Tuesday, January 5, 2021

M. Bianet Castellanos's "Indigenous Dispossession"

M. Bianet Castellanos is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of A Return to Servitude: Maya Migration and the Tourist Trade in Cancún (2010).

Castellanos applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Indigenous Dispossession: Housing and Maya Indebtedness in Mexico, and reported the following:
Page 99 poignantly gestures to the central focus of my book – to showcase how Maya migrants resist the disciplinary tactics of global finance by demanding rights as Indigenous people in urban centers. This page wraps up a wrenching tale of an Indigenous family’s experience with home foreclosure in Cancún, Mexico. It invites us to consider what protest looks like and to acknowledge that, for Indigenous communities, public demonstrations are not the only ways to make resistance audible. Maya migrants Mariela and Francisco turned to collective protest as a way to stave off foreclosure, only to find that it was impossible to mobilize a public challenge against mortgage companies. Their attempts to form a neighborhood association of debtors against eviction were stymied by the bureaucratization of individualized debt. Since mortgage loans varied across households and neighbors were at different stages in their foreclosure proceedings, it was difficult to form a consensus over the most effective strategies to confront lenders who refused to negotiate with a collective. A lack of trust also impeded their efforts. Neighbors, who primarily hailed from far-flung states like Veracruz and Tabasco, did not socialize together and thus did not trust each other.

Instead, Francisco and Mariela drew upon a history of Maya collective resistance in southeastern Yucatán to cultivate strategies of resistance. For their ejido (collective landholding) community, the struggle for autonomy makes revolt ongoing. Similarly, Francisco and Mariela opted to “wait out” the state, a term I use to capture their efforts to convert waiting (for foreclosure) from a disciplinary tactic into an act of resistance that calls for a recognition of Indigenous rights in urban centers.

Page 99 concludes by setting the stage for the next chapter of the book which examines a legal battle against eviction led by Maya women. These cases reveal that Mexico’s reliance on neoliberal housing policies that privilege mortgage finance over land redistribution is leading toward greater Indigenous dispossession through land loss and indebtedness. The financialization of Mexico has resulted in greater precarity for Maya peoples and made the political project of recognition even more vital.
Learn more about Indigenous Dispossession at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue