Indigenismo Occupied: Developmentalism and '68 Radicalism in Oaxaca, Mexico, 1969–75

Friday, January 7, 2011: 10:10 AM
Defender Room (The Westin Copley Place)
Alan Shane Dillingham , University of Maryland at College Park
This paper explores the evolving character of official indigenismo in Mexico during the 1970s through the experience of a group of castellanizadores or education promoters in the Mixteca Alta of Oaxaca.  The experience of this generation demonstrates how indigenista policy shifted substantially during this period, providing local indigenous actors with new tools to challenge local and national authoritarian political power and articulate an alternative pedagogy for indigenous education.  Dissident anthropologists who entered indigenista institutions during the early 1970s brought with them an alternative political project based on the notion of indigenous self-activity.  This history complicates our understanding of the Mexican State during the mid-twentieth century, often depicted as an authoritarian monolith, by revealing significant cleavages and conflicts within federal agencies, some of whose employees actively sought to undermine the political system.  While many historians have critiqued official indigenismo as at best a shallow celebration of indigenous aesthetics and at worst hypocritical rhetoric masking further exploitation of indigenous communities, this paper reveals an indigenista policy and practice that dealt seriously with indigenous rights and was critical of its own state affiliation.  In addition, this history demonstrates how a transnational indigenous resurgence in the Americas played out in a corporatist political system, which actively sought to legitimize itself through multicultural rhetoric.  Finally, this paper contributes to our understanding of the 1968-era political radicalization by examining how it played out in rural, indigenous Mexico.  In other words, the paper demonstrates how dissident government indigenista workers along with indigenous educators in provincial Mexico contributed to the apertura democrática, a moment that was simultaneously democratizing and a reformulation of the corporatist political order, and ultimately the slow weakening of the PRI regime.