Between a rock and a hard place? Rural transformations and migrant communities in Guatemala.

Authors: Mariel Aguilar-Støen*, SUM University of Oslo
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Development, Latin America
Keywords: migration, rural transformation, Guatemala
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Studio 9, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, I examine the various and often contradictory ways in which globalization transform rural areas. I use a case study from Guatemala to illustrate how in a context of dramatic economic transformations resulting from neoliberal policies and globalization, migrants’ aspirations get entangled in larger projects. Although not always improving their lot, and often with very high personal costs, migrants and their families are transforming rural social relations and landscapes. I investigate four processes that are in several ways related to international migration: land redistribution, higher participation of small producers in coffee production, the resistance against extractive industries and the penetration of drug-trafficking in everyday life of rural areas. This study privileges an analysis focusing on how people themselves define what constitutes their wellbeing while at the same time they are painfully aware of the influence of factors that are not directly under their control. My empirical material shows that the crisis in the international coffee market resulted in a local process of land redistribution, by way of which the local elite lost their lands and assets and migrant families took over coffee production. A local cooperative whose constituency is dominated by families with migrants in the USA facilitated this transformation. Furthermore, the cooperative has been pivotal in forging alliances with wider movements of coffee certification and commercialization, as well as with local banks. However, the cooperative faces competition not from local merchants but from intricate relationships in local reciprocity networks in which drug trafficking is at times entangled

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