The impact of neoliberal policies on rural producers in Oaxaca, Mexico

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


My wife comes from Juquila, a coffee-producing region of Oaxaca, so I hear little things from the family, like coffee prices were so bad this year that it didn't even pay to harvest the beans or that two of the people who died in the World Trade Center came from Panixtlahuaca, a Chatino village of small coffee growers. When I first did fieldwork among the Chatino, only a handful of them lived outside the district, let alone in America. Now my wife tells me that the line in front of the telegraph office of people picking up remittance checks is blocks long every Saturday, market day. These little incidents combined with the fact that we haven't been able to get decent coffee from her village in years-which had some of the best coffee I have ever tasted-are merely symptoms of the profound problems that are transforming rural livelihoods in Mexico. In this chapter I argue that such problems are closely tied to the sea change we know as neoliberalism. These policies entail a fundamental reversal in the state's relationship with smallholders. Where the Mexican Revolution sought to protect the interests of peasant smallholders, the neoclassical view is that small farms are inefficient. In line with these views, the government has sought to restructure land tenure in the countryside and to change the ways agricultural production is financed (Hausermann and Eakin 2008:110-111). The intent of these policies is to modernize and increase production, as well as drive noncompetitive producers into other pursuits (Martínez-Torres 2004:172-175). In this chapter, using Chatino and Mixe coffee growers as examples, I try to show how neoliberal policies have changed the way credit is provided to small producers and how this has changed their livelihoods. Specifically, I attempt to show how such changes have contributed to the outflow of migrants from these areas and estimate the levels of expulsion. Although I have picked the Chatino and Mixe, because they are the groups I have worked with and know best, in many ways they are typical small coffee producers. Coffee is grown in 4,500 communities in twelve states (Calo and Wise 2005:15). Sixty percent of coffee producers live in indigenous communities, and most farm less than two hectares of coffee (Davidson 2005).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNeoliberalism and Commodity Production in Mexico
PublisherUniversity Press of Colorado
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9781607321712
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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