Projecting Smallholders: Roads, the Puebla to Panama Plan

Projecting Smallholders: Roads, the Puebla to Panama Plan and Land Grabbing in the Q’eqchi’ Lowlands of Northern Guatemala

By Liza Grandia

As an avenue for analyzing the impacts of the broader PPP infrastructure program on indigenous, rural areas, this paper explores the project(ile) qualities of roads. I begin with a history of road construction in northern Guatemala from Liberalism to modernism to neoliberalism, including an inventory of PPP-proposed roads in Q’eqchi’ territory, many of which appeared in prior plans for the region. Contrasting these pass-through highways with organic local roads, I then show how PPP roads likely accelerate land concentration in concert with complementary projects to make Mesoamerica more “legible” to outsiders (free trade agreements, land administration, and other forms of state surveillance). Beyond dispossession of smallholders, I argue that PPP roads produce another pernicious effect: the “projectization” of civil society. The paper concludes with alternative examples of small and “slow” infrastructure initiatives that might better stimulate the rural economy and protect smallholders.

File: Liza Grandia.pdf