Atmospheric Pressure: Rendering the Air as Power in Southern Mexico

Authors: Stephanie Friede*,
Topics: Energy, Latin America, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Energy, Renewables, Power, Mexico, Isthmus of Tehuantepec
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Balcony N, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores the measurement techniques used to render the powerful winds blowing across Mexico’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec into an object of financial speculation. This paper follows the network of people and practices mobilized to convert the wind into something “investable” (Li, T. 2012). Today, 23 winds farms, comprised of an estimated 1,600 turbines, encircle the city of Juchitán de Zaragoza, a city of 100,000 residents – the majority of whom identify as indigenous Zapotec peoples. The Mexican government and international development organizations like the UN, World Bank, and USAID, imagined “The Isthmus Wind Corridor” megaproject as a win-win solution – addressing both climate change and the need for economic development simultaneously. The energy being produced here, however, is not for public consumption and is instead sold to large manufacturing companies like Walmart and Coca-cola at a discounted rate. This has led to serious conflicts among residents of the region. This paper will explore how the “Wind Resource Atlas of Oaxaca,” converted the wind – an unruly natural force in constant motion – into information (Hetherington, K. 2011). I argue that it is only when the wind is fixed as information that experts can abstract its force from the complex social and political landscapes over which it passes. For Istmeños, however, the wind is their atmosphere. As both air in circulation, and the mood or feeling of place, evocative of the memories, hopes and fears of the people have always existed in tandem with its force.

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