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  • El petróleo en México y sus impactos sobre el territorio ed. by Martín M. Checa-Artasu and Regina Henández Franyuti
  • Andrew M. Hilburn
Martín M. Checa-Artasu and Regina Henández Franyuti, eds.
El petróleo en México y sus impactos sobre el territorio
Distrito Federal, México: Instituto de Investigaciones Dr. José María Luis Mora, 2016. 268 pp. Maps, tables, introduction, bibliography, index. $235.00MXP paper (ISBN 978–607–9475–43–7).

The apocryphal eagle with a snake in its beak standing atop a nopal is likely the most recognizable symbol of Mexico. It is the central figure of the bandera nacional and serves as a statement of ethnic and cultural hybridity linked to deep (pre)historical roots. However, considering the development of Mexico since the early twentieth century—through the Revolution, the “Mexican Miracle,” the long PRI hegemony, the neoliberal turn, and now into the post-neoliberal era it may be entering—perhaps a gushing oil derrick would be a more fitting, if less aesthetically pleasing, symbol at the center of the flag. Oil has been central to Mexico’s revenues and the economic and social development it has paid for have created a general sense of national pride and self-determination around oil. Today, Mexico is the twelfth largest producer in the world of oil and eighteenth globally in natural gas. Despite declining production from the Cantarell and Ku-Maloob-Zaap superfields, oil and gas development remains a linchpin of Mexico’s financial bottom line and thus its political stability. The edited volume El petróleo en Mexico y sus impactos sobre el territorio takes this as a given fact and goes a step further, through geographical explorations of how oil has made itself spatially manifest, via the concepts of territory and landscape.

The editors, Martin M. Checa-Artasu and Regina Hernández Franyuti, note from the outset that this book is the summary result of a 2015 symposium of presentations concerning the clearly stated title of the book. The editors make this book more conceptually focused by leading its six original contributions with well-written and deeply-researched introductory and bibliographic chapters. What follows are an assortment of chapters that range from the theoretical to the methodological and empirical investigating the spatialities of hydrocarbons in Mexico.

In the opening bibliographic chapter, Martin Checa goes through an impressively expansive epistemology of hydrocarbon extraction in Mexico. Aiming this work at scholars of hydrocarbon extraction in Mexico, Checa begins by framing the epistemology within the political-economic structures that produced it. He then organizes seminal works on the subject by theme and chronology. Later in the chapter, Checa narrows this broad literature to works that bear a “vinculo territorial,” rolling them out through their [End Page 273] evolutionary stages or turns, geographic/regional focus, and thematic categories, all which serve to create the broader context into which the following six chapters fit.

The heart of the book begins with a historical examination on the potential ecological consequences of the 2013–2014 Energy Reforms in Mexico. Author Myrna Santiago, a preeminent environmental historian of oil, begins by providing a legal history of Mexican constitutional law related to hydrocarbons, from the early twentieth century to the 1938 expropriation and Pemex years, to modifications of Article 27 and the recent energy reforms. In a compelling narrative, Santiago shows how these legal changes to how, and by whom, hydrocarbons can be extracted have affected people and environments in Mexico. The violent dispossession of campesinos and indigenous people amid ecological ruin that are associated with twentieth-century hydrocarbon development serve as a warning for the post-reform hydrocarbon regime in Mexico.

The next chapter, again by Checa, positions itself at the thematic core of the volume. In it, he explores the concept of territoriality of hydrocarbon development in Mexico by showing how the interrelation of geology, infrastructure, and professional practice have produced the fundamental territorial unit of the Mexican energy sector, the campo or “field.” This in-depth and well-researched chapter illustrates how the hydrocarbon campo is defined as a legal entity, as a resource, and a container for the environmental and the...


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