A resort on the “Mayan Riviera” resembling the fictionalized setting of Villoro’s novel. 

The Postmodern Ruins of Juan Villoro’s Arrecife (2012)

38th International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association (Boston, MA)
May 24-27, 2019

Conference Presentation by Ian Erickson-Kery (Duke)

This paper situates the 2012 novel Arrecife (The Reef) and critical essays by Mexican writer Juan Villoro within the transformations spurred by the ratification and implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a state of affairs which sociologist Roger Bartra has characterized as a “post-Mexican condition” in the cultural sphere. I analyze Arrecife’s detailed representations of architecture and built environments to probe the means by which Villoro unshrouds the infrastructures of global financial capital. The novel’s setting—a once-glamorous tourist resort now marred by ecological decay and drug trafficking—serves as a conduit for the illicit human, material, and financial flows which circulate vastly throughout the global economy but whose most violent effects remain spatially delimited. Villoro, in turn, renders visible forms of domination novel to the spatial conditions of speculative finance capital, which are distinct from older disparities tied to industrialization and underdevelopment patterns in Latin America. Following Fredric Jameson’s notion that postmodernism is a stylistic tendency symptomatic of a paradigm shift in capitalist development, I argue that Villoro’s engagement with literary and architectural pastiche—specifically as they touch upon the stereotypes of Mexican multiculturalism and indigeneity—allows him to critique the liberalization of the Mexican economy by means of its underlying cultural vocabulary and visual repertoire. He both crystallizes the increasingly virtual and image-driven nature of the global economy while puncturing the façade of supposedly “flat” global space, shedding new light on Mexico’s pressing social realities.