Mexico is a state where two distinct economies operate side-by-side: The corporate economy of development and capitalism, and the self-reliant economy of stable of subsistence communities. Since the formal declaration of the Mexican state by the Hispanic elite, advocates of the corporate economy have relied on slave labor and cheap labor and taking the “free” raw materials of nature to accumulate money. The economy of self-reliance of Mayan, Cora, Mexica, Mixe, Zapotec and other nations depends on a balance between human need and the direct production of life-supporting foods, medicines, goods and services to promote and sustain life. As long as Mexico’s capitalist/development advocates could make money off the exploitation of the original peoples and lands of the country, there was always a small degree of tolerance for the self-reliance economy. That tolerance, as small as it was, vanished in 1994 when the Mexican government joined Mexico with the United States of America and Canada to form the North American Free Trade Agreement. The result was the serious weakening of Mexico’s constitutional guarantee of land rights for the native population throwing open long protected Ejidos for sale . Ejidos had been guaranteed for use by formerly “landless” Indian people where half the land could be held in communal control and the remainder would be divided among members in the community as individual plots. Communities produced surpluses and individual families sustained themselves by small agricultural activity.
Since the NAFTA agreement, slightly more than 25% of the Ejidos have been sold mainly to large corporations eager to consolidate control over larger tracts of land. Instead of living in a self-reliant manner, former members of “dis-incorporated Ejidos” became “consumers” and “wage earners” dependent on the capitalist system. Unable to survive in Mexico in the “wage-consumer” economy, large numbers of former Ejido members traveled to the United States to earn higher wages to send money home for families now dependent on money to survive instead of their own labor and control over their own land and food.
Yesterday I traveled to Monterey, Mexico, just south of Laredo, Texas. On the flight back I looked out the window to see thousands of parcels of land abandoned and dwelling “scraped away” leaving only the cleared plot where people once lived. The people were no-longer living on the land. Evidence now demonstrates that the corporatization of Mexico has resulted in massive migration of formerly self-reliant people away from their land to consumer dependency on money and wages in the United States.
Americans are now distraught over the massive migration of mainly Mexican Indians, and Central American Indians to the United States. The economic policies of state governments like NAFTA have forced self-reliant people off their land into dependence on wage-earning. While that move seems to benefit the capitalist system, it has caused enormous disruption of populations long capable of taking care of themselves.
Native populations in the Americas, and elsewhere in the world for that matter, have built self-reliant communities that have sustained human populations for thousands of years. The progressivism of conservative and liberal capitalists sits at the root of human social and economic instability by forcing people off the land.
Reaffirmation of self-sustaining, cultural diverse nations living close to the land is essential to eliminate the massive dislocations of peoples we have seen in the last sixty years.
(C) 2007 Center for World Indigenous Studies
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