Questioning Colonia Consolidation in a Mexican Border City: Charity and the Charms of the Narcomundo in a Neoliberal Political Economy

William D. Smith


This article examines two drags on organizing for self-help community development in Agua Prieta, Sonora. The first is U.S.-based, church-led charity in two forms: " forays," which bring outreach groups to disadvantaged barrios of the city for very brief periods; and more consistent charity provision via Evangelical Protestant churches. The second is the drug trade, which exacerbates a social climate of accumulation, competition, and personal enrichment. The study analyzes  charity and drugs together under the rubric of new patron-client ties that both reflect and reinforce the culture of neoliberalism on the border. The article closes with a brief account of an alternative model for development which seeks to avoid the traps of dependency on charity, drugs, and the state: a subsistence- and sustainability-oriented permaculture model of development that would enhance security and community cohesion through food production, resource conservation, and affordable green housing.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229