Monday, June 27, 2016

Corn and Protest in Mexico (and Venezuela?)

Erica S. Simmons, "Corn, Markets, and Mobilization in Mexico." Comparative Politics 48, 3 (April 2016): 413-431. (Here is an ungated version).


In January 2007, Mexicans filled the Zócalo in Mexico City to express opposition to rising corn prices and corn imports. Consumers and producers, middle class and campesinos united in the streets to demand access to affordable, explicitly Mexican corn. This article explains the cooperation across class and sectoral lines in the Mexican tortillazo protests by focusing on the meanings corn takes on in the Mexican context. When individuals imagined that they or other Mexicans might not be able to consume a good at the center of daily life and imaginings of nation, they reached across established divides and took to the streets. These insights suggest that to understand responses to markets we need to incorporate the meanings that marketization takes on in our analyses.

This is an ethnographic analysis, which is quite interesting:

The declared universality of the claim to affordable corn and tortillas was readily apparent from the first protests. Participants were defending what they conceived of as a widely shared right. This was not about transportation workers or coffee farmers but rather about a threat to “the people.”

This made me think of Venezuela. If corn to make arepas, a Venezuelan staple, becomes scarcer, will this lead to more broad-based protests?


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