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Keywords:

  • environment;
  • political ecology;
  • Mexico;
  • social movements;
  • NGOs

In Chimalapas, Mexico, nongovernmental actors attempted to integrate campesinos into the discourse and practices of the Western environmental movement. The political economy school of anthropology assumes that cultural identity and practice flow from historical experiences grounded in relevant national and institutional contexts. In this article, I argue that although the movement in Chimalapas drew from the well-developed symbolic toolkit of the environmental movement, it was not able to create a space for local concerns within a transnational agenda that was already fairly well established and inflexible. Political ecology was the hinge of this movement: a political-economic analysis that validated traditional agrarian concerns in Chimalapas but included an environmentalist discourse legible to international funders. In this way, environmentalists in Chimalapas attempted both to create new practices and to link old practices to new expressions of culture and identity.