The First Latina Hackathon : Recoding Infrastructures from México

Beltrán, Héctor
Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience

An event advertised as the first all-women’s hackathon in Latin America was held in México in 2015. Highly ephemeral but also highly visible, the hackathon functions as a critical site to examine how communities crystallize and evaporate, and how participants actively negotiate their hacker identities and practices across boundaries of nation, gender, race, and ethnicity. Popular discourse poses inclusivity within maker/hacker groups by proposing ways to get different or “diverse” participants to join events aimed at empowering their communities. I explore how members of marked groups are called upon to construct and manage these differences themselves within hacker spaces and “maker” formations. I first highlight how participants at the women’s hackathon aligned themselves with structures of expertise as they negotiated normative constructions of gender and femininity. Hackers continue these negotiations when they get caught up in Mexican nationalist pushes for productivity. In the final section, I unpack a surprise visit by abuelitas (grandmothers), who taught everyone a lesson on the invisibilized labor that supports communities of hackers. In a space usually reserved for young makers who understand “new” technologies, they claimed their space within “progress” and reasserted undervalued domestic work as foundational for other type of work. By weaving these three threads together ethnographically, I suggest the ways in which differences become important as Latina hackers differentially position themselves, but also align themselves, with the contradictions of treating code work as coded labor.