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Volume 57 / Social Sciences

GEOGRAPHY: MIDDLE AMERICA


TOM L. MARTINSON, Professor of Geography, Auburn University, Alabama
GARY S. ELBOW, Professor of Geography, Texas Tech University


ISSUES OF ENVIRONMENTAL degradation highlight the contributions this biennium to the section on Middle American geography: Eyre on Jamaica (item bi 96025189); González (item bi 95025455), Mendoza (item bi 94004061), Russell (item bi 96008987), and Schorgmayer and del Rosario on the Dominican Republic (item bi 93005231), Vargas on Central America (item bi 94009791), and Morgner (item bi 94003292), Sánchez-Azofeifa and Quesada-Mateo (item bi 96007369) on Costa Rica. There is a special focus on Central American border zones, as seen in Girot and Granados (item bi 94016658), Pujol i Caussa and Pujadasi Tort (item bi 96025457), and Arias and Nations (item bi 93022598). Umaña and Brandon (item bi 93022600) review Costa Rica’s successful environmental resource management. Environmental issues related to the Canal’s devolution to Panama are discussed in Fernández, Riba, and Cardoze F. (item bi 95019535) and Manfredo (item bi 96009290). Herlihy shows how establishing indigenous biosphere reserves and comarcas is an effective conservation strategy (item bi 94003943).

Also included are various studies in population geography, migration, settlement, and urban geography: Elbow on El Salvador (item bi 94006243), Davidson on Honduras (item bi 94006249), Higgins on Nicaragua (item bi 94006251), Amaya H. on Cuba (item bi 93005404), Collins on Belize (item bi 97000072), Douzant-Rosenfeld on Santo Domingo and Havana (item bi 96000610), Pérez Romagnoli on Panama (item bi 96010609), Sagawe on Hispanola, Puerto Rico, and Cuba (item bi 96008980), and Sansonetti on the Italian colonization of San Vito in the highlands of southwestern Costa Rica (item bi 96017640).

Works on agricultural issues include the Atlas agropecuario de Costa Rica (item bi 96014061), Grossman’s study of the effect of export agriculture on local food production in St. Vincent (item bi 94001363), and Sluyter’s review of wetlands agriculture in early Mesoamerica (item bi 95002479).

The materials for Mexico this biennium are dominated by works on regional and urban development. Studies range in geographic scale from national-level surveys to works on individual urban areas. Among the more interesting national-scale studies is Ornelas Delgado’s study of Mexican regional development policy from 1940 to 1982 (item bi 95021353). This book discusses planning for rural and urban development, including integrated river basin projects, arid zone development, industrial decentralization, housing and urban improvement plans, and a variety of other government-sponsored infrastructure and social improvement programs. Intermediate in scale is Alegría Olazábal’s study of urban processes on the Mexico-US border (item bi 96193471). She views the frontier as an integrated transition zone uniting the two countries economically and socially, while also comprising a unique area of regional development within each country. At the local scale, two books on Puebla stand out. Virginia Cabrera Becerra (item bi 96146840) examines the impact of national policies on the expansion of the city, and Patrice Melé follows a similar approach, but focuses on industrial location policies and residential planning processes that affect the spatial structure of Puebla (item bi 96017658).

Other items of special interest on Mexican geography include a detailed analysis of the Plano en Papel Maguey, a 16th-century map of a portion of Tenochtitlán (item bi 96005510); a lengthy, illustrated guide to 1000 medicinal plants found in Mexico likely to become an indispensable reference for biogeographers and ethnobotanists (item bi 96017664); a case study particularly interesting for rural development specialists that examines the changing relationship between rural areas and small cities in the Rincón de Guanajuato, the southwestern part of the state (item bi 95021347); and a theoretically-oriented article on cultural geography that proposes a new model to explain development of irrigation technology in precolumbian Mexico (item bi 97008575). Finally, Jones’ excellent monograph on the impact of migration on sending communities in Coahuila and Zacatecas should be noted (item bi 98008574). This work presents data that challenges assumptions regarding migrant characteristics and the impact of migration on families and communities in Mexico.

Two studies regarding urban development processes are of special interest within the body of work on Guatemala. Gellert’s history of Guatemala City’s urban expansion provides valuable information on the city’s spatial development through time (item bi 95001302). Pérez Sáinz discusses the city’s development during the 1980s, a time when Guatemala faced economic and political crisis (item bi 96005496).


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