December 9, 2020
November 26, 2020
Abstract: Environmental Violence and the Socio-environmental (de)Evolution of a Landscape in the San Quintín Valley
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"The social and environmental effects of industrial agriculture in the San Quintín Valley of Baja California are closely related. An environmental history of the valley from European contact to the present demonstrates that modern schemes of globalized agricultural production erode biological diversity while fostering labor exploitation. A critical model drawing on the concept of environmental violence— historically structured asymmetrical power relations that are reproduced and maintained to foster capital accumulation—describes how neoliberalism shapes and exploits agro-industrial landscapes and livelihoods in San Quintín to produce a crisis of underproduction.
November 24, 2020
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The disappearance of 43 students of the teachers’ training college at Ayotzinapa in 2014 has inspired a broad social movement. Ethnographic work and interviews conducted at several of the demonstrations to show solidarity with the parents of the students reveal that their forced disappearance has been framed by participants as a collective cultural trauma. The politicization of this trauma has led to a change in the relationship between citizens and public institutions and produced a new social narrative.
November 19, 2020
Abstract: Enrique Mendieta and the Ghosts of Leftism Past: The Aftereffects of Mexico’s Dirty War in Élmer Mendoza’s Detective Fiction
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The continuance of the revolutionary strife of Mexico’s dirty war into the present day, both as a legacy and in the form of its survivors, resonates strongly in the work of the novelist Élmer Mendoza. Mendoza’s early novel Janis Joplin’s Lover uses its protagonist to portray a 1970s Mexico torn between a revolutionary path of collective social amelioration and the corrupt, mercenary self-interest embodied by Mexican narco-traffickers, with the country pushed toward the latter through the repression of student activists by the Mexican state. Mendoza’s five subsequent novels that center on the exploits of detective Lefty Mendieta focus on the fallout from this period of repression, using the figure of Lefty’s brother Enrique, a former leftist guerrilla, to represent a lost (but not totally lost) egalitarian and socially just alternative to the neoliberal political economy that has ravaged the living conditions of most Mexicans for almost four decades.
November 17, 2020
Abstract: Fast-track Redevelopment and Slow-track Regularization: The Uneven Geographies of Spatial Regulation in Mexico City
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Some of the increasingly evident contradictions between spatial planning and social policy in Mexico City are apparent in the way land use regulation folds into and articulates with exclusion and marginality. In downtown areas, regulatory approvals and various planning measures have facilitated the escalation of land and housing prices and more exclusionary forms of urban development. At the periphery, land use regulation now conditions access to urban services, property titles, and even some social programs for settlement areas designated as “informal.” Comparing the state’s role in planning at these distinct sites uncovers a pattern of selective and uneven spatial regulation in different socioeconomic territories of the city, characterized by “fast-track” development approvals in downtown areas and “slow-track” regularization of settlements in peripheral areas. The analysis suggests how this pattern of uneven spatial regulation contributes to (re)producing urban space in ways that call into question the local government’s stated support for the “right to the city.”
November 13, 2020
By Ingrid Rafaele Rodrigues Leiria*
1. Overview of Brazilian Case
At the beginning of 2020, Brazil and the world were surprised by the presence of a new virus, the SARS-CoV-2, known as COVID-19. By the first half of 2020, the virus had led to the infection of millions of people and the death of thousands worldwide. COVID-19 is easily transmitted, therefore a need for high prevention, frequent hand hygiene, and the use of facial masks by the population (WHO, 2020). However, when we look at the Brazilian case, there is a lot of social-economic problems that may restrict virus prevention and allow it to scatter among people even quickly. Economic inequality can be translated into an inequality in access to water and sanitation, increasing risks of disease transmission (UNESCO, UN-Water, 2020). Worldwide in 2019, 26.1 percent of the global population, did not have access to handwashing with available soap and clean water (Brauer et at., 2020). In 2018, around 32 percent of Brazilians households did not have access to basic sanitation treatment and 6.8 percent of the population with 15-year-old or up were illiterate. In urban parts of Brazil due to an accelerated and not well-implemented urbanization program, it is possible to come across slums also known as “favelas” spread around Brazilian cities. These small districts are characterized as an inequality reflection of the rapid urbanization, which led to a lack of infrastructure planning to receive citizens coming from more remote areas that were looking for job opportunities in big capitals. The residents of peripheries and favelas, as well as homeless people, are those who suffer most from such inequality. In this context, it is essential to have drinkable water, sanitation, and other basic needs as part of the state of welfare and public policies. Due to this social context, it is significant to discuss the effects of social programs active in Brazil in order to focus on the importance of socio-economic development policy — not only emphasizing on times of a pandemic but also to highlight the need for socio-economic inclusion for sustainable development.
2 Welfare State Programs in Brazil: Beyond Income
The definition of the Welfare State has been a matter of discussion throughout the years between scholars. The concept has changed accordingly to its different phases, programs, and countries. The same understandings adapted in Europe was not the same applied in the United States and also differed from those applied in Latin America. But considering all the changes that a state of welfare can generate in society, most of the welfare state’s definitions are related to a mix of economic and social changes. Among the economic changes are the measures looking for the eradication of poverty and the diminishing of unemployment. And in the social changes could be possible to discuss the equality of opportunity through, habitation, educational and political reforms. This joint of changes could lead to a social and economic transformation lead by the government concerning to recognize the welfare aspirations of its citizens, facilitating the access to health, education, and welfare to all of those in need.
According to The United Nations International Children's Fund - UNICEF (2018) 34.3 percent of children and adolescents live in households with insufficient per capita income to have a proper meal in Brasil. And, when it is examined beyond income, analysing whether these children and teenagers despite their genders have their fundamental rights guaranteed, 61 percent of these Brazilians male and female live in poverty - being monetarily poor and/or deprived of one or more rights as the access to education, information, protections against child labour, access to clean water, and sanitation. Childhood and adolescence poverty have multiple dimensions, which go beyond money. It is the result of the interrelation between deprivations, exclusions, and the different vulnerabilities that children and adolescents are exposed to and that impact their well-being.
When referring to the basic needs of sanitation, according to the IAS report (2020), since 1940, Brazil underwent major social, economic, and political transformations resulting in large and lasting effects on basic needs as sanitation. Brazilian cities expanded with the arrival of immigrants and the migration of the rural population to urban areas, strongly impacting the services and housing infrastructures. The dissemination of the sanitation service as of local interest gained complexity from the urbanization process of cities throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Urban areas began to grow, disregarding the political and administrative limits of the cities. In parallel with legislative changes, the process of disorderly urbanization of cities has made the provision of sanitation services more complex and created greater disorganization of municipal services.
In 2008 occurred the ‘Pact for Basic Sanitation: More health, quality of life and citizenship’ (BRASIL, 2008), which in 2014 culminated in the Federative Pact to universalize access to basic sanitation services by 2033. The Pact initials goals predicted 100 percent of the country supplied with drinking water by 2023 and 92 percent of sewage treated by 2033. Majority of sanitation plans were developed between 2011 and 2013 when there was a prospect of universalizing water supply and sanitation in 20 years. However, with the political and fiscal crisis of the local states and federal government after 2016, these plans were put on hold. Between 2003 and 2017, US$36 billions were invested in sanitation. Considering the structural measures necessary for sanitation, it is estimated that US$ 122 billions of investments will be needed in the period from 2019 to 2033 to achieve universal sanitation in Brazil (IAS, 2020).
When referring to the welfare programs to guarantee education equality, The Bolsa Família, that was an improvement of Bolsa Escola was an important step to social assistantship for Brazilian’s poor income families allowing children to go to school and pursue education. In 2006, around 11 million families had already been contemplated with money transfers under Bolsa Família with the fulfilment of school attendance, maternal health care, and childhood immunizations (Rocha, 2011). Then, with Law No. 11.096 (BRASIL, 2005), the University for All Program (PROUNI) was developed aimed to grant full and partial scholarships to low income families in private institutions. This allowed students that could not afford the tuition fee of private universities, could have the opportunity to keep pursuing their studies with the government scholarship.
Even though these programs have been helping the eradication of education inequality, much yet has to be done. When considering the education of the employed population, workers with complete higher education had an average monthly income of R$ 5,189, about three times more than those with only complete high school (R$ 1,716), and it is about six times above those without instruction (R$ 884) (IBGE, 2016).
When referring to the human rights violations in form of racism, racial discrimination, and related intolerance transmitted across generations. According to the IBGE (2019), the presence of blacks or brown people was more accentuated in activities with the lowest income in Brazil, with a percentage share of Agriculture (60.8), Construction (62.6), and household services (65.1). White people, on the other hand, are the best-paid group, working in information and technology, financial public administration, education, health, and other professional areas.
Another rising problem is informality, which is also more widespread among blacks or browns, with 47.3 percent of them in this condition, against 34.6 percent of whites. This group includes employees from the private sector and domestic workers without a formal contract; noncontractual employees and employers who do not subsidize social security; and auxiliary family work. In 2018, white people earned, an average percentage of 73.9 more than blacks or browns. Also, the inequality still remains when the remuneration for hours worked is verified. The hourly income of the white colour employed (R$ 17) was 68.3 percent higher than the black or brown population (R$ 10). The biggest difference in this hourly wage was between workers with a college degree: R$ 32.8 (US$ 6.56) for whites and R$ 22.7 (US$ 4.54) for blacks or browns. The problem is beyond income since when it is discussed the education numbers, in 1997, only 1.8 percent of young people aged 18 to 24 who declared themselves black had attended a bachelor’s degree, showing that a change was necessary to allow the minority groups to access education. One of the biggest social inclusions movement that is possible to be seen in Brazil is the presence of Racial Quota, which had allowed that more black and brown people could attend the higher education system. Another progression towards racial equality was Law No. 12.288 (BRASIL, 2010) that established the Racial Equality Statute, which aims to ensure the black community the recognition of equal opportunities, the defence of the individual, ethnic rights, and the fight against discrimination and other forms of ethnic intolerance.
3. Challenges to overcome the social problems while fighting COVID-19
When looking to identify the social policies in Brazil, after the 90s the Welfare State started being seen by the positive bias of its contribution to economic development. The State was the promoter of public programs to stimulate socio-economic policy with the active participation of citizens. This partnership led to a reform of the public basic social services, improvement in the quantity and quality of job opportunities and income generation, initiatives to decrease poverty in the short term with programs providing direct income transfer such as ‘Bolsa Família’, and initiatives to reduce inequality in education with PROUNI and the quota system. The policies favouring the citizens’ welfare tend to find balance looking for the population need, regarding the minority groups, in a way to try to help them to be part of the society disregarding any type of discrimination. The speech of equal social distribution is difficult to reach in a competitive capitalist environment, so an alternative could be a fair social distribution. Everyone should have access to the minimum, to a fair health system, to a fair education, and to fair job payment.
The future post-pandemic is still uncertain in the world, in Brazil, and in its cities. Some of the measures to fight the COVID-19 depend on the local, state, and federal government policies to help the population's needs. It is significant to call attention to each locality distinct necessities which ends up requiring the government different attention and effort. However, there are public policies that should be highlighted as the influence of the Unified Health System (SUS). The state together with the private institutions, have the responsibility in times of a crisis to ensure clear and efficient answers to the people as a whole. According to the ‘Health at a Glance: Latin America and the Caribbean’ (OECD, 2020) the total health expenditure across Latin American (LA) Countries in 2017 was 6.6 percent of GDP, which was less than the OECD countries (8.8 percent). In Brazil, the health spending per capita was US$ 1280, which was bigger than the average of LA countries (US$ 1026) but much smaller compared with OECD countries (US$ 3994). The region had a medium of two doctors per 1,000 population, with Brazil below the OECD average of 3.5. During the pandemic, community actors, NGOs, and social leaders who know the reality of favelas and peripheries has been articulating and planning actions to solve local problems and construct initiatives with the state for the water supply, basic sanitation, health, and education. However, despite their evident importance for community life, these organizations have many difficulties in maintaining the operation of their activities. Therefore, supporting and establishing the work of community organizations is a necessary task, during and after the crisis.
The economic deterioration caused by the coronavirus pandemic has made evident the vulnerability of the Brazilian population. From those inserted in the formal labour market to those in the informal sector, each could easily fall into a situation of poverty in the face of income instability. Even though the impacts of the Emergency Aid (Auxílio Emergencial) on the country's social dynamics were immediate, there are still 52 million people considered poor, with a per capita household income of less than half the minimum wage monthly. Although Brazil has a long way to overcome poverty, the country has already part of the necessary and valuable tools to get there. There is the Cadastro Único, responsible for mapping the poor population, and the Unified Social Assistance System (Suas), which was created with the goal to decentralizing the country's social assistance policy until the municipality.
The federal and state governments have a role to support the most vulnerable population, but it is the municipalities and local governments that are more properly able to identify, according to the citizens’ living conditions, what lead these people into poverty. The social inclusion should start in the local community due to each peculiarity of each region. Some may need cooperatives, training programs, labour intermediation, or credit. Thus, to be able to overcome poverty, the Brazilian government will have to go beyond cash transfers to lift millions out of the poverty line. For a well-defined social policy, Brazil needs to guarantee access to basic services and help with the inclusion of the poor population into the labour market. More than mitigating the country's current poverty situation with money from social programs, Brazil's main challenge is to overcome medium and long-term poverty.
It is essential to comprehend that COVID-19 is also a matter of social concern, the virus can infect everyone - so it may not discriminate who it will infect - but it discriminates when those who are infected do not have access to their basic needs. According to EPOCA (2020) considering those who had already die from COVID-19 in Brazil, when looking at the victims' colour, it was identified that 61 percent were brown and black, and brown and black population represents 54 percent of the Brazilians. In the North and Northeast, black and brown victims accounted for 86 percent and 82 percent respectively, and these regions are already known to be more economically precarious in the country. When the most vulnerable population do not have access to public health and medication, when they cannot stay home, - due to the necessary income to support their families – the virus is discriminatory and it is exposing the vulnerabilities of the state’s policies and the need of new planning for social inclusion and sustainable development.
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November 12, 2020
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Women producers and sellers of textile crafts in Zinacantán, Chiapas, Mexico, use one of the few resources they have to enter business: craft production as informal, invisible, and underpaid work. Taking the body as the axis of analysis, three distinct areas of transformation of indigenous women producers by tourism may be identified: the private and domestic body of craftswomen, the social and public body as an icon of ethnic difference, and the commodified body as an extension of the touristic object. The analysis shows that tourism and participation in the international market strengthen gender, class, and ethnic differences and contribute to the perpetuation of existing inequalities.