Accepted Paper:

Chronological folk-urban continuum: the process of micro-urbanization in northwestern Guatemala  


Junji Koizumi (NIHU and Osaka University)

Paper short abstract:

The process of micro-urbanization in the rural region of northwestern Guatemala is examined. The principal driving force in this process is migrant workers’ remittances from the United States and the consequences tend to be unfavorable for the local society in spite of seeming development.

Paper long abstract:

Guatemala is a state with a population of 15.4 million, and apart from the mega capital and a few other cities, there are islands of small and miniscule urban cores in the sea of predominantly rural country. A notable change in northwestern region is increasing semi-urbanization of rural communities. Even typical “vacant towns,” hollow settlements with few people at the center, have become remarkably concentrated and permanent urban features started to appear. The degree of urbanization in each location seems to constitute a polar continuum of the type Robert Redfield conceptualized long time ago. But this folk-urban continuum is not organized geographically in space but chronologically in time. Based on this case material, three issues are discussed: (1) those elements that have changed and constitute “urbanization,” (2) causes and driving forces in this process, and (3) the consequences of this transformation. The first issue involves changing settlement pattern, increasing commercialization, formation of dense transportation network and social diversification. The second issue refers to the process of circular migration of undocumented workers between this region and the United States through which a tremendous amount of cash was funneled into traditionalized and immobilized local economy. The third issue is concerned with urban problems of which the most serious is the growth of informal economy and informal sector empowered by illicit human trafficking and drug trading, making the future of this society precarious in spite of its seeming development.

Panel P112
Urban futures (WCAA/IUAES/JASCA joint panel) CLOSED - 10