Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Walking through the community of Zapata (Veracruz, Mexico) it is impossible to go far without running into oil wells, turbines, slush pits and pipelines of various sizes sticking out of the ground or passing through the air. Locals refer to the infrastructure as a telaraña, or a cobweb that crisscrosses their land, and in some cases cuts through their homes. Most of the infrastructure dates back to the 1950s/1960s oil boom, and much of it today is abandoned or in ruins. However, Pemex (the state-owned oil company) refuses to abandon the area completely and return the land to the community because in a deeper layer of its subsoil lies a different hydrocarbon reservoir with significant oil and gas reserves. Due to its depth and geological characteristics, Pemex has not been able to extract them, but as a result of Mexico’s 2013 energy reform, foreign companies will be able to obtain leases to use hydraulic fracturing (aka ‘fracking’) to obtain this oil/gas. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Zapata, this presentation discusses the way the community has learned to live with the telaraña of old infrastructure as well as the uncertainty that rumors of future fracking portend. In this state of in-betweenness, I explore the inhabitants’ concerns regarding their property, health, and well-being as they grapple with past (remnants/ruins) and future (planned/uncertain) oil infrastructure in their community.