a new dependence on access to credit from the government. By linking the government development project to the expertise of agricultural scientists, the Papaloapan projects colonized the tropic al lowlands, but depleted the soils and made the people of the basin more dependent on the state. By the 1970s, as the failures of such schemes became more evident, local indigenous groups mobilized to protest further government public works schemes as the y championed indigenous environmental practices as an alternative model of agricultural development. Environmentalism of the Poor and Nativist Environmentalism Focus on the middle class efforts to curb air pollution in Mexico City has largely obscured other environmental movements in Mexico, particularly the nativist environmentalism the emerged in the wake of the Papaloapan projects. 81 Yet, listening to the political marginalized voices offers a third opportunity for fruitful engagement between postcol onial studies and environmental history. Postcolonial scholars have been particularly influential in the study of environmental politics and conflicts over natural resource use. Many scholars have drawn attention to the ways in which dominant discourses, whether colonial, nationalist developmentalist, or mainstream environmentalist, have worked to silence subaltern voices. In some cases, the work of postcolonial environmental thinkers and activists has been rendered invisible by the dominance of U.S. envi ronmentalists. As Rob Nixon argues, for example, environmentalists such as the prominent Nigerian Ken Saro Wiwa, who was murdered 81 See Lane Simonian, Defending the Land of the Jaguar: A History of Conservation in Mexico, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995).
51 for his efforts, have been largely ignored because they remain outside the American pantheon of environmental thinkers. 82 And as Joan Martinez Alier argued in the early 1990s, environmentalism of the poor remains a neglected area of research. 83 There continues to be an imbalance in scholarly production regarding the emergence of environmentalism in the United States compared t o environmental politics in much of the postcolonial world. For the United States, environmental historians have written sophisticated studies of the multiple environmental experiences and priorities caused by differences of race, class, and gender. 84 Tho ugh instructive, the works of historians of the United States remain limited for studying the emergence of environmentalism in the postcolonial world. Environmental historians have largely limited themselves to studies of the United States. 85 At best, a mutual indifference defines the relationship between environmental historians in the American academy and scholars of the postcolonial world, though real theoretical and disciplinary boundaries often create real animosity between different academic traditi ons. Postcolonial scholars have viewed various strains of environmentalism as elitist or imperialist discourses that 82 onmentalism and Postcolonialism. 83 Joan Martinez Journal of Latin American Studies, 23: 3, (Oct. 1991), 621 622. 84 Mark David Spence, Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the Nationa l Parks, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Karl Jacoby, Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the History of American Conservation, (Berkeley: Univer sity of California Press, 2001); Adam Rome, Bulldozer in the Countryside: Subur ban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001). 84 Robert D. Bullard, Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality, (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990); Robert Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring: Th e Transformation of the American Environmental Movement, (Washington D.C.: Island Press, 1993); Andrew Hurley, Environmental Inequalities: Class, Race, and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana, 1945 1980, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995). 85 According to Ramachandra Guha, of the 300 professional environmental historians in the United States, few look beyond their borders. See Ramachandra Guha, How Much Should a Person Consume? Environmentalism in India and the United States, (Berkele y: University of California Press, 2005), 227.
52 often draw upon capitalist or colonialist rhetoric to attack local land and water use hile, politically engaged, morally outraged environmental activists or Marxist critics deride what they see as nihilism in the various threads of postcolonial thought that are inspired by postmodernism or post structuralist philosophy. 86 However, there ex ists some potential for finding common ground in the study of the environmentalism of the postcolonial poor. Despite their differences with postcolonial assumptions and methods, scholars from Marxist traditions have challenged mainstream environmentalism a nd environmental histories of the United States by arguing for a global sense of environmentalism that accounts for the priorities of the postcolonial poor. 87 Ramachandra Guha and Joan Martinez Alier embrace a nuanced and fragmented Marxism, rather than a d isavowal of Marxist teleologies that characterizes postcolonial studies, but their work often mirrors postcolonial attempts to movements. 88 For nearly two decades, Guha and Martinez Alier have worked both 86 Certainly, this conflation of postmodern and postcolonialism is problematic, as demonstrated by in Postmodernism the Post Critical I nquiry 20:2 (1994) 336 scholars of political apathy. For environmental critiques of postmodernism or postcolonialism see N. Patrick Peritore, Third World Environmentalism: Case St udies from the Global South, (Gainesville, Fl: University of Florida Press, 1999), 19 37; Ramachandra Guha, How Much Should a Person Consume? 33. For Marxist critiques of the postcolonialist turn in subaltern studies see the well known debate between Praka see and Vinayak Chaturvedi, ed. Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial (London: Verso, 2000), 191 238. 87 Gadgil and Guha, This Fissured Land ; Ramachandra Guha, Environmentalism: A Global History, (New York: Longman, 2000); Juan Martinez Alier, The Environmentalism of the Po or: A Study of Ecological Conflicts and Valuation (Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Press, 2002). 88 Chak rabarty, Provincializing Europe
5 3 separately and in collaboration to explore the variety of environmental experiences of people in the global South. Though useful for understanding the contemporary political dimensions of environmental discourses and social movements, such studies of global environmentalism offer relatively few insights into the ways in which history has been environmental resources. Recent historical and anthropo logical scholarship points to the romanticize local actors and the native (or colonial) past, though they also challenge historians and anthropologists, in particular, have leveled devastating critiques against narratives of indigenous peoples as noble ecological savages living in harmony with the natural world according to ancient tradi tions. 89 History is not about objectively reconstructing past events, past lives, or even past environments and landscapes. For more than two decades, critical scholarship has pointed to the political dimensions of the production of historical or ethnograp hic knowledg e. The widespread influence of the South Asian subaltern studies collective and postcolonial scholars, in particular, has convincingly demonstrated the connections between the production of knowledge and the consolidation of colonial and natio nalist regimes of power. Yet, subaltern studies also highlights how historical actors deploy new forms of resistance to totalizing regimes of power in order to reconstruct their own historical 89 Shepard Krech III, The Ecological Indian: Myth and History, (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1999); Candace Slater, Entangled Edens: Visions of the Amazon, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002).
54 subjects, and periodizations that challenge the dominant narra tives. In Mexico, a new language of nativist environmentalism emerged in the wake of the Papaloapan Projects. I am reluctant to think about these nativist environmental movements within the 90 Instead it seems u seful to understand nativist environmental movements, especially when linked to questions of indigenous rights, as a new way of entering the political sphere by reframing deep historical debates about the place of indigenous groups within the Mexican natio n. Are they about something el se? Could they be new articulation of popular politics open to certain actors at a particular historic moment ? And how do they inspire us to rethink knowledges? During the 1970s, while the Mexican state renewed its commitment to large scale irrigation projects to promote development in the tropics of Oaxaca and Veracruz, a critical discourse emerged from anthropologists concerned with the loss of indigenous culture, as well as from indigenous activists who decried the destruction of their environments that resulted from government irrigation and fertilization pro grams. A language of environmental stewardship became politically salient in southern Mexico as government efforts to control and manage water resources faltered nativist environmental discourse to any particular environmental or indigenous rights 90 including not just new social movements, but transnational en vironmental alliances and networks, Richard Peet an d Michael Watts, eds., Liberation Ecology: Environment, Development, Social Movements, (London: Routledge, 1996), 2 3.
55 memories whi ch allow us to establish a historical knowledge of struggles and to make claims to attention of local, discontinuous, disqualified, illegitimate knowledges, against the cl aims of a unit ary body of theory which would order them in the name of some 91 nonstatist forms of democracy that we cannot yet either understand or e nvisage 92 It requires that [that] put us in touch inhabit and create a disjuncture in the present. 93 According to Chak rabarty, subaltern histories, and the act of writing histories of subaltern knowledges, makes such a completely lost. We inhabit their fragments even as we envision our selves as 94 The politics of writing and reading histories (or genealogies) of subjugated knowledges collapses linear time into a present in which distinctions between ancient indigenous knowledges converge with and critique modern scientific knowl edge, 91 92 Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe 106 107. 93 Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe, 108 109. 94 Chakrab arty, Provincializing Europe 112.
56 This study examines Basin as a way to rethink and reconcile environmental history and postcolonial studies at a moment when practitioners from both fields struggle with the implications of expanding their specializations to include Latin American case studies. For environmental historians, this study offers the possibility of ex tending the field to regions outside of the United States, without falling into the trap of defining Latin American environmental history strictly in terms established by Americanists. This study also contributes to debates within postcolonial studies by e xploring the ways in which a nationalist developmentalist state attempted to incorporate supposedly backwards, tropical peoples into the modernizing state by deploying state power and scientific experts to reconfigured local ecologies and local constellati ons of political power. Ultimately, the project seeks to rethink historiographic al debates about the limits o f state power and to excavate the genesis of a discourse o f nativist environmentalism that emerged in the cracks of the Papaloapan projects. It m ay offer new theories of thinking about the complex ways in which local actors engage, understand, and manipulate new political openings. As such, a postcolonial environmental history of development in the Papaloapan Basin should cause us to revise dominan t historical narratives about the one party state and its dissidents in twentieth century Mexico. The outline of such a revision is the subject of Chapter 2.
57 CHAPTER 2 THE MEXICAN LEVIATHA N The Mexican Revolution of 1910 unleashed pent up tensions as Me xicans overthrew the thirty four year dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz (1876 1910). The social pressures spawned by the Revolution allowed for the emergence of one party rule under the Partido Revolucionari o Institucional (PRI). The origins of the PRI date t o the late 1920s, when former president Plutarco Elas Calles organized a political party, the Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR), to consolidate his authority over the veteran officers of the armed phase of t he Revolution following the assa sination of the charismatic general, Alvaro Obregn. Through machinations within the party, Calles maintained power from behind the scenes until 1934, when his handpicked candidate for the presidency, Lzaro Crdenas, challenged his t he Confederacin Regional Obrera Mexicana year term in office, or sexenio (1934 1940) has been widely seen as the high p oint of revolutionary reform. Cr denas redistributed land to peasants as collective farms called ejidos, a colonial tradi ti on of communal land tenure superceded the Pre colombian forms of kin based land ownership Crdenas also maintained a populist public image and appealed to nationalis t sentiment by nationalizing American and British oil companies Crdenas also reformed the official party, making it more broadly inclusive and renaming it the Partido Revolucionario Mexicano (PRM). Under the reorganized party structure, the state s tood as the final arbiter of disputes among various sectors of society that were incorporated into the party along
58 corporativist lines as functional sectors. Mexi can political life was thus channeled through the party and was organized into Mi litary, Indu strial, Agrarian, and Popular sector s The state would provide stability and allow competing political factions to resolve disputes within the party. Crdenas would also favor stability in 1940, when he choose a conservative Catholic, Manuel Avila Camacho over the more radical Francisco Mgica, as his presidential successor. The ele ction of Avila Camacho signaled an end to radical revolutionary land reform and a reorientation of the Revolutionary state and the official Revolu tionary party, which Avila Ca macho renamed the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) in 1946 After 1946 Mexican presidents struggled to articulate a nationalist revolutionary vision in an era marked by capitalist development, foreign investment, and alignment with the United St ates during the Cold War. For supporters, the official party allowed for popula r participation and continued the legacy of the Revolution and led to a period (1946 1970) of undprecedented For detractors, the o ne party state crushed dissent from a younger generation of Mexican l eft ists that witnessed post war decolonization movements and revolutionary success elsewhere in the developing world develop ment Popular dissatisfaction with the PRIista state culminated in 1968 with the massacre of hundreds of student protestors who had gathered in the public square in Tlatelolco, a s historic center. After the Tlatelol co Massacre of 1968, Luis Echeverra, the Minister of the Interior who had been most directly responsible for the violence, was chosen as the official PRI candidate for the 1970 election. Though he tried to appeal to students and the Left by
59 recalling the populist mystique of the Crdenas Era, Echeverra focused on large scale rural development projects and borrowed heavily against oil futures, plunging Mexico into a debt crisi s which climaxed in the early 1980s. Popular political resistance re emerged as t he autocratic nature of the PRI state become apparent when technical managers and economists trained in the United States implemented austerity measures infor med by free market dogmatism or The political mobilization of Mexican civil s ociety since the 1980s has led to the emergence of gen uine opposition parties on the : eft [ the Partido Revolucionario Democ r tico (PRD)] and the R ight [Partido de Accin Nacional (PAN)], the Zapatista rebellion in the southern state of Chiapas, an overhaul of electoral law in the 1990s, the defeat of the PRI at the polls in 2000, and a histori o graphic reevaluation of the nature of the one party stat e and its discontents This study follows recent trends in critically examining the nature of the PRI state after 1940. I focus on one of the largest state led development initiatives of the postwar era, the Papaloapan River projects, to argue that an examination of popular discontent should not be limited to studies of urban civil society or the spectacular mom ents of agrarian revolutionary violence, as in the case of the Neo Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas during the 1990s. Rather, I argue that relations with the state and rural Mexican society are better understood by being attentive to the evolving ways in wh ich rural peoples confronted the flagship p rojects of post 1940s development. The history of the Papaloapan projects suggests that local indigenous groups consistently engaged with the state by asser ars of the projects in the 1940s and 1950s, local groups pressured the state to secure fair
60 indemnification for lost properties. As the scientific assumptions that underpinned agrarian development came under attack, local dissendents reworked a discourse of rights by asserting a newly salient political language of nativist environmental stewardship This discourse made it possible to effectively challenge state led development efforts in the 1970s. This history of the Papaloapan project and the forms of d issent that it inspired gives us pause and causes us to re think environmentalism t also challenges older historiographic Breakfast of Revolutionary Unity Wit h the shift in state priorities after 1940 Mexican intellectual Daniel Coso Villegas decried the end of the Mexican Revolution. As the contemplative, conservative Manuel Avila Camacho ascended to the presidency, Coso Villegas lamented the end of the re form spirit that had animated the sexenio of Lzaro Crdenas. Coso Villegas believed that Avila Camacho and his successor, Miguel Alemn, would betray the agrarian ideals of the revolution and shift Mexican policies toward industrial developmentalism and collaboration with foreign capital. Historians of twentieth century Mexico have often seen 1940 as the key turning point when the revolution became politicos. According to one scholar, the period aiming a revolutionary heritage [wielded] a practical monopoly over the instruments of 1 Other commentators declared that the Partido Revolucionario Institucional 1 Mexico Since Independence, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 321.
61 government cooptation and repression of opposition groups, culminating in the massacre of student protestors at the Plaza de Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco in 1968 only served to consolida te P 2 Popular discontent after 1968 was channeled through writers and intellectuals, such as Carlos Fuentes and Octavio Paz, who would later be accused of collaborating with the regime. 3 Even the youth counterculture that fed the student mo vement became largely de politicized after 1968. 4 According to this narrative, political opposition to PRI dominance only materialized as the debt crisis and neoliberal mismanagement of the economy in the late 1970s and early 1980s exposed the weaknesses o In contrast to dissenters like Cosio Villegas, those who supported the institutional revolutionary party constructed an official historical narrativ e that erased the violent conflicts among various revolutionary factions and celebrated the party bureaucrats as the legitimate heirs to the revolutionary heritage. During the 1960s, the remaining 5 In a profoundly symbolic gesture, government officials even united the mortal remains of revolutionary enemies 2 Thomas E. Skidmore, Peter H. Smith, James N. Green, Modern Latin America, seventh edition, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 63. 3 See Roger Bartra Blood, Ink, and Culture: Miseries and Splendors of the Post Mexican Condition, trans. Mark Alan Healey, (Durham: Duke University Press 2002); a nd Claudio Lominitz Deep Mexico, Silent Mexico : An Anthropology of Nationalism, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001). 4 See Eric Zolov, Refried Elvis: The Rise of Mexican Counterculture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 132 167. 5 Thomas Benjamin, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 137.
62 together inside the pillars of the Monument to the Revolutio n in Mexico City. 6 In1942, his were joined by the remains of Francisco Madero, followed by the remains of Plutarco Calles in 1969, Lzaro Crdenas in 1970, and Francisco 1976. Symbolically, old enemies came together in death to unite the nation in a single revolutionary family. 7 The official historical narrative and the critical revisions that began after 1940 and culminated with the intellectual and pol itical disillusionment following the Tlatelolco Massacre of 1968 represent opposing poles in historiography of twentieth century Mexico. Proponents of the official narrative attempted to erase political and ideological differences. They also tried to im pose political unity by co opting various segments of society into party apparatus (in the 1930s, Crdenas had expanded party membership into the party), and increasi ngly, by repressing political dissent. 8 Those dissenters followed Daniel Coso Villegas in declaring that state had betrayed the revolution. Each of these narratives, however, represents the state and the party as a single, monolithic 6 In Mexico City, I lived mere blocks from the Monument to the Revolution. I first came to realize the continuin g power of the official history when a young school girl, who instantly recognized me as an replied that I did know of the revolution, and that I was interested in studying Mexican history. She beamed with pride and, after correcting my Spanish mispronunciations, she told me that the great monument behind us was a tribute to her history and her national patrimony. 7 Enrique Florescano, National Narrative in Mexico: A History, trans. Nancy Hancock, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006), 347 348. 8 See Colin M. MacLachlan and William H. Beezley, El Gran Pueblo: A History of Greater Mexico third edition, (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2004), 377 409.
63 leviathan capable of either uniting all Mexicans, or completely crushing political opposition. 9 This study challenges the assumptions of an all powerful one party state. Looking at a case study in which the state, through the Papaloapan Commission, wielded enormous power a t the regional level, I explore how state officials, scientists, and engineers confronted the challenges of modernizing agricultural production in the southern tropics. In examining how state officials dealt with tropical nature and tropical people, one d oes not read the history of the expanding authority of an all powerful ? )adventure into uncharted the soc ial landscape of the Papaloapan Basin, their best efforts were hampered by the limits of ideologically Interpretations of the institutional revolutionary state after 1940 have been shaped, in large part, by the historiography of the revolution itself. Through the first half of the twentieth century, historians, bo th amateur and professional, as well as policy optimism born of faith in 9 In many ways, the simplistic dichotomies constructed by these historigraphic debates parallel those constructed by historians who have examined the inequalities that defined coloni al relationships. And indeed, m y efforts to complicate such narratives have been inspired by the sophisticated work of postcolonial scholars who challenge the constructions of simplistic dichotomies while still describing unequal relations of power. For an early version of the colonial dichotomy see Albert Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized, trans. Howard Greenfeld, (London: Earthscan, 1990) For a more recent American Historical Review 99:5, (Dec. 1994), 1517.
64 the many promises of the Revolution an 10 Such interpretations served state officials who claimed to be the heirs to revolutionary traditions. In the official history, the violence and instability of the early twentieth century gave way to the insti revolutionary presidents and the official party. 11 According to Mexican historian, Enrique Florescano, the official history of the g of 1910. With to century liberal revolution, the 1910 uprising w as reified as a 12 As long as the goals of the revolution remained unfulfilled, howeve r, revolutionary leaders evoked the memory of the revolutionary heroes and ideals to underscore their own programs and priorities. The institutional revolutionary party based its legitimacy on its self tinuation of the Mexican 10 Latin American Research Review 20: 3, (1985), 197. 11 This official narrative finds contemporary resonance in the work of Mexican historian Enrique Krauze, who sees the Mexican presidents as the primary architects, the men who made the revolution. See Enrique Krauze, Mexico, Biography of Power: A History of Modern Mexico, 1810 1996, tran s. Hank Heifetz, (New York: HaperPerennial, 1997). 12 Florescano, National Narratives in Mexico 314 315. It should be noted that while Florescano is critical onalism. He condemns the fragmentation of the literary turn and postmodernism, and he chides Mexican historians for narrative that he rejects, me rely the version promulgated by the state.
65 have justified the existence of the system, the hegemony of the official party, and the authority of the 13 By the late 1920s, just as Plutarco Calles attempted to hold together a fragile political coalition following the assassination of the charismatic general Alvaro Obregn, histo rians embraced the project of writing a unifying history of the revolution. Daniel Coso Villegas, who would later head the prestigious Colegio de M xico and oversee the publication of a multi volume history of Mexico, proposed a project to unify the revo Revolution in order to celebrate the unique contribution of the various revolutionary leaders. 14 In addition, the education and cultural programs promoted by Jos Vasconelos, the Secretary of Education from 1921 to 1924, shaped an historic narrative of Mexican history that culminated with the achievements of the Mexican Revolution. The mur alist movement, and particularly the work of Diego Rivera, displayed broad staircase of the Presidential Palace, for example, presents a Manichean story of Mexican strug gles from Pre Colombian civilization through eventual triumph in a glorious Marxist Revolutionary future. 15 13 Benjamin, La Revolucin 22 23. 14 Benjamin, La Revolucin, 141 144. 15 Florenseco, National Narratives, 328 History, Revolution, Nationhood, and Mo dernity in the Murals of Diego Rivera, Jos Clemente Orozco, The Eagle and the Virgin: Nation and Cultural Revolution in Mexico 1920 1940, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006).
66 The younger generations that came of age in the 1940s shouldered the responsibility of writing a history that could erase earlier factional divisions and unite the revolutionary party in a mission for national development. Prior to the 1940s and 1950s, conflicts among aging revolutionary generals, as well as strong disagreements between intellectuals who championed an indigenista version of M exican history and assimilationists like Jos Vasconcelos, precluded a unified historical narrative of the revolution and its legacy. 16 In addition, prominent intellectuals like Coso Villegas and Silva Herzog rejected the turn toward a more conservative i nstitutional revolution. The PRI apparatchiks attempted to transcend ideological divisions and rally the nation around its goals by presenting a narrative in which the institutional party continued and extended the mission of the Revolution. In 1949, the 17 In 1951, a panel of judges selected a winner and the PRI published the Historia de la Revolucin Mexicana by Alberto Morales Jimnez as the official party history. In Mexican Revolution that the people can read. A lively book, one open to the future since La Revolucin 18 In 1969, perhaps as a response to growing political 16 The Hispanic American Historical Review, 40:3 (Aug. 1960), 392 402. 17 El Nacional 27 September 1951, quoted in Benjamin, La Revolucin, 148. 18 Jos Lpez Berm Historia de la Revolucin Mexicana, (M exico City: Instituto de Investi gaciones Polticas, Econmicas, y Sociales de PRI, 1951), xv; Benjamin, La Revolucin, 148.
67 discontent, PRI published a brief pamphlet celebrating the achievements of the party since its inception as the Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR) in 1929. In 40 aos del PRI al servicio de Mexico: 1929 1969, a party spokesman celebrated how the caudillos asants into the political sphere, unified regional parties, and even promoted the political rights of women. Yet, despite such remarkable evolution has not yet c perfection of democracy 19 twenty 20 Following the disillusionment that culminated in the Tl atelolco Massacre of 1968, Mexican intellectuals of the massacre sparked public outrage and writers like Carlos Fuentes became increasingly critical of the regime and its revolutionary claims. 21 In the classic novel, The Death of Artemio Cruz, Fuentes depicts a devoted PRI ista yearning for the simplicity of his childhood as he dies in pain and loneliness, recalling all of the ways in which he has 19 Partido R evolucionario Institutional, 40 a os del PRI al servicio de Mexico 1929 1969, (Mexico City: Partido Revolucionario Institutional, 1969), 24 25. 20 PRI, 40 aos, 30. 21 Elena Poniatowska, Massacre in Mexico, trans. Helen R. Lane, (Columbia: University of Mis souri Press, 1991).
68 betrayed his family, hi s country, and his ideals. 22 According to one historian, after 1968, Mexican scholars have found common ground in their emphatic rejection of the 23 Historical Revision By the late 1960s, scholars who had bec ome disillusioned with the direction of the institutional revolutionary state, began questioning the legitimacy of the ruling party by challenging the official historical narrative that embraced all of the revolutionary 24 on the most radical elements during the armed phase of the revolution. Cockcroft drew attention to the anarchist worke rs and intellectuals whose critique of the Diaz dictatorship anticipated many of the radical arguments adopted by later revolutionaries. by earlier muckraking journalist struggle to reclaim indigenous ancestral lands from unscrupulous hacendados. 25 Anthropologist Eric Wolf, however, claims that it was a middling group of small 22 Carlos Fuentes, The Death of Artemio Cruz, trans. Alfred Mac Adam (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1991). 23 Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 7:2 (Summer 1991), 333; Stanley Ross, ed. Is the Mexican Revolution Dead? (New York: Alfred A, Knopf, 1967). 24 The Myth of the Mexican Revolution: Hero Cults and the Institutionalization of the Mexican State, 1920 1940, (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986). 25 See James D. Cockcroft, Intellectual Precu rsors of the Mexican Revolution, 1900 1913 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968); John Womack, Jr., Zapata and the Mexican Revolution, (New York: Vintage Books, 1968); for classic polemical accounts of the injustices of the Porfiriato and the radical populist nature of the revolution see, John Kenneth Turner, Barbarous Mexico (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1969) and John Reed, Insurgent Mexico, (New York: International Publishers, 1969).
69 landholders, the rancheros, who formed the mo st prominent revolutionary groups. 26 Others attempted to understand the agrarian violence of the Mexican Revolution in a comparative or deeper historical perspective by interpreting the revolution as part of a long history rural rebellion in Mexico. 27 Criti cs of this position argue that the focus on the agrarian struggle was based on erroneous understandings of rural power structures and land tenure systems. According to D.A. Brading, many of the assumptions about the agrarian struggle were based on the arg uments of American scholars Frank Tannenbaum and George McBride who viewed the haciendas as backward feudal institutions and misunderstood the nature of Liberal land reforms of the nineteenth century. Instead, Brading and others argue that local powerbrok ers, caudillos, were the primary beneficiaries of the changes in the nineteenth and early twentieth century changes. It was these local and regional strongmen, especially the contingent from the northern state of Sonora, who ultimately shaped the course o f the revolution. 28 Other scholars examined the variety of experiences at the local and regional level in order to de center the official narrative. 29 Agrarian Revolt in a Mexican Village, follows the agrarian movemen t led by Primo Tapia in Naranja, a Tarascan village in the state of Michoacn. At times Tapia followed the 26 Eric Wolf, Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century, (Ne w York: Harper and Row, 1969) 3 50. 27 See Friedrich Katz, ed., Riot, Rebellion, and Revolution: Rural Social Conflict in Mexico, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988). 28 D.A. Brading, ed. Caudillo and Peasant in the Mexican Revolution, (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1980), 1 Friedrich Katz, ed., Riot, Rebellion, and Revolution, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), 487 518. For Reference see, Fra nk Tannenbaum, The Mexican Agrarian Revolution, ( Hamden, Conn., Archon Books, 1968); George McBride, Land Systems of Mexico, (New York: American Geographic Society, 1923). 29 The Hispanic America Historical Review, 58:1 (Feb. 1978), 62 79; 331 335.
70 revolutionary examples of Emiliano Zapata or, more likely Ricardo Flores Magn. Though, local conditions may have just as easily demanded that he o ppose the revolutionary leadership of Plutarco Calles. 30 More recently, other local studies provide important counterpoints to the dominant revolutionary history. For example, Gilbert orities of the which the national leadership negotiated and contested the authority of re gional strongmen who deployed traditional patronage techniques to maintain local power. 31 Each of the se works undermines an official history that unites all of the revolutionary leaders into a single narrative in which the institut ional state and the part y we re the legitimate heirs to a single revolutionary legacy. Above all, they undermine claims to revolutionary unity in factionalism. Other revisionist work presents even stronger critiques of the institutionalization of the revolution. In a monumental s tudy of the Cristero Rebellion of the 1920s, Jean Meyer argued that the revolutionary government continued, rather than destroyed, the legacy of the Diaz dictatorship. The brutal defeat of catholic rural movements inaugurated a new authoritarian, capitalis t state. 32 Adolfo Gilly proclaims that the revolts of the Villistas in the North and the 30 Paul Friedrich, Agrarian Revolt in a Mexican Village, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977). 31 Gilbert M. Joseph, Revolution From Without : Yucatn, Mexico, and the United States, 1880 1924, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982); Romana Falcn, Revolucin y Caciquismo: San Luis Potos, 1910 1938, (Mexico City: Colego de Mexico, 1984). 32 Jean Meyer, The Cristero Rebellion: The Mexica n People Between Church and State, 1926 1929, trans. Richard Southern, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976). Mexican Historian Lorenzo and R ichard S. Weinert, eds., Authoritarianism in Mexico, (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1977), 3 22.
71 with the Convention at Aguascalientes in 1914 and was defeated by the Constitu tionalist forces under Alvaro Obregn and Venustiano Carranza, who were, naturally, not real revolutionaries. Gilly admits to being more of a Marxist polemicist cul and arbitrariness of an abs urd prison system tool with which to prepare a continuation of the struggle for Marxism and a working c 33 Due in part to chronological and analytical proximity, few revisionist historians have focused directly on the institutional revolutionary state, though political scientists have devoted significant attention to the authoritarian PRI state. Historian Peter Smith and political scientist Roderic Ai Camp have each devoted considerable attention to the not necessarily repres ent the dominant economic interests, though he does affirm that 34 Jos Luis Reyna deploy revolutionary state. According to Reyna, populist corporatism encourages mass de mobilize the class groups that can formulate 33 Adolfo Gilly, The Mexican Revolution, expanded and revised edition, trans. Patrick Camiller, (London: NLB, 1983), 8. William Ro evaluates peasant activism only in terms of the potential for radical, Ma rxist organization. See Roseberry, 318 370. 34 Peter H. Smith, Labyrinths of Power: Political Recruitment in Twentieth Century Mexico, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), 3.
72 officials might celebrate, pol 35 Even as many political scientists have recently victory in the 2000 e by championing the variety of popular resistance movements to the official party. 36 Historical schola rship has tried to undermin e the official narrative, and the structural analysis of political scientists has attempted to devise new models for thinking tact the notio n that the PRI created a hegemonic state in the mid twentieth century. Beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s, scholars influenced by the work of the Subaltern Studies collective and by the cultural turn began to look more closely at the ways in wh ich the revolutionary state was constructed through everyday encounters and through the fragments of popular culture. New Directions Ironically, as new ways of thinking emerge, there has been something of a shift back to writing epic histories of the Mexic an Revolution. With a two volume history of the revolution, Alan Knight attempts to present a definitive narrative of the initial armed 35 eds., Authoritarianism in Mexico, (Philadelph ia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1977), 161; Authoritarianism in Mexico, xiii. 36 Donald Hodges and Ross Gandy, Mexico Under Siege: Popular Resistance to Presidential Despotism, (Lond on: Zed Books, 2002).
73 focus on the heroes and prominent m en that made the revolution. 37 Since the early 1990s, however, a growing number of scholars have focused considerable attention on the ways in which various social groups participated in shaping both the culture and politics of the revolutionary state. Th e publication of Gilbert Joseph and Daniel Everyday Forms of State Formation: Revolution and The Negotiation of Rule in Modern Mexico and a special issue of the Hispanic American Historical Review devoted to cultural history highlighted key histor iographic trends. 38 Re evaluating the history and historiography of the Mexican Revolution, historians have begun exploring not only how official history was constructed, but how narratives of modern Mexico silenced or obscured the ways in which broad segm ents of Mexican society participated in the process of state formation throughout the twentieth century. Contributors to revolutionary leaders to construct a hegemonic state. Instead, the authors of the theoretical and empirical studies present a thematic interpretation to show how efforts at state formation constantly confront popular culture and local political practices in mutually constitutive negotiations. Scholars who follow this line of thinking focus on cultural negotiations between the revolutionary sta te and local actors, though many limit their research to the 1930s, when agrarian populism of Lzaro Crdenas presented unique political openings. For 37 Alan Knight, The Mexican Revolution, 2 vol., (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986); Friedrich Katz, The Life and Times of Pancho Villa, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998) 38 Gilbert Joseph and Daniel Nugent, eds., Everyday Forms of State Formation: Revolution and the Negotiation of Rule in Modern Mexico, (Durham: Duke University Press, 1994); The Hispanic American Historical Review Vol. 79, No. 2, Special Issue: Mexico's New Cultural History: Una Lucha Libre (May, American Historical Review, 99:5 (Dec. 1994), 1491 1515.
74 example, M arjorie Becker, argues that peasants, particularly campesino women, influenced the course of the Crdenas administration by forcing Crdenas and his clericalism. 39 Though, c ritics protest that Becke r echoes the arguments of earlier revisionist historians and lacks sufficient evidence to demonstrate clear links between popular culture and the highest levels of government decision making. 40 Mary Kay Vaughan covers similar ground by demonstrating how the construction of the institutional state was built on a foundation of 41 Vaughan argues that peasan t education reforms as they influenced the revolutionary agenda and mobilized in support of the Crdenas regime. party state resulted from such local negotia [that gave people a] sense of membership and participation in a national mobiliza 42 Increasingly, scholars extend arguments about negotiations between the state 39 Marjorie Becker, Setting the Virgin on Fire: Lzaro Cardenas, Michoac n Peasants and the Redemption of the Mexican Revolution, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). 40 Setting the Virgin on Fire: Lzaro Cardenas, Michoacn Peasants and the Redemption of the Redempt ion of the Mexican Revolution, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), The American Historical Review, 102:2 (April 1997) 587 588. 41 Mary Kay Vaughan, Cultural Politics in Revolution: Teachers, Peasants, and Schools in Mexico, 1930 1940, (Tucs on : University of Arizona Press, 1997), 4. 42 Vaughan, Cultural Politics in Revolution, 7.
75 comic books explores how Mexicans engaged modernity through the narrativ es, production, and consumption of comic books, and Eric Zolov argues that Mexican youth counterculture re appropriate American rock and roll music to challenge dominant political and cultural values. 43 In the ambitious and wide ranging collection, Fragmen ts of a Gold Age: The Politics of Culture in Mexico Since 1940, historians and cultural nderstanding Mexico after 1940 up with the 44 Despite the impressive breadth of empirical studies that range from an analysis on the mechanization of tortilla production to the spectacle of Lucha Libre cultural historians of the period since 1940 defin e popular culture too narrowly and avoid direct confrontation with the best articulated state priorities. I contend that scholars should broaden understandings of cultural contestation to consider how government officials encountered the natural world and indigenous groups, and how local actors engaged the major government development schemes in the mid twentieth century. I argue that debates over science and nature, conservation and development, national identity and indigenous culture each represented ke address in order to move beyond caricatures of the PRI as a hegemonic juggernaut. This study challenges important facets of the historical narrative by focusing on the environmental and cultu ral history of the key government programs of the mid 43 Anne Rubenstein, Bad Language, Naked Ladies, and Other Threats to the Nation: A Political History of Comic Books in Mexico, (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998); Zolov, Refried Elvis. 44 of Mexico Since 1940, in Gilbert M. Joseph, Anne Rubenstein, Eric Zolov, eds., Fragments of a Golden Age: The Politics of Culture in Mexico Since 1940, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), 15.
76 twentieth century, the Papaloapan River p rojects and the agricultural modernization undertaken by the Rockefeller Foundation. The public works and agricultural colonization projects in the Papaloapan R iver Basin were initiated by Miguel Alemn in 1947 and were re invigorated with the construction of the Cerro de Oro Dam in the 1970s before the projects fell into decline by 1982. By looking closely at these government public works initiatives, I assert were not limited to the armed phase of the Mexican Revolution and its immediate aftermath, or to the populist Cardenas era when political openings for peasants and workers allowed certain groups to exercise a degree of political influence. 45 By doing so, I challenge the notion of a dominant state and see limits to PRI dominance and hegemony. Even in a situation in which a government bureaucracy, the Papaploapan Commission, was given extraordinary local authority, th internal divisions within the state bureaucracies and by local conditions and local contestation to emerge in southern Mexico. Informed by travelers, I ndianist scholars, local activists, and a new generation of agricultural scientists, a discourse of nativist resources according to scientific principles. The e mergence of nativist environmentalism in southern Mexico challenges our understanding of Mexican political history in a number of important ways. First, it exposes the fragility of the one party state, especially in the tropical provinces that often 45 See Becker, Setting the Virgin on Fire; Christopher Boyer Becoming Campesinos: Politics, Identity, and Agrarian Struggle in Postrevolutionary Michoacan, 1920 1935, (Stanford: Stanford Univ ersity Press, 2003).
77 remai the political turning point of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The era is generally marked by the Tlatelolco Massacre in 1968 and is often seen as a moment in which the PRI recommitment to rural development through public works and large scale irrigation populis t magic of the Crdenas regime, actually demonstrated the weakness of the state in the tropical south. Thus, 1968 represents something other than the end of popular discontent. Instead, the late 1960s and early 1970s were a time when subaltern actors bega n to reframe older arguments about indigenous access to natural resources into a new environmentalist discourse that allowed them to manipulate state policies and priorities. Finally, the rise of nativist environmentalism in southern Mexico challenges und erstandings of environmental movements in Mexico. Often depicted as either a middle class movement focused on the quality of life in Mexico City, or as a state initiative with little popular support, environmentalism in Mexico should include notions of en vironmental justice and the environmental priorities of the marginalized poor. 46 46 Lane Simonian Defend ing the Land of the Jaguar Latin American Perspectives 19:1 (Winter 1992), 3 16.
78 CHAPTER 3 THE RIVER OF BUTTERF LIES This chapter describes the origins of the government agency, known as the Papaloapan Commission, which was charged with developing the t ropics of southern Mexico. It also examines how the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States inspired Mexican policy makers in the administration of President Miguel Alemn to undertake an ambitious program of agricultural development. The Papaloa pan Commission centralized decision making power to coordinate development of the Papaloapan Basin as an integrated whole. As such, Commission officials relied on the expertise of economist and agronomists to design a comprehensive plan for the constructio n of public works, the resettlement of Mazatec Indians displaced by the construction of the Miguel Alemn Dam, and the commercial agricultural development which imag ined tropical nature as dangerous but potentially productive if cultivation world. shortcomings of the early development schemes, however, established the terms of later debates over agricultural development in the humid tropics. While government planners increasingly relied on scientific expertise to bring tropical nature to heel and to transform indigenous campesinos into commercial farmers, the problems with centralized planning sc hemes sowed the seeds of popular discontent and a revaluation of traditional knowledges.
79 Under President Miguel Alemn, the Mexican state undertook an ambitious program to control and harness the rushing waters of the Papaloapan River. The river be gins its journey to the sea in the highlands of Oaxaca, and meanders through southern Puebla before traversing the state of Veracruz and pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. Initially proposed to protect against devastating floods, the Papaloapan River Project became a massive undertaking to reshape both the land and the people of the southern tropics. State planners and middle class chilangos residents of Mexico City, projected a vision of the south that drew upon l ong Whereas the north had been industrializing as a result of proximity to the United States, the southern tropical regions of Mexico remained remote, backwards, and indigenous. The tropical lowlands of Veracruz held a tremendous reservoir of untapped resources, unr ealized potential, though they also harbored the threats of tropical disease and uncontrolled nature. With the paternalism of the post revolutionary state and the careful management of scientific experts, the Papaloapan projects were to harness tropical n ature for the benefit of the nation, and bring tropical peoples into modernity, simultaneously protecting them from the dangers and vicissitudes of wild tropical nature. The Papalaopan p rojects were first conceived during the early 1940s as a governme nt reponse to frequent flooding in the highlands of Oaxaca. However, during a period of postwar faith in the power of technology and science to reshape nature, and to remake society, the Papaloapan p rojects became a far more intrusive state intervention i n the Mexican tropics. The projects were in i tiated by the administration of Mexican President Miguel Alemn in 1947. Alemn followed the priorities of his predecessor, Manuel Avila Ca macho, in pursuing new developmental priorities as the
80 Mexican Revoluti onary state shifted away from a focus on radical land reform after 1940. Alemn sought a closer relationship with the United States, and fully supported the Allied cause during World War II and American anti communism during the earlier years of the Cold War. He encouraged foreign investment and promoted agrarian development as a means of subsidizing food prices for nascent industrial development. For Alemn and his successors, rural development projects like those in the Papaloapan Basin allowed the sta te to maintain a discursive commitment to the agrarian populism of the Crdenas Era, while pursuing capitalist industrial development in the polarizing geopolitical context of the Cold War. As a centerpiece of the post 1946 developmental schemes and the so called the state initiated the Papalo apan Projects with the initial coinstruction of road and communications networks in the basin. The construction of the Miguel Alemn Dam began in the early 1950s, and was accompanied by the constr Ciudad Alemn The Commission constructed irrigation works and attempt to bring new lowland territories in Veracruz into production for commercial agri culture. It also oversaw t he resettlement of Mazatec Indians displaced by the dam in new agricultural colonies that soon became experiment stations for implementing modern agricultural techniques developed by the Rockefeller Foundation. Tropical nature proved more intractable, how ever, as thin tropical soils could not support hybrid seeds for corn, wheat, and beans that had been developed in more temperate zones and relied on heavy applications irrigated water, chemical fertilizer, and pesticides. In addition, design flaws in the Miguel Alemn Dam led to the corrosion
81 and decay of hydraulic pumps so that the dam failed to provide irrigation for both the state run colonization schemes and the commercial agricultural enterprises in the lower basin. By the late 1950s and early 1960s the agrarian colonies were abandoned and commercial development was limited to small pockets of rice or sugar production near the river or pineapple production near Loma Bonita. Much of the basin that had been cleared for development or agricultural colo nization was soon turned over to pasture for cattle ranching. During the 1960s, the Papaloapan Commission faced competition for dwindling resources from other government agencies as the priorites of subsequent presidents increasingly focused on industrial ization in the north. Visitors in the 1960s 1 The projects even failed to control the flood waters of the Papaloapan River. Floods continued to dev astate settlement s in the highlands and threatened the new commercial agricultural enterprises in the lower basin throughout the 1960s. The original flood control plans called for the construction of two dams, but state planners chose to focus early const ruction budgets on the cheaper, but less effective Miguel Alemn Dam. As the projects languished in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the state would only commit resources for constructing a second dam, the Cerro de Oro Dam, in the early 1970s as President Luis Echeverra refocused state priorities on rural development. In the 1970s, however, planners faced opposition from a loose coalition championed local, tradition al knowledge. The state would eventually abandon 1 Peter T. Ewell and Thomas T. Poleman, Uxpan apa: Agricultural Development in the Mexican Tropics, (New York: Pergamon Press, 1980) 34.
82 development schemes in the Papaloapan Basin by the late 1970s and early 1980s. When new sources of oil were discovered along the Gulf Coast of Veracruz, the federal government turned away from agrarian dev elopment under the Papaloapan Commission and shifted resources to the state run oil company Petrleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) for exploration and development of the petroleum industry. The Commission was finally disbanded in 1982 following the accidental deaths of two top officials. Against the Fury of Nature On September 27, 1944, the Mexico City newspaper, El Universal announced to 2 During the previous three days flood waters rose and engulfed the st reets of the highland Oaxacan town that stood precariously along the left bank of the Papaloapan River. The strength and duration of the late summer rains caused the river to overflow its banks as waters rose rapidly over just a few days. Finally on Satu rday, September 23, a hurricane ripped through region and the waters rose between four and nine meters in the lower barrios. 3 In December 1944, the poet Manuel Castillo Estrada lamented that Tuxtepec had once been the 4 In 1944, however, the small mountain town was nearly wiped off the face of the earth. Reports told of houses destroyed and streets littered with cadavers. The lower barrios were completely flooded and observers called on the governor of 2 El Universal, 27 September 1944, quoted in Tomas Garcia Hernandez, La Tragedia de Tuxtepec, (Tuxtepec, Oaxaca: H. Ayuntami ento Constitucional de San Juan Batitsa Tuxtepec, 1994), 10. 3 Garcia Hernandez, La Tragedia de Tuxtepec, 10 12 4 La Tragedia de Tuxtepec, 43.
83 Oaxaca and the President of the Republic to send aid in order to prevent the development of catastrophic epidemics. 5 In 1948, a group of travelers noted the lasting evidence of the flood when they saw water damage that reached eight feet high on the walls of their hotel. In the nearby town of Cosamaloapan, the visitors walked across raised concrete sidewalks built to accommodate frequent flooding. Residents had also constructed makeshift fortifications of barbed wire and sticks to prevent erosion and flood damage. 6 Despite the devastation, Tuxtepecanos commemorated the sacrifices of and trapped atop their own devastated houses. The president of the nearby municipality of Tierra Blanca, Ernesto Garcia Ferro, sent clothes and medicine to help the survivors, and a leading vecino named Roberto Herrera pleaded for federal assistance. In a telegram to President Manuel Avila C amacho, Herrera said that provide food and medicine, to maintain civil order, and to clear away the putrid, decaying bodies of the dead. 7 Floods frequently inundated the lower Papaloa pan basin. There had been recorded floods in 1787, 1888, 1921, 1922, 1935, 1941, and 1944. 8 In the first major 5 ha desaparecido prcticam 10. 6 The Christian Science Monitor, 4 June 1948, 13. 7 Correspondence : Roberto Herrara to Manuel Avila Camacho, 26 September 1944, quoted in Garcia Hernandez, La Tragedia de Tuxtepec, 12. 8 Sara J. Scherr and Thomas T. Poleman, Development and Equity in Tropical Mexico: Thirty Years of the Papaloapan Project, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, Department of Agricultural Economics, 1983), 30.
84 study of the Papaloapan Basin, Jos Norie ga concluded the high incidence of flooding was the result of both man made and natural causes. Due to natural erosion and to deforestation, siltation of the lower basin caused the banks of the Papaloapan River to rise above the surrounding flood plain. When heavy rains caused the river waters to overflow their banks, water rushed downhill and pooled in the surrounding lands, flooding towns and villages with pu trid, fetid water. With the storms of 1944, for example, approximately 200,000 hectares of land in the lower Papaloapan basin was flooded. 9 In October 1944, Mexican President Avila Camacho toured the devastated flood region with Oaxa ca Governor Snchez Cano. The p resident declared that the state should take charge of providing a series of i mprovements for the residents of Tuxtepec. First, the state committed resources to help local residents to clean and recondition the credit for ejidatarios ranchers, and merchants to rebuild their lives. The president promised to provide potable water for the city, and expanding the mandate beyond the immediate need to rebuild the town, Avila Camacho committed the federal government to a building an electrical energy plant. 10 The river, it seemed, provided the potential for increased energy production, not only for the residents of Tuxtepec, but for the nation. Such an undertaking required the government to look beyond the immediate problem of flood control and to con sider a much larger intervention in the region. For a centralizing 9 in del plan de estudios definitivos y Ingeniera hidrulica en Mexico I, (April June 1947, July September 1947) cited in Thomas Poleman, The Papaloapan Project: Agricultural Development in the Mexican Tropics, (Stan ford: Stanford University Press, 1964), 90 91. 10 Garcia Hernandez, La Tragedia de Tuxtepec, 13.
85 11 However, for Avila Camacho and his successor, Miguel Alemn, protect ing Tuxtepec from flooding justified an ambitious program to reshape the constellations of power and society in the Papaloapan River basin. In the process, the Mexican leaders attempted to bring the people and natural resources of the region into the servi ce of a modernizing, developmentalist national vision. President Alemn and his Minister o f Hydraulic Resources, Adolfo Or ive Alda, visited the United States and came away inspired by the achievements of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). During an of ficial visit to Mexico in March 1947, US President Harry Truman symbolically reinforced close diplomatic relations between the United States and Mexico, despite disagreements over an economic aid package. In a meeting near the ancient pyramids of Teotihua can just north of Mexico City, Truman nationalist pride rather than surrendering to invading US troops in the 1840s. Truman 12 The next day, the nation. 13 American commentators urged crowds in United States to receive the Mexican president with a genuine spirit of understanding and friendship, not only with 11 Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985) 20. 12 The New York Times 6 March 1947, 3. 13 The New York Times, 8 March 1947, 5.
86 cantly, Americans 14 visit to New York and Wes t Point, a trip to receive an honorary degree from the University of Kansas, and a visit to Chattanooga, Tennessee to view the installations of the Tennessee Valley Authority. 15 Alemn arrived in Tennesse great experiment [that] has been realized which serves not only as an inspiration to [the 16 Starting out early in the morning the following day, the Mexican president met with Gordon R. Clapp, G.O. Wessenhuaer, Lee Karr, and C.E Blee of the TVA and toured the Chickamauga Dam and powerhouse. hot up and down in elevators and tramped up and down stairs to watch water run through the turbines, to ponder the working of generators, and to see construction of the TVA pr indeed, the democracies, instead of employing their resources to oppress and 14 The Washington Post, 13 March 1947, 6. In his memoirs, Alemn recalled being overwhelmed by the w arm receptions he received in both Washington and New York. See Miguel Alemn Valdes, Remembranzas y testimonios, (Mexico City: Grijalbo, 1986), 263 278. 15 The New York Times, 10 April 1947, 10. 16 The New York Times, 6 May 1947, 31.
87 struggle against the elements to pla 17 Following the violence of World War II, the future struggle for democracies, aided by technological and scientific innovations, was not the domination of fascism, but the domination of nature. After touring the facili ties, Alemn met with a fisherman who landed a medium sized catch from the reservoir created by the Chickamauga Dam, and continued his tour by flying to the chemical fertilizer plant at Muscle Shoals, Alabama. 18 Upon returning to nation on the results of his visit to the United States and the TVA. According to commentators, Alemn had already conceived of a project in the Papaloapan Basin modeled on the TVA, but he faced the cr itical problem of obtaining funding. His finance minister, Ramn Beteta, had secured promises of $90 million to $100 million in credits from the Export Import Bank in Washington, but Mexico still hoped to secure more funds from a World Bank loan. Accord 19 Though the projected costs of the Papaloapan projects approached $200 million, Alemn ordere once the Mexican government officially secured the $100 million advance from the Export 17 The New York Times, 7 May 1947, 16. 18 19 The New York Times, 11 May 1947, 25.
88 Mexico. He described a series of water management works in the Papaloapan Basin modeled on the TVA. 20 In administrative terms, Orive Alda describe d the TVA as a decentralized lanning and implementation of major and minor improvements to the Tennessee River Basin. The term, decentralized, is misleading in the sense that it refers to a bureaucracy that did not have to defer to the decision making authority of the federal governme nt. But, in fact, power was highly concentrated in the hands on the TVA. One author argues that 21 The TVA was responsible for co being of the majority of the inhabitants of agricultural and industrial development in the basin, always working under the basic 22 Mexican officials followed their New Deal counterparts from the United States in thinking tha t only a scientifically informed state agency, not the idiosyncrasies of private enterprise or 20 The Washington Post, 16 May 1947, 5. 21 Marc Riesner, Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, rev. ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 1993), 135. 22 Adolfo Orive Alda El Tennessee y El Presidente Frente al Papaloapan, Conference with the Asociacin de Ingenieros y Architecos, 18 June 1947, AGN 609/38 MAV 6 7.
89 the ancient practices of indigenous communities, could plan and coordinate the ambitious effort to promote both conservation and development. 23 The model provid ed by the TVA offered government planners a significant innovation in the practice of water management. Under the authority of the TVA, a powerful bureaucracy c ontrolled an entire river basin as a single unit. Such a new conceptualization allowed planner s to disregard potentially destructive practices in actions proved beneficial in aggregate, planners could ignore the consequences of locally devastating, or economica lly infeasible, public works. In the United States, conceptualizing river basins in their entirety encouraged a peculiar form of accounting and evolved into a policy of building so high value hydroelectricity, in order to subsidize the construction of economically risky, ill conceived irrigation projects. 24 The TVA had been commissioned as a way to address issues of poverty in the U S South during the Great Depression of the 1930s. For many in the Tennesse e River Basin, major economic activities had centered on the production of cotton on small parcels of land. The average quality of life was lower in the region than the median for the United States as a whole, as many small cotton farmers earned less than $150 each year. 25 As in other agricultural regions, the cotton belt of the U S South was devastated by the drop in agricultural prices that precipitated bank foreclosures and 23 See Donald Worster The Dust Bowl : The Southern Plains in the 1930s, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979) for a discussion of scientifically informed environmental management efforts during and immediately after the New Deal. 24 Riesner, Cadillac Desert, 134. 25 Orive Alda, El Tennessee, 6 8.
90 sent the United States deep into the Great Depression. In an effort to address such problems in the South, in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned the TVA as the agency dedicated to the agricultural and industrial development of the region. The primary task of the TVA involved the construction of a series of multi use dams. Ea ch dam could function to provide hydroelectricity in order to facilitate industrialization, though each also served to control flooding and provide water for irrigation agriculture. In addition to the construction of dams, the TVA also sought to foment the conservation and fertilization of the soils, to control erosion, to encourage crop rotation, and to increase agricultural production by providing synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. 26 While in the United States, President Alemn was thoroughly impressed, and inspired, as he toured the synthetic fertilizer plant that the TVA had constructed at Muscle Shoals. 27 attempts to foster agricultural development in the region. The agency dist ributed fertilizer packets that came complete with instructions for increasing agricultural yields to midsized farms. In addition, the TVA offered its clients access to the counsel of community of the basin would follow their neighbors who [had] triumphantly employed the new agricultural 28 The TVA was also charged with the tasks of reforestation of the val ley to prevent erosion and with the eradication of pests. To accomplish such a task, TVA officials periodically 26 Of course, later environmental activists would decry the use of chemi cal fertilizers, but during the 1930s and 1940s they seemed to offer the possibility of raising crop yields without permanently depleting soils, which, people figured, could always be re enriched with more chemicals. 27 Orive Alda, El Tennessee, 6 8. 28 Oriv e Alda, El Tennessee, 9.
91 managed reservoir levels to discourage the growth of mosquito larvae, constructed sanitation works, liberally applied the pesticide DDT (which the famous American environmentalists, Rachel Carson, would later decry as an abomination against all natural life), and conducted medical analyses of the inhabitants of those areas particularly endangered by pestilence and disease. The combined works of the Tennessee Valley Authority took fourteen years to complete, at a total cost of approximately $750 million, most of which was allocated to the cost of dam construction and the construction of chemical fertilizer manufacturing plants. Between 1933 and 1 947, The TVA built twenty two dams, with a total capacity for 1,770,000 kilowatts of hydroelectricity and an additional 430,000 kilowatts of thermoelectricity. 29 Inspired by the ambitious undertakings of the Tennessee Valley Authority, Alemn championed the project to apply similar solutions the problems of development n that had frequently been devastated by fluvial floods. The flood s devastated the region and campesinos who ha d been first drawn into a relationship with the state throu gh the land reforms of Lzaro C rdenas, looked to the federal government for solutions to their problems. 30 As word of government plans for the Papaloapan River emerged in early 1947, the Comisarid led by President Rafael Hernandez, Secretary Julian Ramirez, and Treasurer Timateo Rodriguez, petitioned the government to rebuild a school that had been destroyed by the 1944 flood. In a telegram directly t o President Alemn, the ejido 29 Orive Alda, El Tennessee, 9 10. 30 See Christopher Boyer, Becoming Campesinos: Politics, Identity, and Agrarian Struggle in Postrevolutionary Michoacan, 1920 1935, ( Stanford: Stanford University Press 2003 )
92 ejido projects would bring great ben efits to the region. In particular, they asked the president for special concessions to help their community. Their school, they explained, had been ejido leaders pleaded with the president to help them by allocating resources from a school construction program run by the Secretary of Public Education to rebuild their devastated schoolhouse. Before the ejido leaders of Tuxtepec declared that 31 Before settling on the Papaloapan Basin as the site for the ambitious public works projects, administrative officials considered sites on four other rivers, Rio Grivala (which would ultimately become the site of another major development project), Rio Usumacinta in the Lacondon Jungle, Rio Pnuco, and Rio Coatzacoalcos. Officials a serious and constant thre 32 Once he explained how the choice of site had been settled, the Secretary of Hydraulic Resources waxed poetic about the possibilities for hydro industrial development, and the beneficial use of the resources of the region. Orive [modernization of] a griculture and industry resulting in benefits for not only the 31 Correspondence: Co to Miguel Aleman, January 1947, AGN 609/38 MAV. 32 Olive Alda, El Tennessee, 14 15.
93 inhabitants of the region or [even just] the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz, but for all of 33 Commentators predicted that American technicians and scientific experts would support the Mexican constructio n efforts. In a scathing critique of a fiscally conservative U S Congress, a columnist from The Washington Post followed US Secretary of Agriculture Clinton Anderson in claiming that if Congress succeeded in scaling back reclamat understand how to work with soil and water to make the earth give forth its abundance public works proj ects. Such a development would be desirable, according to Truman 34 Miguel Alemn as ked his subordinate, Orive Alda, to announce detailed plans for the Papaloapan projects before an association of engineers and architects on June 18, 1947. 35 Orive Alda issued a comprehensive report that first outlined the types of natural resources in the Papaloapan basin in a basic form that reflected an understanding of nature in terms of human utilization. The report continued by comparing the successes of the Tennessee Valley Authority projects, which had so inspired President Alemn during his recent visit to the United States, with the prospects for similar development projects in southern Mexico. Finally, Orive Alda explained the actions the president had already taken to initiate development in the Papaloapan basin. 33 Olive Alda, El Tennessee, 15. 34 The Washington Post 2 May 1947, 6. 35 Orive Alda, El Tennessee
94 After a brief introduction, Ol ive Alda yielded to a spokesman for the Congresso Mexicano de Ciencias Sociales who described the natural resources of the Papaloapan expose[d] the modern n valued so highly. 36 The scientists explained, briefly, that natural resources could be divided into two categories. First, oil and mineral deposits represented non renewable resources, while soils, water, vegetal, and animal life, including humans, repr 37 However, the scientists proclaimed, none of these resources had any inherent value in themselves. Only when they existed simultaneously with complementary resources that could be harve sted and put to use through human ingenuity did natural resources have any real value. Soils needed water to be productive, and vice versa. Soil could be enriched or depleted, vegetable and animal life that was needed was human management and engineering to bring together the key factors of soil, water, and air. 38 Moreover, according to the panel of experts, the responsible use and conservation of these natural resour ces was fundamental for the life of the nation. Clearly, agricultural production depended on the wise use of resources, but the scientists believed that social problems were also linked to relations between the human 36 Orive Alda, El Tennessee, 2. 37 Orive Alda, El Tennessee, 3. 38 Orive Alda, El Tennessee, 3.
95 and the natural world. 39 Though it was dynamic and evolving, for Mexican scientists communities. In language that would continuously link development and exploitation technical scheme to understand and improve the harmony of all resources, particularly renewable 40 According to such thinking, only scientists and engineers possessed the acumen and skills to discern the important links between the past and the present, and only they had the expertise to clarity for the country, [they h ereby] advance[d] a plan for the Papaloapan River based 41 As the spokesman for the president, Orive Alda declared that Alemn wanted to accomplish a series of amb itious goals in the Papaloapan B asin Reflecting the official justi fication for the projects, the p fluvial floods. Following the example of the TVA, Alemn and his advisors called for a series of dams that could, in addition to con trolling flood waters, provide cheap 39 Marxists might understand this in terms of relations to the means of production, though for Marxists, as for capitalists, t he natural world might be viewed as little more than the raw materials for industrial resources 40 Orive Alda, El Tennessee 4 5. 41 Orive Alda, El Tennessee, 5.
96 hydroelectricity for industrialization. Furthermore, government planners stretched their imaginations to conceive of a concerted effort to improve sanitation by supplying potable water, and to connect the remote region with the rest of the nation by increasing avenues of communication, navigable waterways, railroads, and telegraph lines to new centers of population and industrial or agricultural development. In this effort, Orive Alda declared that the president asked the audience of engineers and architects for 42 Initially, the president considered the project to be under the administrative superv ision of the Secretary of Hydraulic Resources, but following the example of the study and resolve all the problems that presented critical obstacles for completing the pro jects. To that end, Alemn had already created the Comisin de Papaloapan on February 26, 1947, prior to his visit to the United States. Officially, the commission was communications between the Secretary of Hydraulic Resources and officials directly appointed by the president. 43 As the first order of business, Alem n and Orive Alda challenged the commission to complete a series of initial projects. First, he asked that medical director of the Papaloapan Commiss ion take charge of a study aimed at the eradication of disease, 42 Orive Alda, El Tennessee, 16. 43 Orive Alda, El Tennessee, 16 17.
97 especially those gastrointestinal ailments that were associated with un sanitary water, construct works to supply potable water and sewage systems to dra in the fetid waters ( aguas negras ) of marshy and flooded areas. 44 Orive Alda closed his presentation to the engineers and architects by warning them of both the hardships and the opportunities that lay ahead. He reminded the audience that the Tennessee Val ley projects took fourteen years to complete and cost $750 million. The grand crusade of Mexican yesterday considered a constant threat and an inexploitable resource, will be tom orrow 45 Since the Papaloapan Basin remained far from Mexico City, in terms of both physical distance and popular imagination, Alemn commissioned scholars from the Uni versidad Nacional Autnoma d e M xico (UNAM) to conduct a series of academic surveys of the region. The president asked the department of anthropology to conduct an ethnographic survey, focused on indigenous languages, cultures, bodies. Scholars were to accord special attention to di etary deficiencies of people who might become possible allies for development plans. Biologists were to conduct a comprehensive survey of the flora and fauna of the basin, while geologists were responsible for identifying potential dam sites, sources of s ubterranean water aquifers, and potential lodes of mineral deposits. Other commission officials labored to identify those natural 44 Orive Alda, El Tennessee, 18. 45 Orive Alda, El Tennessee, 21.
98 resources that could be successfully exploited and those that should be conserved. harge of coordinating the other studies and for economic development. 46 In 1947, alone, the Mexican government allocated $1,400,000 (USD) for preliminary research and construction. 47 For Alemn and others, development of the region in a way that also promoted conservation of natural resources was a key to both the economic and the mor al and corruption, his focus on conservation demonstrates a more morally ambiguous image that should cause scholars to reevaluate the complex nature of the man and his presidency. 48 Alemn was typical of Mexican government officials after 1940. Following Lzaro Crdena s, the presidential administrations of mid century focused on development driven by the priorities of Import Substitution Industrialization and large scal e agro business. However, the Alemn administration recognized the need to to ensure that industrial development and the export led agricultural sectors could grow and thrive into the future In addition, d espite the clear emphasis on industrial 46 Orive Alda, El Tennessee, 19 20. 47 The Wall Street J ournal, 12 January 1948, 13. 48 It should be noted that this is not an attempt to rehabilitate Miguel Alemn, who probably rightly deserves the condemnations that critics have leveled against him for his unscrupulous approach to development and his toleranc e of the misdeeds of his subordinates. However, if we are to take seriously his morally charged proclamations conservation, as Simonian does, then we should dispense with caricatures and aim for more complex and nuanced evaluations of the man and his pres idency. See Lane Simonian, Defending the Land of the Jaguar: A History of Conservation in Mexico, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995), 115 124.
99 development after 1940, Alemn and subsequent Mexican presidents wrestled with the monumental political legacy left by Cardens and his influential forestry minister, Miguel Ang el de la Queveda, who is memorialized by a metro station in the wealthy Mexico City neighborhood of Coyoacan. Alemn promoted reforestation projects aimed at preventing soil erosion, and he firmly believed that development and conservation could be compat ible goals if government planners could implement projects, like those in the Papaloapan Basin, based on scientific expertise. 49 administration, including Alemn himself, felt a kee n awareness of environmental limitations and a dedication to conserving natural resources. However, the report also reflected the mod ernist faith that a culturally sensitive science could rationally manage natural resources for the exclusive benefit of hu manity, particularly those segments of humanity associated with large scale agriculture and industry. Echoing earlier statements regarding the role of democracies in shifting priorities away from the destructive technologies of war to the productive effor ts to scientifically manage natural resources, Alemn addressed the opening session of the second General Assembly of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In the November 1947 speech, Alemn warned against the destr uctive excesses that science 50 49 Lane Simonian, Defend ing the Land of the Jaguar 121 125. 50 The Washington Post, 11 November 1947, 3.
100 dential successors continued to express faith in the benefits of scientific management of natural resources. Under Adolfo Ruiz Cortines (1952 1958) the government launched a forestry campaign aimed at teaching peasants to use their lands and forest resourc es more rationally, otherwise the benefit of government public works would be undermined. Adolfo Lopez Mateos followed his predecessors and 51 M id century presidential administrations disparaged indigenous and peasant knowledge and championed scientific rationalism, not only as the means to economic development, but also as the key to environmental conservation. Subsequent chapters will explore t he ways in which the Papaloapan projects fit among broader endeavors to modernize Mexican agriculture according to scientific dictates. Scientific management of natural resources would have dramatic consequences for both the land and the people of the Pap aloapan Basin (and beyond) as Green Revolution technologies, such as hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers, reshaped the agroecology of the region and created new relationships between the state and the campesinos Into the Tropics Following the public an nouncement of the Papaloapan projects, Alemn made plans to visit the river basin in the summer of 1947, as the government was inundated with letters. A wide variety of people, from residents of t he region to American engineers who had worked on the Tenne ssee Valley projects, requested jobs with the 51 Adolfo Lopez Mateos quoted in Simonian, Defending the Land of the Jaguar, 124 125.
101 Papaloapan Commission and the Department of Hydraulic Resources. 52 Upon learning that the Mexican government was planning a series of projects modeled on the TVA, Americans Jack Lockhart and Herbert Higgins conf idently informed president Alemn the project even to the exte nt of seeking employment 53 spokesman, Eduardo Chvez, thanked the American engineers f or their interest, but they required. However, Chvez explained that, in the event of future job openings, he 54 In addition to petitions from job seekers, the Mexican president received letters of welcome and congratulations from local power brokers in the Papaloapan Basin. Both the Governor of Oaxaca, Eduardo Vasconcelos, and the President of the Tuxtepec Cha mber of visit and the economic boon that the Papaloapan projects promised. According to ze the gigantic works that [the government] undertakes to forge the economic greatness of the 55 In 1948, Or ive Alda toured the Papaloapan Basin as well. In the highlands of Oaxaca, he found an isolated part of Mexico defined by both primeval wil derness and 52 See Correspondence : Manuel J. Chzaro A. to Miguel Alemn, 5 June 1947, AGN 609/38 MAV 53 Correspondence: Jack Lockhart and Herb ert Higgins to Miguel Alemn, 5 August 1948, AGN 606.3/185 MAV. 54 Correspondence : Eduardo Chvez to Jack Lockhart and Herbert Higgins, 25 August 1948, AGN 606.3/185 MAV. 55 Correspondence : Ildefonso Bravo to Miguel Alemn, 19 July 1947, 609/38 MAV; Correspo ndence : Eduardo Vasconcelos to Miguel Alemn, 21 July 1947 MAV.
102 unassimilated Indians. A reporter who accompanied Olive Alda declared that a simple to flow into the 20 th had to be ferried across streams and rivers on barges. Throughout the region, the at, the government inspection party turned their attention away from the primitive highlands. Focusing on the agriculturally productive lowlands of Veracruz, they toured the pineapple growing istobal, and arrived in development of the region, Minister Orive Alda proclaimed that Alvarado, the port city at the mouth of Papaloapan River, would soon eclipse Ve would soon be ended with the construction of a highway linking the region to Mexico City. 56 The trip downriver through Loma Bonita and Tlacot alpan to Alvarado would become the standard tour for official visitors. And the narrative of a wild jungle inhabited by primitive Indians being brought into an agricultural modernity by government magnanimity, would become the standard trope of the early P apaloapan story. In 1949, 56 The Christian Science Monitor, 4 June 1948, 13.
103 another visitor recalled flying over the region and seeing runoff canals built to protect ses under construction by the represented efforts at both social engineering and environmenta l management. For is basically a work of a social and human character in which the transformation of natural resources is for the benefit of the people and the country 57 The early efforts of the Papaloapan Commission focused on bringing modernity to the tropical region by controlling floods and the tro pical diseases that flourish in standing water, connecting the region to the nation with new roads, and bringing the phase of construction, the Papaloapan Co mmission im plemented the recommendations that Jos Noriega had proposed after the devastating flood of 1944. The plan s called for constructing multi purpose dams to control floods, provide run off for irrigation, and provide hydroelectricity. However, since the mos t likely sites for dam construction were located in inaccessible mountain valleys, the Commission first had to undertake a program of road and infrastructure construction. Thus, the first years of the Papaloapan projects were defined by and a preference for large scale public works. 57 The Christian Sc ience Monitor, 27 July, 1949, 10.
104 The centerpiece of the early construction projects was the Miguel Alemn Dam, which spanned the Rio Tonto, the most significant tributary feeding into the Papaloapan River. When it was constructed, the dam was o ne of the largest public works pro jects in Latin America. T he Commission also focused on constructing two major highways and a new town, Ciudad Alemn, to house their official headquarters. The first highway connected Ciudad Alemn to the Mexico City Vera cruz highway, and the second ran downriver from Ciudad Alemn to Tlacotalpan near the Gulf of Mexico. Ciudad Alemn itself was laid out to eventual accommodate 150,000 inhabitants, though there already existed several well established towns nearby. 58 Though the Papaloapan Commission expended most of its resources on the large public works constructions, officials were also eager to reshape the social landscape by relocating the indigenous populations of the Oaxacan highlands who would be displa ced by the dam and other construction projects. Many people sought employment on the construction projects, or in a cement factory near Ciudad Alemn that supplied materials for construction. For those dislocated by the dam, however, the Commission propo sed an ambitious resettlement project. The reservoir created by the Alemn Dam held 8,000 million cubic meters of water and covered almost 50,000 hectare s of land that had once been home to 22,000 Mazatec Indians. Under the auspices of the Instituto Nacio nal Indigenista (INI), the dislocated Mazatecas were relocated to resettlement zones in the lower Papaloapan Basin. 59 58 Poleman, The Papaloapan Project, 101 103. 59 Poleman, The Papaloapan Project, 115.
105 In 1952, the first Mazatec colonists were resettled onto uninhabited lands that had been appropriated by the government in a region call ed Las Naranjas. Initially, 417 families settled on 3300 hectares. By 1954, the Papaloapan Commission and the INI had established five new agricultural colonies at Zapata, Oaxaca, Las Naranjas, Resumidero, and Independencia. 60 Planners hoped that moving the highland Indians to the new agricultural zones would disrupt traditional patterns of subsistence farming on small ejidal plots, and shift the priorities to commercial agriculture directed by new settlers would fall into traditional subsistence patterns in the face of the numerous technical and social 61 Commission officials followed a paternalistic app roach to supporting the colonists in Las Naranjas. Essentially, they provided each family with an already operational, commercial farm. The Commission provided land that the Alemn administration had been purchasing piecemeal since 1950. The Commission c leared the land using machinery and hired laborers and brought in the colonists only weeks before the rn of a typical and maybe some chickens, and slightly larger family plots were allocated for commercial agriculture using modern methods and technologies. 60 Scherr and Poleman, Development and Equity in the Mexican Tropics, 55 61. 61 Scherr and Poleman, Development and Equity in the Mexican Tr opics, 60.
106 The Commissio n forced the indigenous colonists to agree to their supervision and guidance by controlling access to credit. The Commission did not give the indigenous families immediate ownership. Instead officials asked settlers to sign a gave them free rent for a year and access short term operational loans. After a yearlong probationary period, settlers who conformed to the ollow Commission protocols were expelled from the land. The purchase co ntracts mortgaged the land to indigenous families at inflated cropping and soil conservation pr 62 Despite early enthusiasm, the initial colonization efforts failed completely within four years. Commission officials based their recommendations on insufficient research and they distrusted local land use practices. Officials allowed colonist s no flexibility to innovate or improvise local solutions to the difficult problems of commercial agriculture in the humid tropics. Furthermore, t he Commission proved unable to fulfill government promises to provide water for irrigation because of a de sign flaw in the Miguel Alemn D am. Rather than employing gravity irrigation techniques, the Commission built hydraulic pumps to extract water from the Rio Tonto. Due to high costs and maintenance lapses, the pumps soon became corroded and unusable and the C ommission suspended irrigation operations. Many of the colonists turn ed to local 62 Poleman, The Papaloapan Project, 131; 127 135
107 sugar refineries for credit. 63 By 1956, half of all colonists were in arrears. Many families left or were expelled from their lands. By 1957, government c redit dried up com pletely and cattle ranchers acquired much of the cleared land 64 Government officials continued to believe that indigenous agricultural practices had caused the commercial ces in subsequent development schemes. chose to participate in the relocation programs. Almost immediately, petitions from those destined to experience only destruction and displacement as a result of the construction, began flooding the offices of the president and the Commission. From 1947 to 1949, The National Confederation of Campesinos campaigned on behalf of a number of peasants like, Jesus Ortiz Ruiz of Tuxtepec, Oax aca, whose lands were destroyed during the construction of the dam. 65 Campesinos also pooled their resources to obtain legal assistance. Attorneys writing on behalf of a group calling themselves The Society of the Woods of Papaloapan demanded that the gove rnment publicize the exact costs of construction and the exact projections of the extent and location of the total surface area that would be flooded as the res ervoir rose behind the Miguel Alemn Dam. The tone of the letter suggests a defensive posture a s the attorneys prepared to protect the rights and property of their clients. Challenging the power of the state to 63 Alicia Barabas and Miguel Bartolom, Hydraulic Development and Ethnocide: The Mazatec and Chinantec People of Oaxaca, Mexico, (Copenhagen: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, 1973), 4 19. 64 Scherr and Poleman, Development and Equity in the Mexican Tropics, 60. 65 Correspondence: Robert Barrios to the Jefe del Departamento Agrario, Comisin del Papaloapan, 25 April 1949
108 appropriate private property, they declared defiantly that under such extreme 66 The Alemn admini stration finally responded to protests by officially declaring that certain property owners would be compensated for the loss of lands, houses, or valuable agricultural holdings, particularly fruit trees. 67 All petitions for indemnification were to be dire Commission officials devised criteria to determine eligibility for compensation. As construction commenced, individuals and ejido leaders, peasants and hacendados alike, tried to secure com pensation for damaged land and property. Between May and June 1954, Joaquin Caceres Riera sent a series of letters to the head of the legal department of the Papaloapan Commission on behalf of his brother, a former hacendado named Dr. Josemanuel Caceres Riera. The letters hacienda Santa Margarita, which had been inundated when the Presidente Alemn dam finally became operational. The Caceras Riera brothers claimed that the property occupied territory on t he right bank of the Rio Tonto, an area that had to be evacuated as water levels rose behind the dam. estate had been some ejido and at the same time included lands of peasants who were 68 The legal struggle dragged on for two more years until 66 Correspondence: Daniel Leyna Aragon, Carlos Ugalde Leger, Ern esto Deytz Mendoza to Secretary of Hydraulic Resources, 28 June 1949. AHA Caja 65/ Exp. 831 67 Diario Oficial: Organo del Gobierno de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos 10 December 1949. 68 Correspondence: Joaquin Caceras Riera to Maclovio Sierra de la Garza, 4 June 1954, AHA Caja 1/Exp. 0101.
109 Papaloapan Commission officials agreed to recognize that the hacie nda had been located in an evacuation zone. 69 However, the Commission still refused to indemnify the hacendado for damages to his property. Perpetually tying up the case in a labyrinth of dido Cruz 70 Candido Cruz Lopez also denied the claims Sr. Hernendez Perz of Cordoba, Verecruz. The Commission section director challenged the veracity of Hernedez disputed property. Cruz Lopez claimed that constru ction on the d am began in January 1949, and was completed in October 1953. At that point the water was on ly at a level of 28.10. 71 By July 1954, the water level reached 46.24. In October 1955, it was 55.11. By December 1957 it climbed to 60.91 before stabilizing at 67.37 by August 1958. According to Cruz Lopez, at no point did the water reach 70.00, the lev el which he calculated would be required to damage the property of Sr. Hernandez Perz. 72 The Papaloapan Commission responded favorably to some claims for indemnification, particularly small claims. According to the presidential decree of 26 October 194 69 Correspondence : Papaloapan Commission Legal Director Alonso Landa y Cuevas to Joaquin Caceras Riera, January 1956 April 1956, AHA Caja 1/Exp. 0101. 70 Correspondence : Candido Cruz Lopez to Dr. Josemanuel Caceras Riera, 16 April 1956, AHA Caja 1/Exp. 0101. 71 Correspondence : Candido Cruz Lopez to Sr. Hernendez Perz, 14 November 1961, AHA Caja 3/ Exp. 0038. Cruz Lopez does not indicate the unit of measurement, however. It may be reasonable to assume that the figures were given in meters. 72 Correspondence : Candido Cruz Lopez to Sr. Hernendez Perz, 14 Novembe r 1961, AHA Caja 3/ Exp. 0038.
110 73 The Commission used a formula for land valuation developed by the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, and agreed to pay C. Lucio Domicio of Soyaltepec, Oaxaca, a total sum of $238.28 pesos for lands that were deemed terranos rusticos claims the amounted to less the $1000.00 pesos could be paid out without add itional review or revisions. 74 pequeno[s] propeitario[s] terranos rusticos ns, and his fruit trees, while Sra. Flora Martin of Soyaltepec, Oaxaca enlisted the aid of the local agrarian association and the municipal president to secure $1907.44 pesos to pay for her lost fruit trees. 75 By 1961, however, the Papaloapan Commission re fused to entertain further petitions and published a list of the remaining individuals from the towns of Ixcatlan, Ojitlan, and Chicolchotla who would be eligible for compensation. 76 Not all petitioners sought government indemnification for displacement an d hardship, however. Some wanted to take advantage of the economic opportunities promised by the Papaloapan projects. In addition to job seekers looking to work on construction 73 Acta Indemnizacion DL 177/966, AHA Caja 14/ Exp. 0183 74 Correspondence : Enrique Lopez Vieyra to the Papaloapan Commission, 25 July 1 966, AHA Caja 14/ Exp. 0138. 75 Correspondence: Ramn Arteaga P. to Comision del Papaloapan, Departamento de Tierras, 13 October 1958, AHA Caja 61/ Exp. 165; Correspondence: Association Agricola de Raya del Soyaltepec, Ojitlan, Oaxaca to Comision del Papalo apan, Depatamento de Tierras, 17 October 1957, AHA Caja 61/Exp. 760, Correspondence: Venancio Ramos Alejandro to Comission del Papaloapan, Departemento Legal, 23 August 1960, AHA Caja 61/Exp. 760. 76 Comission Del Papaloapan, Legal Department, 12 January 19 61, AHA Caja 61/ Exp. 765.
111 in areas opened to irrigation agriculture. 77 Jose Carrasco, for example, sought presidential permission to establish an agricultural colony in the lower Papaloapan Basin. He and his constituents offered to pay $200 pesos per hectare using th e proceeds from their agricultural yields over a ten year period. 78 In the late 1950s, the Papaloapan Commission took stock of all of its achievements during its first ten years. An internal report entitled, The Growth of the Economy of Papalo apan and Its Significance for the National Economy, triumphantly proclaimed increases in agricultural and industrial productions, as well as improvements to infrastructure and hydroelectricity facilities. 79 According to Commission figures, there had been th irty one hydroelectric plants in 1947 and a total of 162 plants in 1958, a 423 percent increase. The total capacity of hydroelectric power increased 86 percent from 57,557 kilowatts (KW) in 1947 to 93,450 kilowatts (KW) in 1958. Such increases in electro nic energy productivity came at a cost of $80.8 million pesos, which amounted to construction of hydraulic works, by contrast, cost $239 million pesos and accounted for forty p pesos were allocated to the Miguel Alemn dam. The Commission also devoted significant resources to promoting industrial development, allocated $200.5 million pesos for construct ing factories and purchasing industrial equipment. Together, the 77 Diario Oficial: Organo del Gobeirno Constitucional de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, 29 December 1965, 8, AHA Caja 24/Exp. 276. 78 Correspondence: Jose Carrasco to Miguel Alemn, 7 January 1952, AGN MAV 315/ 32209 79 Comision del Papaloapan, El Crecimiento de la Economia del Papaloapan y su Significa ccin en la Economia Nacional, AHA Caja 11/Exp. 0152. All figures in this section come from this internal Commission report
112 construction of hydraulic works, hydroelectric plants, and the promotion of industry spent 9.1 perce nt of the resources on the social projects that would be at the center of public relations campaigns (this category included urban water and sewage facilities, education and schools, and urban electrification projects). Promoting agriculture and opening new lands to production cost the Commission $42.1 million pesos in its first decade. That amounted to only seven percent of total investment, yet increasing agricultural production may have been the most significant achievement in terms of the nat ional economy. According to the report, the Papaloapan Basin contained 2.8 million hectares of land under cultivation, representing 7.6 percent of the total land under cultivation for the nation as a whole. Within the basin, Oaxaca contained 60, 200 hecta res of cultivated land in 1947, though that figured had climbed to 95,100 hectares by 1957, an increase of 58 percent. The amount of cultivated land in Veracruz increased from 147,800 hectares in 1947 to 287,800 hectares in 1957, a 94 percent increase. Th e southern portion of the state of Puebla which lies within the Papaloapan Basin saw a modest 20.7 percent increase in cultivated land In Oaxaca, the number of hectares devoted to rice production increased 193.3 percent from 1,500 hectares in 1947 to 4,4 00 in 1957. Coffee production increased 71.3 percent from 10,000 hectares in 1947 to 17,300 in 1957. The production of sugar expanded from 2,500 to 6,300 hectares, a 142.3 percent increase. The production of staple crops like beans and corn expanded mor e modestly, however. Beans had been grown on 7,200 hectares in 1947, while corn production occupied 37,400 hectares. By 1957, the amount of land devoted to staple food production had increase only 25
113 percent for beans and 39 percent for corn, though the production of corn continued to consume the largest total acreage, with 52,000 hectares devoted to the crop in the state of Oaxaca by 1957. According to Commission statistics, the increase in land under cultivation led directly to significant increases in total production and increases in the value of production. In Oaxaca, farmers produced 2,200 tons of rice in 1947 and 8,000 tons by 1957. Commission economists calculated that, assuming a median price of $530 pesos/ton, the increase in productivity amou nted to a total of $4,240,000 pesos, a 263.6 percent increase in value. The production of high value coffee crops ($7010 pesos/ton) increased from 3,900 tons in 1947 to 7,600 tons in 1957, from a value of $22,339,000 pesos to $53,276,000 pesos ( a 94.9 pe rcent increase). The production and value of food staples rose less dramatically, and even declined in the case of beans. In 1947, the state of Oaxaca produced 30,000 tons of beans, by 1957 farmers in the region produced only 25,000 annually. At median p rice of $980 pesos/ton, that amount to a 16.7 percent decline in the value of bean production. Corn production rose from 27,2 00 tons to 42,600 tons. With an average price of $552 pesos/ton, the value of corn production in Oaxaca rose from $15,014,000 peso s to $23,515,000 pesos, an increase of 56.6 percent. The total value of all agricultural production in Oaxaca increased 84.9 percent, from $52,250,000 to $96,633,000 pesos. However, the farmers of the state of Veracruz received an even greater boon from the activities of the Papaloapan Commission. Overall, the value of agricultural production in the Gulf Coast state increased 104.1 percent, from $157,507,000 pesos to $321,944,000 pesos. For the Papaloapan Basin as a whole, values rose from $232, 570,000 pesos to $451,231,000
114 pesos, a 94 percent increase. The lower basin in Veracruz also received the largest proportion of the hydroelectricity generated by the works of Papaloapan Commission, 91,039 kilowatts in 1957. Compared to the nation as a whole, Oa xaca declined from Veracruz increased from 8.4 percent to 13.8 percent of the national total. These statistics are highly politicized and signific ant for three reasons. First, by providing aggregate totals for the basin as a whole, and for the large segments of state territory within the basin, Commission officials could claim success. They could point to increases in commercial crops, such as rice and sugar, along the river banks protected from flood waters while disguising localized failures in other parts of the basin. While flood control efforts may have made new lowland territories in Veracruz safe for commercial investment, those areas in which the state interve ned most heavily struggled to meet expectations. The colonization schemes in Las Naranjas were abandoned as the modern agricultural techniques promoted by Commission planners failed to provide the Mazatec settlers with enough productivity to meet their de bt obligations. Papaloapan projects represented part of an effort to increase food production throughout the R epublic using scientific techniques developed in collaboration wit h the Rockefeller Foundation. The Foundation focused much of its attention on developing high y ie ld hybrid seeds for corn, wheat, and beans However, the hybrid seeds required large quantities of irrigated water, which the Commission failed to provide af ter its hydraulic pumps became corroded. A nd the Rockefeller Foundation scientists had
115 never applied their modern agricultural techniques to tropical, rather than temperate climates and soils. As the statistics indicate, production in corn rose only mode stly, while production in beans declined, as total food production in the indigenous highlands of Oaxaca declined in relation to production throughout the nation. Furthermore, the Commission largely neglected the public works and social projects in the Oa xacan highlands as the majority of its expenditures were devoted to large scale construction projects to benefit commercial farmers and cattle ranchers in lowland Veracruz. Displaced Mazatec Indians were left with little option other t ha n asserting their rights by securing the best indemnification settlement they could get. Finally, we should approach the statistics skeptically, as the Papaloapan Commission was under pressure to demonstrate success as it faced competition for resources from other governm ent agencies. triumphant report, the projects were largely in decline during the late 1950s and early 1960s. By the late 1950s, the agricultural colonization schemes in the lower basin had failed and the goals of managi ng the natural world to promote conservation as well as development had been sacrificed to the needs of cattle ranchers and agro business. Additionally, the fortunes of the Papaloapan Commissions were vulnerable to the vicissitudes of presidential administ rations that did not share the enthusiasm that Miguel Alemn had originally expressed for the Papaloapan projects. 80 Following the heyday of the Alemn presidency, subsequent administrations largely abandoned plans for grand public works schemes u ntil the 1970s Adolfo Ruiz Cortines focused on opening virgin lands to agricultural development and on expanding 80 Of course, one could cynically argue that the projects repr esented little more than patronage to Miguel
116 energetic Vocal Ejecutivo, Raul Sandoval Landzuri, died in a plane crash in November 1956, much of the passion for new development dissipated. After the death of Sandoval, the Papaloapan Commission faced bureaucratic competition as other agencies sought access to federal funds by challenging the oversight of the Commiss ion and asserted more fragmented, decentr alized development projects. Lopez Mateos expressed little interest in the Papaloapan region as he shifted national priorities to the north and north pacific. He initiated budget and staff cuts, though he continued to supply funding for scientific research in the region. The subsequent president, Adolfo Lopez Mateos also shifted responsibility for road construction to Ministry of Public Works. During his tenure as president, Gustavo Diaz Ordaz commissioned few new p rograms, but he supported plans for rural development projects to develop the upper basin, to modernize the backwards Indians of the Oaxacan highlands. 81 Paradoxically, despite the declining interest in the large scale Papaloapan projects in the 1960s, de different programs had at least one shared characteristic: they were all guided by the idea that Oaxaca was backward because its natives were conservative, lacked initiative, and continued to u SARH (Secretariat of Agriculture and Hydraulic Resources), INI (National Indigenous Institute), committed to bringing the indigenous groups of highland Oaxaca into the modern nation by intr oducing the modern technologies of the so called Green 81 Scherr and Poleman, Development and Equity in Tropical Mexico 37 42; Poleman, The Papaloapan Project, 103 110.
117 Revolution. Technologies such as chemical fertilizers and improved hybrid seeds developed through collaboration between the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation aimed not only to improve crop yields, they aimed to reshape the Mexican 82 Conclusion During the early years of the Papaloapan projects, the Mexican state attempted to assert control over both tropical nature and tropical peoples. State planners attempted to bring the tropical environment into the national economy, and they attempted to bring the Mazatec Indians of the Oaxacan highlands into modernity. St ate officials believed that the Papaloapan Basin held endless potential, if only its dangers could be avoided and its resources harnessed by scientific planners. They distrusted olonies using moder n techniques and technologies. bureaucrats to extend their reach into distant corners of the nation. Though most of the early Papaloapan projects failed, state planners were seldom deterred from Declining budgets, inter governmental squabbling, and a lack of local flexibility displaced by the Miguel Alemn dam and stripped the lower basin of the dense foliage that kept the thin soils in place, threatening the most ambitious commercial agricultural 82 ion of Oaxaca from the Sixteenth Century The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas: Volume II, Mesoamerica, Part 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Pres s 2000), 336.
118 schemes and leaving the region barren, suitable only for cattle ranching. However, Government planners and agriculture scientists continue d to see in the Papaloapan Basin an opportunity to test the applicability of theories for development in the tropical world and for fostering the transformation of indigenous folk culture into a rationally planned, scientifically informed modern agricultur al utopia. The following chapter examines the academics who worked closely with the Papaloapan Commission to make complex reality legible for policy makers. Economists and anthropologists discursively constructed the Papalaopan Basin and its inhabitants as an imagined world that conformed to the tropes of disciplinary models and obscured attempts to articulate alternate ways of living in tropical nature.
119 CHAPTER 4 A JUMP OF CENTURIES This chapter examines the work of scie ntists and scholars that both justified intervention in the region, and simultaneously facilitated the specific forms that state development projects took It reads the work of economists an d anthropologists for the underlying assumption s that motivated scholarly int erest in the region Like state officials, scholars were informe intervention to bring intractable tropical environments into produc tion, and to transform backward tropi cal peasants into modern commercial farm ers. T his chapter also explores how scholars simplified complex realities in order to construct puzzles that could be solved using the conventions of their respective academic disciplines. From the inception of the Papaloapan Commission in the late 1940 s, economists from Mexico City and the Unite d States poured into the basin to catalogue the flora and fauna in order to determine which natural resources presented the best opportunities for economic development. In addition, anthropologists under the gui dance of the Instituto Nacional Indigenista (INI) took a new interest in the indigenous groups of Oaxaca, particularly the Mazatecas and Chinantecas of the upper Papaloapan Basin. Ethnographers were interested in examining indigenous culture in order to de scribe, and explicitly to facilitate the decline of traditional folkways and the transition to modernity. The project of mapping and studying the Papaloapan Basin linked the shape Mexican agricultural development according to scientific dictates and modern methods. The rigidity of scientific assumptions silenced voices that may have expressed alternative ways of imaging the relationship with the natural world.
120 Legibility an d Economic Development During the 1950s, the tropical region became one of the most studied areas in Mexico. Researchers associated with the Papaloapan Commission and the National University (UNAM) flooded into the basin, mapping and cataloguing the flor a and fauna. They made tropical nature legible and constructed forms of knowledge that would be usable for policy makers, economic planners, and engineers. Yet, their work coincided with the changes caused by the public work projects of the Papaloapan Co mmission. They were studying an ecosystem already in flux, and a society already in transition. For researchers studying the basin, their project involved chronicling, and championing, heir labors provided the raw data for further government encroachments. confidence about scientific and tec hnical progress, the expansion of production, the growing satisfaction of human needs, the mastery of nature (including human nature), and above all, the rational design of social order commensurate with the scientific 1 For Scott, state high modernism may involve urban planning to remake cities in order to symbolically project the authority of the state and to demolish the unpredictable labyrinth of neighborhoods that foster and hide sedition and rebellion. Or, state high mo nature to serve the needs of commercial forestry or commercial agriculture. 2 In order to 1 James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 4. 2 Scott, Seeing Like a State, 262.
121 natural world i 3 But, he contends that state high modernist project s fail repeatedly, often tragically, because they excluded and disdained the flexibility of improvised local knowledge. 4 Following Scott and others in the present study I do not present a blanket critique of state bureaucracy or s cientific methods I also do not uncritical ly celebrate imperialism of state interventions and t that guided government planners and engineers of the Papaloapan Commission. 5 However, and unlike Scott, in this study I am primarily concerned with explaining the failure of the state developmental schemes in the Papaloapan Basin. Instead, in the following chapter I describe the assumptions that informed academic studies conducted by econ omists and anthropologists. Scott serves as a useful guide to understanding how the construction of knowledge often conformed to high modernist ideologies, and buttressed the authority of the state as the Papaloapan Commission extended its reach into the tropics of Oaxaca and Veracruz. Yet, merely explaining the failure of Mexican state develomentalism is a rather unsatisfying endeavor, particularly since such high modernist faith in scientific, rational planning survived the obvious failures of the 1950s and 1960s and continued to 3 Scott, Seeing Like a State, 2 3. 4 Seeing Like a State, 311. 5 Scott, Seeing Like a State, 6. [italics in original]
122 influence both state planners and scientific experts in agronomy well into the 1970s and 1980s. Instead, examining the connections between academic research and state development allows us to discern the priorities of the mid t wentieth century PRIista state and how its failures provided fodder for the genesis of new forms of political discourse centered on constructed understandings of indigenous environmental stewardship. Studies of the Papaloapan Basin invariably followed patterns and maintained recognizable narrative forms. Scholars often began by describing the Papaloapan Basin in aggregate terms, focusing on All researchers benefitted from collaboration with the Papaloa pan Commission and often addressed their inquiries toward those issues of most interest to the Commission and to commercial developers. Both Mexican and American scholars worked closely with the Papaloapan Commission. Mexican planners and economists, most notably Jos Noriega and Jose Attolini, provided the most direct assistance in conceptualizing the basin as an integrated whole and developing an overall plan for expanding commercial opportunities. 6 American economists, by contrast, looked to Papaloapan for a model of development that could be applied elsewhere in the tropical world. The community of economists that took an interest in development in the Papaloapan Basin included three generations of American economists directed by Thomas T. Poleman of C ornell University. Poleman conducted his own research, in collaboration with the Papaloapan Commission, during the 1950s, and he guided doctoral dissertations by two of his students while he focused his attention on the problem of increasing agricultural 6 Jos Noriega Ingeniera hidrulica en Mexico I, (April June 1947, July September 1947); Jose Attolini, Economia de la cuenca del Papaloapan, (Mexico C ity: Instituto de Investiganciones Economicas, 1949).
123 productivity to combat hunger throughout the developing (tropical) world. In many Foundation who focused on the narrowly defined scientific puzzle of increasing agricultural pro duction. 7 The project of mapping and studying the Papaloapan Basin to reshape Mexican agricultural development according to scientific dictates and modern methods. T he first major studies of the Papaloapan Basin dealt directly with the issue of flooding in the Lower Papaloapan Basin. Responding to mandates from Mexican President Miguel Alemn and his Minister of Hydraulic Resources, Jos Noriega surveyed the causes o f floods in the most prominent cases on historical record and he outlined an ambitious program for the construction of flood control projects. His building the Miguel Alemn da m and the irrigation works in the Lower Papaloapan Basin. Noriega concluded the high incidence of flooding was the result of both man made and natural causes. Due to both natural erosion and to deforestation, siltation caused the banks of the Papaloapan River to rise above the surrounding flood plain. When heavy rains caused the river waters to overflow their banks, water rushed downhill and pooled in the surrounding lands, flooding towns and villages. 7 See Thomas T. Poleman, The Food Economies of Urban Middle Africa: The Case of Ghana, (Stanford: Food Research Institute, Stanford University, 1961); Thomas T. Poleman, Gre en Revolution: Income and Employment Diffusion in Uttar Pradesh, (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University WP97 14, (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University, Department of Agricultural, Resource, and Managerial Economics, 1997).
124 The Alemn administration and the Papaloapan Commis sion were concerned with more than simply controlling flood waters. They sought to completely transform the Papaloapan Basin into a productive part of t he national economy. T o develop a comprehensive development plan, however, Commission officials need t o make the flora and fauna of the region legible so that they could try to maximize opportunities for economic development. In 1949, Mexican economist Jose Attolini from UNAM t erm plan for economic development. Attolini closely followed the goals of the Alemn of 8 Like the Commission officials, Attolini echoed the tropes of a tropical discourse that maintained notions of an abundant but underutilized tropical environment. He explicitly declared that his study was no t merely in the interest of pure science (whatever that might be), but he intended the knowledge to be applied to the practical development of the Papaloapan Basin. In clarifying his objectives and the objectives of the Alemn administration and the Papal oapan Commission, Attolini declared that he had seven distinct goals. First, he hoped his studies would help control flood waters. Second, he wanted to make the Papaloapan Basin a healthier region ( zona salubre ). For state sponsored scholars, tropical natu re was potentially productive but also dangerous as tropical diseases like yellow fever and malaria had historically limited efforts to develop tropical regions. Many of the earliest efforts by governments and non 8 Jos Attolini, Economia de la Cuenca Papaloapan: Agricultura, vol. 2 (Mexico City: Insituto de Investigaciones Economicas, 1949) 7.
125 governmental organizations to settle trop ical areas in Mexico and Latin America focused on public health campaigns and the eradication of tropical diseases. 9 The Papaloapan Commission also tried to address public health concerns to justify intervention into remote rural areas. 10 Attolini contin ued, declaring that his third goal was to promote agricultural development in inundated zones that would be drained by the public works projects, and irrigated agriculture in drier areas. Furthermore, as their fourth goal, he and the Papaloapan Commission wanted to generate hydroelectricity to facilitate industrial development in the region. Fifth, the economist wanted industrialization to lead to the creation of new centers of population. Aesthetically, he wanted to make the rivers more navigable, and mo re beautiful. Finally, Attolini and the Commission devised a plan to construct a modern communications network across the Papaloapan Basin. 11 objectives established the template for future studies of the region. The American economists that fol lowed from the 1950s through the 1980s examined the Papaloapan projects in order to describe a model of tropical development that could be applied in other parts of the tropical world. As such, they were primarily concerned with what James Scott identified highlight only those factors that could be useful for promoting tropical development. 9 For example, see a recent book on the Rockefeller Foundati health campaigns, Steven Palmer, Launching Global Health: The Caribbean Odyssey of the Rockefeller Foundation, (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010). 10 University of Florida, 1956, 105 120. 11 Attolini, Ecomomia de la Cuenca Papaloapan, 5 6.
126 The basin lies directly west of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, covers 17,800 square miles and incorpora tes portions of three Mexican states: Oaxaca, Puebla, and Veracruz. 12 The region lies entirely within the tropics of the Northern Hemisphere. As in other parts of Latin America, however, the climate and vegetation vary dramatically according to altitude a nd proximity to the rich soils of the al luvial flood plains. T o make such a complex natural world legible to planners, scholars simplified and classified various parts of the Papaloapan Basin into five separate subsections according to criteria that defin ed their utility for economic development. They devised an artificial construct and designated the five subsections as 1. the industrial region, 2. the lowlands region. 3. the Tuxlas 4. the colonization region and 5. the Oaxacan highlands. 13 The first subse the basin closest to Puebla and the Central Valley. The cities of Cordoba, Orizaba, Ciudad Mendoza, and Tehuacan were more integrated into the national economy than the re st of the basin, and they followed a pattern of industrial development distinct from the rest of the basin. The Industrial Region form part of the urbanizing route that linked the ports of Veracruz to Puebla and Mexico City, and industrialization began ea rly as and breweries during the first half of the twentieth century. 14 12 Thomas T. Poleman, The Papaloapan Project: Agricultural Development in the Mexican Tropics, (Stanford: Stanford University Press 1964), 31. 13 Poleman, The Papaloap an Project; Sara J.Scherr, and Thomas T. Poleman, Development and Equity in Tropical Mexico: Thirty Years of the Papaloapan Project, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, Department of Agricultural Economics, 1983), 25 5 61. It seems that knowledge. See Jacques Rancire, The Names of History: On the Poetics of Knowledge, forward by Hayden White, trans. Hassan M elehy, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994). 14 Scherr and Poleman, Development and Equity in Tropical Mexico, 25 29.
127 Researchers focused most of t heir attention on the Lower Papaloapan Valley that benefitted most directly from the interventions of the Papaloapan Commission. 15 Most of the flood control and irrigation works were aimed at increasing agricultural productivity in the lower Papaloapan Basi n and integrating the region into national markets. However, many of the agricultural projects neglected to account for the poor fertility of tropical soils. Clearing the virgin forests revealed thin soils that could not maintain high levels of production In addition, high velocity winds battered the coastal plains and damaged stalks of corn and wheat. Though, commercial rice production accelerated along the irrigated floodplains, and fruit trees, especially pineapples flourished around Loma Bonita. Mo st of the lowlands, however, were covered by open savannah lands and pasture for cattle ranching. Perhaps an unintended consequence, the expansion of cattle ranching proved to be the most direct consequence of the Papaloapan d, as we will see in the next chapter, even agricultural research and experimentation shifted from a focus on increasing human food supplies to the less intractable challenges of producing cattle feed in the tropical lowlands. Also along the coasta l plains of the Lowlands Region, oil production accelerated around the burgeoning industrial cities of Cosamaloapan and Tierra Blanca. Oil transformed the ecology of the region and caused officials to change course, giving the state run oil company, PEM EX, greater authority and challenging the jurisdiction of the Papaloapan Commission to develop the basin as an integrated whole. By 1970, nine 15 Scherr and Poleman, Development and Equity in Tropical Mexico, 29; Poleman, The Papaloapan Project; Winn
128 wells pumped 467,000 barrels of crude oil, 12,000 barrels of condensed oil, and 393 cubic meters for natural gas 16 W.W. Winnie, one of the few American scholars not affiliated with Thomas Poleman or Cornell University, focused his research entirely on the Lowlands Region. He contributed a more comprehensive overview of life in the Lower Papaloapan Basin. He collec ted information from the Mexican Census of 1950 and the Papalo apan Commission to construct some of the first maps of the region, and he goes further than other scholars in examining the human population of the Lowlands. He provided an extensive descriptio n of settlement patterns and chronicled the changes that d Mazatec Indians and the general commercialization of agriculture in the basin. Yet, Winnie applauded the efforts of the Papaloapan Co mmission and shared with his Mexican and American colleagues a sense that the tropical regions of Mexico should be developed and that tropical peoples could become part of modern national markets. He declared that his esis that the Lower Papaloapan Basin, and therefore similar tropical lowland regions throughout the world, are capable of being developed, that is, there is nothing about the physical environment [or the people] of 17 16 Mexico, Secretara de recursos hidrualicos, Comisin del Papaloapan, Diagnostico socio economico del cuenca, 1973; Scherr and Poleman, Development and Equity, 29; for a discussion of the ways in which altered the ecology of the lowlands o f northern Veracruz, see Myrna Santiago, The Ecology of Oil: Environment, Labor and the Mexican Revolution,1900 1938 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006). 17
129 In the southeast corner of the Papaloapan Basin, the Sierra de los Tuxlas rise to form the third geographical zone. The Tuxlas which reach altitudes of 3000 meters once belonge encomienda By the early 1970s, the two towns of San Andres Tuxla and Acayucan had 30,000 inhabitants each and became industrial centers for tobacco and soft drink processing. The mountains in the northern section of the Tuxlas had be en formed by volcanic activity and had rich soils, but the remainder of the region was marked by poor soils, and flood prone mountain valleys. The central part of the Papaloapan Basin remained sparsely inhabited until the Papaloapan Commission began r esettling displaced indigenous peoples to areas south of the city of Tuxtepec, Valle Nacional, Las Naranjas, and Playa Vicente. In the and Mazatec Indians and attempted to construct two roads from Tuxtepec in order to open the region for t he livestock industry. T he Commission had not completed either of the roads by 1970 and colonists largely abandoned the new colonies within a few years. inhabitants and the Papaolapan Commission would attempt to resettle Mazatec Indians displaced by the construction of a new dam, the Cerro de Oro Dam, to the distant Uxpanapa Valley in the Isthmus of T ehuantepec well beyond the southern borders of the orginal colonization zone 18 The resettlement schemes in the colonization region failed for a number of reasons. As noted in the previous chapter, the indigenous colonists funded their agricultural end eavors by contracting loans from the Papaloapan Commission. In 18 Scherr and Poleman, Development and Equity 31 32; Ewell and Poleman, Uxpanpa: Agricultural Development in the Mexican Tropics, (New York: Pergamon Press, 1980), 1 12.
130 exchange, they submitted to the guidance and were forced to follow procedures proscribed by agronomists and agricultural scientists. In the next chapter, we will discuss how such agricultural experts attempted to apply knowledge constructed in experimental stations in more fertile, temperate regions to practical problems in the tropical south. Commission officials and agronomists prevented the indigenous colonists from improvising local solut ions to problems of erosion and poor soil fertility because they deemed local land use practices to be backwards and primitive. In the Colonization Region, however, the new agricultural technologies that would later be associated with the so by the tropical environment. The colonization region received the most rainfall of any of the subregions of the basin. Moisture laden air rose to climb the steep slopes of the Sierra Madres. Precipita tion increased as the air cooled, flooding the eastern piedmont and leaving an orographic rain shadow in the Oaxacan highlands. Furthermore, the region lies directly in the path of Gulf hurricanes that cause much of the flooding that has vexed and continu es to vex, Mexican government officials. 19 Heavy rainfall also washed away the soils and exposed acidic soils and rocky terrain. At lower altitudes, the region proved suitable only for cattle ranching, while some commercial coffee production was establishe d on steeper slopes. However, few displaced indigenous colonists could thrive in the region since the soils were unsuitable for subsistence production of such 19 The region suffered sever flooding again in September 2010 when Hurricane Karl hit the Mexican Karl Batters Mexico's Gulf Coast, The Los Angeles Times, 18 September 2010, 3A.
131 staple crops as corn and squash, even with the application of hybrid seeds, and chemical fertili zers and pesticides. American economists devoted less attention to the Chinantec and Mazatec 20 The highlands held few opportunities for commerc ial agricultural development due to a lack of rain and rugged terrain, and the high altitude valleys along the Rio Tonto River were flooded by the Miguel Alemn dam. In addition, scholars blamed local land use practices for depleting natural resources. T hey charged indigenous peoples with overusing forest resources, as firewood provided the main 21 The population of the Oaxac an Highlands remained overwhelmingly indigenous and there was relatively little commercial activity beyond livestock pasturage and subsistence agriculture on communally held ejidos though some small basket weaving and handicraft industries had developed a round the Mixtec villages in the south and small scale coffee production thrived around the town of Huautla de Jimenez. The Oaxacan Highlands had been home to numerous indigenous groups. Mixes, Zapotecas, Mixtecas, Mazatecas, Cuicatecas, Popolocas, and M exica Nauhuas, and 22 a sense 20 Scherr and Poleman, Development and Equity, 32. 21 Scherr and Poleman, Development and Equity, 33. 22 Scherr and Poleman, Development and Equity, 33 34.
132 of ethnic solidarity. 23 Beginning with the construction of the Miguel Alemn dam, however, the highlands region began losing population. Younger generations left to Oaxaca, Puebla, or Mexico. The Papaloapan Commission explicitly encouraged the so con struction of the Miguel Alemn d am displaced Mazatec communities from their ancestral homel ands and led to the utopian colonization schemes in the foothills of the eastern Sierra Madres. American and Mexican economists enthusiastically followed the Mexican state into the tropics of the Papaloapan Basin. The goals of government off icials and academic scholars were mutual constitutive and mutually reinforcing. Each believed that the region could be developed. By promoting commercial agricultural development coordinated by a centralized government agency, The Papaloapan Commission c ould finally conquer tropical nature and realize the promises of a tropical utopia. The tools of modern scholarship would provide the plans and the means for realizing the dreams of state planners. Scholars made tropical nature legible, and cut a path th rough the dense tangled tropical forests. Scholars and government officials envisioned a complete transformation, with commercial production of lucrative cash crops like sugar, coffee, and trees fruits supplemented by new colonization programs directed by agricultural scientists employing the most modern technologies, like the hybrid seeds, pesticides 23 See Howard Campbell, Alic ia Barabas, Leigh Binford, Miguel Bartolome, eds., Zapotec Struggles: Histories, Politics, and Representations from Juchitan, Oaxaca, (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993).
133 and fertilizers that were simultaneously being developed in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation. After three decades, however, the Papaloapan Ba sin had changed very little despite the construction of dams, public health facilities, roads, and communications networks. Certainly new agricultural enterprises benefitted from links to national markets. Rice production along alluvial flood plains and p ineapple plantations around Loma Bonita thrived as roads connected formerly isolated territories. New industrial developed in the lower basin, though much if it was associated with the expansion of oil drilling rather than the comprehensive development pla ns of the Papaloapan Commission. For most the lower basin and the piedmont of the eastern Sierra Madres, however, much the land was suitable only for cattle ranching, and increasingly even the research into agricultural productivity focused on developing m ore prolific sources of animal feed. Despite high hopes for the rural colonization schemes around Las Naranjas or Playa Vicente, the government planners and scientific advisors never successfully deployed modern agricultural technologies and centralized planning to bring tropical nature and tropical peoples into the developmentalist national project. Though many of the abandoned by 1956 they did succeed in disrupting traditional indigenous communities and promoting a shift awa y from rural folk life. 24 Along with the economists who studied the potential for developing the 24 In total 3000 displaced Mazatec families and 500 other colonists att empted to settle in the dense tropical forests of the colonization zone. They were offered plots of between 15 50 hectares in return for payments of 100 pesos per hectare and an individual assessment of 300 pesos per person for improvements already constr ucted by the Papaloapan Commission. The initial payments were financed became eligible for long term credit up to $10,000 pesos for the construction of housing. See Winnie, 335. Many colonists could not meet their debt obligations and were government diverted resources f rom the Papaloapan Commission. The colonists abandoned the colonies
134 resources of the basin, anthropologists soon appeared to chronicle and facilitate the From Tribal Life to Civilized Life The anthropological studies in the Papaloapan Basin were intimately connected to the Papaloapan Commission and were conducted under the supervision of Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrn, the head of the Instituto Nacional Indigenista (I NI). The INI had been responsible for managing the agricultural colonization schemes in Las Naranjas in the early 1950s. Many of the initial ethnographic work was conducted in order facilitate resettlement of the Mazatec Indians displaced by the construct ion of the Miguel Alemn Dam. In later years, as the Commission suffered budget cuts and competition from other government agencies, the INI continued to conducted ethnographic studies in the region to determine the impact of displacement and modernizatio n on indigenous 25 Prior to the 1970s, anthropologists studying the basin fell into a tight intellectual ln and the Yucatn, and can be traced through the influence of Alfonso Villa Rojas and Aguirre Beltrn who focused their research more narrowly on the Papaloapan Basin One recent commentator credits Robert Redfield with reshaping the discipline of anthr opology. 26 twentieth century anthropologists with in two years, much of the land was left for cattle ranchin g, which increased 2 times by 1970. See Sara J. Scherr and Thomas T. Poleman, Development and Equity in Tropical Mexico: Th irty Years of the Papaloapan Project, ( Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, Department of Agricultural Economics, 1983), 60. 25 David F. McMahon, Antropologia de una presa: L os Mazatecos y el proyecto del P apaloapan, (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional Indigenista 1973). 26 Clifford Wilcox, Robert Redfield and The Development of American Anthropology, (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2004)
135 to return to the grand evolutionary theories that had fallen out of favor after Franz Boas and his followers attacked discredited models of scientific racism. Redfield avoide d earlier racist assumptions but posited a theory of large scale social change. He combined the generalizing scientific approach of sociology with the description of anthropology which led to the growth of peasant studies as a subfield of anthropology. 27 argued that peasants were not self sufficient, culturally consistent wholes. Instead, Redfield asserted that peasant communities maintained political, economic, social, and cultural links to regional and national centers of power and that they were undergoing a transition from village folk life to urban modernity. 28 Much of the discussion that follows will resonate to anthropologists familiar with debates over Mexican villag e studies. In the present context, this discussion is not intended as a comprehensive review of the anthropological literature. Instead, it describes the anthropological discourse and the intellectual and institutional genealogies that shaped the studies of the Papaloapan Basin. In his seminal work, Tepoztlan, A Mexican Village: A Study of Folk Life, Redfield first articulated his interest in Mexican folk culture as it engaged with the forces of modernization. Studying a mountain village that is near Mexico City, but isolated by the sierras that encircle the capital and cut it off from the state of Morelos, Redfield tried to move away from elite political histories that dominated Mexican studies after the Revolution. Instead, he focused on what he ca 27 Wilcox, Robert Redfield, 2 3, such prominent American anthropologists as Oscar Lewis, Eric Wolf and Clifford Geertz followed Re 28 Wilcox, Robert Redfield, 185.
136 the printed word and preserved continuity through generations while living in relatively homogeneous rural communities. Yet, 29 Redfield was interested in chronicling that change from folk cultures to modern p easantries. Not concerned with investigating isolated indigenous peoples in order to Columbian cultures, and about the changes which they 30 31 F or Tepoztln, Redfield described a process in which changes emanated from the central plaza where the village welcomed visitors from outside the community, and first encountered such forces of cultural change as trade, machinery, and print media. 32 However Redfield more fully developed his ideas about the transition from Indian folk communities to modern, mestizo cities and towns through his systematic study of the Yucatn Peninsula. With his work in the Yucatn, Redfield also began a long 29 Robert Redfield, Tepoztlan, A Mexican Village: A Study of Folk Life, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1930), 1 3. 30 Redfield, Tepoztlan, 12 13. 31 Redfield, Tepoztlan, 14. 32 Redfield, Tepoztlan 217 223.
137 collaboration w ith Alfonso Villa Rojas, who would later conduct one of the major anthropological studies of the Papaloapan Basin for the Papaloapan Commission. Alfonso Villa Rojas met Robert Redfield in 1930 while serving as the head of the local school in the village o f Chan Kom. Together, the two conducted a systematic ethnography of Chan Kom and later expanded their findings in a more comprehensive, comparative study of the folk villages the Yucatn. 33 Redfield and Villa Rojas classified settlements in the Yucatn acc ording to their degree of integration into the modern system of state governmental control, economic exploitation, and their use of modern print media rather than oral tradition. They plotted localities along a spectrum that ranged from primitive tribal s ettlements to peasant villages to cities and towns. Beginning with the study of Chan Kom, near Vallodolid in the eastern Yucatn, they focused their attention on the intermediate peasant villages. Chan Kom had been founded in the late nineteenth century b y pioneers who cleared wilderness lands abandoned after the Yucatn Caste War of the 1840s. The community leaders made the conscious decision to welcome the social and political changes brought by the Mexican Revolution of 1910. 34 As such, Chan Kom served a s an ideal model for researchers concerned with rapidly changing rural communities. Redfield and Villa Rojas defined such intermediate communities according to their economic and political 33 Robert Redfield and Alfonso Villa Rojas, Chan Kom: A Maya Village, (Washington: Carnegie Institute of Washington, 1934), vii viii; for the larger comparative study see Robert Redfield, The Folk Culture of the Yucatan (Chicago: University of C hicago Press, 1941). 34 Robert Redfield, A Village That Chose Progress: Chan Kom Revisited, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1950), 2 3.
138 acceleration of change after the Mexican Revolution, and the self awareness of the 35 By 1946, Chan Kom had become the seat of its own municipal government. In addition to the school, the vi llage had a municipal building, a stone prison building, a baseball diamond, two outdoor theaters, four stores, a masonry church and a Protestant chapel. For researchers like Redfield and Villa Rojas, Chan Kom became a laboratory that could provide import ant lessons for the Western world. The village was a place in advancement, to define that progress in terms of more material wealth, power, comfort and health, to strive for economic and politica this is what most of 36 Redfield favorably compared the settlers of the jungle of the Yucatn with the pioneers that established civilization in the wilderness of the States, the settlers of Chan Kom came into a little occupied territory of open resources; like them they 37 Chan Kom came to represent an ideal type of vill age and represented progress along a folk urban continuum. Using the Yucatn Peninsula as a model, Redfield developed a more comprehensive understanding of cultural change by describing four 35 Redfield and Villa Rojas, Chan Kom, 1 6. 36 Redfield, A Village That Chose Progress, 24. 37 Redfield, A Village T hat Chose Progress, 155 157.
139 cities or villages that were increasingly distant, in both cultu ral and geographical terms, from modern civilization, represented by the bustling regional capital of Merida and its surrounding henequen plantations. As Redfield moved further to the southeast from Merida, he described the transition from the more modern 38 Redfield posited that the relative distance from modern cities on a map also corresponded to the relative cultural distance ation of culture, secularization, and homogeneity, superstition, and isolation. 39 Chan Kom represented the intermediate peasant village that was both linked to moder nity, but maintained local traditions, despite rapid transformations. Beyond theorizing and conceptualizing the cultural evolution toward modernity, Redfield and Villa Rojas actively facilitated or accelerated the transitions underway in villages like C han Kom. The presence of Villa Rojas as a teacher from the regional city of Merida, helped transform the village through connections he created with the broader economic world of henequen and chicle production, and transnational connections to American res the nearby archeological site at Chichn Itz. According to Redfield, most of the community leaders supported reforms that brought public health facilities, roads, and support f 38 Redfield, The Folk Culture of the Yucatan, 13. 39 Redfield, The Folk Culture of the Yucatan, 338 339.
140 40 In his diary, Villa Rojas tells of taking village leaders to Merida, where he established them in the Hotel Colonial to await the spectacles of airplanes, ships, and the sea (in the nearby coastal town of Progresso). In Merida, Villa Rojas guided the contingent from Chan Kom as they engaged with the state and national governments. From the Governor of the Yucatn, the requested musical instruments in order to form a local orchestra, and they complained to Agrarian Commission that part of their ejidal grant following the Revolution included rocky and sterile lands. The Chan Kom village ships and the sea at Progresso. 41 Though, o do the people live here if there is not any place for where they can make a milpa [maize 42 Robert Redfield remains an important figure in the tradition of anthropology in Mexico, indeed in anthropology as a whole. He most directly influenced the work of Alfonso Villa Rojas, wh o later conducted an ethnographic study of the Mazatec Indians displaced by the construction of the Miguel Alemn dam. Redfield also influenced the thought and the work of Gonzalo A guirre Beltrn As head of the Instituto Nacional 40 Redfield and Villa Rojas, Chan Kom, 6. Redfield revisited Chan Kom seventeen years later and chronicled his reunion with c ommunity leader D. Eustaquio Ceme in A Village that Cho se Progress 41 Chan Kom: A Maya Village, (Washington: Carnegie Institute of Washington, 1934), 236. 42 Roberto Nas, q Rojas, Chan Kom: A Maya Village, (Washington: Carnegie Institute of Washington, 1934), 236.
141 Indigenista (INI), Aguirre Beltrn attempted to use Mexican examples to develop a comprehensive theory of social change in developing countries, particularly those countries whose history was marked by col onial domination. Though he was influenced increased contact with the modern industrial world, Aguirre Beltrn favored applied anthropology to facilitate, not simply t o chronicle, social changes. In one of his later tropical, backwards, and isolated r egions of the country. 43 confrontations with the forces of colonial domination. They created a social s tructure divided sharply between a modern industrializing core and a traditional and archaic periphery that existed within a single national territory. Moreover, Aguirre Beltrn saw the process of domination ( proceso dominical) as the direct cause of the evolutionary simplest and most conservative cultures of the continent, appearing to exist in unaltered s of the jungle Indians 44 43 Regions of Refu ge (Washington D.C., Society for Applied Anthropology, 1979). 44 Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrn, Regions of Refuge (Washington D.C., Society f or Applied Anthropology, 1979), 11 23.
142 at least at the local level. First, racial segregation, sanctioned by law, reinforced physical and spatial difference. Second, the dominant social group maintained political control by excluding the subordinated groups from full political participation. Often, cultural domination buttressed political control by denigrating native cultures and traditions. Third, colonial domination created a situation in which participation in the di rect ownership of large scale exploitative enterprises, nor in 45 In other words, Indians could neither earn economic power as hacendados or merchants, and often served only as laborers in colonial economic system. Forth, the dominant group in itiated a series of interventions, such as public health campaigns, ostensibly designed to protect the dominant group. In addition, since lower castes. In the fifth sta maintained by the norms and mores of a mature colonial system. Finally, spiritual missionaries circulated an ideology focused on rewards in the afterlife in order to 46 For our purposes, it is unnecessary to determine whether or not this progression is historically accurate. It is more important to understand how Aguirre Beltrn and his followers drew upon such historical narratives to jus tify their own interventions into the rural, tropical areas of southern Mexico. Despite arguing that historical processes led to 45 Aguirre Beltrn, Regions of Refuge, 16. 46 Aguirre Beltran, Regions of Refuge 17.
143 the domination of a modernizing industrial society, Aguirre Beltrn reflected precisely the values and assumptions of a modern izing, industrial society. For the anthropologist, the Indians remained backwards, archaic, isolated, and traditional. They needed to be brought into the modern nation. Though supposedly more paternalistic than his colonial predecessors, Aguirre Beltrn historical agency; they were the objects of applied anthropology and they were expected to defer to the expertise of scientifically trained experts. self serving or at least serving the parallel interests of a modernizing developmentalist state. In his description of the [are] located at the regional ans were excluded from regional society and regional regional society, the national society encourages ethnic groups to arise and claim their rights. When minorities have a low t echnological culture incompatible with modern life, 47 Therefore, Aguirre Beltrn and his followers promoted the integration of indigenous groups into the national society under the tutela ge of social scientists as the solution to the problem racial domination. scholarship. It was methodologically sophisticated and historically informed. Fo r activists and critics on t he L eft, it denounced colonial domination and presented an urgent call to action. Yet, under closer scrutiny, this scientific, or at least scholarly, 47 Aguirre Beltrn, Regions of Refuge, 18 19.
144 theory actually reflects the major tropes of the official narrative of the Mexican Revolution presented b y the professional managers of the institutional revolutionary state. Just as the Revolution liberated the Mexican peasants from the exploitation of hacendados by breaking up large estates and redistributing lands as ejidos, the new professional managers of the institutional revolutionary government, the tecnicos, continued the legacy by rescuing Indians from regional domination by incorporating them into a developmentalist national vision. The narrative also followed the logic of Papaloapan Commission of ficials who attempted to transform backwards Indians into modern peasants. The Papaloapan Commission supported research by anthropologists to make the culture of highland Indians legible to policy makers. The initial work was conducted by scholars from th e Instituto Nacional Indigenista (INI), headed by Alfonso Caso and Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrn. Under the auspices of the INI, Alfonso Villa Rojas, Robert anthropological study of the indigenous groups resettled by the Papaloapan Commission. 48 Rojas was attracted to the Papaloapan Basin since it presented an opportunity to study a society in transition. In 1948, assumed control of the Anthropology Section of the Papaloapan Commission and was later named the director of the Social Studies Department of the Papaloapan Commission. He arrived with a team of research assistants in 1949, after the work of the Papa loapan projects had already begun. His study was commissioned by the Papaloapan Commission and the INI in order to identify 48 Alfonso Villa Rojas, Los Mazatecos y el problema indgena de la cuenca del Paploapan, (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional Indigenista, 1955).
145 to education, health, land tenancy, resettled indigenous groups in the lower Papaloapan Basin. 49 The research team worked among the Popoluca established in Sayula, Veracruz and the Chinanteca and Mazatecas from the highlands of Oaxaca. Villa Rojas concerned himself most with the Mazatec Indians from the municipalities around Soyaltepec who had been displaced by the construction of the Miguel Alemn dam. After providing from the works of the Papaloapan Commission. He calculated that twenty one ejidos, home to approxim ately 20,000 people, received indemnification for a total of MP$ 4,850,195.28 to redress the loss of houses, land, and fruit trees, when the Miguel Alemn reservoir inundated the highland valleys and forced the Mazatec Indians to relocate to the colonizati on zone in the eastern piedmont. 50 According to Villa Rojas, lands that have been covered by the waters of the dam constitutes the most complicated human problem now c onfronting the works of the Papaloapan 49 Villa Rojas, Los Mazatecos, 14. 50 Villa Rojas, Los Mazatecos 1 22 123; 133; According to the 1950 Mexican Census, the populations of the three municipalities flooded by the reservoir were, respectively, San Miguel Soyaltepec 9,719, San Pedro Ixcatln 8001, San Jose Independencia 2,081, for a total of 19,801. See Septimo censo general de poblacin, (Mexico City: Mexico Direccin General de Estadstica, 1950).
146 to say, a jump of centuries realize 51 Daily life changed considerably for the Mazatec settlers in the new colonization zones. Though still relatively isolated, newly constructed railroads and roads with bus service connected the settlements to the larger cities of Tier ra Blanca, Tuxtepec, and began playing modern games of basketball and volleyball, and Villa Rojas celebrated that connections to regional market centers allowed the Mazatecas to supplement their traditional diets with higher protein meats, cheeses, as well as packaged salmon, sardines, and sausages. Though, access to the richer foods of the city also meant access to unhealthy processed foods and alcohol that proved to be irres istibly exotic to the Mazatecas. Villa Rojas recalled meeting a group of Mazateca friends in Tierra a Rojas also worried alcoholism. He claimed that all of the towns founded by the Papaloapan Commission aguardiente 52 In the new colonization zone, initial settlers continued to grow a variety of crops, especially maize, beans, rice, chiles, and sesame on traditional intercropped milpa 51 Villa Rojas, Los Mazatecos, 133. 52 Villa Rojas, Los Mazatecos, 153.
147 fields. Only, in the new communities, the Mazatecas worked the fields collectively, under the guidance of agronomists and technical directors from the Papaloapa n Commission. These t cnicos tried to undertake a survey of soil types and promoted the technological solutions devised by experimental field researchers associated with the seeds, irrigation, and the liberal application of the pesticide DDT. 53 Mazatecas] the inc entives necessary for them to create new yearnings or new well According to Villa Rojas prior to the arrival of the Papaloapan Commission, the revolutionary and profound farmers directed by the technical experts represented the redemptive possibilities to escape both primitive atavism and the malaise of modern life. For Villa Rojas, the technology and moral stiffness that has to be one of the basic propositions that orients 54 53 Villa Rojas, Los Mazatecos, 154. 54 Villa Rojas, Los Mazatecos, 154 155.
148 In the years after he published his study of the resettlement of the Mazatecas in the colonization zone, Villa Rojas became the Central Coordinator at INI, while Aquirre Beltrn assumed a position as the director of the Institute. By the 1970s, each would move on to other projects, though they maintained an interest in the Papaloap an Basin. Through their association with Robert Redfield, they made connections with American anthropologist David McMahon. 55 Working with the INI, McMahon conducted a study of the modernization programs in Ixcatln, a town on the western shores of the re servoir created by the Miguel Alemn dam. He could not follow up with a study of the same resettlement colonies that Villa Rojas helped create since the combination of poor soils, and the lack of local improvisations insured that colonists abandoned those settlements shortly after their founding. studied a different group of people. He systematically identified three groups of people that were affected by the construction of th e Miguel Alemn dam and the other works of the Papaloapan Commission. The Mazatecas displaced by the construction felt the most direct impact, and had been the primary object of study for Villa Rojas and INI officials seeking to create modern agricultural utopian communities. The landowners of the Lower Papaloapan basin, benefitted from the flood control and irrigation works as they expanded commercial production of rice, tree fruits, and cattle ranching. Those beneficiaries of development in the lowland s fascinated the economists that hoped to create a model for tropical development. McMahon, however, focused his study on Ixcatln, a community of people living above the dam and the reservoir. He argued that 55 McMahon, Antropologa de una presa, 9.
149 those indigenous groups living above the dam were actually the most affected by the construction. For McMahon, understanding how life had changed in Ixcatln was the key factor in understanding the complex interaction among traditional Indian culture, the national developmentalist state, and the nat ural environment. 56 Writing nearly two decades later, McMahon was less concerned than his predecessors with actively facilitating a transition from indigenous folk culture to urban modernity. Though, he still maintained close connections to the Papaloapan Commission and the INI, and celebrated many of the changes that resulted from the iden institutions and local adaptation to a changing ecosystem led to social, political, and economic re organization among the Mazatecas of Ixcatln. 57 McMahon constructed theoretical model that drew upon ecologists like Eugene Odum and George Clarke, as well as anthropologists like Robert Redfield, Julian Steward, and Marvin Harris. He attempted to determine how changes in the sociopolitical environment and the physical environment ca used changes at the local level. He concluded that ecological changes and economic development benefitted the residents of Ixcatln in a number of ways. The power of traditional elites eroded as people gained access to public education at the school buil t by the Papaloapan Commission and took advantage of new economic opportunities. For example, the creation of the reservoir behind the Alemn dam 56 McMahon, Antropologa de una presa, 16 18. 57 McMahon, Antropoga de una presa, 20.
150 allowed for the development of new fishing industry, and the road that the Commission constructed to Tuxtepec allowed Mazatec peasants to transport the products of their labors to more distant markets. 58 and that his conclusions perpetuate the same narrative tropes. Like Aguirre Beltrn, McMahon celebrated the ways in which intervention of the federal government, in this case the Papaloapan Commission, rescued indigenous peoples from the tyranny of local e lites. McMahon also echoed the same language as the head of the INI by united the populations of the Mazatec region and the Chinantec regions [further] north (which are, both, r egions of refuge 59 campesinos and the listic system in which the national interests, in their local manifestations, cooperate and compete with the traditional [interests], but adapt to political, commercial, and economic institutions of power in the town of Ixcatln and the 60 58 See McMahon, Antropologa de una presa, 143 150, for his summary of various local, regional, and institutional changes. 59 McMahon, Antropo loga de una presa, 144. 60 McMahon, Antropolog de una presa, 150.
151 Conclusion Anthropologist s and economists helped make the complex physical environment and social organization of the Papaloapan Basin legible for the government officials who opment to remake the tropics of southern Mexico into technologically advanced rural utopia informed by the latest scientific data. 61 Yet, the comprehensive efforts to transform peasants in Oaxaca into modern farmers represented only one part of a broader e ffort to modernize Mexican agriculture according to the dictates of scientific researchers. The government programs in the Papaloapan Basin constituted just one part of the modernization project oped by the Mexican government and the scientists associated with the Rockefeller Foundation. A perceived crisis of food shortages led scientists to focus narrowly on increasing production, largely abandoning many of the more ambitious efforts to remake t he social order in order to focus on a problem that was legible to agronomists and could be solved with investment ences of using hybrid seeds re quiring massive amounts of cost ly chemical fertilizers, pesticides became apparent, however, new forms of resistance to government modernization and development schemes emerged and set the stage for a nativist environmentalist critique of new government development projects. 61 Claudio Lomnitz situates the cooperation between anthropologists and the Mexican state in a deeper historical context dating to the mid nineteenth century. According to Lomnitz, the peri od from the 1940s through the 1960s marked a high point of collusion between anthropologists and the state. After the disillusionment that followed the 1968 Massacre at Tlatelolco, a new generation of anthropologists critiqued the indigenista tradition wi the national developmentalist vision. See Claudio Lomnitz, Deep Mexico, Silent Mexico: An Anthropology of Nationalism, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), 228 262.
152 CHAPTER 5 THE MENACE OF DOOMSD AY This chapter places the Papaloapan projects in a broader context by examining the contemporaneous scientific research conducted by a group of agronomists affiliated with the Mexican state and the Rockefeller Foundation. President Mi guel Alemn envisioned the development of the Papaloapan Basin as the centerpiece of a comprehensive program to modernize Mexican agricultur e and to remake rural society. Rockefeller Foundation researchers were informed by the same high modernist assumptio ns that denigrated traditional indigenous knowledge and land use practices and uncritically embraced scientific technological solutions to the narrowly construed temperate cli mates to address concerns about soil fertility in the tropical south. They advocated using hybrid seeds, irrigation, and high levels of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to increase yields. The application of such modern agricultural techniques, howeve r, only proved effective under specific conditions, and irreversibly degraded local environments. Furthermore, the high profile, transnational visibility of the Rockefeller new condemnation of the use of the pesticide DDT. I argue that the burgeoning assumptions and pr actices joined a chorus of dissenting voices that began to challenge modernist faith in science and paved the way for discursively rehabilitating indigenous land use practices and articulating new challenges to state development pr ojects in the tropical south.
153 In 1947, Miguel Alemn created a new federal administration, the Mexican Corn Commission, as a new liaison with Rockefeller Foundation researchers. Headed by Mexican Senator Gabriel Ramos Millan the commissioners joined F oundation researchers on a visit to the United States. After purchasing tractors and other agricultural implements in a program for the mechanization of corn cultivation, the group visited the Tennessee Valley Authority installations in Chattanooga, Tenne ssee. They studied the hydraulic works in preparation for the irrigation and hydroelectric projects in economic development. As Alemn envisioned it, both the Rockefeller Found efforts to produce high yield hybrid corn, and the six year, 1.5 million peso projects in the Papaloapan Basin, which was anticipated to bring 250,000 to 1,400,000 new hectares under cultivation, were central to increasing agricultural production. 1 By 1948, the Office of Special Studies, established as a joint venture between the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation, boasted that they had do mestic demand for the first time in thirty five years. A Foundation spokesman stated that the twofold program of creating high yielding hybrid seeds combined with training Mexican agronomists had succeeded in solving the greatest dilemma facing Mexico in t he 1940s. The Foundation representative argued that agricultural production had been dropping at the same time that the state embarked on an ambitious program for 1 The New York Times, 27 June 1947, 14.
1 54 2 Mexican officials believed that they faced a crisis of food production. A lack of food for a growing population could threaten future development plans, undermine the ials, and ultimately lead to social violence. Solving the crisis of food production, however, could foster further economic development, keep food prices low enough to keep urban labor in line, and disrupt traditional cultures and bring Indian peasants in to the modern nation. As evidence from the limits of development schemes in the Papaloapan Basin suggests, scientists and policy officials were ill equipped to completely manipulate complex natural and social realities, but they could premise that social problems could be addressed by asserting human control over the processes of production. Their scientific credentials gave them the authority to define the problem based solely on the assumption that agricultural lands in Mexico were not productive enough and they established a discourse in which only certain types of alternative forms of 3 They devised solutions that fit neatly within the parameters of their own expertise and ideological training and they ignored or marginalized alternatives. 2 The New York Times, 16 March 1950, 38. 3 Bruce H. Jennings, Foundations of Internationa l Agricultural Research: Science and Politics in Mexican Agriculture, (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988), 192.
155 Tireless and Devoted Efforts The Rockefeller Foundation began operating in Mexico during the 1920s, but within two decades had expanded its role to such a degree that experiments in Mexican efforts focus ed on public health campaigns to eradicate yellow fever in the tropical regions of the Yucatn and Veracruz. By the 1930s, Foundation officers, including Dr. J.A. Ferrill who had worked closely with the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture under presidents fro m Plutarco Elias Calles through Lzaro Crdenas, began exploring the possibility of a cooperative venture with the Mexican government to improve agricultural productivity. The plans stalled as tensions arose between the Mexican government and the United S companies and subsequently nationalized the oil industry in 1938, thereby threatening agrarian refo rm program directly challenged the potential of programs for increasing agricultural productivity on large landholdings that could generate enough capital and technologies. By the 1940s, however, a shift in Mexican national priorities under to the American war effort to foster conditions that were more amendable to international collaboratio n. 4 4 Mi ssionaries of Science: The Rockefeller Foundation and Latin America, (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1994), 1 23; Jennings, Foundations 45 48.
156 In February 1941, US Vice President Henry Wallace, a former Midwest farmer who had successfully adapted the technologies and techniques of industrial scientific agriculture, expressed his desire for an project led by the Rockefeller Foundation to incr ease Mexican agricultural production. Wallace believed that the philanthropic organization could be apolitical despite connections between the Rockefellers and the oil industry. 5 From July through December 1941, a team of Foundation scientists composed of University of Minnesota, Dr. Richard Bradfield, a specialist in soils and agronomy from Cornell University, and Dr. Paul Manglesdorf, a plant geneticist from Harvard University, surveyed Mexico agriculture. They spent two months traveling 5000 miles around Mexico by automobile and horseback. 6 After the team completed the survey, they called for a program to improve Mexican varieties of maize and wheat through cross breeding, and they empha train a new generation on Mexican agronomists. 7 They believed that the crisis in Mexican agricultural production was so acute that they proposed going beyond the of funding research through existing institutions and they in full 8 5 The Christian Science Monitor, 19 November 1942, 7; Jennin gs, Foundations, 47 48. 6 The New York Times, 1 January 1950, 8. 7 Missionaries of Sceince: The Rockefeller Foundation and Latin America, (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1994), 77 78; Jennings Foundations, 48 49 8
157 The botanist, E.C. Stakman, argued that the Americans had a moral ob ligation to apply scientific and technical solutions to the problems of Mexican agriculture. He claimed that American agronomists had solved the dilemma of soil depletion and increased agricultural productivity using chemical fertilizers developed during the 9 For Stakman, using scientific methods and technologies to increase production and reduce hunger represente birth of On 10 the Mexican government. In October 1942, the Mexican Minister of Agriculture, Marte R. Gomez, accepted the definition of the problems of Mexican agriculture, defined explicitly and narrowly as problems of increasing production, and he formally agreed to later renamed Oficina de Esudios Especial or Office of Special Studies (OEE), oversaw the Mexican Agricultural Program (MAP) under the supervision of the Mexican Secretary of Agriculture (SA M). Later, as the Mexican research center became the hub of international research networks, the project would be renamed Centro Internacional 9 E.C. Stakman, La cienca al servicio de la agricultura, (Mexico City: Oficina de Estudio s Especiales, La Secretaria de Agricultura y Ganad eria de Mexico y La Fundacion Ro ckefeller, 1949), 8. 10 Stakman, La cienca al servicio de la agricultura, 28.
158 de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo (CIMMYT). The Mexican government agreed to contribute an equal share of the exp enses for research to develop high yield, disease resistant strains of maize and wheat, and for scholarships to train Mexican agronomists. 11 According to one historian, many Mexican agronomists embraced the work of the Rockefeller Foundation because it brou ght a new sense of prestige to their profession, which had suffered since the 1890s. Mexican Agronomists traced their professional origins to the establishment of the Escuela Nacional de Agricultura (ENA) in 1864. During the late nineteenth century, Por firio Diaz and his council of cientficos reformed the curriculum to prepare government advisors and hacienda managers. According to critics, this training failed to provide Mexican scientists with a sufficient background in applied sciences and experiment al methods. 12 With the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, many agronomists supported the cause of land reform and revolutionary nationalism, and some even served as advisors to revolutionary governments following the cessation of hostilities. Inf luenced by revolutionary slogans and ideologies, Mexican agricultural scientists tried to simultaneously tackle all of the problems of rural society. They ambitiously, and often counterproductively, tried to focus on a broad range of projects including ag ricultural development, rural hygiene, and education. They believed that those problems could only be addressed by people familiar with Mexican social and 11 The New York Times, m The Christian Science Monitor, 19 November 1942, 7. 12 Joseph Cotter Cultural Encounter, 1943 1949, in Marcos Cueto, Missionaries of Science:The Rockefeller Foundation in La tin America, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 99. One might also acknowledge an older, and somewhat racist and condescending, explanation which asserts that upper class, educated Mexicans were influenced by Spanish aristocratic values that e xpressed disdain for manual labor in agricultural fields.
159 cultural traditions. As such, though they were certainly aware of research being conducted in the U nited States, in the 1930s Mexican agronomists rejected the examples provided by North American experimental sciences and focused on 13 attempted to reform the Ministry by reassigning government personnel to experimental associ ated with large landholders, who enjoyed more influence under the Avila Camacho, attacked the scientists for their close political association with the agrarian reform of the 1930s. Even those farmers who had benefited from the land reform had little faith 14 By the 1940s, following a crisis in corn production in the late 1930s, Mexican agricultural scientists attempted to reform their institutional culture and assumptio ns in order to restore a sense of prestige to their profession. Gomez acknowledged that the Mexican agricultural experts could not provide farmers with synthetic or hybrid high yield seeds or chemical fertilizers, and he was forced to implement the high ly unpopular measure of forcing all farmers to plant 10 percent of the land in corn to meet the nutritional demands of the country. Larger commercial farmers who would have preferred to plant more lucrative cash crops deeply resented Gomez and accused him of corruption. They argued that he used his 13 14
160 government office for personal gain. Camacho administration signed the agreement with the Rockefeller Foundation to professionalize and de politicize the agricult ural sciences. 15 Though few debates emerged about the specific programs advocated by the Rockefeller Foundation, Mexican agronomists split over political questions. Most agreed that the profession needed to be modernized along the lines suggested by th e 16 A rift developed as some scientists insisted that they should engage in politically neutral or objective, techni cal science, while others continued to cultivate close ties to the Confederacin Nacional Campesina (CNC), the peasant sector representatives in the reformed corporativist party structure established by Lzaro Crdenas. Despite such divisions, however, th e RF MAP agreed to allow Mexican scientists to take credit for joint research successes esteem. In some ways, the encounter between the Rockefeller Foundation and Mexi scientific community marked a period of convergence that equally benefited both groups. Cooperation with the Rockefeller Foundation proved to be particularly beneficial to Mexican agronomists, and their political allies, who came of age during the 19 30s. These scientists and politicians believed that agrarian reform had not solved the problems of rural Mexico and that previous efforts by agronomists to lend technical 15 103. 16
161 assistance had failed as a result of partisanship and a culture among scientists tha t stressed laboratory research over experimental fieldwork. Both the scientific community and the state benefited from the successes of the Rockefeller Foundation during a while the state could pursue the course of industrial development without having to campesinos even th llowed comprehensive program of agricultural modernization. 17 Once an agreement had been reached with the Mexican scientific community and with representatives from t he government, Warren Weaver of the Natural Sciences division of the Rockefeller Foundation tapped J. George Harrar, a plant pathologist from Washington State College who had taught in Puerto Rico and spoke fluent Spanish, as the head of the Office of Spec fortress like building in Mexico City he Mexican government allowed the Rockefeller Foundation to establish an experimental station on sixty acres at the Mexican National College of Agricultu ral at Chapingo. The Foundation began sending students to study at Mississippi State University, Ohio State University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of California. In addition to training Mexican agronomists 17 Cott
162 on fellowships, Harrar also expected to utilize Mexicans as research assistants, who eleven American researchers, fifty six Mexican assistants, five Mexican technicians, two visiting scholars fro m the United States and twelve from Central and South America, as well as Mexican students and administrative workers. 18 Harrar began his studies by traversing the rugged mountains of central Mexico the [Papaloapan Basin] in Vera Cruz to the arid plateaus and mountainous peaks of the 19 From Mexican farmers, he collected those seeds and plantings of maize that were the highest yielding and most resistant to pest a nd disease. Returning the samples to Chapingo, Harrar and other Foundation researchers began cross breeding the best varieties of maize to create super hybrid varieties. Plant geneticists planted hundreds of acres at Chapingo in the new hybrid varieties. As soon as an ear of corn emerged, they covered the stalk with a paper bag in order to catch the pollen. Scientists then applied the pollen to other designated hybrid varieties to cross fertilize new varieties of sweet corn and maize. In addition, the r esearchers applied a less labor intensive technique that allowed them to cross different varieties adjacent to each other and allowing them to cross pollinate by wind action and other natural means. A Foundation spokesm an claimed that these methods 20 18 28. 19 20
163 The Foundation researchers soon established new experimental stations in the production suffered because the natural varieties were vulnerable to wheat rust, a fungus crop during the rainy season of 1949. Most wheat production in Mexico occurred in the Bajio and along the coast of southern Sonora, where soils were richer. Though, along the stat became so devastated of the breeding methods that they employed with corn, whereby they collected and cross pollinated the most disease resistant strains, Foundation researchers created hybrid varieties of wheat that were not only r esistant to wheat rust, but also resistant to insect depredations and drought. 21 Despite initial success in developing disease resistant strains of wheat, many of land gra nt colleges and the development of scientifically managed agriculture, argues that the Rockefeller Foundation imported not just techniques and technologies developed in the radically different context of the United States. They also brought institutional a ssumptions and cultures that did not fit well with the conditions on the 21
164 ground in developing countries like Mexico. 22 Specifically, Fitzgerald notes that the scientists were trained in the context of land grant universities in the United States and failed to understand the culture and politics of Mexican agrarian model of agri capital, rather the labor, intensive, and oriented toward producing surplus crops for markets, rather than for subsistence. Furthermore, the American model of agricultural development e merged in the context of commercial, institutional, and government networks designed to facilitate efficient, high yielding agricultural strategies. 23 Mexico, by contrast, lacked such integrated institutional networks and the Rockefeller Foundation Mexica n Agricultural Program soon found itself at odds with its government patrons and with agronomists associated with the Secretary of Mexican Agriculture. For example, when promising young students studied at the graduate school established by the Rockefeller Foundation at Chapingo, or when they received fellowships to complete their training in U.S. universities, they often expected the Foundation to help them find gainful employment in accordance with traditions of patron client relationships common througho ut Mexico. In addition, the American scientists often viewed their Mexican counterparts with a degree of contempt, as the Mexican agronomists focused on experimental laboratory studies, rather than the 22 Cueto, ed., Missionaries of Science: The Rockefeller Foundation and Latin America, (Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1994), 72. 23 74.
165 applied sciences of field experimentation. With the nationalist pride, many Mexican 24 Beyond the institutional problems that emerged among Foundation researchers, programs failed because they drew on the lessons of North American agrarian structures and failed to account for the realities in Mexico. As such, the Mexican Agricultural Program (MAP) achieved only limited success, as in the case of increasing wheat pro duction, where the modes of production most closely resembled those in the United States. Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Prize in 1970 for his work as a leading proponent of oss bred the most disease resistant varieties of wheat in order to develop hybrid strains the would be strains of hybrid wheat and by 1957, 90 percent of all of the wheat acre age in Mexico was planted with the hybrid varieties. Wheat farmers, rather than the majority of Mexican campesinos who grew maize for subsistence, adopted the new technologies because their operations closely resembled those agricultural systems in the Un ited States that had inspired Foundation researchers. Mexican wheat producers generally managed more that seventeen hectares of land, making them comparatively large and wealthy landholders. In addition, wheat production was more capital intensive than su bsistence maize farming, and wheat farmers in the northern parts of Mexico had 24
166 access to credit to invest in the hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers, and irrigation that were necessary to produce higher yields. 25 For the majority of Mexican farmers, small holders, or ejida ta rios who engaged in modest or subsistence production, the technologies and techniques advocated by the Rockefeller Foundation amounted to a wholesale repudiation of Mexican agricultural techniques and Mexican agrarian culture. Adopting new hybrid seeds meant accepting a package of agricultural changes that included a heavy reliance on chemical fertilizers and irrigation, and promised, in the long term, soil depletion, pollution, crushing debt, and heavy reliance on the state and local pa tronage networks for access to credit. Beyond the scientific sphere, the Rockefeller Foundation also attempted to create goodwill between Mexico and the United States during the 1940s. While acknowledging historic tension between two neighboring countri es, one observer noted American sentiment that had grown in Mexico since the 1940s. During the Second World War, Mexico had allied with the United States, but the U.S. Navy fea red that the Japanese had established a submarine base on a desolate peninsula in Baja California. The U.S. Army organized a mission to send troops to destroy the Japanese base, but the Mexican government balked at the thought of American troops crossing into Mexican territory. That prospect brought back images of U.S. troops attacking Mexico Pershing Punitive Expedition of 1916, when a massive American force tried to hunt down the revolutionary hero Pancho Villa. The Mexican Army ultimately attacked the 25 Fitzgerald, 83.
167 Japanese base, though the incident revealed the continued presence of a deep anti Americanism among many Mexicans. 26 Despite such moments of tension, The Rockefelle r Foundation helped cement a genuinely close alliance with the United States during the war. By helping Mexico become self sufficient in corn production, the Foundation allowed U.S. corn farmers to direct their production to the war effort, while the Foun production for livestock feed increased the amount of cattle that Mexico exported to the United States during the war. As a number of critics have noted, much of what helped the United States during the war actually limited the food that was available to the majority of Mexicans. The wartime boom in Mexican cattle production was nearly undone by an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease in 1947 that caused U.S. officials to close the border to imported Mexican beef. Here again, how ever, the Rockefeller countries by shifting its focus away from the production of Mexican dietary staples and toward the livestock production that benefited Mexican ranchers and US industry. In addition to an aid program through which the Foundation issued public loans at low interest rates, the Rockefeller Foundation succeeded in reopening the border by 1952 countryside, performing not only the technical job of stamping out the disease but also the far more difficult task of educating the Mexican peasantry to accept modern 27 26 The New York Times, 6 July 1952, 31. 27
168 The effort to eradicate hoof and mouth disease proved to be only the first step in the Foundations efforts to expand its activities to increase livestock production. Beyond merely providing high yield hybrid seeds for feed crops, the Foundation signed an agreement with the Mexican government in Octob social and cultural context, the Foundation set out to improve ranges and pastures and the plant experiments at research centers like the Graduate School at Chapingo. 28 By the 1950s, the Rockefeller Foundation expanded its activities beyond the scope of its previous efforts. Foundation scientists collaborated with the Mexican farming techniques to India and other parts of the postcolon ial world, where the so Indians who lived in a highland valley near Mexico City. The researchers determined that the Otomi diet of maguey worms, roasted grasshoppers, and other winged insects government plans to let the Indians continue to live that close 28 The New York Times 10 October 1952, 6.
169 29 As in the Papaloapan bas in, ostensibly apolitical efforts to solve a scientific problem accompanied broader projects of social engineering The joint program between the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mexican government ca lled for an education program in which volunteers toured the countryside servants to att end night school, and encouraged companies to practice welfare capitalism by providing outlets for physical activity, access to healthy food, and modern more productive citizenry. 30 Thoroughly paternalistic, researchers defined the sociopolitical problem of modern citizenship as a function of the scientific challenge of increasing productivity. Though in this case, the scientific problem of improving Mexican workers replaced the chal lenges of improving hybrid seeds of corn or wheat. Ultimately, the Rockefeller Foundation activities in Mexico were guided by the premise that social problems could be addressed by asserting human control over the processes of production. The Rockefeller Foundation scientists could influence public policy and 29 The Chicago Daily Tribune, 25 December 1952, A8. 30
170 productive enough to p 31 certain types of knowledge were endowed with legitimacy and institutional support as ile alternative forms of knowledge were neglected and marginalized as 32 While the goals of the Foundation may have been altruistic, their solutions invariably offered increased production as the only solution to complex social problems. One 33 After the Foundation researchers established their authority to define the problem of Mexican agriculture, they devised solutions that fit neatly within the parameters of their own expertise and ideological training. However, by focusing exclusively on increasing agricultural production, the Mexican Agricultural Program ignored or marginalized not only alternative solutions, but also alternative ways of understanding the historical circumstances of Mexican agriculture. Essentially, count of social relations and unequal distribution of political power in Mexico, and might have offered an alternative path for agricultural development. As it turned out, though, none of the scientists chosen to 31 Jennings, Foundations xi; 185. 32 Jennings, Foundations, 192. 33 Jennings, Foundations, 186
171 assess the problem of Mexican agriculture h ad any prior knowledge of Mexican politics 34 Even when the Foundation officials engaged with Mexicanist scholars, they often ignored dissenting opinions that failed to conform to their own assumptions about Mexican agricult ure and Mexican society. For example, Carl O. Sauer, the famed cultural geographer from the University of California at Berkeley worked as a consultant for the Rockefeller Foundation as an expert on Mexican society and culture. He proposed a definition of the agricultural problem that acknowledged the insufficiency of Sauer advised the Foundation to build the agricultural development program on the local knowledge of the cam p esinos which generally provided people with adequate nutrition, considering the limitations of economic inequalities. According to Sauer, the problems of Mexican agriculture were ones of politics and economics, not problems of limited scientific man agement and inefficient productive processes. Sauer cautioned against trying to replicate American agricultural strategies in Mexico. He offered an 35 In a 1940 letter to the Roc kefeller F oundation, Sauer asserted that investigators should base their conclusions on an intimate knowledge gleaned from years of for the particular connotations of a foreign 34 Jennings, Foundations, 186 187. 35 Jennings, Foundations, 50 54.
172 36 Sauer first began working with the Rockefe ller Foundation when they funded his research trip 37 Mexico in 1944 and 1945. During this last tour of Mexico, however, Sauer began to challenge some of the assumptions that motivated his institutional patrons. In a 1945 introduction of American methods, agricultural production on indigenous milpas, based on intercropping maize, squash, and beans, addressed the problem of nitrogen depletion in the soil more successfully than modern methods could. Sauer also praised the indigenous people, especially the indigenous groups of According to S consider them as 36 Correspondence: Carl Sauer to Joseph Willits, 20 September 1940, in Robert West, Fieldwork in Latin America, ( Ann Arbor : Department of Geography, Syracuse University by Unive rsity Microfilms International, 1979), 12. 37 Andean Reflections: Letters from Carl O. Sauer While on a South American Trip Under a Grant from the Rocke feller Foundation, 1942, ed. Robert C. West, Dellplain Latin American Studies, No. 11, (Boulder, Co: Westview Press, 1982).
173 practices and traditions to changing socio economic conditions, and he attacked the cies which [were] flowing from the urban centers to strip the country of its goods and its ablest men and pauperize it culturally, as well as 38 After years of collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation, Sauer challenged the very assumption s that motivated their mission in Mexico. He argued that Mexican agricultural systems were sufficiently productive, and that indigenous practices and cultures should be adapted to modernity, rather than suffer destruction at the hands of scientists and go vernment administrators. In the end, the Foundation ignored In 1953, the Foundation teamed with officials from the Mexican Social Service agency, IMSS, ly experiences from public health campaigns, the program established a system in which food would be distributed to the needy and hungry if they obtained prescriptions from a doctor, as if food were a potential dangerous controlled substance that would be abused by the lower classes. 39 The Mexican government and Foundation researchers increasingly emphasized programs to feed the needy as their limited successes in agricultural productivity failed to provide for the demands of a growing urban population. In many parts of rural Mexico, rocky, mountainous terrains imposed on campesinos a precarious lifestyle that was increasingly untenable. On steep slopes, deforestation 38 Correspondence: Carl O. Sauer to Joseph Willits, 12 February 1945, in West, 199 122. 39 The New York Times, 12 November 1953, 28.
174 Mexican s 40 efforts to increase agricultural productivity helped offset the loss of arable lands, though, many of their efforts were aimed at Mexican commercial interests rather than at provi ding for basic nutrition. efforts merely to increase agricultural production paradoxically reduced the amount of food that could be produced for the majority of Mexicans. By emph asizing increased productivity detached from sociopolitical contexts, Foundation researchers advocated restructuring the Mexican agricultural landscape in ways that remove d the scientific goal, increasing agricultural production, from the sociopolitical ai m of feeding the Mexican population. The hybrid seeds that the Found ation scientists had developed required a mobilization of resources that was beyond the means of most Mexican campesinos and ejidatarios. farmers were required to purchase new seeds each year, to buy expensive chemical fertilizers, and to maintain access to water for irrigation. 41 By 1966, only 10 percent of Mexican farmers had adopted the high cost hybrid maize seeds. 42 With little concern for the traditional staples of the Mexican diet, researchers focused their single minded efforts, and their budgets, on increasing production of crops that were of questionable value for feeding the Mexican population. As early as 1948, Foundation resea rchers established an experimental research station at La Cal Grande in the agriculturally rich region of the Bajio, and they began 40 The London Times, 19 July 1957, 11. 41 Jennings, Foundations, 65 68. 42 Jennings, Foundations, 72.
175 experimenting with new crops, namely sorghum and barley, which played a remarkable small role in the diets of most Mexicans. Sorghum and barley, however, represented important crops for Mexican and American firms concerned with producing commercial products for national and international markets. In a 1951 Rockefeller Foundation report, Dr. Herrell DeGraff predicted that produ ction of sorghum would expand to a 43 From a scientific perspective focused solely on increasing production, however, sorghum pro ved attractive to Foundation researchers. Unlike maize or wheat, it could be grown in many of the arid regions of rural Mexico. Additionally, Foundation scientists speculated that sorghum could be used to feed livestock that produced cheap meat for export markets, rather than for meeting the subsistence needs of the majority of Mexicans. The Foundation mobilized its resources to pursue only those projects that confirmed the logic of their focus on increasing production. Furthermore, they followed by supporting projects that benefited larger commercial interests rather than subsistence farmers. 44 Research into increasing barely production followed a similar logic. As was the case with sorghum, Mexicans consumed v ery little barley as part of the diets. From 1930 to 1945, production of barley increased from approximately 70,000 tons to 115,000 tons. Most of the production was 43 Dr. Herrell DeGraff, Report to Joseph Willits, 10 September 1952, (Madison, Uni versity of Wisconsin, Land Tenure Center Files), 49 50; quoted in Jennings, Foundations, 73. The fact that the Rockefeller served the interests of larg e ranchers and producers of cattle feed. DeGraff was an expert on beef production. See Herrell DeGraff, Beef Production and Distribution, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1948). 44 Jennings, Foundations, 75.
176 used for livestock feed, though some of the barley was used for the production of malts us ed to make beer. In the early 1950s, the Rockefeller Foundation scientists began experimenting with barley at the behest of Mr. Ziegler, the representative of the Mexican Association of Malters. George Harrar, head of the Mexican Agricultural Program, so on decided to suspend barley research to avoid any appearance of impropriety that came from working so closely with private commercial interests. Harrar advised Ziegler, however, to approach the Sub Secretary of Animal Husbandry, who might persuade the Mi nister of Agriculture, Flores Munoz, to include barley research as a part of the Warren Weaver, gave a paper in Milwaukee to an audience that included representatives f rom Anheuser Busch, Fleishman Malting Company, Pabst Brewing, Schlitz Brewing, Archer Daniels Midland, and Pillsbury. Weaver encouraged the industry leaders by explaining the commercial potential of hybrid seeds. 45 As in the case of sorghum, the single mi nded focus on increasing agricultural production brought researchers closer to commercial interests and caused them to n eglect their mandate to feed increasing production from the sociopolitical goal of producing food. One scholar reproduction of particular styles of thought [which led to] the empowerment of scientific 45 Jennings, Foundations, 75 76; Weaver had been an expert in physical sciences at the University of Wisconsin before he joined the Rockefeller Foundation staff. As Director of the Division of Natural Sciences, he promoted genetics as a scientific sub specialty that could combine theories from physi cal science with practices from applied biology. He discusses his experiences with the Foundation in his memoirs, Warren Weaver, Scene of Change: A Lifetime in American Science, (New York: Charles 75.
177 communities [and, p resumably, large commercial interests in Mexico and the United 46 In 1959, Mexicans faced the prospect of importing wheat for the first time in three years. Commercial millers in Mexico complained that it was too difficult to produce flour and br ead from the Red Lerma soft wheat variety that dominated Mexican production. Additionally, despite more than a decade of research, the Rockefeller Foundation researchers had failed to eradicate wheat rust and other plant diseases. Though, the Mexican gov ernment bore some responsibility for the shortage as the guaranteed price for wheat, 930 pesos or $74.40 per metric ton, had remained stagnant for years. Ultimately, Mexican wheat farmers responded by reducing the acreage they planted in wheat since their expenses rose dramatically as they adopted the capital intensive techniques and technologies promoted by the Rockefeller Foundation. 47 Researchers and government officials ignored such consequences and continued to promote hybrid seeds, with their attend ant package of needs for irrigation, expensive pesticides, and chemical fertilizers, to increase agricultural production. Indeed, Foundation scientists were so confident in their ultimate success that they began exporting their package of reforms througho ut the Americas and other parts of the postcolonial world, particularly to India and Africa altered agricultural practices for a generation. In India, Foundation scientists began experimenting with rice, and soon they establis hed a research center in the Phillipines. Rockefeller Foundation scientists pioneered a global movement which included efforts 46 Jennings, Foundations, 1 89. 47 The New York Times, 20 December 1959, 20.
178 by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia and projects funded by the Ford Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, and the United States Agency for International Development. Combined, these efforts aimed to hold off a Malthusian crisis by deploying hybrid seed technologies developed first in Mexico 48 By the 1970s, however, considerable debate emerged as the long term consequences began to emerge in Mexico, where the Rockefeller Foundation first developed the new seeds and technologies. A Little Blunt Talk Critics argued that the achievements claimed by the Rockefeller Foundation, increased yields may have resulted from the extension of production into marginal lands, or from a period of unusually good weather. In addition, critics worried about the potential long term consequences of adopting Green Revolution technologies. They argued that only large, commercial enterprises could pressure the state to construct expensive pub lic works projects for irrigation. They also noted that the wealthy landowners were the only people with the resources to purchase expensive inputs. The the landless to a adoption of genetically 49 Finally, skeptics claimed that 48 The New York Times, 22 October 1970, 18. 49 The Wall Street Journal, 15 March 1971, 25.
179 proponen ts of the Green Revolution exacerbated the very Malthusian crisis that motivated their research and justified their influence. William Paddock, an American agricultural expert who was pessimistic about the new techniques, claimed that increased production encouraged rural families to have even more children. Discussing children and said that because of the new high yielding variety, he and his neighbors would now have enou gh food for all, and all could enjoy seeing their women in the condition in which they were most beautiful 50 Such evidence is anecdotal, to be sure, but it is suggestive about the nature of the early critique. Looking backward from the pre sent, scholars might assume that critics of the Green Revolution were primarily concerned with the environmental consequences of chemical pesticide and fertilizers, and those concerns would soon come to the fore as a result of the environmental movement sp arked in the United Silent Spring. Initially, however, skeptics challenged Green Revolution advocates on their own terms and they focused primarily on the socio es, rather than its environmental failures. Taken together, the early critiques warned that vulnerable food production would ultimately lead to social tension, and social violence. According to creasingly explosive social 51 Earlier, as United States Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara worried about the 50 The Wall Street Journal, 6 October 1970, 22. 51
180 ways in which population growth contributed to social tensions, he years that lie ahead for the nations in the southern half of the globe are pregnant with 52 Rockefeller Foundation scientists also saw their mission in such impassioned moral terms, and tensions exploded when Norm an Borlaug, the head of the RF MAP who had first developed rust resistant wheat hybrids, was controversially awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. At the time, Borlaug was only the fifth American to win the award, and he joined such American luminaries a s Dr. Martin Luther King and Gen. George C. Marshall. In presenting Borlaug with the award, Mrs. Aase Lionaes, the head of the Lagting section of the Norwegian parliament that grants the Nobel Peace een fears of two catastrophes r us, Dr. Borlaug comes onto the 53 Borlaug, himself, expressed the moral imperative of population problem is a monster which, unless tamed, will one day wipe us from the 54 Elsewhere, he told a news reporter that even with the Green 52 The Washington Post, Times Herald, 23 0ctober 1970, A24. 53 Aase Lionaes, Frederick W. Haberman, ed., Nobel Lectures: Peace 1951 1970 (Amsterdam: Elsevier Publishing Company, 1972); accessed through the Nobel Prize website. URL: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1970/press.html 1 March 2009 54 The Chicago Tribune, 22 October 1970, 2.
181 world population continues to increase at the same rate, we 55 Controversy erupted again a year later when Borlaug defended the use of the pesticide DDT. Speaking to a thousand delegates from 125 countries at the 16 th Governing Conference of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organi zation (FAO), Borlaug used his prestige and status to a privileged sided attack on the al movement could claim a membership of no more the 150,000 people whose disproportionate influence make s future of the world. 56 He argued that a ban on DDT would cause percent and food prices to increase four to fiv 57 With the public battles over the use of pesticides like DDT as part of a package of green revolution technologies, mainstream environmental concerns in the United States environmentalism in Mexico emerged either from regulatory initiatives driven by state prioriti es or from middle class Mexico City residents concerned with urban air and water quality. While such interpretations certainly offer significant insights into 55 The Washington Post, 23 October 1970, A24. 56 The New York Times, 9 November 1971, 15. 57 Norman Borlaug, quoted in Michael McG The Chicago Tribune, 9 November 1971, A8.
182 environmentalism in Mexico, they largely ignore how nascent calls for environmental justice appe aled to broad transnational constituencies. By the mid 1970s, proponents of the Green Revolution undertook a broad public relations campaign to attack their critics and to sell hybrid seeds to developing countries. Borlaug claimed that he and othe 58 With a paradoxical awareness of the politically sensitive concerns about imposing foreign technologies on local cultures, Borlaug and other agronomists refused to sell finished hybrid seeds. Instead, they stopped short of the final steps and gave only unfinished varieties to national breeding programs for their final finishing and release. That way, national research institutes could claim credit for developing the seeds, which could be released under local names. Researchers believed that farmers wo uld adopt the new seeds more readily if they resulted from released around the world under thirty different local names. Though, all local variations were subjected 59 Borlaug continued to be the center of controversy. His suppor ters credited him with more than j ust saving the world through feats of scientific genius. He also shared his daily breakfast of coffee and huevos rancheros with Mexican campesinos, and he 58 The New York Times, 3 September 1974, 1 31. 59
183 reportedly introduced Little League baseball to Mexico. In the fields of northern Mexico, he wore t he baseball cap of the Mexico City Aztecas, the Little League team he had coached to an all star season. 60 However, criticism mounted through the early 1970s. In 1972, after a crop failure in Ukraine and Russian, traders purchased large quantities of grain from Chicago exchanges, causing wheat shortages in the Western Hemisphere. And the OPEC oil embargo caused prices of petroleum based fertilizers to rise. Critics renewed their attacks on Green Revolution technologies that were genetically vulnerable to s uper pests, and primarily benefitted wealthy landowners who could afford the high costs of fertilizers and pesticides. Borlaug responded to his critics by arguing that his team continued to research new cereal varieties, including the first ever man made In addition, Borlaug claimed that they were working on an interspecies crossbreed of cereals and legumes, which could replenish nitrogen in the soils without the applicatio n of chemical fertilizers. Borlaug reserved his most vehement attack for those who challenged the socio h criticism about making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Well, our primary concern 61 In 1976, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) and th e United Nations Development Programme co sponsored a research project to 60 The New York Times, 27 April 1975, 1; Official sources from Major League Baseball claim the Mexican L ittle League began in the 1920s. See, Jesse http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20040107&content _id=626058&vkey=news_m lb&fext=.jsp&c_id=null accessed 26 March 2010. 61
184 political impact green revolution technologies. 62 In the study, Cynthia Hewitt de Alcantara focused s practices and inputs (including the utilization of improved seeds, the application of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides and the careful control of water) required to exploit the potential for high yields bred into new varieties of food grains 63 The study concluded that the introduction of new agricultural technologies distorted and denigrated all segments of rural society in Mexico. Indigenous peop le who retreated from modernization faired relatively well, but ejiditarios who tried to adapt to changing circumstances often alienated their alloted separated the enjoy the purchasing power and conspicuous consumption of the large landholders who could afford expensiv e chemical fertilizers and pesticides. 64 Even the greatest beneficiaries of the green revolution, the large commercial farmers, never became truly self sufficient. In order to utilize the genetically engineered seeds, large farmers leveraged their polit ical connections and relied heavily on state subsidies for the construction of irrigation and infrastructure works that were necessary to produce high yields. Furthermore, the study found that such government 62 Cynthia Hewitt de Alcantara, Modernizing Mexican Agriculture: Socioeconomic Implications of Technological Change 1940 1970, (Geneva, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, 1976). 63 Hewitt de Alcantara, Modernizing Mexican Agriculture, xiv. 64 Hewitt de Alcantara, Modernizing Mexican Agriculture, 331 315.
185 expenditures could have been allocated more ef fectively to distribute marginally lower producing technologies across a much broader segment of rural society. Ultimately, the study concluded that, in Mexico, there was no correlation between modernization and development, and that most rural residents never enjoyed improved standards of living. Above all, the experiment with new agricultural technologies and methods was marked by waste of human and natural resources. 65 Conclusion When the Mexican government initiated the Papaloapan projects in the late 1940s, the Alemn administration simultaneously supported collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation to remake Mexican agriculture, and agricultural sciences, using modern technologies and scientific methods. As the project evolved through the 197 0s and underwent a series of institutional changes, researchers increasingly focused on solving a scientific puzzle of increasing yields with hybrid seeds, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers, rather than addressing complex social and nation building prio rities. high modernist faith throughout the developing world, however, they attracted attention from a transnational environmental movement that exposed the ecological d evastation wrought by heavy applications of toxic chemicals. When a new generation of Mexican politicians, led by President Luis Echeverra, attempted to revive the Papaloapan projects in the 1970s, critics challenged the underlying assumptions that guide d the modernist, utopian designs and began articulating a discourse championing traditional indigenous environmental stewardship. The next chapter examines the 65 Hewitt de Alcantara, Modernizing Mexican Agriculture, 305 322.
186 forts to revive the agrarian populism of the Crdenas era by focusing on rural development and new public works construction in Papaloapan basin.
187 CHAPTER 6 TO SETTLE ACCOUNTS The shift in state priorities after 1940 and the Cold War focus on developmenta l projects to increase agricultural production led, in the short run, to a rapid increase in and integration into global markets rather than on the radical land r eform that had characterized Ro was postwar period as they relied on large scale, capital intensive interventions that did little to improve the lives of peasants and workers. The rising gap between rich and poo r exposed the contrad i displacement forced many people to the burgeoning shantytowns that ringed Mexico City and other major urban areas. Dissenters became increasingly critical of the postw the official party. Tensions mounted as students from the National University (UNAM) and the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) protested in the streets of Mexico City a s PRI official Olympic Games. The state responded by repressing protesters and on October 2, 1968, government troops opened fire on 10,000 student demonst ra tors assembled at the Plaz a de Las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco. Accurate figures for the numbers killed and wounded are difficult to determine. Historians Colin MacLachlan and William Beezley
188 suggest that some 325 people were killed, 2000 were wounded and another 2000 were jailed 1 In the aftermath of the Tlatelolco Massacre, the incoming Mexican President, Luis Echeverra faced a new set of challenges. The economic growth of the 1950s and 1960s had stalled by the early 1970s and the Institutional Revolutionary Party seemed incr easingly corrupt, autocratic and repressive. Echeverra tried to appeal to dissenters and critics but he continued to favor the kinds of large scale rural development projects that his predessesors had pursued since the 1940s. After years of neglect government officials again turned their attention to the tropical regions of the Papaloapan B asin in the early 1970s. Mexican President L u s Echeverra tried to cultivate broad popular appeal by focusing on ru ral development. H e stressed Mexican nationa list solutions to agricultural problems and he drew upon a new language of environmental responsibility. In practice, however, his programs focused on large scale public works projects and technological solutions to problems of agricultural productivity an represented a continuation of the mid century developmentalist priorities of the Alemn era. The early 1970s, then, was a key turning p oint. T he emergence of a nativist environmental disco urse of the 1970s represents one of the key factors in the genesis of new social movements that challenged older PRI state formation strategies and created a new political climate and new avenues for entrance into the political sphere for marginalized soci al actors. Under Echeverra, a reinvigorated Papaloapan Commission began construction on a second dam in the Oaxacan Highlands, and renewed its commitment to developing the tropics using modern agricultural technologies and 1 Colin MacLachlan and William Beezley, El Gran Pueblo: A History of Greater Mexico third edition, (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2004), 402.
189 centralized plann ing to bring t he region and its people into the modern nation. By the 1970s, however, a broad array of dissidents, including students, environmentalists, modernist development schemes. N ew social actors articulated a discourse of nativist environmentalism that questioned an uncritical faith in science, re evaluated indigenous knowledge, and re imagined relations between the state and rural tropical communities. Lu s Echeverra visited the campus of the National University to give a speech opening the academic year in 1975. While trying to speak, he was drowned out by s banners that proclaimed t in response to the angry crowds. As he tried to leave, protesters showered him with bottles, stones, and broken bricks. Echeverra was hit in the head, but he was not seriously injured. 2 Echeverra believed that his ad gained him student support, but angered the United States. Soon he began to believe that the C.I.A. was behind the attack. He 3 With many of his policies as president, Echeverra tried to atone for his role in the Massacre of Tlatelolco in 1968. As president, Echever ra presented himself as a leftist reformer. However, he on challenging the United States over environmental concerns and water rights, and on 2 The New York Times, 15 The Washington Post, 15 March 1975, A11. 3 The New York Times, 18 March 1975, 7.
190 rural development in the Papaloapan Basin. 4 When Gustavo Diaz Ordaz and the PRI leadership selected Luis Echeverra as the official presidential candidate in 1970, many critics attacked him and argued that, as Minister of the Interior, he had been the government official most directly responsible for the violence at Tlatelolco in 1968 During his sexenio Echeverra attempted to cultivate a populist image by addressing problems of rural development and confronting the United States over issues of international water rights. H owever, Echeverra had to that witnessed unprecedented ecocomic growth but was also marked by rapid population growth and high inflation, and the bankruptc aftermath of the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre. In the words of o ne Mexican historian, the highest point of authoritarian power and the real beginning of its c ollapse [a] decline [that] lasted for twenty n 5 Echeverra assumed the mantle as the leader of Mexico determined to erase the memories of 1968. He campaigned across the country with enthusiasm, though he was guaranteed victory through the machinations of the official party. As presid ent, he courted professors and intellectuals like Carlos Fuentes and Daniel Coso Villegas who had been outspoken critics of the regime and tried to conjure the populist magic of Lzaro Crdenas, despite an increase in guerilla opposition to the PRI. In p ublic 4 Echeverra also be and by promoting a package of laws to outlaw discrimination against women and change Mexican attitudes of machismo The New Your Times, The Chicago Tribune, 2 September 1974, 7. 5 Enrique Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, A History of Modern Mexico, 1810 1996, trans. Hank Heifetz, (New Yo rk: HarperPerennial, 1998), 737.
191 pronouncements, he aligned Mexico with developing countries fighting for national 6 He challenged the United States over international water rights and pressed for environmental legislation, even as key publ ic officials resigned in the wake of paramilitary violence targeted student protesters on Corpus Christi Thursday, 1971. Echeverra also committed to a program of rural development funded and directed by the state. Critics charged the he was plunging the 7 Echeverra tried to draw particular one of his campaign speeches he announ that the Mexican Revolution still owes a very great debt to the campe sinos of the country, a debt 8 Observers noted, however, t hat Echeverra was not candidate, and he was unlikely to court students who believed the former Minister of the 6 "Mexico's President on U.S. Latin American Relations." CQ Press Electronic Library, Historic Documents Series Online Edition, hsdc72 0001191560. Originally published in Historic Documents of 1972 (Washington: CQ Press, 1 973). http://library.cqpress.com.ezproxy.lib.ucf.edu/historicdocuments/hsdc72 0001191560 (accessed October 1, 2010). 7 Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, 750. This is not intended as a psychological portrait of the Mexican president, though his policies do indeed seem contradictory and contemporary critics like Coso 8 The Washing ton Post, Times Herald, 9 November 1969, 108.
192 Interior was responsible for th e Tlatelolco Massacre. Instead, 9 In the town of Tantoyuca in northern Veracruz, he ate a local meal of cheese, salted beef, beans with chiles, and stewed local plums as he list ened to a mariachi ban 10 Despite the show of support, the meeting demonstrated key problems that Echeverra would try to address as president. Local community leader s called on Echeverra to build a high school for 1,500 students and demanded a new municipal water supply system. Though his program emphasized large scale irrigation projects, rather than land reform. In the end, Echeverra drew upon a populist revol utionary language, but continued many of the policies that defined the shift in state priorities after 1940. Such contradict ion s won him few converts among students and campesinos s uch a degree that he and his family became direct targets. In terms of rural development, he tried to conjure the populist mystique of Lzaro Crdenas, but proved to be the heir to Miguel Alemn by focusing on public works construction, which included a d iplomatic battle with the United States over international water rights and a renewed focus on irrigation for commercial agricultural development in the Papaloapan Basin. 11 9 10 The New York Times, 27 June 1970. 11 In addition, Echeverra tried to assert state control over the economy, pass the first environmental legislation to curb industrial pollution, and p romote gender equality by banning
193 Of course, Echeverra did not become the new darling of the radical student movemen t and the Left Violence increased and the president became increasingly paranoid about plots against him and his government. In his first state of the nation address to Congress, Echeverra warned of a Communist plot to disrupt the social order and topp le the government as guerrilla movements accelerated a kidnapping campaign that targeted public officials and wealthy landowners. 12 Based on testimony from seven men captured and interrogated by the Mexican Army, the government accused the rural guerilla gr oup Revolutionary Action Movement (MAR) and its intellectual leader Genaro Vasquez Rojas, of kidnapping bankers and fifteen other public officials in the southern state of Guerrero. The government also charged that the urban guerrilla groups, Armed Comma ndos of the People and the Movement for Revolutionary Action, were implicated in plots to kidnap former President Miguel Alemn and U.S. ambassador, Robert McBride. A government spokesman claimed that the guerrillas were linked to a foreign conspiracy and had committed a rash of bank robberies in the Mexico City and elsewhere. 13 In the meantime, prominent leftist intellectuals like Carlos Fuentes and Octavio Paz, who had formerly supported the Echeverra regime, joined labor and student leaders to form a n ew movement dedicated to pressuring the government for progressive reforms. 14 12 The Chicago Tribune, 2 September 1971. 13 Mar The Washington Post, Times Herald, The New York Times, 20 September 1971, 8. 14 The Was hington Post, Times Herald, 23 September 1971. Many Mexican intellectuals would late come under fire for their cooperation (co optation?) with the PRI regime. See Roger Bartra, Blood, Ink, and Culture: Miseries and Splendors of the Post Mexican Condition trans. Mark Alan Healey, (Durham: Duke University Press 2002); and Claudio
194 In 1974 three year old father in law, the former governor of Jalisco, Jose Zuno Hernandez. The captures demanded $1.6 million diabetic and suffered from a heart blockage. Attorney General Pedro Ojeda Paullada announced t hat the government refused to negotiate, while Vicente Zuno blamed American imperialists, especially the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation, 15 imperialism that causes anarchy in the social and political structures in 16 Zuno Hernandez was released on September 8, 1974, on the same day that the Mexican Army inflicted numerous casualties in a firefight to resc ue Senator Ruben Figueroa, who had been held for four months. Zuno Hernandez was held for ten days before he was dumped on a street corner in Guadalajara. He was hungry, but reported that he had been treated well and given his diabetes medication. He sa id that his with his kidnappers and told them that the C.I.A, not the Mexican government, was their real enemy. 17 At a press conference, Zuno Hernandez praised the gue rrillas who had released him and attacked Echeverra and his administration. He claimed that his son Lomnitz, Deep Mexico, Silent Mexico: An Anthropology of Nationalism, (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2001). 15 The Chic ago Tribune, 30 August 1974, A7. 16 The New York Times, 30 August 1974, 3. 17 The Washington Post, 9 September 1974, A5.
195 in 18 As the kidnappings and guerrilla violence spread, clearly indicati ng that Echeverra could not appeased the students or the leftist opposition, he shifted his populist priorities by focusing on rural development, informed by environmentalist concerns, and on challenging the United States over the water quality of the Col orado River as it crossed the U.S. Mexico border. Agrarian Populism As early as 1972, Echeverra began challenging the American dominance of the and he announced tha 19 In a visit to the United States, he questioned how Richard Nixon could extend cordial relations to the Soviet Union and communist China while ignoring problems closer to home. Echeverra States does not use the same boldness and imagination that it applies to solving the U.S. Secretary of State Willia m Rogers and Mexican Foreign Minister Emilio Rabasa signed several agreements to promote scientific and technical exchanges, Echeverra began calling attention to the challenges facing the two nations regarding the Colorado River, which crossed the U.S. Mexican border carrying silt, salt, and contamination 18 Jose Guadalup The New York Times, 9 September 1974, 3. 19 The Washington Post, 15 June 1972, AS4 5.
196 20 diately upon taking office, Echeverra drew upon the precedent established by the Constitution of 1917 in order to extend federal government control over water as a subsoil resource similar to petroleum. In February 1971, he pushed a law through Congress that would allow the state to compel private landowners to distribute water more equitably to small farmers. 21 In many ways, government intervention still favored large scale agribusiness, but he was able to establish some populist credibility. According to a historian of the western United States, at least part of his popular support in northern Mexico involved his willingness to confront the United States over the salinity of water from the Colorado River, which irrigated an agriculturally productive region around Mexicali. According to treaty obligations from the 1940s, the United States was required to provide Mexico with a one and a half million acre feet of water in order to irrigate agr icultural fields just south of the border. However, when the Wellton Mohawk irrigation project began diverting waters at the Imperial dam in 1961, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation built the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, the natural flow of the Colorado River could no longer flush away silt and the salinity of river increased dramatically. The Wellton Mohawk project was particularly 20 The Washington Post, Times Herald, 16 June 1972, A1, A4. Luis Echeverria, "Mexico's President on U.S. Latin American Relations." CQ Press Electronic Library, Historic Documents Series Online Edition, h sdc72 0001191560. Originally published in Historic Documents of 1972 (Washington: CQ Press, 1973). http://library.cqpress.com.ezproxy.lib.ucf.edu/historicdocuments/hsdc72 0001191560 (accessed October 1, 2010). 21 The Chicago Tribune, 22 February 1971, A7
197 damaging. In the dry desert region of southwest Arizona, water was drawn from deep wells and used to irrigate commercial farms. As surface water evaporated in the high heat, the drainage that seeped back into the Gila River through a network of canals contained extremely high saline concentrations. The salty water then poured into Mexico after the Gila River met the Colorado River just north of the border. 22 The water that ultimately arrived in Mexico had such a high saline content that it ruined Mexican agricultural lands. Throughout the 1960s, American officials confirmed their treaty obligations to provide water to Mexico, but claimed that the salty water was still suitable for agriculture. By the early 1970s, however, as Mexicans exported more produce to the United States and failed Mexican farmers increasingly traveled north for work, the Mexican Minister of Hydraulic Resourc es, Leandro Rovirosa Wade, claimed that water was far too salty to drink or irrigate Mexican fields. He argued that the Colorado River naturally carried 900 parts per million of soluble salts, and that it was always near the limit of what was usable for i rrigation. Agronomists suggested that anything above 600 800 parts per million could adversely affect agricultural production. 23 With the increased salinity and contamination from American agriculture, the water completely ruined Mexican farms. In the Ju ne 1972 meeting with Nixon, Echeverra made the salinity of the Colorado River a primary concern and presented several possible solutions. He suggested that the United States and Mexico could jointly finance and construct a canal to carry the salty water to the Gulf of California, while the United States paid reparations 22 The Washington Post, Times Herald, 23 July 1973, B4. 23 The Christian Science Mo nitor, 15 June 1972, 4.
198 to Mexican farmers. He then authorized Mexicans to construct more than 100 wells in an attempt to siphon off the contaminated waters. 24 Echeverra also wanted the United States to remov e a ten percent tariff on import goods that had gone into effect the previous year in order to increase trade in Mexican fruits, tomatoes, strawberries, and cotton. The Mexicali Valley had been a cotton producing region in which farms were organized into commercial ejidos following the Mexican Revolution. Felipe Moreno, a resident from an ejido country and fought for land that could easily produce $5,000 of profits each year from cotton. By the late 1960s, ejido residents began experimenting with different crops, including wheat, safflower, and alfalfa. By the early 1970s, many had abandoned their lands and sought work elsewhere, or went further into debt with the Agrarian Credit Bank just t looked like blankets of snow across the earth, the saline also corroded his tractor. 25 Nixon administration officials agreed to an interim solution whereby the United States would drain off half of the highly concentrated waters from the Wellton Mohawk projec t and replace it with fresh waters from the Imperial Dam Reservoir, reducing the salinity from 1,250 parts per million to 1,150 parts per million. Echeverra agreed to commit $12 million to rehabilitate lands or relocate farmers, but complained that the 24 The New York Times, 11 June 1972, 6. 25
199 half hearted measures did little to solve the problem. 26 He threatened to hold the United States accountable before the World Court in The Hague until U.S. officials finally agreed to a salinity control treaty. In 1973 and 1974, former U.S. Attorney Gener al Herbert Brownell negotiated a treaty with the Echeverra administration. Typical of conservationist thinking of the era, American and Mexican officials proposed technological solutions to environmental problems. The U.S. Congress agreed to fund a massi ve reverse osmosis desalination plant, at a cost of $300 million, to clean the Colorado River just as it crossed the border with Mexico. Boosters claimed that the desalination plant would not only improve U.S. Mexican relations, it would also be an experim ent in the large scale applicability of the reverse osmosis techniques that would General Corp.; Monsato Co.; Gulf Oil Corp.; Westinghouse Electr 27 By 1973, the concentration of salt in the Colorado River waters that flowed across the Mexican border approached 3,000 to 4,500 parts per million. The proposed desalination plant was ten times larger than any other in the worl d, and it would consume enough electricity to meet the demands of an urban population of forty thousand people. The U.S. Congress approved the plan on July 1, 1974, and Brownwell reached an agreement with the Mexican g overnment by late August. However the plant would not be completed until 1978. 28 Environmentalists criticized the plan and suggested an 26 27 The Wall Street Journal, 4 June 1973, 10. 28 The New York Times, 31 August 1973, 23.
200 alternative approach. They argued that the U.S. government could buy out the lands of farmers in the Wellton Mohawk region and retire them from production. Critics claimed that the land was in a desert region, like so much of the southwestern United States, and that it should never have been considered for agriculture in the first place. 29 Agriculture only existed there as a result of costly irrigation proje cts and was directly responsible for leeching salts into the groundwater, and ultimately into the Colorado River as it crossed the Mexican border. 30 concerns, but he proved to be sensitive to the political advantag es of deploying a language of environmental stewardship. By the 1970s, awareness of environmental problems and the consequences of development had captured the imagination of scholars, activists, and politicians throughout the world. The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 20, 1970. In the United States, the Republican administration of Richard Nixon attempted to assuage popular pressure by proposing and signing into law sweeping environmental protection legislation that established the federal E nvironmental Protection Agency. Officials from the United Nations also recognized the consequences of environmental degradation. Scholars have argued that Mexican officials responded to such international movements in complex and often contradictory ways. When Echeverra assumed the presidency in 1970, he offered the nation the prospect for meaningful reforms, including environment reforms. According to one commentator, Echeverra proposed environmental reforms 29 The disastrous consequences of developing the arid regions of the United States have been chro nicled in the classic work of environmental history, Donald Worster, The Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979). 30 Marc Riesner, Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, rev. ed., (New York: Penguin Books, 1993), 7 8, 463 The Washington Post, 25 July 1979, A3.
201 rity of environmental problems in Mexico Tlatelolco Massacre. 31 Echeverra followed others around the world in recognizing the severity of environmental degradation, but he resisted international pressures. Instead, he sought to find uniquely Mexican solutions the problem of sustaining development while still promoting a degree of environmental conservation. times seems to have forgotten that his existence depends on an equilibrium [with] the serious problems generated by pollution should not be translated into measures that would diminish aspirations to econ 32 Echeverra neglected the fact that many corporations only invested in Mexico because of its lax environmental regulations and governm ent subsidized public works projects. He argued that industrialized nations deliberately tried to hinder economic growth in the developing world by forcing those countries to adopt more severe environmental legislation. Though, he did express concerns abo ut industrial pollution in Mexico and enacted the first anti pollution legislation in Mexican history, he favored technological solutions that he hoped would also stimulate industrial and scientific innovation. According to his undersecretary of environme ntal improvement, Francisco Vizcano Murray, Echeverra 31 Lane Simonian, Defending the Land of the Jaguar: A History of Conservation in Mexico, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995), 178. 32
202 development. However, later commentators provide a more mixed assessment of the environmental achievements of th e early 1970s. 33 populist reforms committed the administration to a program of rural development in which indigenous campesinos were displaced by large irrigation projects and modern agricultural techniques depleted na tural resources. industrial centers by promoting incentives for manufacturers to move into agricultural areas. He divided Mexico into three zones. The first included the main industrial areas around Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey. The second zone included cities, such as Cholula and Queretaro, which already had some industry but offered advantages for new businesses or manufacturing companies looking to relocate. Zo ne three consisted of the rest of rural Mexico. For companies that opened new factories in the rural areas of Mexico, the federal government provided ten to forty percent reductions in income taxes, total exemptions from import duties on tools and machine ry, reduced interest rates on banks loans, and elimination of capital gain taxes on the sale of industrial lands. 34 While such a plan could potentially mitigate some of the congestion and air pollution of industrial areas like Mexico City or Monterrey, it promoted more pollution in the rest of the country and it would require a commitment from the federal government to build roads and infrastructure, which would increase pollution from transportation to isolated rural areas. Such policies went against one strain of environmental thinking that began to gain traction in the early 1970s. In the 33 Simonian, Defending the Land of the Jaguar, 178 182; Vizcaino Murray, La contaminacin en Mexico (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1975), 20. 34 The Christian Science Monitor, 17 August 1972, 4.
203 suburbs of the United States, for example, new construction projects favored tightly clustered developments in an effort to preserve green space and wildlife habitats. 35 While Echeverra tried to make significant strides to curb pollution in the capital, he promoted development, and pollution, in other parts of the country. Echeverra and the Minister of Hydraulic Resources, Leandro Rovirosa Wade tapped engineer Jor ge L. Tamayo to take control of the moribund Papaloapan Commission that had limped along through the 1960s as federal funds were diverted to irrigation projects in the north. With renewed enthusiasm, the federal government promised $320 million to the con struction of a new dam, The Cerro de Oro dam, to control floodwaters and provide a source of irrigation for commercial farmers in the Papaloapan Basin. Echeverra evoked Mexican law that had previously been employed to expropriate hacienda land after the Revolution, and laid claim to lands belonging to 4,000 Mazatec and Chinantec families living in a section Oaxacan highlands that was scheduled to be flooded by the Cerro de laced groups among 6000 acres of virgin forest in the Uxpanapa Valley. 36 Echeverra in Papalaopan When government officials first tackled the narrowly construed problem of controlling flooding in the Papaloapan Basin during the 1950s, they originally planned 35 See Adam Rome, Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001). Though, of course, racia l and class considerations often determined where those industrial clusters were located and spurred debates over environmental justice as working class and black communities often faced the worst industrial and environmental pollution. See Robert D. Bull ard, Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality, 3 rd ed., (Boulder: Westview Press, 2000); Andrew Hurley, Environmental Inequalities: Race Class and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana, 1945 1980, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina P ress, 1995). 36 The Christian Science Monitor, 27 February 1974, 3.
204 early designs, the Cerro de Oro dam, had not yet been built. Lower construction costs dictated that the Papa loapan Commission officials should have begu n with the co nstruction of the Miguel Alemn dam in the late 1940s and 1950s, but waning enthusiasm, declining budgets, and increasing opposition kept engineers from moving forward with plans for the construction of the second dam, the Cerro de Oro, on the Rio Santo Do mingo. However, while the construction of the Miguel Alemn dam led to increased commercial agricultural development in the coastal plains of Veracruz, it did little to address the problem of seasonal flooding that had initially inspired government offici als to intervene in the region. Floods in 1958 and 1969 and heavy rainfall from a Gulf hurricane damaged the commercial enterprises in Veracruz and compelled landowners to renew pressure on the federal government to build the Cerro de Oro dam. 37 In 1972 the Echeverria administration committed to rural development and charged the Papaloapan Commission with constructing the Cerro de Oro dam and creating a single reservoir, connected to the artificial lake created by the Miguel Alemn dam, to form the larg est man made lake in Latin America. The reservoir would cover 700 square kilometers and hold a volume of 13 billion cubic meters of water, but planners anticipated that it would protect lowland farms in an area covering 210,000 hectares. However, because the dam could only hold a maximum capacity of 568 million cubic meters of silt, critics charged that deforestation and erosion from the 37 Peter T. Ewell and Thomas T. Poleman, Uxpanapa: Agricultural Development in the Mexican Tropi cs, (New York: Pergamon Press, 1980), 68 72.
205 38 Officials responded that the Papaloapan Commissi on had always been committed to developing the region as an integrated unit, and that re forestation projects in the highlands would mitigate the problem of erosion and reduce the amount of silt collected behind the dam, thereby extending its useful life l ong enough to justify construction costs. Though, as 39 G overnment officials drew upon a discourse of the tropics to buttress argum ents about flood control. In the presidential decree authorizing the construction of the Cerro de Oro dam, Echeverra stressed that the public works projects were necessary to his mirrored those of an earlier era in that they focused on increasing agricultural production (a puzzle which scientists and engineers could solve). Echeverra emphasized t he importance of bringing to heel the wilderness of an impenetrable tropical region for the good of the campesinos and the nation. To reinforce the connections among development in the tropics, the indigenous people of the south, and the nation, Echeverra 38 Sara J. Scherr and Thomas T. Poleman, Development and Equity in Tropical Mexico: Thirty Years of the Papaloapan Project, (Ithaca, NY: Department of Agricultural Economics, 1983), 43 44; Ewell and Poleman, Uxpa napa, 72. 39 Victor Ahuja Bravo, Jorge L. Tamayo, and Antonio Jimenez Puya, Informe de la Junta Especial de Estudios Relativo al Desarollo Socio economico de la Parte Alta de la Cuenca del Rio Papaloapan, (Mexico City: 1972); Ewell and Poleman, Uxpanapa, 73
206 and a national symbol during the liberal wars of the nineteenth century. 40 The discourse of backward people inhabiting a fecund, but underutilized tropical nature demanded that a series of other publi c works be constructed to compli ment the flood control projects associated with the Cerro de Oro Dam. Echeverra decreed that the Papaloapan Commission would also oversee construction of canals and levees to increase the capacity of the Papaloapan River, soil conservation programs in the upper basin, roads, schools, post and telegraph offices, health centers, and sewage facilities. 41 Through the 1960s, shrinki ng government budgets forced the Commission either to abandon such endeavors, or to rely on private sector partners to complete the construction of smaller projects. However, as increasing agricultural production in the tropical region again became a nati onal priority, the federal government favored an approach that integrated development of the entire region under the auspices of the Papaloapan Commission. T he Commission also managed the indemnification and resettlement of commercial farmers and campesin os affected by the projects. Private property owners sent representatives from the Farmers Association, The Cattle Ranchers Association, and an Association of Private Property Owners to negotiate with the Papaloapan Commission. They reached an agreement so that landowners would be compensated either in cash, according to a valuation of their holdings undertaken by the Commission, or in land in other areas. Property owners could receive up to twenty hectares of irrigated land or 250 hectares of pasture la nd. For the Mazatec and Chinantec Indians displaced by the reservoir, Echeverra promised that they would 40 Abridged Translation of the Executive Decree of August 29, 1972, Which Uxpanapa 185. 41
207 receive, as ejidos, ten hectares of irrigated land or twenty hectares of rain fed land in the jungles of Uxpanapa. 42 T o provide twenty hectares of land for each if the 4,000 families that would be affected by the dam, the Commission needed to find 80,000 hectares that were suitable for agriculture, but not already in production. By the early 1970s, however, much of the southern frontier had alre ady been settled by cattle ranchers and the best agricultural lands in the traditional Chinantec homelands were scheduled to be flooded. Both the Commission officials and the Chinantec Indians remembered the failed relocation schemes in Las Naranjas in th e 1950s, and the Commission sought a meaningful collaboration with leaders of the fifty one ejidos that would be negatively affected by the dam. 43 Chinantec delegates accompanied Commission officials in the search for suitable lands for resettlement. The ejiditarios wanted to remain close to their traditional homelands, but Commission officials favored virgin forest sites in the Uxpanapa Valley in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The area had previously been divided into ejidos in the 1960s, but few settlers o ccupied the land and it remained under federal jurisdiction. To promote the dense jungle location, the Commission paid for transportation expenses so that community leaders could inspect it for themselves. However, the topography and climate allowed only a superficial survey of the area. Most official visitors traveled on small launches up the rivers and canals, though some flew in helicopters to forest so 42 Diario Official, vol. 313, No. 54, 30 Augus t 1972, in Ewell, Uxpanapa, 187 188. 43 Some ejiditarios chose not to relocate. They preferred to organized cooperatives along the shores of the reservoir to exploit resources from fishing and harvesting tree fruits.
208 44 The si tes in t he Uxpanapa Valley were in dense tropical rainforest and lacked basic services and infrastructure. The government had begun construction on a road to Tuxtepec, Oaxaca and Ojitlan, Veracruz, but the relocation sites remained isolated and far from t he Chinantec homeland in the highlands of Oaxaca. As community leaders objected, the Papaloapan Commission offered alternative relocation sites in the regions of Las Naranjas where the relocations of the 1950s had previously failed. Despite the well kno wn disadvantages, those sites appealed to some because they were closer to the Oaxacan highlands. Community leaders divided and many protested the construction of the dam and the resettlement schemes. However, in the end, twenty eight ejidos representing 2,796 families chose to relocate to Uxpanapa, while nine ejidos representing 946 families chose Las Naranjas, and fourteen ejidos chose to remain and organize fishing, cattle, or tree crop cooperatives along the reservoir shores once the dam was finally c onstructed. 45 A more critical reading of these events suggests that the final choice of a resettlement zone involved the resolution of multiple contestations and negotiations. Where advocates saw a genuine collaboration between the Papaloapan Commission a 46 Where the Papaloapan Commission 44 Ewell, Uxpanapa 88. 45 Secretaria de Agricultura y Recursos Hidraulicos, Comite de Reacomodo, Presa Cerro de Oro, 1976, Tercer Informe, Mimeo, in Ewell, Uxpanapa, 89. 46 Alicia Barabas and Miguel Bartolom, Hydraulic Development and Ethnocide: The Mazatec and Chinantec People of Oaxaca, Mexico (Copenhagen: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, 1973), 10.
209 saw the opportunity to conquer and settle a tropical frontier, others noted a conspirat orial accommodation with entrenched landowners. As governmental officials promoted a variety of options, observers witnessed disputes among competing powerbrokers. While supporters championed local democracy, scholars could see one faction consolidate its victory over local rivals in a process of establishing communal hegemony. 47 In 1973, several engineers from the Papaloapan Commission perished in an airplan e crash. Five years later, the two leaders of the Commission, Engineers Jorge I. Tamayo and Guillermo Hernandez Castro died in a helicopter crash. Their deaths delayed the publication of thirty triumphs and generall in the tropics. 48 Some Chinantecas believed that God had sent his own engineers to argue against new construction projects, and that the deaths were punishment for s claimed that the Devil had appeared at the proposed site of a new dam, the Cerro de Oro. The Devil warned the engineers and government officials to leave and called on President Echeverra to come to the Oaxaca highlands in Community leaders in the provincial town of Ojitlan ordered shamans to persuade their companion spirits to attack and kill Echeverra. According to local rumor, the president only escaped his fate by mobilizing his own, more powerful, spirits. In 47 See Florencia Mallon, Peasant and Nation: The Making of Postcolonial Mexico and Peru, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995) 11 12. 48 Scherr and Poleman, Development a nd Equity in Tropical Mexico i ii.
210 Decembe r 1972, the Virgin of Guadalupe, the syncretic symbol of the mestizo Mexican nation, appeared on a hill opposite the proposed site of the Cerro de Oro dam. The apparition of the Virgin requested an audience with the president and community leaders to medi ate the disagreement and to argue against the construction of the dam. Thereafter, a cult developed around a sacred piece of wood found at the site of the leaders carried the sacred pieces of wood in front of processions of hundreds of people. 49 In addition to protests from local peasants, the Papaloapan Commission faced competition over jurisdiction from other governmental bureaucracies, including the Department of Agrarian Af fairs and Colonization (DAAC), the Secretariat of Hydraulic Resources (SHR), from aspiring national political parties like the Authentic Party of the Mexican Revolution (PARM), and peasant organizations like the National Confederation of Peasants (CNC) and the Independent Confederation of Peasants (CCI). The PARM fought for control over the municipal authorities and accused PRI officials of misconduct, while the SHR pressed to relocate Chinantec Indians into irrigated lands so that they might directly enjoy the benefits of dam construction, instead of being forced into rain fed areas of the Uxpanapa Valley, which would only allow commercial farmers access to the irrigated waters. Critics claimed that mediators from the Papaloapan Commission tried to destroy the authority of Chinantec elders who resisted resettlement schemes by undermining cofradia cargo systems that structured local community hierarchies, as 49 Alicia Barabas and Miguel Bartolom, Hydraulic Development and Ethnocide: The Mazatec and Chinantec People of Oaxaca, Mexico, (Copenhagen: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, 1973), 15.
211 rumors swirled and obscured the specifics of the Commissions designs and the resettlement plans. 50 Despite the ultimate construction of the Cerro de Oro dam and the relocation of approximately 20,000 Chinantec Indians from the Oaxacan highlands to the tropical tropical nature and tropical peoples into a national development scheme faced new obstacles. The political and intellectual climate had changed. In addition to student protests against the Echeverra regime, new scientific and intellectual arguments challenged to underlying assumptions that guided government development projects. Both the construction of the Cerro de Oro dam and the resettlement schemes faced mounting opposition in the early 1970s as new conceptions of indigenous rights and environmental stewardsh ip mobilized a broad range of activists. Mazatec and Chinantec community leaders allied with a new generation of anthropologists and environmentalists, agronomists and ecologists, tourists and travelers. Together, these disparate groups articulated an al ternate notion of rural agriculture based on local indigenous land and water use practices that they believed would not only preserve the fragile relationship between peasant cultures and the natural world, but also increase agricultural productivity over agriculture technologies. As in the 1950s, the government officials commissioned a series of studies to agriculture and assimilation into the national vision. In the 1950s, the scholars who 50 Barabas and Barto lom, Hydraulic Development and Ethnocide, 10 11.
212 worked with the Commission and the National Indigenous Institute (INI) shared the same goals and visions of regional development and acculturation. The anthropologists criticized its methods. 51 Alicia Barabas and Miguel Bartolom worked as field researchers for the Instituto Nacional de Antropoliga e Historia (INAH) and acted as advisors the fundamental political intention of persuading the Indian of the inevitability of of the finan cing for the construction of the Cerro de Oro dam. However, the anthropologists challenged their government colleagues, none of whom suggested that 52 Instead, Barabas and Bartolom submitted their findings to the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs in Copenhagen, Denmark. They claimed that, since their inception, the Papaloapan Commission and the Insituto Nacional Indigenista (INI) promoted a consistent program to eradicate indig enous culture and promote assimilation of, first, the Mazatecs displaced by the Miguel Alemn dam and, then, the Chinantecs scheduled to be resettled with the construction of the Cerro de Oro dam. The anthropologists claimed that the intent of the INI and the Papaloapan Commission conquest and domination, of the burden of maintaining their own language, a coherent system of social and kinship organization, and an integrated re lationship with [the] 51 promptly ignored by government officials. 52 Barabas and Bartolom, Hydraulic Development and Ethnocide 13.
213 53 Critics argued that resettlement would provoke psychological depression, generational conflict, and an exploitative relationship whereby peasants would be vulnerable to predations of informal money lenders who would interv ene between hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides. 54 The ecology of Uxpanapa presented challenges to government planners and Chinantec colonists. Located in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the narrow strip of land dividing Mexico from Central America, Uxpanapa represented both the promises of integration, and the challenges of isolation. Observers and government officials had long viewed crossing the narrow isth mus as a way to connect the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. Alexander von Humboldt considered Tehauntepec as a possible site for a canal, and the United States tried to secure rights to a canal zone in the 1840s. During the Porfiriato, the Mexican go vernment divided the lands in the isthmus between timber concessions and land grants to railroad builders. The cientificos who advised Porfirio Diaz believed that railroad construction would lead t o development in the region with smallholders settling al ong the rail lines. However, most of the recipients of the land grants held onto their lands and speculated on the hope that future commercial success would increase the value of their holdings. Others exploited hardwood reserves rather than promoting pe asant settlements. During the twentieth century, the state run oil company, PEMEX, constructed industrial complexes along the Gulf coast, but left much to the region sparsely inhabited. 53 Barabas and Bartolom, Hydraulic Development and Ethnocide, 13. 54 Barabas and Bartolom, Hydraulic Development and Ethnocide, 14.
214 The pattern of historical development in Uxpanapa reshaped the natur al world. Timber operations cleared much of the primary growth forests, reducing the number and variety of plant species. As in other rainforests, most of the nutrients are contained in the biomass, rather than in the soils. Trees stretch vertically to rise above the undergrowth as heat and moisture cause plant matter to decay rapidly. One historian rient that reaches the 55 As a result, tropical regions contain a tremendous variety of biodiversity within a compact area, but the soils are rather thin, making agriculture difficult. Anthropologist Betty Meggers has described similar enviro nments in the Amazon as a the lack of soil fertility routinely frustrates attempts at settlement 56 In the resettlement zones of Uxpanapa, early twentieth century logg ing and cattle ranching cleared away primary forests and e xposed loose clay soils. In addition, planners and colonists confronted the challenge that sixty percent on the land was mountainous with slopes at a gradient of greater the fifteen percent. Such s teep terrain meant that any agricultural activity that required clearing the land ran the risk of promoting erosion of the already depleted topsoil and of washing away any applied chemical fertilizers. 57 55 John Hemming, Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon, (New York: Thames and Hudson, Inc., 2008) 339. 56 Betty Meg gers, Amazonia: Man and Culture in a Counterfeit Paradise, (Washington: Smithsonian has come under considerable attack in recent years. Anthropologi sts and archaeologists, such as Anna Roosevelt, William Denevan and Michael Heckenbegrer, have discovered the variety of ways in which early man utilized river and forest resources. However, her descriptions of the limited fertility of tropical soils remai n relevant for the tropical forests of southern Mexico. 57 Ewell, Uxpanapa, 104 108.
215 Following the Mexican Revolution, the government exp ropriated the lands in Uxpanapa and attempted to redistribute them as ejidos. However, many of the applicants never took possession as much of the land was inaccessible or unsuitable for agriculture due the gradient of the slopes or the aridity of the soil Nonetheless, ejidal claims complicated government efforts to secure the lands for displaced Chinantec resettlement. Further complications arose when spontaneous colonization preceded the efforts of the Papaloapan Commission. By the early 1970s, some 2 00 families lived scattered among forty isolated settlements. They came from various parts of rural Veracruz and Oaxaca and were connected to the outside world by rive rs and forest trails. T hey largely survived off subsistence agriculture. They were poor but after only few years of experience they managed to coax substantial yields of maize and rice out than the expensive, mechanized systems introduced by the gover nment were able to challenge of introducing extensive agriculture technology int he most successful colonies were located along riverbanks where seasona l floods brought alluvial silts to replenish soil nutrients. And, though these earlier settlers stood to benefit from the road building activities of the Papaloapan Commission, they resented the that improving their traditional methods could be more productive than adopting modern agricultural technologies. 58 The Papaloapan Commission focused on using hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers 58 Ewell, Uxpanapa, 112 116.
216 and pesticides, mechanization and centralized planning by ex perts. Each displaced Chinantec family received twenty hectares of land but was organized into ejidos. Each ejido sent a representative to Union of Ejidos, but ultimately the Papaloapan Commission made crucial decisions regarding the allocation of resourc es, such as machinery, fertilizer, and seeds. Planners believed that centralizing decisions allowed the Commission to coordinate production with the needs of national markets and to implement practices according to the results of scientific experimentation Commission officials also coordinated the finances of the Uxpanapa colony. They established an official bank to collect any profits from commercial agricultural enterprises. Ejiditarios could then apply for short term loans to cover operating expenses Planners assumed that centralizing the marketing and sale of agricultural commodities would allow the colonists to take advantage of economies of scale. However, the colonists could have pooled their resources through the Union of Ejidos without the ov erarching layer of government bureaucracy. As it was, ejiditarios had to go into debt and pay interest to gain access to their own profits because government officials could not trust them to manage their own affairs. For planners from the Papaloapan Commission, the colonization scheme at Uxpanapa had a number of advantages. First, it allowed them to relocate the displaced Chinantec Indians to lands that were not already held by entrenched interests. Second, it gave them the opportunity to extend the reach of the state into a tropical region that had resisted colonization since the colonial period. And finally, Papaloapan Commission agricultural enterprises un der the direct control of the state, organized through collective
217 ejidos 59 The construction of the Cerro de Oro dam a nd the resettle ment of Chinantec Indians brought together all of the threads that had defined the Mexican state building project of the p ostwar period. It extended the reach of the state into the hostile tropics. Because it was coordinated through the state bureaucracy rather than through collaboration with the private sphere, it allowed planners to implement the findings of scientifi c ex perts while claiming sensitivity to newer environmentalist concerns. And yet, by organizing the Chinantecas into ejidos it allowed the Echeverra administration to evoke the agrarian populism of the Crdenas era. E cologists objected to the development plan for the tropical colony in Uxpanapa. Though the Echeverra administration and its scientific advisors claimed to be sensitive schemes. They argued taking desert lands o ut of agricultural production could solve the problem of high salt concentration in the Colorado River better than a costly pollution in the major cities by expandi ng into the Mexican countryside. Ecologist and anthropologists opposed the construction of the Cerro de Oro dam, which displaced Chinantec Indians while destroying a rich ecosystem for a dam whose useful life was reduced by the accumulation of silt from h ighland erosion. With the opposition to the settlement scheme in Uxpanapa, the outl ines of a discourse of nativist environmentalism, which condemned modern agricultural techniques and championed local, indigenous adaptations, began to take shape. The P apaloapan Commission sponsored academic environmental studies of the 59 Ewell, Uxpanapa, 121 123.
218 resettlement zone in Uxpanapa. By the 1970s, however, p lanners from the Papaloapan Commission could draw upon decades of research into the hybrid seeds and new technologies developed by the Rockefeller Foundation, though Commission scientists sought to apply the modern agricultural practices to the humid tropics. They emphasized that the resettlement project needed to be done quickly so that construction could begin on the Cerro de Oro d am, and saw little need for the kind of extensive s tudies that had accompanied earlier develo pmentalist programs For Commission officials, tropical nature was not only already legible, it could easily be conquered. The plaque above the entrance to the U Foundation had become a new orthodoxy among gov ernment scientists and planners. The Papaloapan Commission focused on using h ybrid seeds developed by the Rockefeller Commission in temperate climates to develop commercial agriculture on the ejidos in Uxpanapa. In particular they tried to promote commercial production of rice and maize. Planners compelled Chinantec colonists to produce the first commercial crops of the hybrid Sinaloa A 68 rice on 810 he crop was lost entirely because the Commission could not transport e nough combine harvesters into the region. In 1976, the Commission reduced the ar ea under rice cultivation by 50 percent as the rushed application of pesticides and herbicides failed to prevent attacks from tropical pests, weeds, and plant pathogens. Additionally, the state devalued the Mexican peso in 1976 and implemented price contr ols on basic grains designed to control inflation in the urban centers. For colonists and Commission planners in inflationary measures meant an increase in the cost of
219 imputs and limits on the value of their agricultural product ion. In response, ejido leaders refused to plant rice and shifted their focus to subsi s tance production. Observers worried that the Commission would move away from collaboration with ejido leaders ejido will no longer be the basic unit of production in [the 60 The Commission s attempts at maize production in the southern tropics also faced difficulties. Planners insisted that ejidatarios cultivate the hybrid varieties H 503 and H 507 that had been developed by the Roc kefeller Foundation H 503 was a dwarf variety that the Commission abandonded after one season, and H 507 proved to be susceptible to pests. With H 507, the leaves of the corn husk did not close completely to envelope the ear. While that defect was relatively benign in the temperate or arid climates of northern Mexico, it proved di sasterous in the southern tropics, as it allowed excess moisture and insect larvae to devour the maize kernels. By 1978, the y native varieties from the spontaneous settlers in the planners, alike, worried that the yields would be too low to recoup the costs of ncertain whether maize would ever be economically viable 61 As the long term consequences of modern agricultural development became apparent by the 1970s, botanists and ecologists associated with the Biology Institute at UNAM, the Autonomous State University of Veracruz in Xalapa, and the Eco 60 Ewell and Poleman, Uxpanapa, 147 155. 61 Ewell and Poleman, Uxpanapa, 155 159.
220 Science) began to challenge the dominant developmentalist paradigm. They favored small scale development that was less d isruptive to local ecosystems and was based on proven traditional agricultural practices. Prior to resettling Chinantec families, the Papaloapan Commission sponsored a study conducted by a group of biologists led by Dr. Arturo Gomez Pompa of UNAM and the Field Museum in Chicago. Gomez Pampa and his team suggested that traditional agricultural practices were, by definition, well adapted to the tropical environment and made more effective use of the available natural resources, without depleting the soils or promoting deforestation and erosion. They found the primary and secondary forests, along with the rivers, provided settlers with 299 different species of plants, birds, mammals, insects, fish and reptiles that they could exploit commercially or for bas ic subsistence. By comparison, built environments centered on sedentary villages, garden plots, and mono cropped fields provided only 124 different species for ejiditario survival. While such data fail to indicate the volume of production and the profitab ility of each species, they suggest a significant loss of biodiversity and changes to the local ecosystem. Instead, the Gomez Pompa group recommended working with campesinos to develop environmentally friendly crops. He suggested harvesting a type of tree called ojite that lowland Mayans had used for centuries for its hardwood and fruits, which contained significant amounts of protein and Vitamin C. They also suggested that campesinos could exploit the bamboo stands that grew in the depleted soils left by the early twentieth century timber industry. They believed that the Papaloapan Commission wa s short sighted and foolhardy for trying to apply technologies developed in temperate zones to produce alien grain crops in the
221 rainy tropics. They also protested that the Chinantecs had to defer to the central planning committee and were prevented from applying their traditional knowledge. 62 In 1974, and again in 1976, the Executive Director of the Papaloapan Commission, Jorge Tamayo, responded to the environment alist critics. He praised the Commission employees for balancing the various interests of local and national interest groups and claimed that he felt personally r esponsible for the well being of the Chinantec Indians who were displaced by the construction of the Cerro de Oro dam. Rapid settlement required the use of heavy machine to clear the dense jungle and concentrated use of chemical fertilizers to make the tropical soils productive using the new hybrid seeds. Agriculture in the tropics demanded that pesticides and herbicides needed to be applied to keep at bay the microbial pests that had always devastated tropical agricultural production. 63 The Commission officials took some environmental problems, such as erosion and controlling floodwaters, serious ly, but continued to focus on increasing agricultural production at all costs. Only those environmental factors that jeopardized production attracted considerable attention from planners and the hostility distrust outside expertise and to 64 By 1978, the Papaloapan Commission was rocked by a series of setbacks. In 62 Ewell, Uxpanapa, 118 126. 63 Conc entrating agricultural production on mono crop has frequently made commercial agriculture vulnerable to tropical pests. Classical studies of commercial production of bananas and rubber on tropical plantations include Warren Dean, Brazil and the Struggle fo r Rubber: A Study in Environmental History, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) and John Soluri, Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005). 64 Ewell, Uxpanapa, 129.
222 developm ent in the tropics, new oil reserves were discovered on the Gulf coast of the state of Veracruz The federal government shifted resources away from the Papaloapan run oil company PEMEX greater authority to manage dev elopment in tropical lowlands for crude oil drilling and refining. Also in 1978, the two primary leaders of the Papaloapan Commission, Jorge Tamayo and Guillermo Hernandez Castro, died tragically in a heliocopter accident, depriving the Commission of its most influential defenders and spokesmen. By 1982, the Papaloapan projects formally came to an end when the federal government disbanded the Commision. The legacy of scientifically informed agricultural development, however, continued to influence the int ernational pros e lyti zing efforts of the Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo (CIMMYT), the successor organization to the Though agricultural scientists with the CIMMYT continued to focus on the puzzle assessing the value of indigenous land use practices. Agricultural scientists began to 65 By the 1980s, Miguel Altieri and his colleagues from the University of California at Berkeley d eveloped the concept ecologically sound land use practices. A new generation of academic scientists studied r time in 65 Angus Wright, The Death of Ramon Gonzalez: The Modern Agricultural Dilemma, (Austin: the University of Texas Press, 1990), 253.
223 dynamic, interactive systems that recognized how human activities altered pristine environments, but created new types of agriculture that were more productive and more 66 New researchers particula rly championed intercropping on milpas since those farming practices mirrored the complex patterns of vegetation found naturally in the tropics. Intercropping also kept pests at bay, prevented soil depletion, and anchored soils to stop erosion. New emp agroecosystem to maintain production through time, in the face of long term ecological constraint researchers determined that traditional practices of indigenous peoples in the Mexican tropics ranked among the most sustainable agricultural systems on the planet. 67 The point is not to romanticize indigenous environmental stewardship, nor to offer an of modern agriculture. Rather, I suggest that the evident shortcomings of dogmatic, high modernist development programs, like the Papaloap an projects, and the emergence of ecological critiques converged in the 1980s and 1990s as new discourses of indigenous environmental stewardship and sustainability became politically salient. Furthermore, I suggest that neither of those phenomena were new to the last decades of the twentieth century. Nor were they simply a response to the pressures of 66 Miguel Altieri, Agroecology: The Scientific Basis of Alternative Agriculture, (Boulder: Westview Pr ess, 1987) 67 Agriculture in the Tropics: Expe House, eds., Sustainable Agricultural Systems, (Ankeny, IA: Soil and Water Conservation Society, 1990), 379.
224 neoliberal reforms. Government planners had been unable to reshape tropical nature using hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers since the 1950s, when colo nists abandoned the utopian communities established and coordinated by the Papaloapan Commission for Chinantec Indians displaced by the Miguel Alemn Dam. Since Carl Sauer admonished the Rockefeller Foundation researchers to be mindful of traditional agri cultural systems, critics extolled the virtues of respecting and implementing flexible, local knowledges and practices. The new social movements and nativist environmentalism of the 1980s and 1990s represented the culmination of decades of tension between the Revolutionary state that struggled with internal contradictions and local indigenous groups seeking to negotiate their place within the modern nation on their own terms. Conclusion By the early 1970s, the Mexican government tried to focus on rural de velopment, but the political climate had changed. As Minister of the Interior, L u s Echeverra had been implicated in the tragic massacre of student protestors at Tlatelolco in 1968. Students and leftist activists argued that since the 1940s the Institut ional Revolutionary Party had turned away from the ideals of the Mexican Revolution and that the Tlatelolco Massacre marked the high point of authoritarian rule by the one party state. Mexican intellectuals and revisionist historians followed the same log ic as they challenged the demonstrate the vulnerability of the Mexican state and the emergence of new discourses of political and social protest again st PRI. Unable to a ppease the L eft, Echeverra faced a rising tide of violence that included bank robberies by guerrilla bands, student attacks, and kidnappings. He responded, in part, by trying to revive the
225 populist mystique of Lzaro Crdenas and focusing on nationalist posturing and rural development, seemingly abandoning the industrialization that took priority during the gendas. A discourse of into the nation, and the Echeverra administration continued to display a high modernist faith in scientific planning. Echeverra looked for techn ical solutions to the problems of rural development. He favored large scale, state run public works projects and empowered scientific experts to centralize and manage development campaigns. However, by the 1970s, transnational concern over the environme nt both concerns of international environmental justice movements when he challenged the United States government over the salinity of the Colorado River as it crossed th e US environmental protection laws to mitigate air pollution in the major industrial cities. Yet, argued against building a large desalination plant on the Colorado River, and favored a solution that eliminated agriculture production in the unsuitably arid Mexicali Valley. While environmentalists recognized the growing concerns about industrial pollut ion, few expansion to the Mexican countryside Finally, environmentalists, anthropologists and agronomists pment program. When the Echeverra administration revived efforts to construct a dam to
226 control th e waters of the Papaloapan River and promote agricultural development in the humid tropics, they faced opposition from new quarters. Anthropologists argued that the dam and reservoir would destroy the culture of the Chinantec Indians who were displaced. Local actors mobilized behind community leaders to try and stop the construction, or at least secure the best possible deal for themselves under the changing historical conditions. Environmentalists argued that silts would collect behind the dam and reduce its useful life. They also critiqued the plans to resettle Chinantec Indians in the jungles of Uxpanapa. They saw that small scale, traditional adaptations were more successful in the humid tropics than the intensive modern agriculture techniques advocated by the Papaloapan Commission and the successors to the Rockefeller Fo undation. Dissidents began articulating a discourse of nativist environmentalism tha t incorporated ideas from Indian rights activists, Indianist peoples into the national mestizo vision, and natural scientists who increasingly saw the value in local knowl edge and indigenous land use practices. Many scholars see the emergence of Mexican environmentalism, along with other new social movements, as a response to the neoliberal reforms of the 1980s and 1990s. However, the environmental protests of the rural poo r in Mexico followed a long gestation period and responded to the national development project promoted by the Mexican government since the 1940s.
227 CONCLUSION After 1940, the Mexican state turned away from radical revolutionary reforms that characterized the tenure of President Lzaro Crdenas (1936 1940). Crdenas and earlier revolutionary leaders like Emiliano Zapata sought to create an agrarian foundation for the nation based on the indigenous tradition of communal ownership of lands called ejidos. M exican presidents after 1940, however, favored large scale, scientifically informed rural development projects to bring new areas, like the tropical Papaloapan Basin, into production as a way of increasing food production for a growing urban population tha t could supply the labor for industrialization. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Mexican economy grew, but the ry in the long term. The economy could not sustain high levels of growth and the nature of industrialization expa nded the gap between rich and poor as displaced campesinos fled the countryside for urban shanty towns. By the 1970s, President Luis Echeverra attempted to appease his critics by refocusing attention on rural development, and renewing a commitment to dam construction and modernization in the Papaloapan Basin. By the 1970s, how ever, relationships between peas ants and the state had changed. Chinantec and Mazatec Indians displaced by public works construction no longer asserted their rights by negotiating w ith a paternalist government agency. They began to articulate new arguments tha t challenged assumptions about scientific knowledge that underpinned A discourse of nativ ist environmentalism joined a chorus of voices protesting the state by the early 1980s, when technocrats abandoned large scale projects and embraced neoliberal austerity measures to appease international creditors.
228 Mexico underwent a series of political changes through the 1980s and 1990s that Partido Accin Nacional (PAN) in the 2000 elections, thus ending more than seventy years of rule by a single party, the Partido Revolucionario Institutcional (PRI). The party had undergone significant changes Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR) that united the contentious factions of Revolutionary military Partido Revolucionario Mexicano (PRM), longevity demands explanation. PRI supporters argued that the state successfully integrated the aspirations of various segments of socie ty by incorporating their concerns into a corporativist state flexible enough to address a wide variety of concerns while it continued the legacies of revolutionary heroes. Critics saw something more insidious, as the state repressed political dissenters o r co opted local caciques labor leaders, and intellectual critics. 68 According to this narrative, the authoritarian one party state dominated until it was challenged by new social movements opposed to neoliberal reforms, that found political allies among the followers of Cuahtemoc Cardenas who split from the PRI to form the Partido Revolucionario Democrtico 68 indigenous hereditary nobility during the colonial period. However, it is used here in the sense suggested by Al an Knight to distinguish the local powerbrokers and military leaders of the nineteenth century and the Mexican Revolution (which he identifies, following D.A. Brading, as Caudillos ) from local political bosses associated with the PRI m achine in the twentieth century. See, D.A. Brading, ed. Caudillo and Peasant in the Mexican Revolution, (Cambridge: Cambridge Unive rsity Press, 2008); Alan Knight and Will Pansters, eds., Caciquismo in Twentieth Century Mexico, (London: Institute of Latin American Studies, 2006). For critiques of intellectuals co opted by the PRI, see Claudio Lomnitz, Deep Mexico, Silent Mexico: An Anthropology of Nationalism, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), 212 227; Roger Bartra, Blood, Ink and Cultur e: Miseries and Splendors of the Post Mexican Condition, trans. Mark Alan Healy, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), 65 77.
229 the neo Zapatista uprising in the southern state of Chiapas inspired Mexican civil society. 69 In many ways, t hese dramatic moments of political outrage have drawn scholarly attention away from quieter shifts and the emergence of oppositional year rule. A n examination of the discourses and practices of agricultural development in t he Mexican tropics and the use of natural resources in the Papaloapan River Basin reveals a different narrative State planners faced considerable obstacles in their efforts to conquer tropical nature and to incorporate tropical peoples into a modern mest izo national developmentalist vision. The state appears, not as a leviathan in the tropics, but as frustrated, limited, fragile, and cumbersome bureaucracy. Despite mobilizing all of the tools of political statecraft and scientific inquiry, the Papaloapa n Commission could not conquer tropical nature, and the PRI rural developmental assumptions provoked consistent protest and dissent. During the 1950s, despite local enthusiasm for the jobs that development promised, local actors petitioned the Papaloapan C ommission to secure the best compensation for their lost lands and lucrative fruit ping the tropics using modern techniques. Though economists and anthropologists worked with t he Commission to transform Mexican agriculture and facilitate a shift from indigenous folk culture to modernity, critics, such as Berkeley geographer Carl Sauer and critical environmental activists admonished the government and agronomists associated with the Rockefeller Foundation for discrediting local indigenous knowledge and arrogantly 69 Bartra, Blood, Ink and Culture, 15 43.
230 applying technologies developed in temperate climates and commercial farms to ejidal settlements in the tropics. During the early 1970s, when Lu s Echeverra attempted t o conjure the agrarian populist mystique of Lzaro Crdenas and initiated new construction in the Papaloapan Basin, he faced new forms of political opposition. Environme ntalists challenged his propensity for favoring technological solutions for environmen tal problems. Mazatec Indians opposed the construction of the Cerro de Oro Dam, deploying both political and supernatural strategies. They gained support from a younger generation of anthropologists that questioned, rather than supported, the efforts of t he Papaloapan Commission to transform indigenous culture and promote agricultural modernization. This discussion is not meant to be merely a history of resistance or a history insurrection of subjugate 70 The history of a discourse of nativist environmentalism unsettles objective claims to scientific truth, and upsets teleological notions of progress toward a scientifically informed modernity. It has not been my intent to link the emergence of a nativist environmentalism to any particular environmental or indigenous rights movement or ue universal claims to scientific truth. Following Dipesh Chakrabarty, I have also tried to demonstrate how a discourse of nativist environmentalism disrupts ideas about the progress of time and forces us to acknowledge the plurality of a modern present in which we inhabit the fragments of the past. The emerging political salience of traditional knowledges both 70 Foucault, Power/Knowledge, 81.
231 represented the intrusion of the past into the present, and also allowed for a new hybridity in which indigenous knowledge confronted modern science on the same epistemological terms. The point is not to proclaim the triumph of local knowledge over an exclusionary solutions to narrowly construed scientific puzzles con tinues to influence agronomists and policy makers in Mexico and throughout the postcolonial world. The emergence of kind described by Thomas Kuhn. Rather, it represent s a moment in which local present converge to displace facile claims to authority and to disrupt the usual teleologies. With this study, I have tried to accomp lish two things. First, I have tried to connect the concerns and methods of environmental history with those of postcolonial and subaltern studies using development schemes in the Mexican tropics as an ower to construct and maintain hegemony in postcolonial nations I argue that postcolonial perspectives about the relationship between the construction of environmental knowledge and the exercise of political power a re useful for understanding h ow tropica l places and people are discursively constructed in ways that allow ed state intervention, about h ow the legitimization of scientific knowledge buttressed regimes of power, and about h ow such discursive constructions have ma rginalized local knowledges and s ubaltern political/environmental concerns. The history of the Papaloapan projects in southern
232 Mexico offers the possibility for meaningful discussion between postcolonial criticism and environmental history as practitioners from each field attempt to move beyond modular geographic and theoretical boundaries. However, subaltern knowledge and subaltern politics can never be completely dominated, and Mexican examples suggest that new discourses of nativist environmentalism emerged to challenge state high mode rnist development on its own terms by promoting indigenous agricultural practices that proved to be both more productive and more sustainable under tropical conditions. Second, I suggest that the strong opposition to the Papaloapan project should cause u s to reevaluate dominant narratives not only about the state but also abo ut environmentalism in Mexico. Just as Mexican examples can help rethink postcolonial and environmental theories, new critical approaches and theoretical insights cause us to question dominant historiographic narratives. I argu e that the PR efforts to extend state power into the tropical south faced considerable challenges from both the natural world and from critics who mobilized against state development projects and who questione d the underlying assumptions and discourses that guided state planners. Over the course of four decades, dissidents critiqued the high modernist faith that championed scientific knowledge and denigrated traditional agricultural practices. As state offici als and agronomists promoted the expanded use of Green Revolution technologies and renewed efforts to develop the tropics of Papaloapan, they faced considerable challenges from opponents who articulated a discourse of nativist environmentalism that defende d local traditional forms of knowledge. army of economists, anthropologists, and agronomists, government planners who
233 maintained a high modernist faith t hat science could finally conquer the unruly tropics. The failures of the Papaloapan projects offer cautionary lessons for development conquered the Papaloapan proje l kinds continue to be influential in Mexico and beyond, not least among them tho se that herald a new era of
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252 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Patrick H. Cosby grew in Houston, Texas, and Tampa, Florid a. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from the Un i versity of Florida in 1999. He attended graduate school at the University of South and earned a Master of Arts in Latin American history in 2003. He is currently teaching Latin American History at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida.