Remittance Urbanism: Gender and Economy in the Transnational Space of the Mexican Rodeo

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 2:30 PM
Rogers Park Room (Westin Chicago River North)
Sarah Lynn Lopez, University of California, Berkeley
Remittances—money sent from migrants throughout the United States to their relatives in Mexico—are rapidly transforming rural landscapes by funding the construction of new roads, houses, and public buildings. These changes have been accelerated by the Mexican government’s Tres Por Uno (3X1) program, which incorporates remittances into public policy by tripling dollars dedicated to development projects with state funds. This talk addresses the embedded aspirations, and social and political consequences of building a 3X1 rodeo arena in a Mexican village. 3X1 development projects are intended to provide Mexican hometowns with a “public good.” Is the remittance rodeo an example of transnationalism “from below,” heralding new powers of self-determination for marginalized groups? Or do these projects crystallize the exploitation of migrants who face new debts and responsibilities to provide “public” services with private funds?

In parallel to the construction of arenas in Mexico, U.S. rodeo arenas play a pivotal role in the construction of a Mexican transnational civil society. Arenas are collection nodes for migrant HTAs and Federations who use cultural events to pool dollars that support development projects in Mexico. In this sense, U.S. rodeo arenas are emblematic of a remittance urbanism and part and parcel of a Remittance Development Model (RDM) spearheaded by the Mexican state. They are sites in American cities that are geared toward strengthening emigrants’ ties to their homeland through the performance of remitting and the envisioning of shared futures based on migrant generosity.

I map the relationship between U.S. immigrant groups and their hometowns to demonstrate that understanding the places U.S. immigrants come from, and their individual and collective building projects, are essential to understanding the American city and American society at large. I argue that the architectures of migration are powerful evidence of the aims, desires, and fears that drive social change in rural Mexico.

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