27 - 30 August

Maquiladora Paradise: the Unfolding of Racial Capitalism in Yucatán, Mexico

  • Imperial College London, London, UK

Claudia Fonseca Alfaro will present a paper titled “Maquiladora Paradise: the Unfolding of Racial Capitalism in Yucatán, Mexico” in the upcoming RGS-IBG 2019 Conference that will take place at Imperial College London in August.

Abstract: The expansion of the Export Processing Zone model—known as maquiladoras in the Mexican context—came to Yucatán in the 1980s, as neoliberal policies took root with the help of local state intervention. Promoted by the government as a path towards development, prosperity, and modernity, maquiladoras experienced a tremendous growth of 1007% as the 13 active factories in 1990 became 131 by the year 2001. With the boom, came a construction frenzy and an unemployment rate of 1%. After the astonishing success, a decline in the number of factories followed that continues until today. With a historical perspective and drawing on interviews and discourse analysis, this paper explores the local unfolding of racial capitalism and its nexus to nature and infrastructure. Relying on the Latin American postcolonial toolkit and Henri Lefebvre’s abstract space, the paper describes how the state built infrastructural veins to support its project and attempted to sell the idea of Yucatán as a business-friendly, maquiladora paradise where Magical Mayas—the dutiful workers of the land—await. Reminiscent of New World exoticism, a mythical Mayaland was created where nature is perceived as abundant and tamed, and Mayan bodies are both the despised Other and the desired, natural, subject of the maquiladora regime. Capitalism—articulated through colonial legacies and processes of racialization—exists in tension between its tendency to homogenize and its propensity to thrive in differentiation. Despite the government’s best efforts to operationalize Mayaland as difference, the Yucatecan maquiladora paradise was actually generic in the Export Processing Zone landscape. 

Convenors: Austin Zeiderman (London School of Economics) and Alejandro de Coss Corzo (London School of Economics)