Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

First Advisor

Kent Mathewson


The "new regional geography" is an attempt to fuse traditional regional geography's concerns with cultural and environmental uniqueness of places, with political economy's regard for the nature of global and local structures guiding resource allocation. The approach infuses chorology with theory, and political economy with place-specific empirical research. Most studies exemplifying the new approach have been of industrial localities of Europe and North America. This dissertation is a case study of regional transformation in a Third World locality, the canton of Hojancha, in Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula. The approach utilized is "critical chorology," a variant of the new regional geography that fuses traditional chorology with aspects of critical social theory. Critical chorology is distinguished by its stronger focus on environmental change. The empirical findings of the study suggest that Hojancha's contemporary regional economic and environmental changes are linked to each other, and to structural changes in the world economy. Hojancha's contemporary transformation has been remarkable. Until the 1950s, small farm production of basic grains and cattle, both for subsistence and market, dominated the locality's economy. The shift in emphasis toward market-oriented beef production bonded the region more tightly with the global economy, but also marginalized nearly half the region's peasantry, and accelerated land degradation. To combat poverty and environmental deterioration, community leaders, led by the local priest, successfully lobbied the Costa Rican state and various multinational development agencies for assistance in constructing housing, improving infrastructure, and introducing forestry as a small farm persistence strategy. A feature of Hojancha's "politics of place" is the distinctive connections between community leaders and the PLN, or National Liberation Party. Because of these connections, forestry, housing and infrastructure projects have materialized. Forestry, a centerpiece of the contemporary Hojanchan economy, has provided a basis for many smallholders to persist. Fluctuations in tree seedling markets, however, have reinforced social class formation and downward social mobility for some smallholders.