“Corn is food, not contraband”: The right to “free trade” at the Mexico–Guatemala border

by Rebecca B. Galemba

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By Rebecca B. GalembaFull Article: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1548-1425.2012.01391.x/abstract

With no local outlet to sell their corn harvests as a result of neoliberal policies, residents on the Mexico–Guatemala border pursued an alternative strategy. They mobilized to smuggle corn from Mexico to Guatemala and asserted that this constituted legitimate "free trade." Residents reinterpreted free trade to imply their right to "freely" sell corn over the border, thereby challenging the implications of official free-trade policies that were anything but free. Yet, as locals participate in this growing trade and negotiate with state officials, they may contribute to the neoliberal economic dynamics, increasing regional inequalities, and patron–client state relations they otherwise protest.

Guatemala - Photo by Rebecca Galemba.
Guatemala - Photo by Rebecca Galemba.

Cargo loaders wait for truckers at a corn depot in Guatemalan border community.
Photo by Rebecca Galemba.