H-NET BOOK REVIEW
Published by H-LatAm@h-net.msu.edu (November, 1999)
Velma Garcia-Gorena. Mothers and the Mexican Antinuclear Power
Movement. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1999. xii + 187pp.
Appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $19.95 (paper) ISBN
0-8165-1875-0; $45.00 (cloth) ISBN 0-8165-1874-2.
Reviewed for H-LatAm by Susan V. Richards , Department
of History, University of New Mexico
Naysayers of Mexico's Nuclear Power Program
As a case study of the opposition to nuclear power plants in Mexico,
Mothers and the Mexican Antinuclear Power Movemeny is a unique
contribution to the literature on social movements in Latin America.
Political scientist Velma Garcia-Gorena utilizes the three dominant
models of social movement theory in her analysis, asking the
question, "... can the Mexican antinuclear movement be considered a
New Social Movement?" (p. 13). A second concern is whether or not
the movement had an impact on democratization of the Mexican
political system. Most of the book is a narrative account of the
genesis, development, and decline of grassroots opposition to
nuclear power in Mexico. The last two chapters offer gender and
class analysis in the movement, and discuss the theoretical
classification of the antinuclear groups that mobilized to challenge
the startup of the power plant in Veracruz.
The story is a short one: When construction began on Mexico's first
nuclear power plant, located at Laguna Verde, Veracruz, in the 70s,
little opposition to the plant could be detected; in fact, the
citizens who were aware of the plant's rise supported it on the twin
benefits of increased local employment opportunities and as a symbol
of progress. Opposition to the plant arose in the wake of the 1986
accident at Chernobyl, when Laguna Verde was close to completion.
Established groups of environmental activists turned their attention
to the behemoth threat on the Gulf of Mexico, and several local
organizations sprung up in opposition, including cattlemen,
fishermen, and the Madres Veracruzanas. During 1987 and 1988, the
opposition mobilized and campaigned to stop the plant's debut.
Failure to meet that goal propelled antinuclear activists into a new
role as watchdogs of the plant's safety record. Local opposition
groups faded away; by 1991, only the Madres Veracruzanas continued
to monitor Laguna Verde.
The Comite Antinuclear de Madres Veracruzanas consciously modeled
themselves on the Madres de Plaza de Mayo of Argentina. Claiming
their special status as child bearers and protectors of the family,
the Madres Veracruzanas maintained autonomy from other opposition
organizations, adopted ritualized protest methods, and a symbol of
their solidarity - a red ribbon. They eschewed violent actions,
claiming that their dignity prohibited such tactics. Similarities
with the Argentine Madres seem superficial, though. While noting
the difference in social class between the two mothers' groups,
Madres Veracruzanas were from the middle and upper classes; Madres
de Plaza de Mayo were generally from the working class Garcia-Gorena
makes no further comparative effort. It begs to be done, especially
in view of the Madres self-identification and the author's periodic
references to the Argentine mothers.
Mothers and the Mexican Antinuclear Power Movement really is the
story of more than one organization, however. Unlike Marguerite
Guzman Bouvard's riveting monograph, Revolutionizing Motherhood:
The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, which has as its primary focus
the birth, growth, development, and evolution of the mothers'
movement, Garcia-Gorena covers all the major groups caught up in
protest against Mexico's first nuclear power plant. The activities,
tactics, successes and failures of all the organizations fighting
Laguna Verde receive just as much ink, if not more, than the Madres
Garcia-Gorena presents the narrative chronologically; source
materials include personal interviews with activists and newspaper
coverage of the events. Throughout the text, she weaves material on
the Mexican political system and relates aspects of the antinuclear
movement's campaigns to her larger theoretical concerns. All
theoretical issues are presented in explicit terms, especially in
Chapter Nine, which provides a synthesis of feminist theory applied
to mothers' movements, holding the Madres Veracruzanas up for
examination. The prose is clean and cogent, making this a good
choice for all levels of undergraduate reading. Undergraduates,
graduate students, and scholars will be disappointed by the absence
of pictorial augmentation in the book. Early in my reading, I fled
to my map file to retrieve one that would show Palma Sola, Juchitan,
and Laguna Verde in relation to the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps the
economics of publishing prevented the printing of even a single
photograph; one has to suspect that during her extensive personal
contact with the antinuclear movement, Garcia-Gorena took pictures
of demonstrations, protesters, and movement leaders.
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