A rich, long-term ethnography of women seafood traders in Mexico.
The "shrimp ladies," locally known as changueras in southern Sinaloa, Mexico, sell seafood in open-air markets, forming an extralegal but key part of the economy built around this "pink gold.” Over time, they struggled to evolve from marginalized peddlers to local icons depicted in popular culture, even as they continue to work at an open-air street market.
Pink Gold documents the shrimp traders' resilience and resourcefulness, from their early conflicts with the city, state, and federal authorities and forming a union, to carving out a physical space for a seafood market, and even engaging in conflicts with the Mexican military. Drawing from her two decades of fieldwork, María L. Cruz-Torres explores the inspiring narrative of this overlooked group of women involving grassroots politics, trans-border and familial networking, debt and informal economic practices, personal sacrifices, and simple courage. She argues that, amid intense economic competition, their success relies on group solidarity that creates interlocking networks of mutual trust, or confianza, that in turn enable them to cross social and political boundaries that would typically be closed to them. Ultimately, Pink Gold offers fresh insights into issues of gender and labor, urban public space, the street economy, commodities, and globalization.
María L. Cruz-Torres is an anthropologist and associate professor at Arizona State University's School of Transborder Studies. She is a coeditor of Gender and Sustainability: Lessons from Asia and Latin America and the author of Lives of Dust and Water: An Anthropology of Change and Resistance in Northwestern Mexico.
In this beautifully written ethnography based on years of research, Cruz-Torres vividly portrays the agency of changueras, women shrimp vendors who created a niche within a male-dominated world and helped shape Mazatlán as a key node in the globalized seafood market. Pink Gold makes original interventions to multiple scholarly fields and illuminates these women’s informal labor as well as their historic collective advocacy.
~Patricia Zavella, University of California, Santa Cruz, author of The Movement for Reproductive Justice: Empowering Women of Color through Social Activism
Through meticulous fieldwork and a robust theoretical basis in feminist political ecology, Cruz-Torres tells the story of the changueras, women shrimp vendors of Mazatlán, capturing the rich specificities of their lives and demonstrating the relevance of her case study to other similar work. She expands political ecology beyond the study of production, and helps us see the ways in which women contribute to fishing economies, even when they are not the fishers. Her strong relationships with and respect and admiration for her interlocutors are apparent on every page. Pink Gold is an outstanding book, notable for its intricate details, in-depth analysis, and warmth of spirit.
~Elizabeth Ferry, Department of Anthropology at Brandeis University, author of Not Ours Alone: Patrimony, Value and Collectivity in Contemporary Mexico
The pinnacle of social-cultural anthropology is understanding and expressing people’s lives, moving through time and set in wider contexts. Pink Gold excels in this challenging task. Women’s stories unfold from their childhoods through their full formation as seafood traders in the political ecology of coastal Mexico. Vivid, readable, touching, and memorable, this book is an outstanding ethnography.
~Josiah Heyman, University of Texas at El Paso, co-editor of The U.S.-Mexico Transborder Region: Cultural Dynamics and Historical Interactions
Introduction: Amber Sunsets and Pink Gold
Chapter 1. Contested Grounds: Women Shrimp Traders and Street Economies
Chapter 2. On Becoming Changueras: Gendered Livelihoods and Contested Identities
Chapter 3. The Street of the Women Shrimp Traders: Learning the Tricks of the Trade in Space and Place
Chapter 4. Here We Are Like a Family: The Complexity of Social Relations
Chapter 5. The Culture and Economy of Pink Gold: The Meanings, Processes, and Values of Shrimp
Chapter 6. Sometimes We Work Just to Pay Our Debts: Informal Credit and Savings Systems
Chapter 7. From Outcasts to Icons: Women Shrimp Traders and Expressive Culture
Conclusion: Feminist Political Ecology, Ethnography, and Uncovering Lived Realities
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