Extractivismo: Oaxaca

In September 2018, Mexican President Lopez Obrador announced plans to develop an interoceanic railway corridor (Transistmico) that will span the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and link shipping ports on the Gulf and Pacific coasts. The project is being touted as a historic investment in the future of Mexico, one capable of modernizing the country and revitalizing the stagnant economy. In fact, it is a collection of projects that will include the development of wind energy, opening mining concessions to foreign interests, the construction of oil and natural gas pipelines across the isthmus and updating harbors to international standards. A large swath of Oaxaca and Veracruz will be designated as a “special economic zone” in an effort to attract foreign investment to the overland trade corridor and eventually replace the Panama Canal as the “most important passage in the world for international cargo.”

Extracitivismo: Oaxaca is a series of dispatches from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec that document the social, economic and environmental impacts of the Transistmico projects on communities in Oaxaca. The project explores the political dynamics of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec through the perspectives of indigenous activists, academics and artists who are allied in a broader struggle for self-determination and a voice in Oaxaca’s future.

Isthmus at the Crossroads

Sidd Joag, New York City, United States 

The mystery surrounding the origins of the Iko’ots people is that no one knows when, why, or how they came to southern Oaxaca, but everyone seems to agree they arrived from somewhere else. There is speculation that they sailed from...

Butterfly with Broken Wings

Justin Kiersky, Denver, United States 

Seldom has an interview felt more insensitive than the afternoon we arrived at Lukas Avendaño’s family home. Lukas chose not to mention that he had postponed our interview the day before because he was returning home from Oaxaca City with...

Guardians of the Wind Farms

Sidd Joag, New York City, United States 

We’re sitting in a neighborhood restaurant hidden at the far end of a long nondescript alleyway. Huddled around a table near the doorway, everyone glances toward the entrance any time someone passes through it. Our source, who for their safety...

Confessions of a Looted Soul

Justin Kiersky, Denver, United States 

The North Wind Whips By Víctor Terán (Translation by David Shook) The north wind whips through, in the streets papers and leaves are chased with resentment. Houses moan, dogs curl into balls. There is something in the afternoon’s finger, a...

Harbor Blues, Salina Cruz

Justin Kiersky, Denver, United States 

“I remember the city before the refinery,” says Rafael Mayoral, a middle-aged professor and self-described activist in defense of the land. He is tall, broad-chested with a shock of salt-and-pepper hair that blows wildly in the violent Tehuano winds. “It...

Lapiztola + Chiquitraca: Collective Crises

Sidd Joag, New York City, United States 

In May of 2006, Rosario Martinez and Roberto Vega were fresh out of design school when the annual teachers union strike took on a sinister character as an explosive social movement of street protests turned into an seven-month war between...

A Brief History of Mexico’s Transoceanic Trade Route

Justin Kiersky, Denver, United States 

“The mind is bewildered with the difficulty of embracing in one comprehensive view the astonishing consequences that would result from a communication between the two oceans, by means of which ships sailing from Europe will save two thousand leagues, and...

“No Maize Es No Pais”: Accounting as Artistic Practice

Sidd Joag, New York City, United States 

“Why is Mexico hinging its future on a neoliberal economic model when it’s failing everywhere in the world?” asks Edith Morales, a conceptual artist from Oaxaca whose work draws paradoxically from her Mixe roots and her background in accounting. Her...