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The Role of the Mexican State in the Development of Chicle Extraction in Yucatán, and the Continuing Importance of Coyotaje

  • OSCAR A. FORERO (a1) and MICHAEL R. REDCLIFT (a1)

Abstract

Most commentaries on the development of chicle (natural chewing gum) in the Yucatán Peninsula have emphasised the connections that were maintained between the chicle entrepreneurs and the companies, like William Wrigley's, which bought the raw gum for processing. The Mexican state is usually depicted as seeking to protect vulnerable forest workers from exploitation by foreign entrepreneurs and the vicissitudes of the free market. Our research, which uses archive material from Mexico City and Chetumal, interviews with former chicleros and entrepreneurs, as well as field research in Quintana Roo, suggests a slightly different interpretation. The Mexican state, far from contributing to the demise of personalistic relations (coyotaje) actually used these forms of mediation to manage and control the producers. The vulnerability of the chicleros to the full effect of market forces, their lack of physical and financial security, as well as corruption among some of the leaders of the cooperative movement, have all contributed to the continuance of coyotaje, often tacitly supported by state institutions. The article goes on to show that the need to meet demanding product and environmental standards, to achieve ‘certification’ as producers of a natural forest product, have compounded the problems of chicle producers today.

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The research which forms the basis of much of this article was conducted under an ESRC/AHRC grant from the ‘Cultures of Consumption’ programme from 2003–2005.

Footnotes

The Role of the Mexican State in the Development of Chicle Extraction in Yucatán, and the Continuing Importance of Coyotaje

  • OSCAR A. FORERO (a1) and MICHAEL R. REDCLIFT (a1)

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