Memory as Wealth, History as Commerce: A Changing Economic Landscape in Mexico


  • Elizabeth Emma Ferry


In this article, I look at how inhabitants of Guanajuato, Mexico, a city with a rich mining past, draw on different accounts of their city's glorious past, accounts that we might describe as histories and memories. Through an analysis of this case, I propose an analogy between history and memory, on the one hand, and inalienable and alienable forms of wealth, on the other hand. I examine Guanajuatenses' conceptualizations of place, substance, and wealth from the perspective of the classification of resources (silver and cultural properties) as patrimonio, or patrimony. I argue that in these local conceptualizations Guanajuatenses engage questions of inalienability and alienability and the complex relationship between them, and that by looking at the politics of designating wealth as inalienable or alienable, we can also learn something about how local accounts of Guanajuato's past (described in analytical terms as memories or histories) are understandable as forms of wealth subject to complex political processes. [memory, history, Mexico, patrimony, inalienability]