"People kept telling me, 'You know we've been experiencing globalization for a really long time,' " says Wendy Call, who has written about the isthmus and notes that the Aztecs invaded first. "But I think there is a sense of fatigue, [that] 'all the other times this has happened it hasn't gone well for us.' " [Editor's note: The original version misquoted Ms. Call as saying the Aztecs were invaded first.]
Most of Tehuantapec's communal land cannot be sold, so companies lease. A standard contract lasts 30 years, with automatic renewal.
But comparisons are deceptive. Wind farms pay – either as profit sharing or flat fee – based on how the land is used: for turbines, roads, or power lines. In Wyoming, a landowner may lease hundreds or thousands of acres to a developer for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the isthmus, most farmers control only two to 20 acres: If a turbine doesn't land on one's plot, payout may be as little as $300 to $400 per year.
Profit sharing in developed countries falls close to 5 percent. But in Oaxaca the market rate was determined to be 1 percent, says Jorge Megías Carrión, director general of Preneal, a Spanish company developing a wind farm here. "So we negotiated with the people, and we saw that we could enlarge that amount of money."
Preneal now pays landowners 1.4 percent of electricity profits. Acciona, another Spanish wind company working here, pays the equivalent of as little as 0.5 percent, according to landowners who signed contracts.