Jun 16 2011
In 1997 writer and grassroots organizer Wendy Call was burned out and disheartened by the meager accomplishments of her efforts. In seeking new models of organizing Call was drawn to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a southern region in Mexico rich with a history of resistance. The Isthmus is a narrow stretch of fertile land bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, earning it the nickname, “Mexico’s little waist”. Outsiders have tried to wrest control from the area’s indigenous communties the of its natrual resources for centuries, yet the communities have managed to resist many of the advances. The Isthmus culture is interwoven into Mexico’s greater cultural imagination. Frida Kahlo was inspired by the areas iconography, including the women’s dress. Wendy Call describes the Isthmus of Tehuantepec as “the place the Spanish never truly conquered, the place where women command economic power, the place where globalization is embraced and rejected with equal force.” When a mega-industrial corridor was proposed in the late 1990′s, with plans for two dozen petrochemical plants, refineries, shrimp processing plants and a multi-lane highway, the local indigenous people fought back, fearing they would loose their identity – and their dignity – if they lost their land. But not everyone rejected the goals of the project. Some saw room for opportunity and called for “green” development, not “concrete” development. The community’s process of formulating a plan of action was an eye opener for Call. She had never seen such a diverse group of people come together to debate their options. Call’s new book, No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy, is the result of a decade of research. No Word For Welcome is written with an attention to narrative and prose that is rare among non-fiction works. It is not only highly informative, but also engaging and personal. In light of current attempts by the US government to enter into NAFTA-like free trade agreements with nations around the world, the people of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec have much to teach us about human side of globalization.
GUEST: Wendy Call, author of No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy, essayist, and a translator of Mexican poetry and short fiction