The U.S.-Mexican War and
the Peoples of the Year 2000
Communal Property and Transnational Services
Inputs from Politics
Inputs from History
The Future of New/Old Nations
|Community ties and the flow of money: here, people's
complaints at the end of the 20th century are picking up on an old problem,
still alive from 1847: the conflict between popular cooperation and
command-level cooperation. In standard history, of course, this clash was
covered up by that between community survival and the rights of individuals.
The logic of that law could apply to any family, or to any indigenous community,
whose individuals move away. If a community's property is identified with
its territory, how can individuals maintain community identity when they
migrate to other parts? How can such a collectivity continue to offer protection?
Traditional indigenous communities often limited land-ownership to members
of the community. Even to members they might grant only the use of
land, for some limited period and without real ownership.
Mexican liberals, over the long pull of the 19th century, went to great
lengths to break the lock on community lands.
The Mexican state, after its experience with Texas, and after its later
experience with U.S. corporations taking up enormous tracts of land in
the northern parts of the Republic, placed legal limits against outsiders
buying land in the border regions.
Mexico's Dual Nationality law of 1998 would address this problem, by permitting
individuals to retain property in border areas forbidden to foreigners.
It would also continue their "property" in educational and social benefits.
Therefore, alongside the property clauses of the Dual Nationality law,
we might consider:
that property is not always -- in the present age, not even usually --
geographical, with lines that can be drawn on a map
that property, in any modern definition, is a flow of values, available
for the benefit of an ownership group, which may be a family, or a community,
or a political party, or a banking system.
the serious accusation that family property is attacked by high charges
for electronic remittances from the United States to Mexico and Central
the defining role, in urban crime, of kidnappings designed to draw "ransom"
from ATM cards.
Any community can retain a core of geographical property even while
it extends itself as a trustee for non-landed resources. The relation
between these two aspects is very much a matter for the group to determine
on its own account
The emergence of new kinds of community or nationality may well generate
new/old ways of breaking the link between personal identity and a mere
territorial property. Nonlocal property and nonlocal protections
can also act as incentives to loyalty.
Nevertheless, the very same circulation of private funds, through international
networks, sets the stage for conflict between the two types of transnationalism
-- that is, the popular and the authoritarian or corporative. Remittances
of money, by individuals in the United States, to family members in their
old communities, create a flow that is open to two very different kinds
of development. It can be woven by implicit links into a web of payments
useful to individuals. Or it can be siphoned off to benefit the electronic
transfer companies, such as Western Union, that are linked to the banking
"community." The family networks are equivalent to the "community
chest," once upon a time really local; the corporate network, to the officials
once employed to collect funds for some imperial treasury.
It is not that a community chest was always the center for a primordial
virtue. The corrupt we always have with us, even among the "community
leaders" who may take advantage of their personal strength in order to
exploit their neighbors. Populism, just as much as authoritarianism
(or as patriotism), can offer refuge to scoundrels. The question
is not one for sentimental judgments about personal merit, nor for simple
distinctions between local property and global. Rather, it is simply that
transnational "property" can take alternate forms: against the networks
of distributed action, there works that other network of concentrated deals.
David Aponte, "Engaño y lucro con el dinero enviado por migrantes
mexicanos," La Jornada, 15 abril 1998.
Patricia Landolt, "Salvadoran Transnationalism: Towards the Redefinition
of The National Community," Working Papers #18, The Johns Hopkins University,
Program in Comparative and International Development.
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