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SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE: ALTERNATIVE TOURISM AND COLLECTIVE FARMING IN JALCOMULCO, VERACRUZ

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Abstract

Jalcomulco has experienced an influx of tourism since the mid 1990s. Drawn by activities such as rafting, rappelling, kayaking, biking, hiking, horseback riding, ‘adventure’ tourists have driven the development of a new market for the town. This has impacted the landscape most directly through the construction and operation of adventure camps, where most ofthese tourists stay during their visits. The majority of these camps (now totaling 21) are owned by investors residing in either Mexico City, or in some cases, Asia. Conflicts between ejidatarios and adventure tourism camp owners are particularly volatile at the moment, due to contrasting interpretations of land ownership, fueled further by ambivalent political and legal jurisdiction, local land use issues (i.e., disputes over the construction of walls around camps, improper waste management practices at the camps, etc.), and the perceived monopolization of tourist income by the camps. The consequences of these uncertainties have been mixed for the indigenous population. While many ejidatarios can no longer practice farming profitably, some have capitalized on the growing adventure tourism market by agreeing to ‘sell’ their parcels to tourism camp developers—an illegal practice under the ejido system. Disgruntled camp owners are now seeking full ownership through federal and state legal channels, an arrangement the ejidatarios fear will ultimately put them at a disadvantage. Many ejidatarios are equally dissatisfied since most of the income from tourism is monopolized by the camps. The result has been a stand-off—one wrought with local political wrangling, an impoverished majority at risk of being economically displaced or exploited, and a global marketplace that offers new (but conditional) opportunities to some. The following sections explore the social complexities of this situation from an ethnographic perspective. They tie local narratives and life events to broader shifts in land use, and consider the hegemonic conditions, indigenous social strategies, and other cultural phenomena that shape cultural landscape conflicts and social sustainability in Jalcomulco.
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 53
CHAPTER THREE
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED
LANDSCAPE: ALTERNATIVE TOURISM AND
COLLECTIVE FARMING IN JALCOMULCO, VERACRUZ
Jay Hasbrouck
Department of Anthropology
University of Southern California
I. DEFINING SOCIO-CULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY
Socio-cultural sustainability has been defined in varying and often inconsistent ways,
depending on factors such as political priorities, local worldviews, and differing cultural
interpretations of natural resource management. However, broad definitions of sustainability
often imply a set of values that guide social sustainability analyses. For example, the United
Nations’ World Commission on Environment and Development (Bruntland Commission)
has defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the
ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED). Some are more explicit
about the role of social factors in sustainability, and see it as a core component. Becker, Jahn
and Steiss define sustainability as “the entire process by which societies manage the material
conditions of their reproduction, including the social, economic, political and cultural
principles that guide the distribution of environmental resources” (Becker, Jahn and Steiss
4).
Both of these definitions of sustainability help illustrate the importance of social and cultural
influences in sustainability analyses by integrating inter-generational responsibility and
cultural values. Definitions of social sustainability in particular tend to take these concepts
further. For example, Serageldin argues that social sustainability implies equity, social
mobility, social cohesion, participation, empowerment and cultural identity (Serageldin).
Sachs sees social sustainability as a process toward which society attempts to achieve social
homogeneity, equitable income distribution, employment opportunities at a living wage, and
equitable access to resources. To this he adds components of cultural sustainability, such as
respect for tradition (balanced with innovation) and cultural identity (Sachs). In the context
of the development issues related to agrarian reform in Mexico, Goldrich and Carruthers call
for “political and economic transformation toward protection of the renewability of
resources, political empowerment and economic security for peasants and workers…”
(Goldrich and Carruthers 98).
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 54
In each of these cases, some form of social equity is added to the more general sense of
intergenerational responsibility. Environmental justice—which seeks to integrate civil and
human rights agendas with environmental issues through political economy (Di Chiro;
Harvey; Hurley)—is their common theoretical base. Much of the work in this area is rooted
in neo-Marxist treatments of race and class (Foster), a position borrowed from early
environmental social movements (Pepper; Hays; R. F. Nash; Dominick; Gottleib).1 Chief
among their assumptions is that social inequity (especially in cases of extreme difference)
inevitably leads to social instability that can reverberate into political, economic, and
environmental problems. Goldrich and Carruthers frame Mexico’s recent agrarian reforms as
“inimical to sustainable development,” because they heighten the “exploitation not only of
rural and urban labor but also of an already severely degraded natural-resource base”
(Goldrich and Carruthers 97). They see the impact on labor in particular as a potential
“security threat” to the United States, as discontent and idle ejidatarios, their families, and
the urban poor are forced to find other ways to survive in their shift from collective
subsistence to an export-led consumer-oriented economy (Goldrich and Carruthers 98).
The challenge for analysts working toward the integration of economic, ecological and social
sustainability (c.f., Serageldin), is to determine how social sustainability might be best
measured and compared. For both economic and ecological analyses, a set of standards can
be used (even if problematic and controversial) as a common base for purposes of
quantification and qualification (parts per billion, gross national product, etc.). In some of
the social sciences, particularly since their struggle with postmodern critiques, methodologies
are more often tailored to individual cases rather than rooted in shared universals. Efforts to
respect cultural difference and avoid ethnocentrism have led to privileging cultural relativism
over the normative tendencies that universal social sustainability standards would impose.
Some have attempted to use indicators such as local or national living standards or rates of
poverty (Wikan) to measure or qualify social equity in social sustainability analyses. While
these indicators—and others like them—are useful within the context of a given project,
they are often not operable cross-culturally.
Others have turned to the concept of social capital as a means of developing social
sustainability indicators that can be integrated with those developed for economic and
ecological analyses. Portes describes social capital as “the ability of actors to secure benefits
by virtue of membership in social networks or other social structures”(Portes 6). In this
sense, social capital recontextualizes social interactions as investments with expected (but not
entirely certain) returns based on cultural norms, sanctions, and traditions of exchange
(Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy; Putnam, Bowling Alone: The
Collapse and Revival of American Community). However, unlike capital in the economic sense,
social capital requires ongoing maintenance in order to facilitate trust and reciprocity (Adler
and Kwon). Social capital can also grow while it is used, rather than being ‘used up’ like
other forms of capital. These latter two differences, as well as the concept’s inability to
integrate a range of other social and cultural components that have widely varying influences
on social sustainability (i.e., gender, kinship, spirituality, sexuality), make social capital a
rather narrow analytical tool (Koning).
1 Some recent exceptions include L. Sharp and T. Richardson, "Reflections on Foucauldian Discourse
Analysis in Planning and Environmental Policy Research," Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning
3.3 (2001).
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 55
Further difficulties with social capital arise when the concept is considered in post-colonial
contexts, and the ease with which it can reify regimes of the status quo (Baron, Field and
Schuller; Encarnacion). Social capital, as well as other modes of defining universal social
standards for sustainability, has been sharply criticized among social scientists for
presupposing the ‘natural’ superiority of the neoliberal labor-consumption model and its
privileging of the ‘rational man.’
This model only counts paid work as a valuable source of income; only market
transactions are considered to contribute to the standard of living. This way, the
immense value of unpaid work is ignored, resulting in a systematic bias of welfare
measuring against women (Omann and Spangenberg 5).
Other critics (Topik) have pointed to early research in economic anthropology (Halperin and
Dow; Polanyi; Sahlins) as well as accounts of cultural resistance against the encroachment of
Western market economies (Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant; Scott, Weapons of the Weak:
Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance; Taussig, The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America;
Taussig, Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing) as evidence
that neoliberal market logic and its globalization are not only historically very recent, but that
they are also in conflict with many non-Western worldviews. Topik uses resistance
movements in Latin America to illustrate that the marketplace in general “is not merely a
place for seeking material advantage but a center for sociability, status, and the creation and
affirmation of group identities.” “These perspectives,” he argues “…call into question the
naturalness of market rationality” as a determinant social phenomenon (Topik 6).
In contrast to social capital research, works sometimes described as ‘political ecology’ tend to
foreground the complex inter-relationships between history, culture, geography, politics,
ecology and economics to describe how they might contribute to the advancement or
hindrance of sustainability (Cronon; Escobar). Greenberg and Park see the field as “a
historical outgrowth of the central questions asked by the social sciences about the relations
between human society, viewed in its bio-cultural-political complexity, and a significantly
humanized nature” (Greenberg and Park). For example, some working in this vein have
theorized that processes of globalization are likely to lead to increasingly engineered urban
environments, where the ‘hollowed-out’ nation-state (Jessop, "Post-Fordism and the State"),
is replaced by decentralized and diffused patterns of subsistence and production that
ultimately serve the interests of global capital more than the local or regional conditions in
which they exist (Gibbs; Jessop, "The Crisis of the National Spatio-Temporal Fix and the
Ecological Dominance of Globalizing Capitalism"). Here, issues of environmental justice are
tied to the cultural contexts of consumerism, where relatively recent shifts in how capitalist
economies are structured (globalization, increased flexibility, mass markets, post-Fordism)
have contributed to a burgeoning ‘consumer society’ (Lash and Urry; Whiteley). As this
‘social engineering’ unfolds, the argument goes, it gradually transforms wants into needs
(Bobock), and becomes increasingly intertwined with identity (Featherstone; Lury) as well as
broader social phenomena such as how meaning, truth, and knowledge are constructed and
disseminated (Sampson).
This approach, while not a complete solution to the challenge of integrating social
sustainability analyses within a cross-cultural and comparable framework, does effectively
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 56
broaden the scope of social and cultural considerations well beyond the capabilities of social
capital or specific and localized indicators. The capacity it has for offering universal
comparative methods is perhaps less promising. For many working on issues of sustainability
in non-Western settings, however, this is not necessarily a detriment since political ecology
attempts to maintain an appreciation for local values and worldviews while contextualizing
them more broadly. In its attempts to avoid privileging the Modernist constructions of
universals, objectivity and progress, the political ecology approach can be seen as inherently
antithetical to attempts to fix social descriptions in ways that elide cultural difference and
adaptations in order to generate cross-cultural comparisons.
This paper might best be positioned in terms of political ecology frameworks in its analysis
of social sustainability in Jalcomulco. However, this does not imply that the author’s
theoretical leanings are entirely aligned with those using this approach. For example, while
political ecology research focusing on environmental justice can expose inequities that may
produce unsustainable social conditions, this approach often requires presumptions of unity
among or within various groups in order to construct a convincing argument. This framing
of social relationships does not account for multiple and fluctuating affiliations within and
between groupings. Furthermore, logics that prioritize defending ‘the oppressed’ very often
oversimplify power dynamics in binaristic ‘victim versus oppressor’ dualisms.
An example of more carefully considered positioning of power dynamics is evident in
Stephen’s consideration of hegemonic forces in her study of three ejidos during the initial
stages of agrarian reform in Mexico (1992-1995). She states, “Just as hegemonic practices are
fragmented, incomplete, and contested, counter-hegemony is also varied and contingent”
(Stephen). Similarly, approaches integrating discourse analysis within a Foucaultian
conceptualization of power can set the stage for a social sustainability analysis that accounts
for flows of resistance and dominance while exploring their complexities through an
‘archaeology’ of statements (and their contexts) that impact sustainability. Goldring uses this
method successfully in her analysis of an ejido and its cultural meanings (identity, economic
resource, repository of collective memory, and base of rural living) in Michoacán. Likewise,
Zendejas and Mummert examine how collective memory is inscribed into legal documents
by ejidatarios, thereby enabling the dominance of select historical narratives in efforts to gain
local political advantage.
II. SOCIO-CULTURAL COMPONENTS OF PROYECTO JALCOMULCO
As part of its charge to provide “the social distribution of knowledge,” The University of
Veracruz (UV) has undertaken a study to determine the ways in which the people of
Jalcomulco might best leverage the changes in Jalcomulco to their advantage. Tourism in
particular has been targeted as a focus of study because of the natural features that already
draw many nature and adventure tourists to the area. Rafting, rappelling, kayaking, camping,
mountain biking, hiking, and wildlife observation make Jalcomulco an ideal adventure-
tourism destination, particularly for Mexico City residents seeking a reprieve from urban
living. The research team’s hope is to draw these tourists into the town itself as well, through
an awareness campaign that portrays Jalcomulco more broadly as a ‘rural tourism’
destination (Niembro Rocas). Under this vision, activities that nature and adventure tourists
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 57
might add to their visit would include patronizing local restaurants and hotels, attending
cultural festivals, shopping for local crafts, and visiting the town’s archaeological and
historical sites (Monterosas et al).
The methods of the UV team center around a transdisciplinary approach based on a
framework outlined at the Latin American Forum of Environmental Sciences and
Environmental Projects. The approach is a holistic and relational one, critical of Cartesian
logic, with attempts to integrate “science and art, matter and spirit, technology and
perception” (Niembro Rocas 11). Issues of social justice are central to this methodology, and
the team’s social research to date has included historical and cultural research surveys, as well
as a organizing a workshop with Jalcomulco’s community leaders.
Their findings have included informal assessments of local labor conditions (including the
social effects of globalization), socio-economics, the cultural impact of tourism and
interactions with tourists, and conflicts between local interests and tourism industry
practices. In terms of labor conditions and socio-economics, much of Jalcomulco’s citizenry
has been negatively impacted by globalized competition for the ejido’s agricultural products.
The result is a shortage in labor and economic opportunities with few alternatives to replace
them.
The UV team’s assessment also includes some observations about the cultural impact of
tourism, most of which are negative. Accordingly, the influx of tourists is associated with
increases in property crime, drug use, prostitution, and alcoholism. These observations are
somewhat contradicted by other findings that indicate that locals usually have very little
contact with tourists. In fact, the team identifies this lack of contact as one of the primary
challenges to sustainability in Jalcomulco, since most tourists remain sequestered behind the
walls of segregated adventure company encampments, and rarely patronize local businesses.
The most notable cultural conflicts identified by the UV team include consequences of
changes in land use resulting from increases in tourist activities and the proliferation of
adventure tourism encampments. Most cultural conflicts identified by the UV team focus
primarily on obstacles preventing the effective development and management of tourism.
Much of this places emphasis on the local labor force and its presumed inability to serve
tourists effectively.
Beyond these findings, the UV team has identified a number of areas in which additional
cultural research is needed. Specific gaps include basic “social data” in the form of local
interviews, and an extensive delineation of the structure and inter-relationships between local
cultural institutions and community groups. In addition, the team is interested in quantifying
the social impact of adventure tourism.
III. USC CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE CITIES SOCIO-CULTURAL
RESEARCH METHODS
For the USC team, a number of broad themes guided the initial social component of our
investigation:
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 58
land use conflicts (Hunter and Green; Hughes; Mansperger; Mathieson and Wall;
McLaren; Richter; Rosenberg; Seiler-Baldinger; Stronza; Wheeler);
varying cultural perceptions of conservation (Desmond; Rojek and Urry; Shaw and
Williams; Wilson);
the touristic consumption of place and culture (Crawshaw and Urry; Jay; D. Nash,
"Tourism as an Anthropological Subject"; Sack; Thomas; Urry, The Tourist Gaze:
Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies; Urry, Consuming Places);
issues of power and the ways in which tourism is framed politically and culturally
(Cater and Lowman; Hall, "Making the Pacific: Globalization, Modernity and Myth";
King);
class, hegemony, and touristic imperialism (Butler and Hinch; Crick; Enloe; Hall,
"Ecotourism in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific: Appropriate Tourism
or a New Form of Ecological Imperialism"; Hall, "Historical Antecedents of
Sustainable Development and Ecotourism: New Labels on Old Bottles?"; de Kadt,
Tourism: Passport to Development?; de Kadt, Making the Alternative Sustainable: Lessons for
Development from Tourism; D. Nash, "Tourism as a Form of Imperialism"; Rojek;
Stronza; Tomlinson);
local/global inter-relations (Rojek and Urry; Hall, "Making the Pacific: Globalization,
Modernity and Myth"; Tomlinson);
mythologies of escape (Cohen; Hall, "Making the Pacific: Globalization, Modernity
and Myth"; King);
local responses to hegemonic structures conducive to tourism (Desmond; Evans-
Pritchard; Ringer).
Overall, the socio-cultural research component of USC team integrates considerations of the
preceding issues in light of developing a social sustainability analysis. Social inclusion, equity,
mobility, cohesion, participation, empowerment and cultural identity all factor into this
analysis, although attempts at quantifying social sustainability through indicators are not
consistent with the project’s methodological approach (see below). Our research direction
differs most markedly from the UV team in terms of the absence of an advocacy component
in our work. Likewise, socio-cultural research for this project integrates some degree of
reflexivity to frame our relationship to the project and the research subjects, including issues
of power that are inherent within university-lead research in rural and impoverished areas.
The field methods for the social components of this project reflect my own training as a
social anthropologist, previous field experience, and my approach to the discipline itself. My
training has focused primarily on qualitative methods and anthropological analysis, with
relevant field experience in New Mexico (sexual minorities in a self-sustaining rural
intentional community), and Los Angeles (ethnicity and social sustainability in the downtown
jewelry district). My field methods are also influenced by the belief that “our species thinks
in metaphors and learns through stories” (Bateson 11) and that:
[anthropologists work]…ad hoc and ad interim, piecing together thousand-year
histories with three-week massacres, international conflicts with municipal ecologies.
The economics of rice or olives, the politics of ethnicity or religion, the workings of
language or war, must, to some extent, be soldered into the final construction. So
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 59
must geography, trade, art, and technology. The result, inevitably, is unsatisfactory,
lumbering, shaky, and badly formed: a grand contraption (Geertz 20). What is
needed, or anyway must serve, is tableaus, anecdotes, parables, tales: mini-narratives
with the narrator in them (Geertz 65).
This study frames ethnographic narrative through discourse analysis, a methodology
influenced heavily by Foucault within anthropology (Foucault, The Order of Things: An
Archaeology of the Human Sciences; Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings).
Central to this approach is a set of assumptions regarding social theory in general:
a rejection of the notion of social ‘progress’ or ‘regress’;
a focus on contingencies through discursive practices rather than cause and effect;
a skepticism of political and ahistorical arguments or motives;
a view of human subjects as constituted through institutions and practices;
a rejection of methods that frame social investigations as the discovery of ‘truth’;
From this base, Foucault employs a set of interpretive techniques, under the metaphoric
titles of archaeology and genealogy, which together form the contexts for ‘conditions of
possibility’ of discursive relations. More specifically, Foucault’s archaeology explores
networks of what is said, and what can be seen in a set of social arrangements—a way of
determining how statements and visibilities condition one another through their regularized
practice. Genealogy introduces Foucault’s notion of power to archaeology by focusing on
the processes of the former, and their relationship to discursive technologies (or the
institutionalized power techniques of social forms). Power, in this sense,
…must be analysed as something which circulates, or rather as something which
only functions in the form of a chain. It is never localised here and there, never in
anybody's hands, never appropriated as a commodity or piece of wealth. Power is
employed and exercised through a net-like organisation. And not only do individuals
circulate between its threads; they are always in the position of simultaneously
undergoing and exercising this power (Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and
Other Writings 96; Portes).
This approach is particularly useful for examining social sustainability because it attempts to
move beyond victim-perpetrator dichotomies and into the intertwining complexities of
power, knowledge, and the subjects involved in their conditioning and circulation. It has
influenced the methods of this project by refusing causality, and problematizing claims to
objectivity and taken-for-granted meanings. More specifically, the study’s methods have been
ordered accordingly:
Data collection (‘archives’):
Authoritative accounts
Patterns of statements
Naturally occurring speech
Iconography and imagery
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 60
Identification:
Structure of discursive statements (rules for repeatability, ordering of statements)
Social context of statements (who is saying them, in what circumstances, ways of
acting, roles, titles, positions, etc.)
Organization of discourse (how it categorizes and particularizes, how social
difference is constructed)
Pre-existing categories (social rules which must be known)
Surfaces of emergence (domains within which objects are designated and acted upon,
such as the family, the ejido, etc.)
Non-discursive components (what is not seen or said, but implied or assumed)
Assumed audience(s)
Role of researchers in discursive processes
Analysis:
Key themes and clusters (not necessarily those that occur most often)
Associations established within themes or clusters
Connections between themes or clusters
Relations between ‘sayable’ and the ‘visible’
How words and images are given specific meanings (forms of specification such as a
particular vocabulary, a series of concepts, or levels of accomplishment)
How institutional location and site position the speaker in terms of authority
(institutional authority and the limits it provides as manifested through places and
spatial arrangements)
How discourses produces social ‘truths’
Ways in which discursive forms and practices condition or enable inclusion, equity,
mobility, cohesion, participation, empowerment, and identity.
Data collection has been guided by attempts to follow themes, flows, networks of statements
and other expressions through techniques of evidencing that are both reflexive and
transparent. Initially, this strategy consisted of background research on Jalcomulco, research
already conducted in the area, the role of the ejido in Mexico, and alternative tourism. Once
in the field, lines of questioning and priorities for participant observation were shaped
according to the most productive flows of information and networks of statements from
subjects. Printed and electronic materials produced by various organizations involved in
either adventure tourism, PROCEDE, the UV research team, and others were also collected.
During our first visit to Jalcomulco, there were two days in which I was able to conduct a
number of informal interviews with local residents. Points of discussion focused primarily
on general social data (personal history, demographics, etc.), opinions about tourism in
Jalcomulco, values and vision for the community, landscape interpretation, land use issues,
and perspectives of conservation. Most interviews lasted about one hour, consisted of
approximately 40-50 discussion points (see Appendix 1), and were recorded on digital audio.
Each of the interviews was transcribed for coding and analysis. They were usually conducted
in the homes or places of business of the subjects.
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 61
Adriana Niembro Rocas arranged the interviews in an afternoon by walking around
Jalcomulco and introducing me to people she’d met during her previous visits. Mauricio
Garcia Velazquez translated all of these interviews. Two subjects agreed to be interviewed,
but later declined (Guadalupe Torres, owner of a tortillaria, and Octavio Rodriguez, the
mayor of Jalcomulco). A schedule of interviewed subjects can be found in Appendix 2,
which includes subject names, occupations, interview locations, and other information. Our
first trip also included an extensive presentation of research findings by the UV team, tours
of adventure camps, sites of historical significance, and other areas of Jalcomulco. The UV
team also graciously arranged a visit to Xalapa’s Museum of Anthropology, the University of
Veracruzana campus, and a short trip to El Tajin. Participant observation in Jalcomulco was
limited to interactions with local hotel staff, local shop and restaurant owners, hikes to
points of local historical interest, and occasional evening strolls through the town or to the
river.
Upon return from the first trip, transcribed interviews and field notes were coded for
prominent themes in an attempt to begin identifying discursive patterns (see Appendix 3).
This was followed by an analysis that focused on the examination of networks of knowledge
and the ways in which they shape and direct the identities and actions of subjects. More
specifically, this involved the ordering and interpretation of ethnographic data that relates to
processes of naturalization, surveillance, labeling, the management and enforcement of roles,
inscriptions, identity formation, modes of ethical comportment, and ways of knowing.
From this analysis, potential areas for follow-up were determined, and a new set of
discussion points and exercises were developed; the latter of which included cognitive
mapping, a trip to view ejido parcels and boundaries, and word games related to change in
Jalcomulco (see Appendices 4 and 5 for talking points and interview schedule). Follow-up
specifically targeting adventure camp managers and operators as well as local school
administrators, teachers, and students was also added. Data and observations from second
trip are derived from follow-up informal interviews, a field trip to an ejido parcel, a visit to a
local archaeological site, hosting of a dinner for our subjects, and participation in various
casual discussions. These data were coded and arranged in a working matrix from which a
final social sustainability analysis was derived.
As a final note on methodology, it is an important to integrate a reflexive component into
this study because the ways in which own cultural and personal backgrounds impacted how
our team was perceived, the contexts in which we accessed subjects, and the data we
collected. Our team was hosted by the UV researchers, who generously escorted us through
the social workings of Jalcomulco. Because of this, their contacts became ours, with a few
exceptions in later phases of research. This meant that we were perceived in many ways as an
extension of the UV project and its objectives. For example, on our second trip, one subject,
when prompted for questions she had of me, asked, “What are you going to do for
Jalcomulco?” From her perspective, this question made perfect sense, since the UV
approach was clearly advocacy-oriented, and the university itself regularly dispatches
‘brigades’ of undergraduates to do community work throughout Veracruz state (some of
whom had already been to Jalcomulco). Under the assumption that we were there “to help
Jalcomulco,” it is possible that some subjects offered responses that were likely to better
facilitate our assistance, in whatever form they may have imagined it to be. In a similar vein,
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 62
there were a few instances in which subject responses to questions regarding their vision for
Jalcomulco directly reflected the recommendations laid forth in the UV research team’s
report.
As the only anthropologist on the team, I (Hasbrouck) engaged with research subjects most
often, primarily in the context of informal interviews. Christine Cooper, the team’s
economist, accompanied me on many of these interviews, and added her own set of
questions to some (in addition to conducting her own interviews on the second trip).
Because of the limitations of our Spanish language skills, and the complexity of the topics we
discussed, on-site translators were necessary (Mao, Alexandro, and Alex). Although their
skills and energy were highly commendable, the process of translation can often disrupt and
divert the flow of communication and create barriers between subjects and researchers. It is
likely that differences in language also impacted the ways in which we were perceived by
subjects, as well as the kinds of responses they offered. This process may have been further
affected by perceived racial and class differences (although there was no evidence of this to
which I can point).
Some consideration of group dynamics is also in order here. First, our research team
consisted of four people—all from different disciplines—whose only contact before this
project was a year and a half of classroom interaction, typically once a week for a couple of
hours. Transitioning from this to research trips during which we shared nearly every waking
moment was a difficult process at times. Conflicts between team members were sometimes
evident within the research process, both in terms of personality and political views. This is
not to say that such incongruities were disruptive, but it is likely that they were noticed by
our UV counterparts and/or subjects in Jalcomulco.
Group dynamics also raised difficulties in instances where interpersonal communication
between a subject and me was obfuscated by an over-abundance of other contributions from
USC and UV team members, as well as others who were sometimes unexpectedly present.
On a few occasions, this resulted in fewer, less forthcoming, or highly conditional responses.
For example, in one instance during which I planned an interview with the current ejido
president, eight people in addition to the subject, the translator, and me, were present. The
conditions resembled a sort of friendly interrogation to which the subject responded with
‘official’ discourse—one entirely devoid of his own views and personal contexts, even after
my promptings for exactly that. Later interactions with this subject were more conducive to
these kinds of contributions, but this example demonstrates how group dynamics sometimes
impacted the kinds of data collected.
IV. COLLECTIVES, CAMPS AND CONFLICT: JALCOMULCO’S
CULTURAL LANDSCAPE
Jalcomulco has experienced an influx of tourism since the mid 1990s. Drawn by activities
such as rafting, rappelling, kayaking, biking, hiking, horseback riding, ‘adventure’ tourists
have driven the development of a new market for the town. This has impacted the landscape
most directly through the construction and operation of adventure camps, where most of
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 63
these tourists stay during their visits. The majority of these camps (now totaling 21) are
owned by investors residing in either Mexico City, or in some cases, Asia.
Conflicts between ejidatarios and adventure tourism camp owners are particularly volatile at
the moment, due to contrasting interpretations of land ownership, fueled further by
ambivalent political and legal jurisdiction, local land use issues (i.e., disputes over the
construction of walls around camps, improper waste management practices at the camps,
etc.), and the perceived monopolization of tourist income by the camps. The consequences
of these uncertainties have been mixed for the indigenous population. While many ejidatarios
can no longer practice farming profitably, some have capitalized on the growing adventure
tourism market by agreeing to ‘sell’ their parcels to tourism camp developers—an illegal
practice under the ejido system. Disgruntled camp owners are now seeking full ownership
through federal and state legal channels, an arrangement the ejidatarios fear will ultimately put
them at a disadvantage. Many ejidatarios are equally dissatisfied since most of the income
from tourism is monopolized by the camps. The result has been a stand-off—one wrought
with local political wrangling, an impoverished majority at risk of being economically
displaced or exploited, and a global marketplace that offers new (but conditional)
opportunities to some.
The following sections explore the social complexities of this situation from an ethnographic
perspective. They tie local narratives and life events to broader shifts in land use, and
consider the hegemonic conditions, indigenous social strategies, and other cultural
phenomena that shape cultural landscape conflicts and social sustainability in Jalcomulco.
a. Social Inclusion
The issue of inclusion is relevant to social sustainability in Jalcomulco on a number of levels.
In the broadest sense, Article 27 reforms directly impacted the lives of ejidatarios throughout
Mexico by eliminating the federal government’s land redistribution obligations, enacting new
processes for individual parcel certification that could eventually be used to shift ownership
rights from collective to private (PROCEDE), and phasing out subsidies for crops (thereby
opening these markets to global competition) (Stephen). These changes, brought about
under the administration of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, prioritized concerns about
Mexico’s international debt problems and the country’s ability to comply with NAFTA trade
policies over the interests of ejidatarios. From all accounts, it is clear that the Mexican
government did not integrate a process of inclusion in either the consideration or
implementation of these reforms. And while they may not have been legally obligated to do
so, it does set the stage for the ways in which ejidatarios respond to these reforms and the
federal government at large.
In Jalcomulco, as well as other ejidos throughout Mexico (Stephen), these issues of exclusion
from the political process are often mixed with paternalistic views of the federal
government. Since the revolution, the federal government has been seen as a protector of
ejido land rights, which included farming subsidies, guaranteed markets, and intervention in
instances of border disputes. Now that reforms have removed or phased out most of the
protections on which many ejidatarios and their families depended for generations, feelings of
exclusion from larger political processes have in some cases been compounded with dismay
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 64
and frustration over increasingly absent federal assistance. Alberto Contreras Torres, a 69-
year old Jalcomulco ejidatario, repeatedly expressed this sentiment in our discussions:
I felt better eight years ago because I worked the land, you know, in the ejido. So,
now, in my business, the sales, I’m not happy…We don’t have enough support
economically…so that’s why we feel unhappy today…We don’t have support,
money, we don’t have the machines, and we don’t have some techniques to improve
these productions (Contreras Torres).
At the local level, most issues relevant to social inclusion in Jalcomulco involve the tenuous
relationship between townspeople and the camp owners and managers. At least five of the
residents we spoke with mentioned this problem explicitly. Martin Moterra Milen—one of
the hotel owners who has relatively frequent contact with camp managers—stated that “the
policy [of the camps] is to maintain the local people apart [from] the tourists” (Moterra
Milen). Celestina Ana Barco, a local restaurant owner, witnessed the execution of this policy
first hand when a group of tourists perusing menus at a table in her establishment were
“ordered to leave the restaurant and return to the camp” by a camp manager who’d seen
them there (Ana Barco). In a similar instance, the camp’s efforts to separate the townspeople
from camp visitors may have contributed to their management decisions during the
Marlboro Team rafting event in Jalcomulco’s Rio de Pescado. According to Moterra Milen,
just before the even takes place, all local rafting guides are replaced by American and
European ones “because they think the local people are not good enough” (Moterra Milen).
When questioned about the possible causes for camp policies of exclusion, Moterra
speculated that class bias is at play.
Mireya Alvarez, the manager of a camp called Cotlamani, confirms that their guests rarely
have contact with ejidatarios, and when asked if she thinks tourists are aware of the ejido in
Jalcomulco says that “they don’t know and they don’t want to know. They want to be here
just [to] relax” (Alvarez). This may, of course, reflect the tourists’ own class or racial biases,
not to mention possible expectations they may have for what it means to vacation at a
retreat (i.e. Rojek’s concept of indexing where tourist destinations are seen through the
lenses of imagined paradisiacal landscapes) (Rojek). Nevertheless, Carmen and Cervando,
two young employees at the Posada del Rio, both commented on the occasional snobbery of
tourists in their interactions with townspeople.
In any case, the camp’s assumption that tourists don’t want to have contact with locals
predetermines the context for their interaction (or opportunities for interaction). The range
of activities offered at the camps, imagery and text used to promote the camps (which make
no mention of the ejido or how it has shaped the landscape, including the camp property
itself), menus offered (typically not local dishes or food sources), and the physical structure
of the camps themselves (often walled and separate from the town) order the landscape for
camp guests in ways that reify and allow for the perpetuation of class bias and exclusivity.
Camp exclusionary policies have also impacted relations with ejidatarios and their land use
practices. Contreras Torres describes how walls around camp properties have generated
conflicts:
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 65
…[among] all the ejidatarios…everyone knows what his parcels are, but they don’t
have boundaries, like walls I mean. They know that between that tree is from Pedro
land, and this one is from Don Pedro’s, but in the case of the encampments, they
buy the land and they…build [walls]…And maybe in that parcel there is a road, a
natural road that a lot of the ejidatarios use. So even with that, the encampments want
to put up walls and never let in the persons.
…sometimes the parcels are related with others. For example, maybe one of them
has plants to cover the coffee so they drove here and they plant it here [on a nearby
parcel]. So they are related, and with the encampments they are not. They [camp
owners] don’t understand and they don’t want to understand (Contreras Torres).
Likewise, Garrido states:
When I was president [of the ejido], I had a lot of problems and conflicts with the
camps because the camps don’t understand that the ejido is a communal area. So they
want to put up walls and separate parcels. They didn’t understand what I was talking
about, and maybe they didn’t want to understand, that respect is one of the
principles of the ejido…We don’t have obvious boundaries, like walls (Garrido).
One result of these forms of exclusion is that many people in Jalcomulco now perceive the
camp owners and managers to be uninterested in the well-being of the town and its
inhabitants, and that their only concern is profiting from the natural resources on the land to
which the townspeople have historic, cultural, and economic ties. Sergio Soriano, the current
ejido president, states that:
…the owners of the camps have a lot of problems. They are worried, just in a
business vision, for their camps, because it’s a business. They don’t care about the
people. They have other issues to solve (Soriano).
Likewise, Ana Barco states:
So these foreign investors buy it, to make that land, and build it, the camp…for
tourism…But in that time, they [ejidatarios] sold the land at a very low price. And now
they [camp owners] are completely rich because of that land, and they are not giving
[anything] to the Jalcomulco people. They are just taking business and they are rich
and not giving anything (Ana Barco).
As does Martina Cid Hidalgo, a local clothing vendor:
I would like to ask for…tourism to provide a little money to the church, because I
care about this, my church. This is important, and tourism doesn’t give anything to
the town. Everything goes to the camp (Cid Hidalgo).
The camps do pay a form of tax to the ejido, of which Ana Barco and Cid Hidalgo may be
unaware. However, even among those who are aware of this, the camps exclusionary policies
(as well as their perceived indifference) amount to missed opportunities for the town. For
example, Moterra Milen notes that some tourists in the camps may have the resources, and if
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 66
so inclined, could help the town if lines of communication between the two were more
open. He cites a particular instance where a camp guest came in to town and was
approached, and declined, to make a small donation to help paint the church. Shortly after
his visit, they discovered that he was actually an executive at Gomex, a large paint company
in Xalapa, and that he would donate all of the paint necessary to cover the church. Moterra’s
point was that the camp’s separatist policies have widened an already significant gulf
between the people of Jalcomulco and camp tourists in ways that diminish opportunities for
mutual benefit.
b. Social Equity and Identity
Issues of social equity in Jalcomulco are most visible in terms of class and related contrasts
in economic opportunity. Many in the town see the government’s new drive to support
tourism (through the Facilitacio'n, Normalizacio'n y Verificacio'n del Sector Turi'stico of the
Secretari'a de Turismo) as an unfair advantage provided to those who have traditionally had the
easiest access to capital in Mexico. This, while government subsidies for ejidatarios are being
eliminated, appears unjust to them. In a discussion with Moterra Milen and Soriano, the
former states “these persons in the government [department of tourism] give the financial
support to people who are their friends. For example, some of the camps, they now are
receiving money from the government” (Moterra Milen and Soriano).
For ejidatarios, this shift in government priorities is made more unjust when considered in
light of the government’s historic role as administrator of social justice in the division and
redistribution of hacienda land. For ejidatario Contreras Torres, the government’s lack of
continued support has translated directly to an inability to profitably work his parcels,
especially in light of new competition from corporate or other farms (per NAFTA) that have
well-established distribution systems for their products. He cites the ejido’s primary
disadvantage as lack of government support, especially bank credit or other funding for
machinery.
This has been the source of some tension between camp owners and ejidatarios in
Jalcomulco. Mireya Alvarez, camp manager for Cotlamani, states:
[The] ejidatarios, they grow…mangos. And the owners, they build camps. But the
owners, they are earning more money than the ejidatarios, so that’s why they
[ejidatarios] are unhappy, because they work but they don’t earn the same quantity as
the owners of the camps (Alvarez).
For many ejidatarios in Jalcomulco, ‘selling’ parcels to camp developers or people interested in
building a vacation home has become one of the few ways in which they can compensate for
their increasingly unprofitable farming practices. Due to a lack of a social security system,
these transactions are often negotiated based on a clearly inequitable standing. For example,
many ejidatarios who ‘sell’ parcels do so out of necessity rather than profit.
…we are selling parts of the ejido, parcellas, and we are trying to survive because we
are tired…For illness, we have to sell the land to buy medicine because we don’t
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 67
have the social security…Sometimes we have to repair the ceiling, like this one, and
we have to sell our land (Contreras Torres).
Imeil Tonorio, the son of an ejidataria, describes his family’s motive for selling parcels:
My mother and my grandmother are very sick, so we’re thinking about selling some
land. Right now, my mother can’t walk. She needs leg surgery, and the operation
costs 40,000 pesos for each leg…We are going to sell the land because she needs the
operation (Tonorio).
In addition to their economic consequences, these transactions have a significant impact on
cultural identity as related to social equity in Jalcomulco. Although there are clear benefits,
‘selling’ or giving up access to parcels in exchange for compensation, is an act that
symbolically betrays their historical and cultural connection to the land—land that was
granted to their ancestors in order to bring about a more just cultural landscape. As Nuijten
has observed, ejido land was originally meant to provide an economic basis for the exploited
rural poor (at the expense of rich hacienda owners), and was never intended to become a
commodity in the capitalist sense. In fact, before the Article 27 reforms, ejidatarios were
granted only ‘use’ rights to the land, not property rights.
Beyond stabilizing a form of subsistence for the rural poor, this relationship to the land
generated a sense of pride and honor in being an ejidatario. The title of ejidatario still brings
status, respect, local political power, and an implicit link to the heroic past of the Mexican
revolution (Nuijten). A number of ejidatarios with whom we spoke echoed these sentiments
in one form or another. Contreras Torres volunteered tales from his mother about the
Mexican revolution in Jalcomulco, its ties to local historical landmarks, and his love for the
landscape in general. We were proudly shown the original documents that were instrumental
in forming the Jalcomulco ejido by Soriano, the current ejido president. And Garrido, his
predecessor, repeatedly emphasized the importance of passing on his values toward the land
and his appreciation of Jalcomulco’s landscape to his children. Of older people in
Jalcomulco, he states, “They want to be outside of their homes, to be in their land. They love
the land so they want to be in the land” (Garrido).
Therefore, losing land (out of economic necessity) suggests losing a part of that vision, and a
part of the ejidatario identity that is emotionally and personally connected with working and
collectively developing the ejido. When asked about the things that they valued most in
Jalcomulco, many people mentioned the landscape and their relationship to it first. Ana
Barco states, “For the tourists, they come here and eat, and to be in nature. This has to be
protected, and they appreciate all this. But the difference is that the people of Jalcomulco see
those trees as a way of living” (Ana Barco).
Among ejidatarios impacted most negatively by reforms, changes in Jalcomulco’s cultural
landscape are interpreted as indications that a major social shift is ultimately necessary for
the town’s survival. In the context of the Mexican revolution, Contreras Torres’ assessment
of the current conflicts is that the ejido system has been around “almost 100 years. That’s a
lot of time, and I think that there may be another revolution, because they need change.
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 68
Maybe not a revolution, but a big change to change this situation, this system” (Contreras
Torres).
The fact that land ‘sales’ are increasingly marked by structural changes in Jalcomulco’s
landscape may draw further attention to the degradation of ejidatario identity and its
relationship to land as a means of social equity. Walls constructed around camp properties
have become visible manifestations of an emerging relationship to the landscape that is in
conflict with both ejido land use practices and ejidatario identity. The sense of collectivity that
the ejido (and its history) fosters and is made visible in the cultural landscape is disrupted by
new claims of ownership where relative wealth is protected and enclosed. At the very least,
such changes in the landscape raise questions for the ejidatarios and others in Jalcomulco
about the camp owner’s perceived need for such measures. For example, what are these
walls protecting guests from? Whom do they exclude, and why? Are they not more like
haciendas than ejidos in their structure and relationship to the landscape?
It is possible that these walls represent a reaction on behalf of camp owners whereby their
physical presence serves as a delineation or clarification of their business’ relationship to the
land in a political environment where titles, claims, and the subtleties of ownership are far
less clear. However, there were a number of instances during our fieldwork in which people
speculated about the extent to which the camp’s separatist policies would continue to be
tolerated by the people of Jalcomulco. Class differences, particularly the relative wealth of
tourists and camp owners in contrast to locals, may eventually trigger problems with theft at
the camps or in the town. This problem may be made more acute as the economic situation
for ejidatarios and their families becomes more strained. Instances of burglary within the
town, unheard of a decade ago, are now an unfortunate reality in Jalcomulco (Contreras
Torres). The wealth of the camps and the clientele they draw are an increasingly obvious
target for this activity, raising questions of long-term security in Jalcomulco.
c. Social Mobility
Social mobility, in this context, means “the movement of individuals or groups from one
position of a society’s stratification system to another” (Schaefer and Lamm). This is
conditioned by the ability to access the means for such movement, which typically takes the
form of education or capital. This definition raises a number of questions regarding how
living conditions are evaluated, as well as the range of interpretations one might have
regarding ‘access’ or ‘improved.’ Beyond obvious levels of poverty in which health hazards
are prevalent and life expectancy is dramatically reduced, forms of social mobility are
generally taken to be subjective in this work.
Poverty has become an increasingly difficult social problem in Mexico, especially in rural
areas. Although statistics vary based on methods, Mexico’s national poverty rate2 has been
estimated at just over ten percent of the population, with 37.7 percent living on less than two
dollars a day (EarthTrends). When poverty rates are broken down by state, those most
distant from the United States, and those with the greatest proportion of rural populations
2 A household in Mexico is categorized as poor if its earnings are less than twice the minimum daily salary, an
amount that varies across Mexico to reflect differences in the cost of living. Economic Research Service,
USDA.
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 69
have dramatically higher rates. In the state of Veracruz the poverty rate is estimated at
between 50-65 percent (Gundersen, Yañez and Kuhn). The people of Jalcomulco are caught
up in this trend. Wage surveys show that more than 60 percent of Jalcomulco’s population
fall under Mexico’s poverty level (Niembro Rocas).
Some of these conditions, according to Moterra Milen, have come about because of the rich
farming land with which Jalcomulco has been blessed. In a comparison between Jalcomulco
and a nearby town, Apazapan, Moterra Milen states:
In Apazapan they don’t have the richness of the land that we do here. So, the
families started to farm the land, and realized that its level of productivity was
insufficient to support the family. So, they have to start working in other ways to pay
for the education of their children. So, in Apazapan, they have accountants, lawyers,
and doctors, and on balance, the quality of life is better there than here (Moterra
Milen and Soriano).
Their dependence on farming, Moterra Milen argues, has contributed to some of the
difficulties ejidatarios are currently facing in Jalcomulco in terms of social mobility. In general,
he claims that most of Jalcomulco’s ejidatarios “don’t have the vision to see the things that
can be done with the land. Maybe its ignorance, maybe its orientation, maybe its just lack of
information, but they don’t have the vision that maybe the camps do” (Moterra Milen).
Moterra Milen’s suggestion that the townspeople’s “orientation” has lowered their capacity
for entrepreneurship is consistent with issues of identity discussed in the previous section.
Since their relationship to the land is bound with ejidatario identity, a shift toward a more
individualist-oriented use of the land is antithetical on many levels. Such shifts privilege
competition over collectivity, and are aligned more closely with the hacienda system’s
historical relationship to the land than the ejido. In this sense, a move toward land
privatization may be perceived as a betrayal of the ejido as institution, community solidarity,
and ejidatario identity. This sentiment is likely to contribute to the hesitance of the Jalcomulco
ejido to begin the process of land certification with the PROCEDE program.
However, the most common reasons we heard for this decision were that Jalcomulco
ejidatarios were not convinced that a shift toward privatization would necessarily result in
better living standards or other benefits. Perhaps in light of the impact other modes of
economic liberalization have had on their lives—most notably subsidy phase-outs and
decreased income due to global competition for their products—many seem to mistrust the
process. Contreras Torres, for example, told us that,
…people from other ejidos who are in PROCEDE have told us not to join, because it
comes with a lot of problems. Here in Jalcomulco, many ejidatarios have parcels
located in many different places…so, if we join PROCEDE, I’m not sure I’m going
to have the same total area [after land certification]. Probably less (Contreras Torres).
Throughout Mexico, initial registration with the PROCEDE program has been widespread
(up to 77 percent of ejidos certified by 2001), but continuation of steps leading to full land
privatization has not been nearly as common (Nuijten; Jones and Ward). In most cases, this
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 70
is because any incentives to fully privatize are outweighed by other considerations, as
Garrido’s statement above illustrates. Furthermore, with the elimination of subsidies and
unfavorable market conditions for ejidatarios, selling land legally would mean surrendering
access to a valuable means of subsistence if conditions worsen (Russell).
It is important to recognize here that the neoliberal-inspired PROCEDE program presents
improvements in social mobility for ejidatarios as contingent upon Article 27 land reforms
(Stephen). This position privileges the hegemonic relationship that the Mexican government
has with Western international loan agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
and the World Bank at the expense of ejidatarios. With their sole focus on increased
productivity in the interest of diminishing Mexico’s federal debt, these agencies have
advanced the perspective that land use practices patterned after ‘modern’ Western industrial
farming (which includes irrigation, transportation networks, and ready access to electricity in
addition to monocropping, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides) are the sole remedy for debt
reduction and rural poverty (Nuijten). While many economists argue over the efficacy of this
model, what becomes increasingly clear is that such an approach does not take a number of
significant social factors into account, chief among them the importance of ejidatario identity
and the range of social values tied to land (historical ties, interpretations of cultural
landscape, local independence, etc.).
Furthermore, these policies lack a basic respect for the diversity of relationships to the land
and economies that have developed outside of the West, thereby obfuscating the
opportunity to approach challenges such as social mobility and rural poverty in ways that
integrate local sensibilities and the unique and adaptable solutions they can generate. At this
point, at least in Jalcomulco, it seems that Topik’s interpretation of the history of Latin
American suspicion of the market is particularly evident in Mexican land reform, and that
keeping one foot in the subsistence sphere is an important form of self-defense against ever-
encroaching multinational (often corporate) dominance (Topik).
This does not mean, however, that Jalcomulco’s ejidatarios are entirely victimized. They
clearly hold a great deal of negotiating power in the current configuration of their
relationship with camps as well as the federal government. In fact, the camp owners in
Jalcomulco have formed their own group in order to develop strategies to better advance
their interests in town (such as gaining access to ejido assembly meetings, trying to obtain
titles to the land they ‘bought.’ etc.). Alvarez, the Cotlamani camp manager, phrases their
interests this way:
The ejidatarios think that the camp owners are earning money, and getting rich off of
their land, because of the view, the environment, etc, yet they don’t pay to take care
of the town. The camp owners want to show the ejidatarios that they can work
together for the same interests, to improve Jalcomulco. But they are worried because
if they don’t have a solution to the problem soon, the ejidatarios can kick them out
(Alvarez).
This scenario, where ejidatarios and camp owners are deadlocked in a state of tension, may be
interpreted as an example of how local manifestations of top-down reform policies can be
co-opted in ways that open opportunities to develop creative adaptations for local advantage.
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 71
Other considerations relevant to social mobility in Jalcomulco should therefore be
considered in order to determine whether or not such adaptations are occurring, and
whether or not they occur (or are likely to occur) at a rate that adequately compensates for
any reduction of opportunities for social mobility related to land reform and economic
liberalization. At a basic level, key areas of consideration should include levels of local
entrepreneurship, alternative employment opportunities, education, and emigration.
As previously discussed, some argue that there appears to be a general lack of interest or,
perhaps, a low capacity for entrepreneurship in Jalcomulco. Moterra Milen has observed a
greater propensity for townspeople to seek employment from established businesses rather
than start their own. Furthermore, according to Moterra Milen, most small businesses
currently operating in Jalcomulco do not keep regular books or register their businesses with
the federal tax authority. This prevents him from using them as suppliers to his hotel, and is
consequently an obstacle to their ability to tap into the tourist market or other large-scale
forms of trade.
However, this phenomenon may be limited to those most closely aligned with ejidatario
identity or families most directly associated with the ejido. For example, in discussions with
Ana Barco, we found that she had successfully expanded her well-located restaurant from a
one-story operation to three-levels of dining with a view of the river. On our second visit,
she shared her plans to construct a hotel on land she recently purchased (Ana Barco).3
Likewise, Cid Hidalgo, a local clothing vendor, told of her recent land purchase, and her
plans to farm it. And, two brothers, Jose and Chevy Rodriguez, have a successful rafting
business that operates out of their childhood home.
None of these people have the status of ejidatario, and are therefore not likely to view their
relationship to the land from this perspective—although in the case of Cid Hidalgo and the
Rodriguez brothers, their fathers are ejidatarios. For Cid Hidalgo, recent problems with the
economics of ejido production are more indicative of ejidatario disposition:
They used to work as farmers, and produce vegetables, fruit, and work the land.
Now they say that the land is not productive. That’s a lie because they are lazy.
That’s why they quit working the land…I bought a piece of land and cleared it. I
would like to be a farmer and set an example for the community (Cid Hidalgo).
This is perhaps a better indication of her distance from the political workings of the ejido and
their struggles with the market than any generalizable characteristic. However, many people
told us that most young people in Jalcomulco prefer to work in tourism, rather than on the
ejido. Jose Rodriguez concurs, “We don’t like to work the land because the work is the whole
week. We prefer to be rafting guides because we just work weekends” (Rodriguez and
Rodriguez).
In any case, while tourism and some alternative business operations do offer new
opportunities for social mobility, these examples are the minority in Jalcomulco, with most
3 It is worth mentioning that Ana Barco specifically cites a conversation with one of our team members,
Christine Cooper, as inspiration for building the hotel. On our previous trip, Cooper had complimented Ana
Barco on her business skills and expressed admiration for the success of her restaurant.
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 72
of the population still much more closely aligned with the ejido, and dependence on its
traditional structure. Raymundo Granados, the manager of Hotel La Villa, estimates that half
of the town’s population continues to farm or fish, with 30 percent earning income from
some form of tourism, and 20 percent working in nearby towns. Niembro Rocas reports 42
percent of the population working in agriculture, 35 percent as day-laborers (in both
agriculture and commercial businesses, including tourism (Niembro Rocas).
While tourism may be the largest ‘alternative’ means of access to social mobility, it may have
reached capacity, and could probably never support the majority of the population even if it
expanded (Niembro Rocas). Granados states: “many people here in Jalcomulco want to have
a job like a guide, but there isn’t the capacity. So, they have to explain to them that they can
only hire maybe five, not ten” (Granados). In addition, many in the town feel that the camps
are already at their preferable limit. Granados argues that “they already receive about 1000
guests per weekend, so I think that another camp would be terrible. We’ve reached capacity”
(Granados).4 Even assuming that opportunities for social mobility from tourism will increase
at a slower rate in Jalcomulco, the tourism business is notoriously cyclical, and highly
dependent upon the whims and interests of the upper and middle classes, as well as broader
economic trends.
Education was most often framed as problematic in Jalcomulco during our research, rather
than a regular and reliable means by which people might advance in terms of social mobility.
Ana Barco complained about the conditions under which the town’s secondary school was
operating (dirty, without water, poorly painted, and in disrepair), only to be denied help from
the mayor when she pressed the issue. Later, she organized a fund drive among parents to
help improve conditions in the school. Still, even with improving conditions, it is estimated
that around 12 percent of the town’s population is illiterate (although this statistic doesn’t
accurately reflect the increasing rate of literacy since the literate population is generally more
likely to emigrate), (Niembro Rocas).
Misael Hernandez Vicente, a teacher at the Colegio de Bachilleres (COBAEV), an alternative
high school in Jalcomulco, speculated on a number of disincentives for completing an
education among the young in Jalcomulco. First, from his experience, there is a general lack
of interest among parents to support their children’s education. Although the school has an
active community outreach program, this apathy remains a significant obstacle. He states:
That is the most difficult part here in Jalcomulco. Like, for example, you can invite
them [parents], and they are not going to come. Or, maybe they are going to maybe
come one time, and then “that was too boring and I’m not going to go again”
(Hernandez Vicente).
The school now distributes students’ grades directly to parents at meetings on campus, in
order to generate an impetus for their involvement. And while this has created more interest
among parents, Hernandez Vicente seems to doubt that these efforts can outweigh other
factors working against educational support. Chief among those is the necessity of labor on
4 On our return from our second trip to Jalcomulco, we were with our UV hosts in a restaurant, when they
spotted an owner of one of the camps. He told them he was closing it down.
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 73
the ejido during harvest seasons. Some are also lured by jobs in tourism as guides (Niembro
Rocas).
Furthermore, according to Hernandez Vicente, most parents are unwilling to pay for many
of the expenses related to education. This is especially the case for girls, whose parents
expect them to prioritize domestic labor over their education. Fabiola, another teacher from
COBAEV told us,
The parents from Jalcomulco, they think that if you are a woman, you don’t need to
go to school...We’ve visited some of the parents at their houses, and they say,
“What? She doesn’t need to study. She has to learn how to cook, how to wash
clothes.” Basically, the kids are workers. The parents don’t say, “OK, you have to go
to school, and finish your high school and try to get into the university” (Vicente).
As a result, an increasing number of young women see marriage, rather than education, as a
means of improving their living conditions, at least in the short run. Vicente as well as a high
school student named Carmen told us of numerous instances where girls who were unhappy
with their parents, married in order to gain a sense of freedom. In such cases, these girls
avoid their demanding familial domestic responsibilities, but often end up working as a sort
of maid for their husband’s family.
Beyond gender inequalities, the Mexican public school system can be inherently discouraging
to some students who have little support for their education at home. For example, fees for
attending classes at COBAEV amount to approximately 80 pesos every six months—an
amount some students must earn themselves by working side jobs. In addition, if students
fail their yearly exam, they are required to pay an extra fee to take it again. While this may be
motivational to some, it can also operate as a deterrent for students whose parents are
already reluctant to support them in paying basic fees. The result is the poor, or those with
little familial support for education, are often disadvantaged.
Finally, there are some indications among older students that vocational education focused
specifically on tourism is viewed as a means to persuade them to remain in Jalcomulco
(Hernandez Vicente). Like much of Mexico, young people in Jalcomulco emigrate to the
United States at very high rates. Hernandez Vicente estimates that around 10 percent of the
COBAEV graduating student body leaves to work in the U.S. each year. While this is a
means of improving the standard of living for those emigrating as well as their families who
receive remittances, it tends to leave local communities in a demographic imbalance
(Niembro Rocas), and places additional stress on older and younger generations that have
traditionally relied upon those emigrating for social, domestic, and other forms of support.
d. Social Cohesion and Community Participation
One of Jalcomulco’s greatest strengths is the sense of cohesion fostered by the ejido and its
history. With a population of around 3,000 residents, there are nearly 400 ejidatarios in
Jalcomulco, each of whom has family members who are typically involved in ejido matters in
one form or another. Because collectivity and cooperation are key historical components of
the ejido and its operations, these characteristics have become an important part of the
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 74
cultural landscape of Jalcomulco. The establishment of the ejido provided people with the
ability to work together—as families and as an extended ‘family’—to provide for themselves
independently.
During our research, there were numerous instances in which people associated the ejido or
ejido concerns with the well-being of the family. Tonorio, who works in a local hotel and on
the ejido states, “working here [the hotel] is good money, but working on the ejido helps my
family” (Tonorio). Likewise, Garrido, a former ejido president, associates family and the ejido
in this way, “I want to educate my children about the land, about the importance of family,
and that since they were born here, they should stay here” (Garrido).
The geography of the town also seems congruous with the tight-knit community that has
developed there. The majority of the population of Jalcomulco lives within the town itself,
an area of approximately 38 hectares, or about seven by nine square blocks. The ejido
assembly building (currently being renovated) occupies a prominent place in the town’s
center, along with the church, mayor’s office, and bus stop. Few ejidatarios live on the parcels
they own. Instead, most commute to their land from town (usually very early in the
morning), and regularly work cooperatively since each ejidatario’s parcels are widely
distributed and interdependent with others.
Within the political workings of the ejido, we recognized a strong sense of solidarity.
Contreras Torres told us of his satisfaction with the ejido system over the years and its ability
to resolve both intra and inter-ejidal conflicts, as did Soriano and others. When asked about
any changes in status of ejidatarios who sell parcels, we were assured more than once that
such transactions did not affect their status in the ejido, or how they were treated by other
ejidatarios. Conversely, we were also told about a conflict between two ejidatarios that lead to
the murder of one by the other, as well as a rift between two factions within the ejido.
However, most subjects seemed to emphasize a general sense of cohesion.
Some factors that may erode social cohesion in Jalcomulco include apathy and poor
organization within the community (outside of the ejido), a lack of effective leadership,
perceived negative influences from tourism, and emigration. The first two of these problems
was identified by the UV research team as well (Niembro Rocas), and appears to be a
significant obstacle for the town at times. Others have concurred. Moterra Milen states:
…For example, the people who cooperate with the clean-up campaigns are always
the camps, not the people of Jalcomulco. That’s why it’s a cultural problem…I think
that the people who are native to Jalcomulco should be more interested in the
problems here (Moterra Milen).
In a separate discussion with Moterra Milen (who was considering a run for the mayor’s
office at the time) and Soriano, both men emphasized the need for a plan for Jalcomulco
that would organize the community, prioritize its interests, define common goals between
townspeople and camp owners, and empower a leader to help execute it. This last objective
has proven to be particularly critical in recent years, since many people are unhappy with the
mayor. He is currently being investigated for embezzlement by the federal government, and
has disappointed many in the town on a number of different levels. In a pattern that we later
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 75
realized was a familiar one, the mayor skillfully avoided us during our research visits in
Jalcomulco. After three attempts at an interview, each of which was thwarted by his
unavailability, we decided to stop asking. Of the town’s future leadership, Soriano states:
I don’t care who’s going to be the next mayor, as long as it’s a person who has a clear
vision of what to do—some one who can bring all of the people of Jalcomulco
together, so they can make one, just one, proposal….What we are looking for here is
vision, a vision that includes a way to live with the camps, live with Jalcomulco, and
live with this land (Moterra Milen and Soriano).
Both men highlighted the importance of community participation in any efforts to improve
Jalcomulco’s living conditions or the community’s relationship with the camps. Along these
lines, Motera Milen expressed some concern about the interest level of people have in
planning changes for the town (Moterra Milen), but it was generally agreed that “any
proposal has to be from the people of Jalcomulco, not from outside to the people of
Jalcomulco” (Moterra Milen and Soriano). Judging by levels of participation the UV team
observed in their community meetings, it would seem that there is at least a core of
individuals who are consistently active in civic matters.
It is also possible that the sense of social cohesion facilitated by the ejido structure and
ejidarario identity may be symbiotic with new forms of community participation. Although we
did not have the opportunity to attend an ejido assembly during our visits, the social structure
of this institution, and the strength ejidatario identity, could gradually facilitate action on
issues much broader than land use. However, such a transition may be thwarted by the
relatively paternalistic view that many rural Mexicans have toward the government, especially
in civic matters. Niembro Rocas cites this as a challenge to community participation in
Jalcomulco as well. This was also confirmed in a number of our interviews with both
ejidatarios and others. For example, Contreras Torres states, “…now the agricultural situation
is completely abandoned. We don’t have enough money to live…and that is the situation
here in Jalcomulco and in other places nearby, because the government and others don’t care
about farming” (Contreras Torres).
In terms of perceptions of tourism in Jalcomulco, most of the comments we heard were
actually positive (and generally focused on economic benefits such as jobs). However, the
impact of tourism when related to social cohesion in particular tended to reflect perspectives
that placed blame on the industry or the presence of tourists. Many of those with whom we
discussed this issue pointed to tourists as the primary source for increased drug and alcohol
abuse in Jalcomulco. Similarly, tourists were perceived to have a corrupting influence on the
behaviors of young people, inspiring them to pierce their bodies, get tattoos, and generally
mimic the style and behavior of these often urban visitors (Garrido).
Less frequent, but significant, were references to the influence of tourists on sexual behavior.
Hernandez Vicente talked of a sexual trade in Jalcomulco that serves pedophiliac tourists. A
member of UV research team also included an increase in homosexuality among tourism’s
negative affects (a view that would in all likelihood be considered uninformed in the United
States, but seemed to go uncontested among the UV researchers). Regardless of the actual
impact that tourists have on behaviors and decision-making in Jalcomulco, these views
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 76
clearly indicate that tourists are perceived to be socially disruptive by some, yet tolerated for
the economic benefits they bring.
Although not as frequently mentioned as tourism, the emigration of young people
(particularly to the United States) seems to have at least some peripheral effect on social
cohesion in Jalcomulco. Contreres Torres, in a discussion about young people in the town,
states:
Young people used to help work on the land. They were farmers in the ejido, and they
helped their parents work on the farm. But today, young people go to other states in
Mexico and they go to the United States. So now, it’s all old people in town
(Contreras Torres).
In addition to the demographic shift emigration triggers, changes in parent-child relations
and the ways in which family members relate are clearly impacted. Remittances, while
obviously helpful and welcome by those who remain, do not compensate for the sense of
loss and absence that emigration creates. When this trend is multiplied by the number of
families it impacts—and compounded by the fact that it is most often economically
necessary—the community can perceive itself as inadequate or less complete, with key
members missing that could contribute significantly to its cohesion.
e. Empowerment
One time, I had this problem with the mayor. I wanted to adjust the size of some
parcels and asked him to talk with me about moving some of the markers (stones) in
order to have the same sizes of parcels. But when I moved the stones, I put some on
federal government property. So the mayor informed the authorities, who came here,
made a declaration, and almost sued me. So, all the people in Jalcomulco vote, and
took notice of this and were very angry, and took the mayor out of office…After
that, the mayor understood that the last authority here is the ejidatarios (Garrido).
Conflicts such as this one, as well as the set of adverse economic conditions currently facing
the ejido, have seemed to produce an empowering sense of solidarity. The ejido has squared
off with camps on numerous instances, and have seen many victories in the process. While
the battle over erecting walls around camps appears to have been lost, in other conflicts
(such as informal tax negotiations, environmental issues, and of course, land ownership) the
ejidatarios have what appears to be the upper hand at present.
This is perhaps another contributing factor in the ejidatario’s reluctance to join PROCEDE.
Beyond the program’s bureaucratic intricacies about which they’ve been warned, ejidatarios
fear that they may lose much of their collective political strength if they shift to a more
individualistic system of land ownership and management. Although this wouldn’t
necessarily result in the complete surrender of their collective bargaining power (they might
form another organization), it would likely put them at an immediate disadvantage under the
current configurations of land use. Participation in PROCEDE would effectively dissolve
some the ejidatario’s historical and cultural claims to the land. This is in direct conflict with
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 77
the physical and symbolic impact that the ejido has had on Jalcomulco’s cultural landscape, as
well as the importance of ejidatario identity and its social strengths.
As it stands currently, the ejido can renege their arrangements with camp owners. Garrido
describes the situation from his perspective:
…the camps have to serve the ejidatarios because they are on our land…But the land
was given to us [ejidatarios], our grandfathers, just for agricultural use. And now we
are ‘selling’ the land knowing we cannot legally do it. But we need the money, so we
have a kind of ‘rent.’…But if the camps don’t do what we want, we can take them to
trial, and they will lose their money. So we ‘sold’ parcels in order to survive, but we
also still want to have that power, and keep the land in our families (Garrido).
Granada states, “Unless the government regularizes the situation with the ejido, [the camp
owners] are not going to be the legal owners. The legal owner is the ejido, and they are the
maximum authority here” (Granados).
Local knowledge can also be an important component of social sustainability. Since this
knowledge is rooted in specific cultural understandings and interpretations of a locality,
those who use, adapt, and manage it can leverage local knowledge in ways that empower
them. Paul Selman defines a locality accordingly:
In physical terms, it refers to a place, to the people who inhabit it and to the spatial
and administrative systems around which their activities revolve. In social terms, it
represents groups of individuals who are associated through common
responsibilities, occupations, cultures or interests (Selman).
In a cognitive mapping exercise I conducted with a two ejidatarios (Soriano, current president,
and Garrido, the former), I asked them to delineate the following on a map of the
Jalcomulco ejido (which includes the town itself):
1. Boundaries or limits of tourist activity
2. Most important ejido parcels (production, location, etc.)
3. Most important community landmarks
4. Problem areas (conflicts, drugs, etc.)
5. Maximum boundaries acceptable for camps
6. Best common areas for tourists and locals to interact
Upon examining the results, neither indicated any areas of intersection between sites for
tourist activity and categories two and three above. In fact, when I phrased the wording for
the exercise, I asked them to indicate areas within which tourist activities are acceptable.
Their response was to define specific linear routes through which tourists move (rafting
down the river, and trails for hiking and horse-back riding). This absence of shared use
between areas used for tourist activity and local priorities would seem to indicate at least
some desire to maintain this distinction. Why, for example, is the local spring not an
acceptable tourist destination, or sites of archaeological significance, or old growth forests?
We were told by a number of people that there are specific places that townspeople want to
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 78
keep off limits to tourists, to the extent that their location is kept secret. For example,
Contreras Torres states:
I was born here and I love this town. I love the landscape. There are some parts that
I know about that others don’t, and I’m not going to tell anyone about them,
because I prefer that they remain quiet and intact (Contreras Torres).
Furthermore, the maximum extent to which they felt tourist camps should be permitted to
expand was maintained at their current levels of development for both men. The only
common areas identified for tourist and local interaction were the river and the town. Again,
Contreras Torres states, “I think the tourists have enough. They have the encampments, the
river; it’s enough. They don’t need more” (Contreras Torres).
V. CONCLUSIONS
A key part of the analysis conducted by the UV research team is a conflict analysis of
conditions they observed in Jalcomulco. The most significant social problems they identify
are:
Lack of integration of townspeople and tourists
Low expectations of the population for an improved quality of life
These appear consistent with our observations, and are addressed in this analysis as
components of social inclusion and social mobility, respectively.
From our investigations, the lack of integration of townspeople and tourists is tied to the
broader issues of camp policies, perspectives of class and its history in Mexico, and tourists’
expectations for their experiences (mythologies of escape). While this division may not
necessarily be volatile at the moment, it is clear that there is a level of dissatisfaction among
the townspeople regarding the camps’ exclusivity, and that the continuation of such
policies—as well as the camps’ approach to the landscape that symbolizes them—will only
generate more conflict with the people living in Jalcomulco.
Even stronger feelings of exclusion are held by townspeople where matters of the ejido, the
state, and social equity are concerned. Beyond the implications of policy changes and the
ejidatarios’ exclusion from the political process, Article 27 reforms have symbolically devalued
the ejido from a social perspective, in a relatively radical shift from social justice and national
pride to a focus on global competition and new interpretations of productivity. Many
ejidatarios in Jalcomulco—who have traditionally relied upon the government to help define
and defend their relationship to the landscape—are now feeling a sense betrayal and
abandonment as they witness increasing government support for investments in tourism
while experiencing decreasing support for the ejido. This ideological privileging of individual
profit over collective land stewardship is a difficult social transition after nearly 100 years of
the ejidal system.
One indication of the kinds of actions ejidatarios may take in response to these perceived
inequities, is their decision to bar camp owners and managers from attending ejido
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 79
assemblies. While this may not be a productive approach to resolving conflicts, it does allow
the ejidatarios to control local information and decision-making in ways that may counter
global exclusions. The consequences for ejidatario identity are not so easily addressed. It
seems clear that without broader support for the ejidal system, a reinvention of what it means
to be ejidatario is the only way some form of this identity can continue to be relevant. Since
identity is largely a complex, multiple, and fluctuating set of affiliations and alignments that
are contingent upon many other social conditions, rather dramatic shifts and adaptations to
ejidatario identity appear likely in the coming years.
While we didn’t explicitly address expectations for improvements in quality of life, our
research did consider social mobility in the context of the PROCEDE program, the impact
and capacity of the local tourism industry, and education. For most ejidatarios, the
PROCEDE program was not perceived to be viable means of improving living conditions
or quality of life. Between mistrust of the program, warnings about its problems from
ejidatarios in neighboring ejidos, and no clear incentives to participate, PROCEDE is simply
not viewed as a worthwhile vehicle for mobility. And, while tourism has provided new
opportunities to some, capacity limitations and seasonal fluctuations mean that it is only
possible for a very small fraction of townspeople to benefit from it in the long term.
Educational opportunities do hold promise for many, although some significant obstacles
are difficult to navigate for students whose parents are not supportive (either financially or
otherwise).
Because of the ejido tradition and the significance of its influence on the town’s cultural
landscape and forms of identity, social cohesion could be categorized as relatively strong in
Jalcomulco. This is best reflected in the political strength of the ejido itself, as well as cultural
values that associate familial ties with ejidal life-ways. These strengths may be somewhat
diminished in an economic context that has shifted away from support for collectivity, but
opportunities for new adaptations that retain valuable means for maintaining social cohesion
are clearly possible. Although some cited problems with apathy and civic involvement,
emigration is perhaps the greatest threat to cohesion at present in Jalcomulco. A significant
percentage of local youth emigrate upon graduating—either to the United States or a larger
Mexican city—and while their remittances have a positive impact on social mobility for
those who remain, these benefits obviously coincide with other social losses and
demographic imbalances. Finally, tourists are sometimes seen as a tolerable, but negative,
influence on local youth—tempting them with outside influences (drugs, etc.) that are
perceived to diminish the town’s sense of cohesion as well. None of these latter conditions
has appeared to approach levels of crisis in Jalcomulco, and certainly none pose a threat to
the historically-rooted cohesive influence of the ejido.
The ejido has also benefited Jalcomulco in ways that facilitate empowerment in the town.
Even with pressures to ‘sell’ parcels and increasingly difficult economic conditions, ejidatarios
in Jalcomulco appear to have maintained a sense of solidarity that they frequently leverage in
times of conflict or negotiations. This has allowed them to maintain control of many of their
most valued features in Jalcomulco’s cultural landscape, as well as local politics in the town.
Although they may eventually find it necessary or advantageous to integrate others as an
adaptive precaution, it appears that such changes are likely to occur under conditions that are
favorable to the ejidatarios (at least at the local level).
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 80
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SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 87
APPENDIX 1
July 7, 2003
[The following questions were used only as a structure from which to begin informal
interviews with subjects in Jalcomulco. Questions were often re-phrased, expanded upon or
eliminated based on the flow of interactions in the interview process. In addition to these
questions, additional questions were prepared for the mayor of Jalcomulco, who declined to
be interviewed.]
Introduction for all subjects:
I am working on a project on tourism in Jalcomulco with Adrianna, Arturo and Maria at the
University of Veracruz.
I am interested in your opinions in a number of areas concerning culture as part of a
research team from University of Southern California in the U.S.
For all questions, I want to know what you think in your own words, without concern about
any ‘official’ response. It is very important that you feel free to respond openly about how
you feel about all of these questions.
I may ask questions from time to time that sound repetitive. The purpose is to approach the
same issue in different ways.
Please feel free to ask any questions or clarify issues at any time.
Questions for Ejidatarios:
· General
1. Name, Age, How long lived in Jalcomulco, family origins.
2. Role in ejido, how long?
3. How did you become involved?
4. How have you seen the ejido change since your involvement?
5. What is the ejido political structure / hierarchy?
6. How does your ejido compare to others (similarities and differences)?
7. Obstacles you’ve overcome — changes in leadership?
· Tourism
1. What do you think is the general perspective of tourism in Jalcomulco?
2. …among ejidatarios?
3. What about of tourists themselves?
4. Do you think most tourists are aware of the ejido?
5. What is the relationship between ejidatarios and adventure tourism businesses?
6. …between ejidatarios and environmental organizations?
7. How much contact do most ejidatarios have with tourists?
8. …with environmental organizations?
9. What other important relationships exist between ejidatarios and other groups?
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 88
10. How have conflicts between ejidatarios and others been resolved?
· Vision
1. How would you define an ideal relationship between ejidatarios and tourism in
Jalcomulco?
2. How would it be organized?
3. What would it look like?
4. Who would be involved?
5. What physical structures would exist?
6. How would land use be divided?
7. In an ideal situation, what would Jalcomulco look like in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
8. What is the first thing that could be sacrificed without damage to this overall vision?
9. What kind of future do you see for your children here?
· Landscape / Land Use
1. Should there be specific places for tourist access? Why or why not?
2. …off limits to tourists? Why or why not?
3. How would common areas and events be structured and organized?
4. What are the most accessible common areas in Jalcomulco?
5. What areas do you envision as most valuable to the town?
6. …least valuable?
· Conservation
1. Compare tourists’ or camps’ use of the environment and that of ejidatarios?
2. Do you see one as more ‘natural’ than the other?
3. In what circumstances might the environment most benefit?
4. … the town of Jalcomulco?
5. Do you know of any land use practices that you think should be discontinued?
Questions for Small Business Owners:
· General
1. Name, Age, How long lived in Jalcomulco, family origins.
2. How long have you been in business?
3. How did you start?
4. What is a common day’s work?
5. How have you seen the Jalcomulco change in the past 5 years?
6. …the local business environment change?
7. Who works with or for you?
8. How does your business compare to others in Jalcomulco (similarities and
differences)?
9. Obstacles you’ve overcome?
10. What is your relationship to other businesses in Jalcomulco?
· Tourism
1. What do you think is the general perspective of tourism in Jalcomulco?
2. …among business owners?
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 89
3. What about of tourists themselves?
4. What percentage of your business is from tourists?
5. What is the relationship between adventure tourism and businesses like yours?
6. How much contact do you have with tourists on an average day?
7. What are your most important relationships for your business?
8. How have conflicts between business owners in Jalcomulco been resolved?
(example)
· Vision
1. How would you define an ideal relationship between businesses and tourism in
Jalcomulco?
2. How would it be organized?
3. What would it look like?
4. Who would be involved?
5. What physical structures would exist?
6. How would land use be divided?
7. In an ideal situation, what would Jalcomulco look like in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
8. What is the first thing that could be sacrificed without damage to this overall vision?
9. What kind of future do you see for your children here?
· Landscape / Land Use
1. Should there be specific places for tourist access? Why or why not?
2. …off limits to tourists? Why or why not?
3. How would common areas and events be structured and organized?
4. What are the most accessible common areas in Jalcomulco?
5. What areas do you envision as most valuable to the town?
6. …least valuable?
· Conservation
1. Compare tourists’ or camps’ use of the environment and people of Jalcomulco?
2. Do you see one as more ‘natural’ than the other?
3. In what circumstances might the environment most benefit?
4. …the town of Jalcomulco?
5. Do you know of any land use practices that you think should be discontinued?
Questions for Education Professionals:
· General
1. Name, Age, How long lived in Jalcomulco, family origins.
2. What are your responsibilities?
3. Who works with you?
4. What is the institutional structure of this organization?
5. How did you start this work?
6. What is a common day’s work?
7. How have you seen the Jalcomulco change in the past 5 years?
8. Describe local relationships between camp owners/managers and people of
Jalcomulco?
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 90
9. What has been your most significant conflict since working here?
10. …Was it resolved? How?
· Tourism
1. What do you think is the general perspective of tourism in Jalcomulco?
2. …among business owners?
3. What about of tourists themselves?
4. How are students trained to work with tourists?
5. In what contexts do they work with tourists?
· Vision
Same as small business questions
· Landscape / Land Use
Same as small business questions
· Conservation
Same as small business question
CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE CITIES A CASE STUDY OF SUSTAINABILITY: JALCOMULCO, MEXICO
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 91
APPENDIX 2
Jalcomulco Interviews
July 2003
Date Subject Location Duration Present
7/8/03 Celestina Ana Barco (Doña Dina)
(restaurant owner)
Pequeno Cid
Restaurant
1h 6m Jay, Christine, Transl: Mao
Alberto Contreras Torres
(ejidatario)
Home / Produce shop 1h 18m Jay, Christine, Beto, Transl: Mao
Sergio Soriano
(ejido president)
Casa Ejidal 1h 23m Jay, Christine, Juliette, Vince, Maria, Adrianna,
Arturo, Misael, Beto, unknown observer, Transl:
Mao
Sergio Soriano’s abuelo
(grandfather)
Home Jay, Christine, Maria, Sergio, Transl: Mao
7/9/03 Misael Hernandez Vicente COBAEV school 1h 11m Jay, Christine, Juliette, Vince, Transl: Mao
Martina Cid Hedalgo
(clothing vendor)
Posada del Rio 54m Jay, Christine, Juliette, Vince, Transl: Mao
Raymundo Granados
(manager, Hotel La Villa)
Hotel La Villa 1h 9m Jay, Christine, Transl: Mao
Melquiades Garrido
(former ejido president)
Home 1h 2m Jay, Christine, Juliette, Vince, Transl: Mao
Carmen
(staff, Posada del Rio)
Posada del Rio 13m Jay, Christine, Juliette, Vince, Transl: Mao
CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE CITIES A CASE STUDY OF SUSTAINABILITY: JALCOMULCO, MEXICO
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 92
APPENDIX 3
Themes5 Subjects Carmen Doña
Dina
Beto Melquiades Raymundo Alberto Martina Sergio
Total
6
Tourism—Negative Impacts 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 4
Tourism—Positive Impacts 0 1 0 2 2 1 1 1 8
Tourism—Boundaries 0 1 0 1 1 3 1 1 8
Locals and Tourists 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 3
Emigration 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 4
Education (problems) 0 4 0 0 1 0 1 0 6
Mayor 0 1 0 2 1 0 2 0 6
Camps and Locals 0 2 0 4 2 0 1 0 9
Camps as Enclaves 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
Camps as Valuable 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 3
Camps and Conflicts 0 0 0 4 0 2 1 0 7
7-8 year mark (changes in Jalc.) 0 1 0 1 2 1 0 1 6
Church 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 3
Landscape Valued 0 4 0 1 1 0 2 2 10
Perception of town—Positive 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Perception of town—Negative 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 3
Total7 2 21 0 21 11 11 10 7
5 Areas on which most subjects offered significant feedback. Derived from analysis of transcripts and field notes from July 2003.
6 These values represent number of occurrences of each theme in all interviews.
7 These values could be used to weight the occurrences of themes according to variations of subjects’ contributions.
CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE CITIES A CASE STUDY OF SUSTAINABILITY: JALCOMULCO, MEXICO
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 93
APPENDIX 4
January 24, 2004
Introduction for all subjects:
I am working on a project on tourism in Jalcomulco with Adrianna, Arturo and Maria at the
University of Veracruz.
I am interested in your opinions in a number of areas concerning culture as part of a
research team from University of Southern California in the U.S.
For all questions, I want to know what you think in your own words, without concern about
any ‘official’ response. It is very important that you feel free to respond openly about how
you feel about all of these questions.
I may ask questions from time to time that sound repetitive. The purpose is to approach the
same issue in different ways.
Please feel free to ask any questions or clarify issues at any time.
Questions for Ejidatarios
(Melquiades, Sergio, Alberto)
1 How were the original boundaries of the ejido established?
2 Why are they changed? For what reasons?
3 Who is involved in changing boundaries? How? What do they do, exactly?
4 What happens in cases of dispute?
5 How were camp boundaries determined? Who participated?
6 How do camp walls coincide with ejido boundaries?
7 How has NAFTA changed how parcels are used?
8 How has NAFTA changed how parcel boundaries are drawn?
9 What has been the impact of changes in the ejido on the community as a whole?
10 In what ways do these changes reflect Mexican politics today?
11 In what ways do changes in the ejido relate to history (Mexican revolution)?
12 Do you see the ejido changes as related to changes in Mexican politics today?
13 On these issues, how does your ejido compare to others?
· Cognitive Mapping
1 Boundaries of tourists
2 Most important ejido parcels (production, location, etc.)
3 Most important community landmarks
4 Problem areas (conflict, drugs, etc.)
5 Maximum boundaries acceptable for camps
6 Best common areas for tourists and locals
CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE CITIES A CASE STUDY OF SUSTAINABILITY: JALCOMULCO, MEXICO
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 94
Questions for camp managers
· General
1 Name, age, how long lived in Jalcomulco
2 How did you get this job?
3 Responsibilities of job
4 How have you seen Jalcomulco change since starting this job?
· Tourism
1 What is your general perspective of tourism in Jalcomulco?
2 How do you think people of Jalcomulco view tourism?
3 Describe your relationship with tourists?
4 Do tourists have contact with ejidatarios? Under what circumstances?
5 Are most tourists aware of the ejido?
6 Have you seen conflict between tourists and ejidatarios?
7 Have you had conflict with any ejidatarios? (If yes, describe circumstances)
8 Was it resolved? If so, how?
· Vision
1 How would you describe an ideal relationship between your camp and ejidos?
2 How would the landscape be organized?
3 What would this relationship look like in 10 years?
4 What is the first thing that could be sacrificed without damaging that vision?
5 What are Jalcomulco’s most valuable assets for you?
6 What are Jalcomulco’s most valuable assets for townspeople?
7 What are Jalcomulco’s most valuable assets for tourists?
· Landscape
1 Should there be specific places that tourists are not allowed?
2 Should there be specific places for tourists only?
3 What are the best common uses of the land for both tourists and locals?
· Conservation
1 Compare the camp’s use of the land to the ejido’s
2 How are they the same, how different?
3 Do you see one as more ‘natural’ than another?
4 Are there land practices that you think should stop (ejido, camp, locals)?
5 Are there land practices that are particularly beneficial for conservation? If so,
what?
CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE CITIES A CASE STUDY OF SUSTAINABILITY: JALCOMULCO, MEXICO
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 95
Questions for all subjects
(This is a word association exercise. Please state the first word that comes to mind and
complete the following sentences as they reflect your personal perception of the
community of Jalcomulco. In some cases, you may have the same answer for both
questions.)
1 7-8 years ago we were _.
2 Today we are_.
1 7-8 years ago we felt_.
2 Today we feel_.
1 7-8 years ago we had_.
2 Today we have_.
(possessions)
1 7-8 years ago we looked_.
2 Today we look_.
(how we are perceived by others)
1. 7-8 years ago we liked_.
2. Today we like_.
1 7-8 years ago we had problems with_.
2 Today we have problems with_.
1 7-8 years ago tourists were_.
2 Today tourists are_.
1 7-8 years ago young people in Jalcomulco_.
2 Today young people in Jalcomulco_.
(primary activities)
1 7-8 years ago older people in Jalcomulco_.
2 Today older people in Jalcomulco_.
1 7-8 years ago I valued _ most.
2 Today I value _ most.
(person, place, thing)
CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE CITIES A CASE STUDY OF SUSTAINABILITY: JALCOMULCO, MEXICO
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 96
Questions for Misael (COVAEV)
1 Does more education lead to more emigration?
2 What has been the typical pattern of students in Jalcomulco?
3 Of those who complete high school, what is their most common next step?
4 What is the motivation of parents to encourage education?
5 What is the occupation of parents that encourage education most? Least?
6 What are most valuable skills to teach students?
7 Of those that study elsewhere, how many return to Jalcomulco?
Adults
1 Many people have mentioned ‘educating’ the people of Jalcomulco (dealing with
tourism/tourists)?
2 How might this be done? By whom?
3 Is it necessary? Why or why not?
4 Would people respond positively in Jalcomulco? Why or why not?
5 Is ‘local’ knowledge’ valued among educators?
6 How? In what ways? How is it transferred
CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE CITIES A CASE STUDY OF SUSTAINABILITY: JALCOMULCO, MEXICO
SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN A CONFLICTED LANDSCAPE 97
APPENDIX 5
Jalcomulco Interviews
January 2004
Date Subject Location Duration Present
1/24/04 Celestina Ana Barco
(Doña Dina)
(restaurant owner)
Pequeno Cid
Restaurant
4m Jay, Christine,
Transl: Mao
Celestina Ana Barco
(Doña Dina)
Pequeno Cid
Restaurant
10m 19s Jay, Christine,
Transl: Mao
Melquiades Garrido
(former ejido
president)
Home 1h 17m
47s
Jay, Christine,
Transl: Mao
1/25/04 Martin Moterra
Milen
(proprietor,
Posada del Rio)
Posada del Rio 1h 17m
31s
Jay, Transl: Mao
Alberto Contreras
Torres
(ejidatario)
Home /
Produce shop
1h 11m
53s
Jay, Christine, Beto,
Arturo, Transl: Alex
Martina Cid
Hedalgo
(clothing vendor)
Home 31m 04s Jay, Maria, Transl: Alex
1/26/04 Misael Hernandez
Vicente
(COBAEV teacher)
COBAEV
school grounds
44m 41s Jay, Juliette, Vince,
Transl: Alex
Fabiola & Vianay
(COBAEV teachers)
COBAEV
school grounds
24m 36s Jay, Juliette, Vince,
Transl: Alex
Mireya Alvarez
(manager,
Cotlamani)
Catlamani
adventure camp
38m 42s Jay, Christine, Juliette,
Vince, Transl: Alex
Jose and Chevy
Rodriguez
Sin Limitas 60m Jay, Christine, Juliette,
Vince, Transl: Alex
1/27/04 Cervando
(staff, Posada del
Rio)
Posada del Rio 23m 13s Jay, Christine, Juliette,
Vince, Transl: Alex
Carmen
(staff, Posada del
Rio)
Posada del Rio 26m 32s Jay, Christine, Juliette,
Vince, Transl: Alex
Imeil
(staff, Posada del
Rio)
Posada del Rio 41m 14s Jay, Christine, Juliette,
Vince, Transl: Alex
Sergio Soriano
(ejido president)
Sergio’s ejido
parcel
25m 06s Jay, Christine, Vince,
Transl: Mao
08:22:08
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By examining environmental change through the lens of conflicting social agendas, Andrew Hurley uncovers the historical roots of environmental inequality in contemporary urban America. Hurley's study focuses on the steel mill community of Gary, Indiana, a city that was sacrificed, like a thousand other American places, to industrial priorities in the decades following World War II. Although this period witnessed the emergence of a powerful environmental crusade and a resilient quest for equality and social justice among blue-collar workers and African Americans, such efforts often conflicted with the needs of industry. To secure their own interests, manufacturers and affluent white suburbanites exploited divisions of race and class, and the poor frequently found themselves trapped in deteriorating neighborhoods and exposed to dangerous levels of industrial pollution. In telling the story of Gary, Hurley reveals liberal capitalism's difficulties in reconciling concerns about social justice and quality of life with the imperatives of economic growth. He also shows that the power to mold the urban landscape was intertwined with the ability to govern social relations. © 1995 The University of North Carolina Press. All rights reserved.