Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
A Return to Servitude

A Return to Servitude: Maya Migration and the Tourist Trade in Cancún

M. Bianet Castellanos
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    A Return to Servitude
    Book Description:

    A Return to Servitude is an ethnography of Maya migration within Mexico that analyzes the foundational role indigenous peoples play in the development of the modern nation-state. Focusing on tourism in the Yucatán Peninsula, M. Bianet Castellanos demonstrates how indigenous communities experience, resist, and accommodate themselves to transnational capitalism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7499-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Phantoms of Modernity
    (pp. xv-xliv)

    My first visit to Cancún in July 1991 was a respite from fieldwork. After six weeks learning the Yucatec Maya language and working on an ethnographic project on marriage practices in “Kuchmil,” a rural Maya village that lacked indoor plumbing and running water, I longed to speak English and eat hamburgers at McDonald’s.¹ In Cancún, I sunbathed by the pool of the luxurious Fiesta Americana Condesa hotel, snorkeled in the warm Caribbean, and haggled over prices in the artisan markets. Vacationing Mexicans and Americans crowded the streets and shops, while Maya migrants employed in hotels and restaurants attended to these...

  6. 1 Devotees of the Santa Cruz: Two Family Histories
    (pp. 1-17)

    “Only themontewas left behind by the people, who long ago, left their pueblos—los grandes montes. They [the hacienda owners] gave themlibertad, freedom, so they began to come here to cultivate the forest. That is how the people began to arrive here,” explained don José Can Pat.¹ Born in 1910, the first year of the Mexican Revolution, don José was the oldest resident in Kuchmil and the son of don Francisco Can Chi, the first settler in Kuchmil since the Caste War of 1847, a civil war fought between Yucatecan elites and Maya peasants and farmers in...

  7. 2 Modernizing Indigenous Communities: Agrarian Reform and the Cultural Missions
    (pp. 18-42)

    In 1998, to track Kuchmil residents’ births, deaths, marital statuses, and educational backgrounds, I created a formal household survey questionnaire.¹ As I scheduled appointments and walked around with my survey and tape recorder, the residents, who had willingly answered my informal questions in the past, hesitated to participate in a formal survey and have their words recorded. Recalling their ancestors’ experiences after the Caste War, a few residents suspected that I was a government spy. In the early twentieth century, the Mexican government relied on military occupation to gain control of the southeastern territory occupied by Maya rebels, but after...

  8. 3 Indigenous Education, Adolescent Migration, and Wage Labor
    (pp. 43-76)

    Jesús May Pat does not know how to make milpa. He left Kuchmil at ten years of age to attend acasa escuela(boarding school) in the town of Maxcanú, located at least a full day’s travel from Kuchmil. Initially, his parents, don Jorge and doña Berta, refused Jesús’s request to attend this school because, as the eldest son, his labor was needed in the milpa. Jesús asked his uncle, who planned to send his two eldest sons to the casa escuela, to convince his parents to let him go. A scholarship from the Ministry of Education paid for boarding...

  9. 4 Civilizing Bodies: Learning to Labor in Cancún
    (pp. 77-109)

    On an intensely humid and sunny afternoon in August 2001, I followed César Can Poot (don Dani’s nephew) along a dusty unpaved road. At my request, César showed me the way to Reynaldo May Kauil’s house, all the while indicating physical markers that I could later use as guideposts. César’s work schedule for this month prohibited us from taking ouršíimb’al(walk) during a cooler time of day.¹ He worked nights as a bartender in a five-star hotel in Cancún, which meant that he spent the morning hours catching up on his sleep. I found César still sleeping when I...

  10. 5 Gustos, Goods, and Gender: Reproducing Maya Social Relations
    (pp. 110-140)

    In Cancún, migrants informed me, “todo es comprado” (everything must be purchased), such as water, food, housing, furniture, and so forth (see Re Cruz 2003); unlike in Kuchmil, where residents grow their own food, do not pay rent, use natural resources to build their homes, and receive government subsidies to pay for water usage, school supplies, and corn production. Lacking similar resources in Cancún, working-class migrants find it difficult to survive on minimum-wage salaries. Daily expenses such as food and transportation, monthly housing and utility bills, and costs associated with unexpected health crises consume migrant wages. To feed and clothe...

  11. 6 Becoming Chingón/a: Maya Subjectivity, Development Narratives, and the Limits of Progress
    (pp. 141-162)

    Faced with limited social mobility and job opportunities, Maya migrants have not uniformly experienced the salvation inherent in Cancún’s tale of development. Not surprisingly, the new locations (social, economic, and political) that Maya communities find themselves in can be disorienting and depressing. Cultural critics Lisa Lowe and David Lloyd suggest that placing these (dis)locations within the frame of the “progressive narrative of Western developmentalism” results in the perpetuation of assimilation models that cannot explain nor contain the social formations actually produced (1997, 5). Rather, it is more productive to examine the “contradictions that emerge between capitalist formations and the social...

  12. 7 The Phantom City: Rethinking Tourism as Development after Hurricane Wilma
    (pp. 163-177)

    They had been warned. Trucks with loudspeakers had driven through the regiones a few days before. Disembodied voices advised people where to go for refuge if they did not live in concrete-block homes. Radio broadcasts, televised news programs, and leaflets distributed throughout the regiones provided detailed instructions on how to prepare for the hurricane. Residents were advised to stock up on canned foods, bottled water, batteries, and candles. They were reminded to seal windows and doors. Some people heeded these warnings. Others did not.

    Residents who live in hurricane-prone regions can become desensitized to such warnings. In September 2000, while...

  13. Epilogue: Resurrecting Phantoms, Resisting Neoliberalism
    (pp. 178-182)

    I would like to conclude this book by addressing Rubén’s and Leonardo’s concerns about the future viability of rural indigenous communities, especially in light of neoliberal projects like NAFTA and the Proyecto Mesoamérica (formerly known as the Plan Puebla Panamá).¹ Will they become fantasmas (phantoms)? This process of assimilation has been critically debated over the last fifty years by Mexican anthropologists and institutions working with indigenous communities, particularly as indigenous migration to Mexican cities and the United States has increased steadily. Yet this may be the wrong question to pose. Rubén’s concerns are grounded in a deterministic evolutionary model of...

  14. Appendix: Kin Chart of Can Tun and May Pat Families
    (pp. 183-184)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 185-206)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-230)
  17. Index
    (pp. 231-259)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 260-260)