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SPECIAL SECTION: MEXICO
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 147-161

Territorialisation, Conservation, and Neoliberalism in the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve, Mexico


Departamento de Antropología, Universidad de las Américas Puebla, Cholula, Puebla, Mexico

Correspondence Address:
Alison Elizabeth Lee
Departamento de Antropología, Universidad de las Américas Puebla, Cholula, Puebla
Mexico
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.138413

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Date of Web Publication8-Aug-2014
 

   Abstract 

The territorialisation of a botanical garden and the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve (TCBR) in southern Mexico is examined from the perspective of local residents of one rural town and the biologists whose professional careers involved extensive research in the region. While there were brief periods of conflict between residents and outsiders over the use of local lands for conservation, the cumulative effects demonstrate a general acceptance of the conservation paradigm. Local residents re-appropriated an older discourse linking their land rights to indigenous ancestors in order to mobilise collective support to ensure local control of the botanical garden. The discourse was subsequently incorporated into a local ecotourism project providing cultural substance complementary to the biological and visual aspects of the landscape. Contradictions between conservation and livelihoods were minimal due to neoliberal policies that encouraged migration to the United States of America and wage work in regional maquiladoras. Consequently, the territorialisation of conservation spaces was not disruptive to the increasingly proletarianised, non-agricultural livelihoods of local residents.

Keywords: territorialisation, neoliberalism, conservation, ecotourism, deserts, local participation, natural protected areas, international migration, Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve, Mexico


How to cite this article:
Lee AE. Territorialisation, Conservation, and Neoliberalism in the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. Conservat Soc 2014;12:147-61

How to cite this URL:
Lee AE. Territorialisation, Conservation, and Neoliberalism in the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2014 [cited 2019 Jul 22];12:147-61. Available from: http://www.conservationandsociety.org/text.asp?2014/12/2/147/138413


   Introduction Top


Protected areas such as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, biosphere reserves, and forest reserves have become increasingly important features of the global landscape (Zimmerer 2000; West et al. 2006). During the last three decades, the worldwide coverage of designated protected areas expanded more than tenfold (IUCN and WCMC 1998), although this expansion was uneven among various world regions (Zimmerer et al. 2004). In Mexico, the enactment of new legislation and the creation of institutions devoted to conservation in the 1980s and early 1990s ushered in a wave of territorialisation of protected areas-22 were established from 1995 to 2000 and 47 from 2000 to 2010 (Gómez-Pompa and Dirzo 1995; Cariño et al. 2008; CONANP 2010). At the end of the last decade, the number of national protected areas totalled 174, covering 13% of Mexico's national territory (CONANP 2010).

The rapid expansion of protected areas in Mexico coincided with the implementation of neoliberal economic policies in the country-a response to a series of economic crises that began in the early 1980s and that deepened throughout the next two decades. Decision-makers embraced a suite of structural adjustment policies that privatised state enterprises and significantly reduced funding for basic services such as health care, education, and agricultural subsidies (Nash 1994; Gledhill 1995; Prud'homme 1995; Otero 1996; Damián 2002). As a result of these changes in economic policy, poverty increased in Mexico from the early 1980s to the 2000s (Kelly 2001; Damián 2002). Cuts in agricultural subsidies, decreasing employment opportunities in rural and urban areas, and increasing poverty led millions of more Mexicans to migrate clandestinely to the United States of America in search of low-wage employment opportunities in the service, agricultural, and construction sectors (Canales 2000; Binford 2004; Cypher and Delgado-Wise 2007, 2011). 1

Given this neoliberal panorama of a retreating state, reduced social welfare, and increasing poverty, it is striking that the Mexican government's institutional and territorial reach expanded through the creation of spaces for the protection of plants, animals, and ecosystems. While the federal government reduced or eliminated operations in certain sectors, it reconfigured power, shuffled priorities, and channelled resources into economic and political activities related to conservation (CONANP 2004; Macip 2012). Multilateral funding agencies, Mexican banks, private foundations, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) increased financial support for conservation activities in the country beginning in the 1990s, making these new state priorities possible (Abramovitz 1991; Castro and Locker 2000; Harvey 2001; Grandia 2007; CONANP 2010; Ervine 2011).

This article examines the territorialisation of two conservation spaces during the neoliberal era from the perspective of the local residents of Zapotitlán Salinas, a rural community in the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve (TCBR), and the biologists whose professional careers involved extensive research near this town. To describe this process, I draw on Vandergeest and Peluso's (1995) foundational work, which established the importance of analysing internal state strategies to control a country's inhabitants and their relations to national land-based resources as an essential element in state formation. Vandergeest and Peluso grouped these strategies under the term "internal territorialisation" to highlight their departure from the political science literature that focussed primarily on international boundaries and state formation. Their theoretical contribution started from Sack's (1986: 19) definition of territoriality-"an attempt by an individual or group to affect, influence or control people, phenomena, and relationships by delimiting and asserting control over a geographic area." Internal territorialisation proceeded through the creation and control of state property governed by agencies with territorial and functional jurisdictions. Three interrelated aspects were involved-mapping boundaries, establishing rights to land, and designating specific resource use by public or private actors. This approach highlighted the central role of the state in territorial organisation, and how this control contributed to legitimising and reinforcing state power.

Overview of territorialisation in the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve

Over the span of several decades, floristic and ecological research in the region that would become the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve (TCBR) established the area's thorn scrub and eroding soils-a legacy of intensive goat pasturing imposed during the colonial period-as fragile, and threatened by poaching. Scientific surveys made the landscape 'legible' (Scott 1998) as a global centre of plant diversity worthy of intervention within the state's growing commitment to conserve biodiversity and to institute protected areas (Dávila and Herrera-MacBryde 1997; Valiente-Banuet et al. 2000; Dávila et al. 2002). In the late 1980s, biologists spearheaded efforts to create a botanical garden from a donation of community land; in 1998 the entire community's lands, along with 51 municipalities in the states of Puebla and Oaxaca, were absorbed into the large TCBR. 2

While there were some dissenting voices and brief periods of conflict between residents and outsiders over the use of local lands for conservation, the cumulative effects demonstrate a general acceptance of the conservation paradigm. This was, in part, accomplished due to locals' re-appropriation of an older discourse by local residents linking their legitimate land rights to their indigenous ancestors. Local residents imbued meaning into the territorialisation of local conservation spaces by employing the discourse to mobilise collective support to ensure local control of the botanical garden. It was subsequently incorporated into a local ecotourism project providing cultural substance complementary to the biological and visual aspects of the landscape. In Zapotitlán, ecotourism incorporated local meanings of the landscape (Roth 2008), breaking with the general tendency of conservation territories to erase the social histories of the peoples who inhabit, or are evicted from, their indigenous settlements (Neumann 1998; West et al. 2006: 260).

In the second step of territorialisation-allocation of land rights to actors-new property regimes were not created for the conservation territories in Zapotitlán. The conservation territories were layered over older forms of communal land use rights, without displacing them. However, the possibility of dismantling communal tenure existed through the land titling programme Programa de Certificación de Derechos Ejidales y Titulación de Solares (PROCEDE; Program for the Certification of Ejido Land Rights and the Titling of Urban House Plots). PROCEDE was the administrative programme charged with implementing the change in Article 27 of the Mexican constitution in 1992. This legal modification allowed communal land holders to obtain federally-recognised titles to individual plots of land, which permitted the sale of the land to private or public actors who did not have to be community members. 3 This potential ability to privatise land was firmly rejected by Zapotitecos (residents of Zapotitlán) in 2004 after a prolonged battle within the community. 4 As a result, disputes and other issues related to the use of the land were resolved by local agrarian authorities and the communal assembly. Unlike in coastal communities near or within protected areas, no market for newly privatised land developed in Zapotitlán and no residents were displaced in the process of territorialisation (Berlanga and Faust 2007; Macip 2012).

The third step of territorialisation, the designation of specific resource uses by state and private actors, was slow to develop. 5 A management plan for the reserve was approved in 2012, 14 years after the Reserve's creation. For many years, residents confronted a confusing and contested situation in which it was unclear what types of livelihood activities were prohibited in the name of conservation and if and by whom violations would be punished. However, this did not create major disruptions in the lives of local residents because of the particular way in which neoliberal policies encouraged both undocumented migration to the United States and a stronger orientation toward non-agricultural wage work in the region from the 1980s to the present (Lee 2008a). 6 When the botanical garden and biosphere reserve were created, townspeople were not using local natural resources (woody trees and plants for firewood, desert vegetation for livestock fodder, and rock from travertine quarries) nearly as much as in the past. As wage work, both international and national, became the economic basis of many households, the new conservation mandates that ostensibly restricted local residents' use of natural resources had little impact on their ability to make a living. In sum, the territorialisation of conservation spaces in Zapotitlán was not very disruptive of the increasingly proletarianised, non-agricultural livelihoods of local residents. This case was much less dramatic than other places in Mexico where the demarcation of protected areas and designation of new land uses for conservation led to more restrictive policies, intensive conflicts between local people and government officials, or attempts to relocate communities outside of protected areas (Harvey 2001; Early 2010; Ervine 2011).

Instead of conflict, tourism became the dominant register in town. In Mexico, territorialisation of Natural Protected Areas (NPAs) sanctioned and encouraged the development of ecotourism and other forms of alternative tourism as a method to conserve resources and boost local economic development (CONANP 2006, 2007). The state and international finance institutions' interest in supporting small-scale ecotourism programmes, such as Zapotitlán's botanical garden, can be understood within the particular trajectory of tourism development in Mexico in general. Tourism is Mexico's third-largest important generator of foreign currency after oil and migrant remittances (Clancy 2001; Wilson 2008). Fearing the decreased viability of the traditional model of sun, sea, and sand tourism, which dominated the industry from the 1960s to the 1980s, government planners sought to maintain Mexico's competitive advantage by encouraging the development of new tourist products that would complement existing destinations and attract tourists looking for alternative experiences (López and Palomino 2001; Morales and Mysyk 2004; Jiménez 2005). The result was the explosion of a diverse array of destinations of varying scales featuring natural and cultural heritage. Zapotitlán's botanical garden was just one example of the new tourist products dotting the Mexican landscape. 7

In the following section, I discuss the ethnographic methods used to gather data, then briefly summarise the history of scientific research in the region, which highlighted both the biological diversity and the threats that it faced. This information was essential in the initial efforts to establish the botanical garden, a process in which local people played an important role by weaving conservation into a discourse about land rights. A decade after the botanical garden was founded, the TCBR was created; some of the funding for the reserve was channelled into the ecotourism programme. More individuals became involved in NGO- or government-sponsored projects or family-run businesses to provide services and/or products to tourists. In the conclusions, I reflect upon why the conservation paradigm was generally accepted.


   Understanding Conservation in the TCBR through Ethnographic research Top


This article is based on ethnographic research during various periods of fieldwork-in 1998, 2000, 2003-2005, 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2012-principally in Zapotitlán Salinas, Puebla, a rural town situated within the core zone of the TCBR. 8 In 1998, I volunteered as a research assistant on an ethnobotanical project in Zapotitlán led by researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Flores Paredes et al. 2007). The results of this fieldwork provided preliminary information about the types of desert plants that were used by residents-data that would contribute to understanding the impact of human management on plant populations (Casas et al. 2001). I gained an initial understanding of the region's conservation priorities and the ecological rationale for establishing the reserve in 1998.

I returned in the summer of 2000, with a pre-doctoral grant from the University of California, Riverside, to investigate local residents' understandings and opinions of the biosphere reserve, and the potential impacts of the conservation objectives of the TCBR (which were still being developed at the time) according to residents, researchers, and reserve officials. I spent two months living in the town conducting participant observation and interviews with residents and travelled to Tehuacán and Mexico City to interview reserve officials and researchers with substantial experience in the region.

My doctoral research conducted during 2003-2004, focused on how local and extralocal economic, social, and political processes were transforming the institutions and practices related to land management in Zapotitlán (Lee 2008b). I lived in Zapotitlán full-time from January 2003 to August 2004 conducting participant observation and approximately 100 formal interviews with Zapotitecos. Long-term immersion in the community allowed me to interact with men and women, returned migrants, tour guides, housewives, salineros (salt producers), shepherds, teachers, municipal authorities, maquiladora workers, taxi drivers, store owners, and other unemployed or underemployed workers. I spent considerable time hiking throughout the town's communal lands with tour guides, tourists, and residents. The municipal government provided funds for a professional photographer and me to take pictures of places that the municipality wanted to promote for tourists at the town's annual patron saint festival in November 2003. This was a particularly important experience for understanding the new ways some residents came to view the countryside-as an object of conservation interventions and as a leisure landscape for tourists. During a 6-month period of fieldwork in 2005, I interviewed government officials in Puebla City and Mexico City involved in the conservation efforts described below. Short term visits (from 3 to 6 weeks) in the summers of 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2012 revealed the deepening commitment of the local authorities and townspeople to tourism-related activities. 9

Zapotitlán: economic transformation in the neoliberal era

Zapotitlán Salinas, a town with a resident population of 2,700 (INEGI 2010), is located 30 km from Tehuacán, Puebla-a midsized city with a significant assembly-for-export sector and large agro-industrial firms (Enge and Whiteford 1989; Fitting 2011). From the 1960s to the 1980s, the main source of income was the extraction of onyx from local quarries, and the production of onyx handicrafts and domestic luxury adornments in local workshops. 10 Only a few dozen individuals engaged in salt production, raising goats, and limited temporal agriculture.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, Zapotitecos migrated clandestinely to the United States to earn more money than local employment permitted, and salir adelante (meaning 'to get ahead')-an expression that indicated a desire to build and furnish a home, pay for children's education, and invest in a business back in Mexico. By the early 1990s, the onyx industry was collapsing due, in part, to the neoliberal policies that eliminated subsidies for electricity for local workshops and the reduced demand for onyx luxury products that accompanied the decreasing income of Mexico's middle and working classes. 11 The demise of the onyx industry was accelerated by the peso devaluation in 1994, resulting in severely reduced wages and increased unemployment which Zapotitecos compensated for by migrating to the United States in ever-increasing numbers. The local onyx industry never recovered. Instead, remittances from wage work in restaurants and other service jobs in New York City were the principal source of income for a growing number of families in recent years. The number of households that had at least one member in the United States grew from 43% in 2004 to 65% in 2011 (Lee 2008a, 2014).

The collapse of the local onyx industry coincided with the expansion of conservation territories and the establishment of ecotourism in Zapotitlán. For individuals who were not involved in migration or did not have access to remittances, ecotourism was appealing for its potential ability to provide access to new sources of income.


   Territorialising Conservation Spaces in Zapotitlán Top


Biological research and the establishment of a conservation priority

For decades, the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán region in southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca was the site of extensive floristic and ecological research (Rzedowski 1978; Dávila et al. 1993; Valiente-Banuet et al. 1996). Eminent Mexican biologists published accounts of the region's impressive desert landscape as early as the 1930s. Some featured the area around Zapotitlán renowned for its dense stands of columnar cacti (Bravo-Hollis 1937: 5; Martínez 1948; Miranda 1948). The publication of Jerzy Rzedowski's (1978) Provincia Floristica de Tehuacán-Cuicatlán marked the start of an era of intensified scientific interest in the region. Beginning in the 1980s, dozens of students and researchers embarked on long-term studies of the valley's rich and complex mosaic of 29 vegetation types characterised by a highly diverse assemblage of cacti and shrubs (Zavala Hurtado 1982; Valiente-Banuet et al. 2000). The variety of amphibians, reptiles, and birds surpassed the diversity of species in other deserts around the world (Dávila et al. 2002). The valley's biological diversity and high rate of endemism played an important role in securing the region's place as a priority for conservation interventions (Dávila and Herrera-MacBryde 1997; Dávila et al. 2002).

Nos han robado lo más bonito: threats to biological diversity

The landscape surrounding Zapotitlán and in many sections within the biosphere reserve was used during the colonial period for pasture; this resulted in a highly degraded landscape (Mouat 1980). To add to the problem, a long history of cacti poaching posed a major obstacle for the long-term health of the native ecosystem. Despite federal laws prohibiting poaching, thousands of plants and Cretaceous-era fossils were stolen from the region by visitors. Sometimes visitors poached in remote areas; others were aided by locals who exchanged plants and fossils for boxes of clothing or food. Maria 12 related to me how, when she was a little girl, foreigners often came and paid her uncle to help them find cacti to carefully extract and take back with them to their countries. She noted, "We didn't know that what we had was valuable. To us, they were just plantas cualquieras [ordinary plants]" (Interview with author; July 13, 2000). Mateo explained how residents traded giant fossils of ancient sea animals to strangers for boxes of food and clothes. "There were so many fossils… they weren't special to us" (Interview with author; March 7, 2003). These were common refrains from individuals reflecting on the decades when illegal poaching of desert plants and fossils were common and when poachers' contributions to basic necessities were welcome temporary alleviations to the widespread poverty.

Cacti were in high demand among visitors from United States, Japan, and several European countries. In 1979, one German travel agency organised excursions for tourists to collect cacti to take home with them. At the end of 1981, the Mexican Cactus Society denounced a Japanese company carrying out large-scale cacti collections. In Zapotitlán, the poaching reached epic proportions:

The Japanese believe that the pata de elefante (elephant's foot) [Beaucarnea gracilis] has special powers… they came once with trailers and paid all of us to take out the plants, they showed us how to take them out so it wouldn't damage the plant. They brought machinery to lift the heavy cacti, and we made long wooden boxes so they could put the [columnar cacti] in them… they paid us only a little money. (Ramón, resident of Zapotitlán; Interview with author; May 4, 2003)

In all, 23 large wooden crates filled with cacti, century plants (Agave sp.), and other species were meticulously packaged for long-distance transportation and sent to Manzanillo, Colima, a port on the Pacific Coast. Biologists denounced the theft of the cacti (Zavala Hurtado and Gallardo 1982) and attempted to educate residents, local authorities, and others interested in the biologists' research, about the importance of the natural resources of the area and their right to protect them. This educational process was what changed the minds of people like Maria and Mateo, who were raised to believe the fossils and cacti were useless items scattered about the landscape. Virtually everyone who listened to the biologists learned that what they had believed to be ordinary plants and fossils worth only boxes of used clothing or small sums of money were unique and important species. It was then that residents realised that those who had come to poach plants and fossils had robbed Zapotitecos of that which was most beautiful (Nos han robado lo más bonito). 13

The botanical garden: a starting point for conservation in the desert

The federal government's silence in the wake of the denouncement by biologists of the thefts, reflected the government's general lack of interest in environmental issues during this time period (Simonian 1995) and the specific perception of the Tehuacán region as a wasteland. To transform the desert into a more productive landscape, government plans included the use of columnar cacti for livestock forage and the creation of greenhouses to increase agricultural production. These official attitudes about the desert stood firmly in the way of creating a widespread appreciation for the ecological richness of the area or the economic possibilities that could come from the natural vegetation. Biologists believed that managed commercial exploitation of cacti and other plants in conjunction with conservation policies, research, and the rational use of resources could represent an important income for many marginalised peoples.

A few researchers presented a plan to the Secretaria de Desarollo Urbano y Ecologia (SEDUE; Secretary of Urban Development and Ecology) to establish a botanical garden in Zapotitlán in 1983. According to one biologist:

At that time, we saw the botanical garden as a beachhead, a first establishment, so that the work of education, conservation, and research could serve as a model and then generate, first, awareness in the local people, but also it would be a project that would permit, little by little, the extension of its influence. It was thought that the garden would be a centre from which research could be conducted on different species, not only biological research but also archaeological research, to have, apart from education, exhibition, conservation, a type of field station with laboratories, storage space, equipment, etc. (Interview with author; June 23, 2005)

The town agrarian authorities permitted SEDUE to take control of 100 ha of communal land for the establishment of the garden in 1985. This first moment of territorialisation involved sealing off the area from human activity, including establishing household lots, clearing land for planting corn, collecting firewood or other plant products, and grazing goats. Due to the fact that there was plenty of land to realise these activities outside of the botanical garden, residents agreed to the land donation. The management plan included the propagation of native plants in danger of extinction, reforestation of adjacent areas that had been heavily poached, and long-term ecological research and monitoring of native vegetation communities.

Researchers promote an ecological consciousness

This project had the support of several important individuals in the community. Similar to what Andrea Kaus (1993) observed in the Mapimí Biosphere Reserve in northern Mexico, cooperative relations developed principally through the formation of social relationships between researchers and Zapotitecos with prestige and political clout in the community. Several researchers worked closely with individuals to teach them the scientific names of plants, the specifics of ecological processes, and the biological importance of the area on a global scale (Fundación ICA et al. 2001: 223-227). Researchers were credited with 'awakening' an ecological consciousness in this group of locally important men. Biologists' efforts to explain the ecological importance of the local vegetation represented a new way of thinking about the natural environment. Carlos, a stout man in his 60s reported that in the 1980s "Juan (a biologist) was the person who really started to educate people about the cacti and taught us to take care of what we have now" (Interview with author; May 14, 2003). Cristóbal, an individual involved in the conservation activities, expressed similar sentiments:

When Arturo was in the presidency [in the 1990s], all of the biologists and ecologists would come to the municipal building to get official permission to carry out their activities in the area. They explained the purpose of their work, and explained why this valley was so important. That was how we knew what was happening and the importance of what we have here. We have been awakened by outsiders who come and tell us just how important this area is. Before there was so much poaching, but we are learning slowly to take care of what we have. (Interview with author; September, 2 2003)

One biologist helped develop a cactus nursery with a group of Zapotitecos who subsequently formed the Patronato para la Reserva Ecológica de Zapotitlán Salinas (Zapotitlán Salinas Ecological Reserve Board) in 1995. They secured government permits and received special training in propagating certain species with the intention of selling cacti to visitors. They hoped to reduce poaching of wild plants and the associated disturbance and erosion of the natural vegetation and, at the same time, generate income for themselves. Despite the successful propagation of some species and occasional plant sales to tourists, the cactus nursery never made enough money to cover the expenses of maintaining it. There was less demand for the plants than members of the patronato expected. When some members travelled to other plant nurseries in the state, they noticed that the nurseries already had plants from the Tehuacán region for sale. The members believed these plants were the result of previous poaching of the area's resources. As Cristóbal explained, "Everyone tells us that there is a market out there for the cacti we have here, but it seems like the market is saturated!" (Interview with author; September 2, 2003).

The two dozen or so men who formed the patronato worked in the town's onyx industry either as quarrymen or as employees in local workshops. When the local onyx industry was in decline, many of these men became increasingly involved in the biologists' activities (some were hired as seasonal field assistants), and learned about the various government agencies and international organisations sponsoring environmental conservation. Their enthusiasm for new local economic alternatives is understandable given the limited availability of local jobs. While some members of the patronato had small businesses in town, on the whole this group believed that the botanical garden would provide new economic opportunities. With the help of biologists, they formulated a long-term plan for the botanical garden that included hosting conferences, building cabins for visitors, remodelling the botanical garden's main buildings, starting a community museum, and doing other activities designed to turn the institution into a full-time education, conservation, and tourism centre.

We want to restore the buildings and then reticket a lot of the plants that are here. We have to fix everything first. We are thinking of starting a community craft shop to sell onyx crafts and a restaurant and a museum here in the building with fossils and photographs of all the species with a description and establish a nursery to sell plants. [We want] to have talks for students of all ages, to hold seminars with investigators, to sponsor a cultural week, to begin charging visitors, to start an ecotourist project. We want to construct cabins so that we can charge groups that come. (Ricardo; Interview with author; August 20, 2000)

In the summer of 2000, the members of the patronato had not found funding for these programmes but still held out hope. Their legacy to conservation programmes in Zapotitlán was marked by the fact that they championed the biologists' cause and convinced the community of the importance of the researchers' work. Through these personal relations, some developing into compadrazgo relations (fictive kin relations), the members of the patronato and others internalised the importance of the biological diversity of the region, as is evident from Cristóbal's and Carlos's earlier quotes. Investigators presented their research findings to residents during the town's patron saint festival. One member of the patronato co-authored a scientific paper with a biologist and was invited to attend a professional meeting. The friendly relationships forged between researchers and prominent locals were essential in some individuals' decisions to accept the researchers' presence in the town.

'We were never conquered'! Cultural meanings of the landscape

The territorialisation of the botanical garden by SEDUE governed the access and use of resources within the boundaries established by the management plan. The floristic and ecological knowledge of the region was incorporated into an administrative strategy for ecological conservation and local economic development. The biologists' management plans and research activities impacted the way the members of the patronato thought about, and engaged, their desert environment, as Ricardo's previous quote and the patronato's activities and plans indicate.

However, the administrative plans for the botanical garden were driven by more than the researchers' investigative objectives. In Zapotitlán, local people played an important role in constructing the perception of the biological and cultural landscape. The close relationships established between some members of the patronato and some researchers opened up a space for locals to share the town's rich oral history with the researchers. While Zapotitecos internalised the biological uniqueness of the region, they also disclosed to the researchers their deeply held beliefs about their pre-Hispanic ancestors.

Zapotitecos believed they were directly descended from an indigenous Popoloca noble, King Xapotl, who lived atop Cuthá, a hilltop archaeological site 2 km from the town (Castellón 2006). The oral history included the details of Xapotl's triumph in violent battles with neighbouring indigenous kingdoms that he outwitted and overpowered time and time again. When the Spanish arrived, Xapotl peacefully agreed to settle, along with his Popoloca subjects, in the location of present-day Zapotitlán. He was baptised, and the Spanish permitted Xapotl and his descendants to maintain control over Zapotitlán and nearby towns. His descendants eventually sold the lands to a group of residents in the mid-nineteenth century, and the papers from this sale are the basis for legitimising Zapotitecos' rights to 24,000 ha that presently constitute the town's lands (Lee 2008b). Zapotitecos emphatically repeated, 'We were never conquered!' referring to Xapotl's accommodation to Spanish rule rather than complete subjugation, which further legitimised their rights to their lands.

After the Mexican revolution (1910-1920), nearby towns attempting to break from Zapotitlán's political domination began to solicit the federal government for exclusive rights to agricultural lands controlled by Zapotitlán. After years of legal battles and a few violent conflicts, these towns succeeded in securing rights to land that was carved out of Zapotitlán's communal lands. This period coincided with the first school in Zapotitlán, whose teacher, Miguel Carrillo, taught the oral history to his pupils (Cossío 1939), thereby ensuring the transmission of ideas about legitimate rights to land to several generations of townspeople and reinforcing their political obligations to unite behind Zapotitlán's efforts to maintain control over its territory. During interviews and casual conversations in my fieldwork, Zapotitecos emphasised the continuity of the town's historic indigenous identity and their inalienable rights to the town's communal lands. 14 In 2003 and 2004, I witnessed three separate occasions where Zapotitecos actively mobilised to prevent a neighbouring town from taking control of tracts that Zapotitecos believed to be theirs. 15 Land as a productive resource for agricultural production and livestock grazing was less important in the local economy than migrant remittances in terms of sustaining local livelihoods (Lee 2008a, b). However, land rights as an integral aspect of local identity and as a potentially productive resource in tourism were paramount.

Zapotitecos incorporated their oral history and indigenous ancestors into a conservation and ecotourism discourse. In particular, biologists were impressed with the local oral tradition, which appeared in their theses and books. To take one example, in Las Plantas de la Región de Zapotitlán Salinas, Puebla (The Plants of the Zapotitlán Salinas, Puebla Region), in addition to compiling colour photographs and scientific and cultural information about more than 50 plants in the region, the authors included the lyrics for the song Que Lindo Es Mi Pueblo (How Beautiful Is My Town), a romantic and nostalgic piece celebrating the natural beauty of Zapotitlán (Arias Toledo et al. 2001). Two members of the patronato were credited with the song's compilation, and several other members were mentioned in the book's acknowledgements.

The juxtaposition of biological and cultural elements in a book dedicated to conservation was one illustration of the development of new meanings given to the landscape, one that was not entirely determined by the imperatives of biodiversity loss and ecological conservation. The relationships established between some residents and researchers contributed to the process of mutually weaving a narrative of the biological and cultural uniqueness of Zapotitlán, demonstrating the locals' agency in socially constructing the local ecotourism experience. The region's biological importance on a global scale was joined to an older discourse of Zapotitecos' claims to an indigenous identity and rightful ownership of land. The discourse was increasingly incorporated into the administration of Zapotitlán's natural resources, as discussed below. The development of the biological and cultural narrative, and the local support and internalisation of a certain vision of the landscape pointed to the fact that the way conservation developed in Zapotitlán was more about assimilation of, and accommodation to, conservation norms and practices rather than resistance (Wilshusen 2010).

Distrust of researchers: locals assert control over the botanical garden

From the late 1980s to the early 2000s, there was little progress made on developing the objectives set forth in the management plan. While biologists conducted research, Zapotitecos failed to find government or NGO support for the educational and community economic development aspects of the botanical garden, such as ecotourism. Frustration and distrust grew. The very process that served to raise consciousness about the ecological importance of the region and its flora led some to distrust anyone-including researchers with long-standing personal ties to the community-who arrived with a research agenda. The growth of environmental consciousness had unintended consequences for the researchers:

Some groups have had an awareness of the necessity to truly conserve and value what they have. Other groups have a similar awareness but in a negative sense such as 'don't touch these [plants] because these are my treasures and you [researchers] have come to harm them.' (Biologist; Interview with author; June 23, 2005).

The Zapotitecos' protectionist sentiments increased when reports surfaced about mismanagement of botanical garden funds. Villagers' reports of tourists or individuals posing as researchers stealing plants and seeds abounded. Further disillusionment ensued in the aftermath of an official visit by a member of Japan's royal family (Gómez Flores 1997). To comply with the diplomat's security requirements, government officials closed the event in the botanical garden to all Zapotitecos except for the communal land authorities and the municipal president. Residents interpreted this as closing off land that belonged to them, an exclusionary act which created additional tension between locals and government officials.

In 1999, when researchers from a Mexican university attempted to collect samples for an ex situ germplasm bank, some villagers denounced the acts, and the work was halted. Shortly after, villagers reclaimed the 100 ha from the Secretaria de Medio Ambiente, Recursos Naturales y Pesca (SEMARNAP; Secretary of Environment, Natural Resources, and Fisheries, the eventual replacement for SEDUE). 16 The government sign at the entrance to the botanical garden was replaced by one that read 'Land and Liberty, Commissary of Communal Lands, Zapotitlán Salinas, Botanical Garden and Cactus Nursery'. 'Land and Liberty'-the cry of landless peasants in the era of the Mexican revolution-unmistakably evoked the community's successful struggle with powerful outside forces-SEMARNAP-for control over its land, a sentiment that resonated with the town's oral history. Permission to conduct research had to be secured through the local agrarian officials. By that point, the government's neglect of the botanical garden during the preceding years was obvious.

There have been diverse institutions involved, but there has never been a real attempt to do a project. Everything is falling apart here, the doors are falling off, the windows are broken, the nursery doesn't work, there isn't enough space for all the plants, and some are having a tough time surviving. (Ricardo; Interview with author; August 20, 2000).

At this point in the botanical garden's history, the future looked rather bleak. Despite a lack of commitment for already-existing conservation programmes, the federal government had ambitious plans to territorialise a greater extension of land through the creation of the TCBR.

The TCBR: a legible landscape for international donors

By the early 1990s, it was evident to researchers that the area's flora and fauna warranted special protection. The Tehuacán region was included in a three-volume Smithsonian Institution publication that highlighted plant conservation priorities worldwide (Dávila and Herrera-MacBryde 1997). The dense stands of cacti in Zapotitlán's communal lands were considered some of the most important floristic zones in the region.

When biologists discovered that the construction of a new toll road from Tehuacán to Oaxaca City cut through some of the most important plant populations, they urged SEMARNAP to intervene in the highway's construction. Not only were thousands of square hectares of vegetation destroyed in the path of the highway, secondary routes were cleared to increase access to the construction sites and to collect sand from local sources to be used in the construction. These routes destroyed vegetation and opened up new areas to the illegal extraction of rare and endemic plants from the area. Eventually, the pace of construction work was slowed for a time to allow biologists to rescue the most important plants. One researcher described the process in the following way:

We went right in front of the bulldozers, before they destroyed the area, pulling out plants that we knew were endemic or had a restricted distribution, because we only had time for a selective rescue. We pulled them out, cleaned them, and ticketed them. It was exhausting, and some of our people were out there for 4 or 5 months straight; the rest of us went as often as we could. (Interview with author; August 15, 2000).

After the highway was built, a series of forums, discussions, and conferences ensued among researchers, SEMARNAP, and regional political figures, a process that some biologists believed reflected less a commitment to the conservation priorities established by scientists and more an opportunity to build political support for other initiatives. In the words of the then Governor of Oaxaca, the construction of the highway led to a 'rediscovery' of the natural and cultural diversity of the region and made evident the urgent need for a conservation project (Fundación ICA et al. 2001). In this way, the reserve was framed as a mitigation service to balance out the negative ecological effects of the construction of the highway (Igoe and Brockington 2007: 434).

The plans for the reserve, drawn up by SEMARNAP, included 490,000 ha and 230,000 people in 51 municipalities, making it one of the largest and most populated biospheres in Mexico. Some biologists did not recommend that SEMARNAP create a biosphere reserve, since the area that needed protection was densely populated. It might be difficult, if not impossible, they reasoned, to establish and complete conservation objectives too close to human settlements. They recommended that several smaller non-contiguous protection zones be established to include only the most threatened plant populations. However, representatives from SEMARNAP insisted on the biosphere reserve concept. Biologists were left with the impression that bureaucrats' interest in the reserve had less to do with concern about environmental conservation than with the reserve's ability to garner attention and funding. Territorialisation held promise to make the region and its people 'legible' (Scott 1998) to interested national and international funders.

The Global Environmental Facility, which had invested USD 25 million in the National Protected Areas programme beginning in 1992, was looking to extend its support to areas designated as conservation priorities (CONANP 2004). From an administrative perspective, the size of the TCBR needed to be substantial enough for it to attract funding. That objective was either more important than designing feasible conservation programmes or seen as a necessary step to ensuring long-term financial support of the reserve. The TCBR was formally decreed on September 18, 1998. This second step of territorialisation in Zapotitlán's conservation history absorbed all 24,000 ha of the town's communal lands within the reserve's boundaries [Figure 1]. Reserve employees and state officials saw the original ideas for the town's botanical garden, one that failed due to lack of funding, as a model for the types of programmes that could be established in other areas of the reserve.
Figure 1: The Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve

Click here to view


Resource use in the TCBR

Vandergeest and Peluso's (1995) third step in internal territorialisation-the designation of specific resource uses by public and private actors-developed over more than a decade. The size of the reserve, its limited budget, its ecological complexity, and the large number of researchers involved thwarted several attempts to formulate a management plan. The lack of guidelines governing the locals' resource use was compounded by the fact that local residents knew very little about the reserve in general, at least for the first few years. According to one biologist:

One of the greatest problems with the reserve was with the people of the communities. The reserve was something that [the bureaucrats] did in desks, in offices, and it never occurred to them to tell the people. The people in different communities started to worry, and they don't understand, and no one explains to them, this is still the problem today, what exactly the reserve means, and if they are still going to be able to cultivate, if they are going to take away their goats, or their lands, or if they are going to get certain subsidies… they just don't know anything. (Interview with author; August 15, 2000).

This biologist's sentiments were confirmed by my own preliminary research in Zapotitlán in the summer of 2000. By that time, a few communal meetings had been convened to explain the purpose and some of the regulations of the reserve. Residents learned that they could not cut down any living cacti or trees, that firewood had to be collected from plants that were already dead, and that there would be fines-in the range of several hundred pesos-for not complying with these new regulations. 17 Zapotitecos who wanted to clear lots for new houses had to pay for permission to cut down any important cacti species that they wanted to remove from their land. Whether people could continue grazing goats on communal land or clear land for corn production was unclear.

Some residents grew frustrated with regulations that did not appear to be linked in a clear way to a conservation plan. One resident complained of the way in which the reserve staff was out of touch with the reality of living in the town:

They tell us we can't collect firewood, only the dead wood, but we all collect wood and the countryside is exactly the same, it always grows back! Before people used to make charcoal and they cut down mesquite trees, but [the trees] are still there like new [he gestures toward the countryside]! Don't tell me that they have been finished off! They say the goats eat all the plants, but the goats have been here since the Spaniards! They came to protect something that already existed… they took control of something that was already in good condition. It's like this house here [he motioned to the one-room, cement-block structure]… how can someone simply plaster over it and then claim that they built the whole house? (Enrique; Interview with author; May 19, 2004).

Enrique did not believe that local people's subsistence activities had negative impacts on the landscape. For him, it was precisely these human-environment interactions that gave the landscape its current appearance, an appearance whose visual distinctness was promoted by the reserve to attract visitors.

Despite these objections, the overall number of people who were concerned about how restrictive policies would affect their livelihoods was probably not that large. In 2011, only 5% of adults stated agriculture as their full-time occupation. 18 This does not, however, include an unknown number of individuals who may have engaged in agriculture as a supplementary activity and who stated another occupation as their principal economic activity. In any event, most Zapotitecos earned their living through non-agricultural wage work.

A management plan which stated which activities were permitted or prohibited in certain zones in the reserve, and the applicable laws and enforcement mechanisms related to these activities was finally published in June 2012 (Secretaria de Gobernación 2012). However, before the management plan was made official, posters explaining the biology of particular plants, the ecological and legal problems of poaching, how to separate trash for recycling, and a host of other topics appeared in Zapotitlán's restaurants, shops, municipal building, and other public places. Created by the reserve staff, these posters were an important vehicle through which information about the reserve was disseminated to the public.

Production of an ecotourist product

In 2000, the buzz surrounding the reserve was focused on the development of a management plan and restrictions on human activity; from 2003 to 2004, the predominant theme in discussions about the reserve was ecotourism. The main reason for this change was funding from GEF to the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP; National Commission of Natural Protected Areas), some of which was channelled into the TCBR. Funds supported an increase in paid staff (from 5 in 2000 to 13 in 2003) and a larger operating budget. Felipe, a local agrarian official in the early 2000s, began to implement many of the patronato's plans with help from his contacts with biosphere officials and access to funding. He promoted the development of tourist infrastructure in the botanical garden-remodelling of bathrooms and the museum, construction of observation towers and cabins, and the installation of signs with educational information for the museum and throughout the garden. Felipe agreed to host reserve-sponsored workshops for interested locals that aimed to professionalise tourist services throughout the reserve. The workshops emphasised the idea that better tourist services were the first step in attracting more visitors, and represented one way that the state, with guidance and funds from GEF, participated in the process of remaking local environments and peoples into tourist objects (Urry 1992: 23; Selwyn 1996).

Felipe prioritised creating a viable tourist experience. A stay in the red brick cabins, built several hundred meters from the highway behind the botanical garden, imparted a sense of being immersed in a desert wilderness. The town, 2 km away, was out of sight, and its noises failed to reach the cabin area. Mountains covered with dense stands of columnar cacti surrounded the cabins. In the morning, the constant chatter of birds could be heard in the distance. Occasional breezes during the day meandered through the valleys, creating a pleasant break in the stillness of the desert. From several lookouts near the cabin, visitors could see above the tops of mesquite trees and columnar cacti and take in the vastness of desert expanse. From this vantage point, the town came into view as a picturesque rural community, its hustle and bustle far from tourists' sensory experience.

For those tourists who did not stay in town overnight, the botanical garden and its museum were the main attractions. Guided tours in the botanical garden introduced visitors to the diverse forms of plants found in Zapotitlán, as well as some of their traditional uses as food and medicine. At the entrance to the museum, a poster labelled 'Tourist Destinations' displayed pictures of a dozen places in the town's communal lands that could be explored by additional guided tours. These included Cuthá, the hilltop archaeological site where King Xapotl lived before the Spaniards arrived; unusual rock formations; fossil deposits; and a waterfall. Colour photographs of vast stands of columnar cacti, multicoloured insects, bats, and birds adorned the walls of the museum. A few glass tanks holding snakes and other reptiles were placed on wooden tables next to one wall of the museum so visitors could examine wildlife at close range. Plaques adjacent to the pictures and tanks detailed scientific information about the desert species, as well as the local names and traditional uses of each plant and animal. A collection of sea fossils and a replica of a Pleistocene fossilised bone extended the temporal dimension of the museum farther into the past. A guest registry indicated that the majority of tourists were Mexicans from nearby states, although there were significant numbers from other European countries, and the United States, and a few from South America. According to the workers who collected entrance fees (approximately 2 USD in 2008), from September 2007 to August 2008, the garden received approximately 8,000 visitors; 10% were foreigners. Entrance fees were controlled by the local agrarian authorities and provided the funds for the few part-time (6-mostly tour guides) and 3 full-time employees in the botanical garden.

Across the room, posters on the wall explained the process of salt production by evaporation employed locally for centuries. In one corner, maguey fibres fastened together columnar cacti ribs to demonstrate the construction process of a traditional house, a technique thought to have been used since pre-Hispanic times (Castellón 2006). Arranged on the floor, woven mats, ceramic pots, metates (stone tools for processing maize), and other cultural artefacts signified deep-rooted local indigenous traditions. A map of Cuthá was displayed in the middle of the room and accompanied by information about the site as the origin of ancient peoples who descended the mountain and founded Zapotitlán.

Hoping to develop other services for ecotourists in town, Felipe invested his earnings into a restaurant. He planned to provide meals that were 'typical' of the region-seasonal worms, flowers, herbs, and cacti fruit prepared in traditional ways. A large metal sign outside the restaurant by the side of the highway advertised these exotic delicacies.

The interior of the restaurant included a bar made out of cacti ribs, using the technique of traditional house construction. On one wall of the restaurant hung a large topographical map of the Zapotitlán Valley. Felipe had drawn a circle around a sizeable portion of the map that cut across the numbers and lines precisely measuring depressions and rises in the landscape. 'King Xapotl's 24,000 ha: Zapotitlán's Communal Lands' was handwritten in Spanish across the top of the map, invoking the town's indigenous past and connecting it to the biophysical environment.

As with the botanical garden, references to the native flora and fauna, and their uses as food and construction materials in the daily life of residents, the oral tradition invoking the region's indigenous past, and rightful ownership of the land by Zapotitlán's residents converged in the design of the restaurant. By actively bringing these elements together, Felipe hoped to shape locals' and tourists' understandings of the landscape. At the same time, he hoped to incorporate this same vision into the community museum he was building in the centre of town. The museum, he explained, would feature fossils, a history of local salt production, different cacti species, and the history of King Xapotl and the Popoloca people.

I feel proud to be descended from Popoloca-Mixtecos! Surely they were intelligent people. That's what the Mexican has: identity. First, the Aztecs, then those from Teotihuacan, the Olmecs, and Monte Alban. Here we have the Popoloca. In the museum that we are building, I want to make a model of Cuthá and all its buildings. I know I am dreaming, but that's what I want to do in time for the town's [patron saint] festival. (Interview with author; September 3, 2003).

The community museum would not only represent Felipe's political legacy as an agrarian official but also integrate more local space into ecotourist consumption. In the botanical garden, the restaurant, and the plans for the community museum, cultural identity as understood through oral tradition was combined with the discourse of Zapotitlán as a biologically unique place. The new vision of the landscape as a global centre of plant diversity and the stage for local indigenous history was unmistakably packaged for the consumption of tourists.

From Felipe's infrastructural and ideological foundations, cacti (once plantas cualquieras) and indigenous culture became prominent features of Zapotitlán's identity. In 2003, officials planted the newly remodelled courtyard of the church and the patio of the municipal offices with several species of cacti. In the same year, a large painting of the local desert landscape hung on the outside of the municipal building and formed the backdrop for the official town celebration of the Mexican Independence Day. Beginning in 2007, an NGO, the reserve, and other government dependencies introduced dozens of projects associated with the environment and/or indigenous culture related either to creating services or products for tourists or for local peoples' benefit-ecological bathrooms, cosmetics made from local plants, artisanal salt production, bicycle tours of a local trout farm, and ice cream with pre-Hispanic flavours were just a few examples of the variety of initiatives in which local people were encouraged to participate.

Working independently of official funding, a few entrepreneurial individuals (most were return migrants from the United States) attempted to insert themselves strategically into local tourism by establishing hotels and restaurants. A few of these establishments survived the vagaries of tourist flows by catering to other types of clients (such as truck drivers passing through on the highway or the business generated by local weddings, for example); others closed only a few months after opening-a common result of a quickly saturated local market.

By drawing off the town's rich folkloric tradition and biological information about the region's unique flora and fauna, residents actively collaborated with biologists

and government agents in the production of an exotic notion of place. Forests of cacti inhabited prehistorically by indigenous Popoloca peoples became a shorthand description for the aspects of the Zapotitlán Valley on offer to ecotourists. In Zapotitlán, the land-rights discourse worked well as an indigenous stereotype to attract tourists. It operated as an 'authentic identity', produced in interaction between tourists and hosts, that contributed to an exotic natural and cultural product that corresponded with ecotourists' desires (Robbins and Fraser 2003; Carrier and Macleod 2005; Machuca 2008). Brochures, posters, and exhibits in the botanical garden museum were vehicles through which these images and ideas were portrayed to visitors. Western concepts of wilderness as pristine nature, undisturbed by human intervention (Gómez-Pompa and Kaus 1992), merged with the exotic appeal of the 'Other'-in this instance represented by the historical existence and traditions of Popoloca peoples-into an ecotourist product (Vivanco 2001; Robbins and Fraser 2003).

On the whole, the botanical garden and the related tourism services that sprung up in town represented a significant income for a very few people (the local agrarian authorities-during their 3 year period in office-and a dozen other people with successful restaurants, hotels or shops along the highway), and a complementary, intermittent, and very modest income for several dozen others (tour guides, artisans, and participants in tourism-related projects sponsored by NGOs or the reserve). It was difficult to imagine that tourism activities would ever rival the economic contribution that remittances from international migration made to household livelihoods.

However limited the local economic impact of Zapotitlán's botanical garden, it was another destination for the millions of visitors that Mexico receives each year. It was successfully integrated into the lower rungs of a hierarchical tourism industry which diversified tourist products in order to maintain the country's competitive advantage as a tourist destination, and fortified regimes of accumulation associated with one of the country's key economic sectors.


   Conclusions Top


While a few conflicts developed during the territorialisation of the botanical garden and the TCBR in Zapotitlán, observations made over the course of a decade indicate that local people generally accept the conservation paradigm. There are at least four factors that contribute to this favourable attitude toward conservation. First, although the botanical garden was initially administered by the federal government, the community regained and has retained control of it since the late 1990s. When GEF funding was made available, the local agrarian authorities improved the infrastructure in order to attract more tourists. Entrance fees were administered by local agrarian authorities and benefited those who work in the garden. It is important to note, however, that this occasioned conflicts within the community among those that believed the garden was a public resource because it occupied communal lands. In this sense, the local agrarian authorities were viewed as benefiting personally from what was considered by some to be public funds.

A second point, closely related to the first, is that local history was included in the conservation process. The Zapotitecos' legitimate land rights, based on linkages with indigenous pre-Hispanic ancestors, were incorporated not only into biologists' vision of the landscape but also the ecotourism project associated with the botanical garden. Local people could not be easily disregarded or erased, as their history was intertwined with the biophysical environment in conservation or tourism activities.

The third reason that conservation was generally accepted is related to the fact that property regimes did not change in the process of territorialising the conservation spaces. Although the Mexican constitution allowed communal land to be divided into private parcels which can, in turn, be sold to individuals who may or may not be local residents, Zapotitecos flatly rejected the land-titling programme, PROCEDE, in 2004, thereby blocking any initiative to privatise land. Although local disputes over land and other resources existed, these disputes were generally settled through local assemblies. Neither conservation projects nor ecotourism initiatives, therefore, occasioned enclosures of communal land.

Finally, it must be emphasised that conservation and tourism arrived to a town which was increasingly proletarianised through neoliberal policies which encouraged international migration to the United States, and non-agricultural wage work in local and regional assembly-for-export factories. Restaurants, a variety of shops and other commercial activities also employed non-migrants who lived in Zapotitlán. Only a small minority of people were involved in agriculture. Restrictions on the use of specific plants and ecological zones or clearing land for corn production, therefore, did not disrupt the livelihood activities of the vast majority of Zapotitecos, although this may not be the case for other communities in the TCBR.

The general acceptance of conservation in Zapotitlán contrasts with other cases in Mexico where territorialisation of conservation spaces has been marked by conflict and enclosures (Harvey 2001; Ervine 2011). Although writing from a different historical context, Sivaramakrishnan (1997) reminds us that regional variations in territorialisation reveal "diverse accommodations" within the process of state formation. Although conservation geographies are expanding throughout Mexico, the different combinations and degrees of resistance and accommodation signal variation within the reorganisation of state power and activities associated with conservation in the neoliberal era.[82]


   Acknowledgements Top


The research presented here has been generously funded by the Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Research Abroad Programme, a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant (Award ID Number 0314250), a University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UCMEXUS) Dissertation Research Grant, the University of California Office of the President's Pacific Rim Research Programme, a University of California, Riverside Graduate Dean's Dissertation Research Grant, and a grant from the Mexican Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT CB-2008-01-00102222). I am very grateful for the support of these organisations. The opinions expressed in this paper, however, are mine and do not reflect the opinions of these funding organisations. I would also like to thank the many people I interviewed during the various periods of research. Teresa Salomon kindly produced the map of the reserve. Lisa Meierotto, Ricardo Macip, Nicole Hirschman, and two anonymous reviewers graciously provided constructive comments on an earlier draft of this paper. I am also grateful to the editor of this special section of Conservation and Society, Lisa Campbell, for her invaluable advice and guidance. All errors are my responsibility.


   Notes Top


  1. Mexican migration to the United States began after the Mexican-American war (1846-1848). In 1980, there were 2.2 million Mexicans in the United States. Just 30 years later-in 2010-of the 12 million Mexican-born persons (one in 10 Mexican citizens) living in the United States, approximately half of them were in the country without authorisation (Passel et al. 2012). These figures show the tremendous increase in Mexican migration since the implementation of neoliberal policies in Mexico.
  2. I use the term "municipality" as a rough translation of the territorial and political designation of a municipio, a Spanish term signifying a level of governance that includes several hamlets, towns or a city in Mexico.
  3. In Zapotitlán, titles were drawn up and enforced by local agrarian authorities who often demonstrated preferences for certain individuals within their personal or political networks. As a result, the boundaries of many properties were in dispute or the title for a property was held by two claimants who had obtained their titles from different agrarian authorities. Some believed PROCEDE presented an opportunity to obtain secure titles from the federal government. With official titles, villagers would be in a position to sell their land to non-villagers without fear of another party claiming ownership.
  4. The reasons why residents rejected the programme are complex (Lee 2008b: 134-136). Ultimately, however, Zapotitecos preferred settling disputes among themselves through the local communal assembly led by local agrarian authorities rather than transferring them to the state agrarian tribunals.
  5. Vandergeest and Peluso (1995) name this phase "functional territorialization". It involves controlling what people do, according to detailed land classification criteria. In their example of Thailand, this involved creating wildlife sanctuaries and national parks from forest land. Logging concessions were prohibited, and the military was used to enforce the restriction on logging.
  6. Non-agricultural wage work is available primarily in the maquiladora sector in Tehuacán (with some small maquilas operating in Zapotitlán) whose assembly-for-export process entails the production of brand-name clothing for United States markets (Barrios-Hernández and Hernández 2003; Fitting 2011).
  7. These sights are not without their contradictions. A number of social and environmental problems have been documented including displacement of indigenous populations, lack of benefit sharing, environmental damage, and militarisation of tourist zones (Guzmán 2008; Machuca 2008; Trench 2008).
  8. Although Zapotitlán's botanical garden has been a focal point of the reserve since its inception, generalisations to other ecotourism sites within the reserve should be made cautiously. The reserve covers a great deal of territory which is ecologically, economically, and culturally diverse.
  9. Research conducted in 2011 and 2012 was part of a multiple-community study on household and community responses to global economic crisis funded by the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT; Mexican Council for Science and Technology). Our findings include an increased rate of return among international migrants. Several return migrants have inserted themselves in the local tourism industry as restaurant and hotel owners or tour guides.
  10. Various types of travertine rocks and a few types of marble extracted in local quarries were used in the manufacture of handicrafts. I use the colloquial term "onyx" to refer to this group of rocks.
  11. Real disposable income per capita fell 5% each year between 1983 and 1988 (U.S. Library of Congress 1996), while from 1980 to 1987 the minimum wage fell 40% and the average wage 25% percent (Morley and Diáz-Bonilla 2004: 6).
  12. I have changed all names to protect individuals' identities.
  13. Beaucarnea gracilis and several other species of cacti were propagated locally in the botanical garden and in private nurseries for sale beginning in the early 2000s. Their inexpensive price made them widely accessible to visitors and perhaps contributed to a decreased rate of poaching from existing populations in the desert. Since the mid-2000s, there were efforts to restore areas that had suffered from poaching by using propagated species. Fossils, however, continued to be poached by visitors according to interviews with residents in 2011 and 2012. Local tour guides' supervision of visitors helped in ensuring that fossils did not leave the area; however, not all areas of the region were under continuous surveillance.
  14. Castellón (2006) notes that the details of the town's oral history are not consistent with the archaeological record. For Zapotitecos, however, it is an important legend that explains the origin of their town and identity.
  15. These mobilisations were linked to the land-titling programme, PROCEDE, mentioned earlier in the text. In order for PROCEDE to be implemented, the decades-old conflict over boundaries with a neighboring town, Los Reyes Metzontla, had to be settled. In 2003-2004, the local agrarian officials used communal meetings to build consensus in support of the programme and rally residents to accompany government surveyors to the disputed tracts of land. Zapotitecos blocked the highway running through town to drum up support for their case against the neighboring town. Finally, a mass and party were organised to celebrate the 'victory' of Zapotitecos in the settlement of the dispute (July 2004). While local people welcomed the end to the dispute with Metzontla, they eventually decided against the land-titling programme.
  16. Mexico's first environmental regulatory agency, the Secretaria de Desarollo Urbano y Ecologia (SEDUE), was created in 1982. In 1992, SEDUE was abolished, and the Secretaria de Desarollo Social (SEDESOL; Secretariat of Social Development) was created and assumed all the environmental responsibilities assigned previously to SEDUE. In 1994, the SEMARNAP was created and took over the environmental mandate of SEDESOL. SEMARNAP changed its name in 2000 to Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT; Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources) when Vicente Fox became president.
  17. These fines could total USD 40-50, equivalent to a week's salary for local workers.
  18. This figure is from a survey (25% sample of households) used in the migration project mentioned in note 9.


 
   References Top

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