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Labor, Citizenship, and the Making of a Rural Land Market

employment arrangements. 12. Huang (2008). 13. Many scholars, including Arrighi and Yasheng Huang, have made note of the egalitarian quality of 1980s rural industrialization. Arrighi argued, for example, that the rural economy in the 1980s enjoyed the same wage subsidiza- tion mechanism that the urban economy did in the 1990s. Small landholdings allowed rural households to farm for subsistence while sending working-age members to TVE jobs. But Arrighi saw this wage subsidization mechanism as an egalitarian mechanism, since much of the surplus value captured by TVEs

family grew wheat and raised sheep to satisfy the terms of the landlord’s contract; they also farmed for subsistence, to support themselves. Sharecropping defined an ongoing relationship 16 / Carnal Vision and Saintly Ambition Figure 1. The Ferchaud farmhouse at Rinfillières organized around land owned by one party and farmed by another. The security of sharecroppers can be precarious; a family might be asked to move on at the expiration of its contract. However, the Ferchauds’ occupancy of Rinfillières was of such long standing (Claire’s grandparents had also farmed

of ear- shot from her daughter that although she often lacks meat or vegetables, she can always whip up an egg with beans, or beans with salsa, or huevos a la Mexicana, all the while gesturing with her hands. Despite the family’s struggles with limited resources, Betanía reports that her diet has improved since coming to the United States. In Mexico she could not buy rice, beans, or vegetables, for instance, because she and her husband had no source of income. Her town lacked much in the way of employment opportunities, and although her family farmed for

can pay wages calibrated to support the single worker rather than a family wage, and because workers’ families farm for subsistence, workers with- stand low wages without. Because workers have land-use rights in vil- lages, they tend to return to villages when their employment contracts end, thus reducing their ability to pursue lengthy and protracted labor arbitration cases to collect unpaid back wages.26 The lack of a national- level labor movement has meant that wages can be suppressed below sub- sistence level, labor contracts can be informal, and labor laws

. The dislocation of the labor force from land previ- ously farmed for subsistence purposes and for local marketing has swollen the numbers of the rural proletariat. This is keeping wage levels down and permitting a higher rent share for those with ac- cess to land. Some of the displaced labor provides a pool for em- ployment in the urban industrial and service sectors. The rest is relegated to land in more distant, less accessible regions, to spo- radic employment as field hands, and to very low-productivity ter- tiary and other occupations. In short, the Central

Mexican campesinos, often on lands that they or their an- cestors had once farmed for subsistence, harvested crops for export in exchange for wages that were utterly inadequate to support their fami- lies. These were the relatively fortunate ones; the rest wandered, bur- dened relatives, or merely idled hungrily. Imagine, too, the devastation that a crash in the international sugar market in the last years of the Porfiriato brought to plantation workers in Morelos: No market for their 8o Born by the River produce, no job. This sort of loss of control over the value