Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In Tijuana, Mexico, rickety buses connect the urban periphery with the busiest international port of entry in the world and, beyond it, California. This paper pauses upon the fragility of solidary exchange – the fragility of the gift – in this border context that capitalizes mobility even at its lowest echelons. To draw out this fragility, I trace the tension between the valorization of time and movement on one such bus route, as revealed in the jargon of its detailed spatiotemporal mechanics, and the ways in which these idioms gave shape to the predicament of one of the route’s timekeepers as he faced the ultimate stoppage: death. Here at the border, where mobility appears as the most valuable commodity of all, our ethnographic exchange remained caught, I argue, between a gendered exchange complementing the capitalist premises of the transportation industry and the abyssal, aporetic potentials of the gift—potentials deepened by the imminence of Anacleto’s death. The very personal impasses peppering our exchange speak to the dead ends of capitalist mobility at the border under historical conditions of systemic entrepreneurial reform that aim to definitively end the model of corporativist – but also, originally, cooperative – production that came to dominate Mexican public transportation in the wake of the Revolution a century ago.