Essay on Exploitation Hydrocarbons (Oil and Gas) in Mexico

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In this paper, I am going to reflect on the impacts that extractive policies have on the populations in which they are carried out, the criminalization of social protest and the violation of human rights that takes place for this reason, since that the contamination of water and natural resources produce alterations in the environment and in health that negatively affect the inhabitants and the territory where they settle. Indigenous peoples establish a particular relationship with the environment, as various studies have highlighted. For this reason, they raise the need for the defense of ‘territory’, a broader concept of ‘land’, since it implies the place where one lives, but also where the ancestors lie, where the sacred places are located, where it is cultivated land and inhabited, almost always in the vicinity of rivers and water sources. That is, the place where the roots, history and life meet. Thus, an indigenous leader maintains: “It is not that we are the owners of water, it is that water is our life and that is why we have a mandate ... to be at the same time their children, but also their guardians, their protectors”.

Faced with the advance of extractive policies (oil, mining, wind power) in the indigenous regions of Mexico, the political discourse of the activists and the indigenous movement recovers the dimension of its environment as a territory, to oppose it to the environmental devastation they produce these policies. At the same time, a movement has been generated in the study region against megaprojects, which has unleashed an information campaign, intensifying ties with other environmental organizations, which is why a wide range of opponents belonging to various indigenous peoples and the mestizo population have already formed. They reflect on the roots and the meaning of the progress they seek, debate and contribute different perspectives on this hot topic. Similar concerns take place in the lands of southern Veracruz, in Nahua and Totonacan communities and municipalities of the Sierra Norte de Puebla and among the Zoques of Chiapas, among other cases in Mexico. Defending the territory and life is at the center of the approaches of the organizations that intend to resist against the mega-projects resulting from neoliberal policies. But this activism of civil society organizations has its counterpart in the criminalization of social protest and the possible persecution of its leaders, putting their lives at risk.

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Some interviewees maintain that 'before' (in the first decades of oil exploitation) they did not protest because, despite the damages, there was enough land to move to cultivate, in addition to the 'ignorance of the grandparents' who were illiterate, they did not know the laws and there was no more information on the ways to claim damages, if they exist. Added to this is the fact that during the unquestionable government of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) its hegemony established limitations for protest and social discontent. According to oral testimonies, the mobilizations that demand support from PEMEX through the closure of highways, oil wells and various types of protests, date back to a couple of decades, from before the Energy Reform, which relates the changes in energy policy with an advance in the knowledge of the subject of human rights, the reduction of illiteracy, the diffusion carried out by the media and migration that opens horizons. This suggests that there are modifications in the way in which peasants represent themselves in their relationship with PEMEX and with the oil bureaucracy.

When PEMEX was a nationalized company (since 1938), the affected residents related directly to these actors without intermediaries. Since the privatization process of PEMEX began, towards the end of the eighties, this relationship has gradually become more complex, as private companies, which are in the area for a certain time, began to operate, and then they leave, fragmenting the representations that the inhabitants have about the oil company. In local representations, the stability provided by the nationalized PEMEX faces the instability and dispersion caused by the multiple companies that carry out only part of the work. When they talk about its effects, the farmers summarize the problem by referring to this complex network of companies talking about PEMEX, as if the company continues to function without the changes that have taken place since the 1980s.

With the criminalization of social protest, state policies become an expression of the defense of interests promoted by extractivism. Repression is one of the ways to criminalize, to which must be added the way in which justice operators interpret the laws, as well as the creation of a new legal framework that aims to protect extractive interests (Observatory of Mining Conflicts of Latin America, 2011). There is no doubt that there are social and environmental impacts - such as the contamination of streams and water sources - that affect all inhabitants equally. However, it is necessary to contextualize how these impacts occur in particular situations, to show the type of reconfigurations that are produce. In other words, extractive policies have diversified impacts that, depending on the context, penetrate all the pores of the social body and the environment. In the case of the inhabitants who are without water due to oil exploitation, in this municipality where the green of the vegetation and the abundance of the rivers is dazzling, the community dynamics and the daily life of the people are altered due to the lack of liquid, affecting food, health and agricultural production, among other issues. The owner on whose land an oil spill occurs, has to reconfigure the use of space since he cannot continue with his crops, vanilla production ends and citrus production runs the risk of contamination. The young imprisoned woman has to adjust her body, her emotions and family dynamics due to the detention she suffers, in addition to overcoming the fear and anguish caused by distance and imprisonment.

Finally, in this paper I have pointed out three cases in which an arrest warrant was issued against authorities in their communities, although only this woman's materialized, because the other two took cover. But these events, which took place in the context of the new legislation derived from the Energy Reform, are a wake-up call to show the tense relationship that currently exists between PEMEX, the private companies that still operate in the region, the peasants and the symbolic power of the State to intimidate citizens through its intention to criminally sanction the authorities that represent them. The issue of the violation of human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples acquires singular relevance in these contexts.

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Essay on Exploitation Hydrocarbons (Oil and Gas) in Mexico. (2023, January 31). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 17, 2024, from
“Essay on Exploitation Hydrocarbons (Oil and Gas) in Mexico.” Edubirdie, 31 Jan. 2023,
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