Through a series of ethnographic vignettes, this article examines how providers contribute to corruption in Mexican health care, how providers are themselves subjected to logics of corruption, and the relationship between patients’ and providers’ vulnerability within contexts of resource scarcity. Doctors, faced with insecure salaries due to nonpayment of wages by the government, collude with hospital staff to sell state drugs on the black market. Meanwhile, vulnerable patients are used as teaching opportunities for private school students—with horrifying, and fatal, effects. Palancas (“favors” granted by colleagues and higher-ups to individuals with less authority) and exclusive treatment of recomendados (patients given preferential treatment based on the “recommendation” of personnel with greater authority) signal the importance of hierarchical power in determining how corrupt acts are interpreted. What counts as corruption varies from one context to another; therefore, our method seeks to understand how the actors themselves evaluate the “corrupt” social practices in question. Through transnational collaboration (between two coauthors positioned in the United States and Mexico), we aim to contribute to decolonization of anthropology as a discipline by situating Mexico not only as a repository of ethnographic data but also a site for emerging theoretical intervention.
Vega, R.A. and Maya, A.P. (2021), Operating at the Edge of Il/legality: Systemic Corruption in Mexican Health Care. The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, 26: 46-64. https://doi.org/10.1111/jlca.12513
Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology