The Land of the Magical Maya : Colonial Legacies, Urbanization, and the Unfolding of Global Capitalism
Claudia Fonseca Alfaro
- Malmö University
The land of the Magical Maya is a mythical region in the south of Mexico where there are enigmatic creatures such as cosmic Indios, vultures, ghosts, white elephants, pineapples, swallows, and flamingos; and wondrous places like cenotes, pyramids, blue moons, old frontiers, new frontiers, and paradise-Zones. In the 1980s, henequen, the agro-based industry that had sustained Yucatán since the 19th century, was close to collapsing. With a sense of urgency, the state government looked for alternatives to diversify the economy in an attempt to prevent the effects of mass unemployment. Almost by chance, but with the help of state intervention, the maquiladora industry filled the gap left by the old system and boomed between 1990 and 2001, followed by a bust, and then a decline. Drawing on fieldwork, and with an analysis that starts with abstractions and zooms in to the level of the everyday, this thesis tells a tale at different scales. This is the story of how people in the city of Motul experienced the rise and decline of Montgomery Industries, the most important maquiladora in the state. There are glimpses into how people’s lives changed and how their city transformed; how the state built infrastructural veins to support the maquiladora industry; and how the government attempted to sell the idea of Yucatán as an exotic, maquiladora paradise where Magical Mayas await. This is also a bigger tale about the relationship between colonial legacies, urbanization, and global capitalism. Through instances of magic, capitalism exists in tension between its tendency to homogenize and its propensity to thrive in differentiation. Capitalism in Yucatán is articulated via the Imperial South through processes of racialization and colonization. Urbanization unfolds in tension between invisibility and visibility. This work contributes to the third wave of Lefebvrian thought, offers insights to the continuous debate of the urban question, advances the project of postcolonial urban studies, and adds to the body of maquiladora studies.
Critical Urban Theory