Bordering Development: Exploring the Maya Train's Variegated Mobilities in Southern Mexico


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowships




The Maya Train, a new 1,525 km-long passenger and cargo train traversing southern Mexico, promises to bring prosperity, connectivity, and tourism to the region. Yet, Indigenous communities and migrants in transit, who have been absent from the project’s design and construction, are experiencing the impacts of the train differently. The free movement of some is enabled by the displacement, harm, and obstruction of others. This research foregrounds the voices and ways of seeing of these two groups, by using the community-driven and participatory methods of photo-ethnography and photovoice. It also examines the meanings and promises through which the state and government officials understand this project. This approach uncovers the train’s variegated mobilities and complicates the role of infrastructure in Mexico’s pursuit of economic and (geo)political autonomy.