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Volume 63 / Social Sciences

SOCIOLOGY: MEXICO


ANTONIO UGALDE, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, The University of Texas, Austin

GENDER CONTINUES TO BE THE PREFERRED TOPIC of the publications reviewed during this biennium. Even volumes that have a different thematic focus such as migration, criminology, or political participation include chapters that address gender roles and women specifically. The several conferences on gender have published proceedings of the meetings, adding to the wealth of information that Mexican sociology is compiling on the topic. Although the focus on gender research is quite diverse, inequality has emerged as a central theme. Salary inequality is frequently discussed, but writers have also documented inequalities in other aspects of life, including education, social security, welfare, preventable diseases or disability; for example, disabled women, regardless of the type of disability, have less access to support services (items #bi2003005706# and #bi2003005707#).

Crime has increased greatly in Mexico and safety has become a major social problem as well as a significant political concern. Increased drug traffic, the escalation of fights among competing cartels seeking the control of geographical regions, the corruption of law enforcement authorities, and the pauperization of a significant sector of the citizenship have all been singled out by authors as explanations for the rise of crime. The volume by Fernando Tenorio offers an interesting overview of historical responses to crime (item #bi2005005178#).

Other aspects of criminology that are being examined include issues of access to the judicial system and political violence. In Mexico, political violence is frequently viewed as the state's response to the population's legitimate demands. For example, studies of the Chiapas conflict and the Zapatista movement illustrate this case. A similar understanding is applied in other states to peasants' revolts. The case of peasants seeking protection from unfair competition by food imports, mostly from the US under NAFTA, is well documented in the series of studies about the social movement "¡El Campo No Aguanta Más!" (items #bi2004002788#, #bi2004002790#, #bi2004002787#, and #bi2004002789#).

Household and street violence that affects women disproportionately has begun to receive more attention. For an interesting study of violence against women, see the collection of articles edited by Falcón (item #bi2005005166#). It is possible that the growing number of writings on crime and violence is a signal that sociologists have taken an interest in criminology, a field that until now has attracted little interest.

It has been well documented worldwide that globalization has increased the gap between the wealthy and the poor. The research reviewed in this section confirms that Mexico is no exception; that economic growth benefits mostly the wealthy was already discussed in the literature presented in HLAS 61 and recent research strengthens previous findings. Globalization has other negative consequences for the quality of life and the environment as the excellent collection of articles compiled by Otero, a well-recognized Mexican sociologist at Simon Frazer University, suggests (item #bi2005000046#). The government of President Fox agreed to carry out changes to lessen the impact of free trade among the poor, but the promises never materialized (for the government's inability to implement the changes that were agreed upon, see item #bi2004002790#). The fiercely contested national election of 2006 and current tensions in Mexican society are a reflection of the unresolved problems created by globalization and NAFTA.

Many of the works reviewed in this section are by social anthropologists, which explains the proliferation of studies of rural communities and autochthonous populations (almost one third of the total) even though Mexico's rural population is less than 20 percent of the country and the number of Amerindians a fraction of that figure. It is noteworthy to mention that, because of the rural roots of the Mexican Revolution, the field of rural sociology has historically had more support and attracted more interest in Mexico than in many other countries. Every biennium includes important contributions to this specialty, and this one is no exception; the works by Baños Ramírez (item #bi2005005182#) and the compilation by Mattiace et al. on Chiapas (item #bi2005005155#) are excellent examples of the quality of rural research in Mexico.

The connection between the deterioration of rural conditions and national and international migration, mostly to the US, is emphasized in several works. The argument generally follows these lines: globalization and NAFTA are the main causes of unemployment in the countryside and rural dwellers have little choice other than to leave in search of employment (see, among others, the works by Fritscher, item #bi2005001330#, and Léonard et al., item #bi2005004947#). Policymakers in the US and Mexico must recognize this case and address it appropriately to resolve migration pressures on both sides of the border. In the past, demographers have provided quantitative information on migration, but lately there has been a decrease in quantitative migration studies and a reduction of research by demographers in general.

New areas of interest include the study of gays and lesbians and the problems they encounter in a society that continues to reject their sexual behavior. It should be noted that in Mexico, as in other parts of the world, there is more tolerance than in the past as manifested by the recent legalization of gay and lesbian unions in the Distrito Federal and in some states.


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