Fluidity and Contradictions in Mexican Discourse: Land, Indigenous Rights, and Environmental Justice
Conference on Latin American History 62
Lara Lookabaugh, independent scholar
Margarita Vargas-Betancourt, University of Florida
Christopher Woolley, University of North Carolina Pembroke
In the first paper, Margarita Vargas uses colonial lawsuits to elucidate distinctions between legal concepts of “possession” and “property” in Santiago Tlatelolco. As litigants pursued access to land, there emerged a hybrid fluidity that slipped between Spanish and Mesoamerican conceptions of land tenure and challenged simple assumptions. Christopher Woolley investigates the colonial contradictions between Spanish concepts of forest commons and Mesoamerican communitarian traditions. He sheds new light on the strategies deployed by hacenderos who enclosed forest lands by appealing to Spanish communal impulses and denigrating indigenous land use practices. Though discursive assaults on indigenous practices continued into the twentieth century, Patrick Cosby argues that the Revolution of 1910 and the Constitution of 1917 not only allowed the state to redistribute communal landholdings and rationally manage resources, but opened space for re-articulating revolutionary agrarianism as ecological indigenismo, a grassroots movement built on concepts of indigenous rights and environmental justice. Finally, Lara Lookabaugh moves beyond simple binaries to argue that the privatization of communal landholdings, eijdos,under NAFTA was not just an indigenous rights issue, but a gendered issue, as well. She argues the intersection of indigenous rights and gender discourses have opened new avenues for regional development.
Combined, the papers demonstrate how a variety of historic actors experienced and exploited legal and discursive contradictions to assert their land use rights.