In the twilight of Mexican agrarianism: Communal land ownership in a global capitalist system
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This dissertation explores how land ownership differences in Mexico tempered global development. It is based on fieldwork conducted in 2012 and 2013 in the El Estero Ejido, located on the southern coast of the northwestern State of Sinaloa, using anthropological methods including participant observation, interviews, and archival research. Data was collected in spiral notebooks, a small laptop, and a digital camera. The drastic changes in access to natural resources brought about by the emergence of the global capitalist economy coincided with an alarming rate of environmental degradation resulting from increased development in rural and wilderness areas worldwide. In Mexico, attempts to open markets previously stewarded by community institutions shifted policy in favor of supranational corporations promoting massive projects detrimental to local residents and ecosystems. Mexico presents a unique situation because communal land holdings, called ejidos, still constitute a significant part of the national real estate base. Ethnographic research uncovered conflict over a large-scale tourist oriented project, proposed by a multinational consortium of investors offering partnership with the ejido. Responses to this push to privatize communal lands was diverse depending on age, gender, and status in the community. The ejido maintained its autonomy through strategies of resilience based on extended family ties, blending aspects of revolutionary agrarian ideology and campesino culture to manipulate capitalist development interests for their benefit. My results reject the thesis of globalization as an inexorable, monolithic force in favor of a middle-ground approach and reaffirms the viability of communally owned land as an alternative to privatized real estate markets.