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Chapter 5 Free trade of coffee, exodus of coffee workers: The case of the Southern Mexican border region of the state of Chiapas

Globalization and the Time–Space Reorganization

ISBN: 978-0-85724-317-1, eISBN: 978-0-85724-318-8

Publication date: 24 February 2011


This chapter presents the case of the coffee-growing region located in the southern portion of the state of Chiapas, along the Guatemalan border. This region was relatively prosperous until the 1980s, thanks in part to price support programs established through international coffee agreements. A short supply of labor attracted farm workers from adjacent regions. These were seasonal, undocumented workers who arrived from Guatemala and whose status of illegal immigrants fostered their exploitation. The liberalization of the international coffee market combined with a sharply reduced state intervention engendered the control over coffee production by a few transnational companies and the collapse of the economy of small producers. Combined with natural disasters whose effects were not addressed by the neoliberal state, this situation caused the region to be bypassed by Guatemalan labor that now prefers direct migration to the United States. This region also has been transformed into an increasingly underdeveloped area affected by outmigration. Chiapas has become a long vertical border for undocumented Central American workers as Mexican migration policy has toughened following the establishment of the US national security policy. In this sense, there is a stark contrast between the mobility of financial and commercial capital and the ease with which both move in and out from the region, and the obstacles imposed on labor mobility.


Renard, M.-C. (2011), "Chapter 5 Free trade of coffee, exodus of coffee workers: The case of the Southern Mexican border region of the state of Chiapas", Bonanno, A. and Salete Barbosa Cavalcanti, J. (Ed.) Globalization and the Time–Space Reorganization (Research in Rural Sociology and Development, Vol. 17), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 147-165.



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