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Indigenismo Occupied: Indigenous Youth and Mexico's Democratic Opening (1968–1975)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2015

A. S. Dillingham*
Affiliation:
Spring Hill College Mobile, Alabama

Extract

In April 1975, indigenous youth in Mexico occupied regional development centers throughout the southern state of Oaxaca. From the Sierra Sur town of Miahuatlán, to the arid highlands of the Mixteca Alta, to the valley of the Papaloapan Dam project, these youth took control of Instituto Nacional Indigenista (INI) coordinating centers and held them for more than a month. Trained as promotores bilingües (bilingual agents of education and development projects) by a separate regional development agency (the Instituto de Investigación y Integración Social del Estado de Oaxaca, or IIISEO), they demanded professional training and the creation of positions for themselves as federal teachers. Their banners accused the Mexican government of ethnocide against native peoples, denouncing the government's celebration of indigenous culture as a mask for continued exploitation.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Academy of American Franciscan History 2015 

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References

1. The youths' demands were articulated a year prior and a tentative agreement was established between the promotores, the state government, and the IIISEO administration. However, it was not respected in the period that followed. See “Pliego Petitorio,” Carteles del Sur (Oaxaca), April 4, 1974; Convenio que se celebra entre la Dirección General del IIISEO y la Coalición de Promotores, April 23, 1974, personal papers of Santiago Salazar.

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3. The term promotor bilingüe does not have a straightforward English equivalent. The closest approximation is “bilingual extension agent” in the context of education and development projects. During this period the promotor was trained to foment change in his or her home community. In the case study here, that work included Spanish language instruction for preschool-age children and a host of other community-level development activities.

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27. Informe, Februrary 28, 1974, Archivo General de la Nación, Dirección General de Investigaciones Políticas y Sociales [hereafter AGN IPS], caja 963, exp. 2.

28. See Campbell, Howard, Zapotec Renaissance: Ethnic Politics and Cultural Revivalism in Southern Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994)Google Scholar; and Rubin, Jeffrey, Decentering the Regime: Ethnicity, Radicalism, and Democracy in Juchitán, Mexico (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997)Google Scholar.

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32. For a contrasting example in El Salvador, see Chávez, Joaquín M., “Catholic Action, the Second Vatican Council, and the Emergence of the New Left in El Salvador (1950–1975),” The Americas 70:3 (January 2014), pp. 459487CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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34. Carrasco Briseño was a close collaborator of Archbishop Samuel Ruiz in Chiapas.

35. Solano, Xóchitl Leyva, “Regional, Communal, and Organizational Transformations in Las Cañadas,” in Mayan Lives, Mayan Utopias: The Indigenous Peoples of Chiapas and the Zapatista Rebellion, Rus, Jan, Castillo, Rosalva Aída Hernández, and Mattiace, Shannan L., eds. (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003), p. 164Google Scholar.

36. See Harvey, Neil, The Chiapas Rebellion: The Struggle for Land and Democracy (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998)Google Scholar; and Cedillo, Adela and Calderón, Fernando Herrera, eds., Challenging Authoritarianism in Mexico: Revolutionary Struggles and the Dirty War, 1964–1982 (New York: Routledge, 2012)Google Scholar.

37. Knight, Alan, “Cárdenas and Echeverría: Two ‘Populist’ Presidents Compared,” in Populism in Twentieth-Century Mexico: The Presidencies of Lázaro Cárdenas and Luis Echeverría, Kiddle, Amelia and Muñoz, Maria L. O., eds. (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2010), p. 22Google Scholar.

38. For the shifting Cold War context in Latin America, see Harmer, Tanya, Allende's Chile and the Inter-American Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011)Google Scholar. The contradictions of Mexico's foreign and domestic policy were rife. During the 1970s, Mexico provided asylum to various Latin American guerillas and political dissidents, including Brazilian political prisoners released in 1969 in exchange for the kidnapped US ambassador to Brazil, Charles Burke Elbrick. At the same time, Mexico pursued its own dirty war against armed dissidents. See Aviña, Specters of Revolution; Bornemann, Alberto Ulloa, Surviving Mexico's Dirty War: A Political Prisoner's Memoir, Schmidt, Arthur and de Schmidt, Aurora Camacho, eds. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007)Google Scholar.

39. Zolov, Refried Elvis, p. 191.

40. Velasco oversaw unprecedented agrarian reform and instituted bilingual education in Quechua, one of Peru's major languages. See La Serna, Miguel, Corner of the Living: Ayacucho on the Eve of the Shining Path Insurgency (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012), pp. 105108Google Scholar.

41. See Walker, “Cacerolazo: Rumors, Gossip, and the Conservative Middle Classes, 1973–1976,” in Waking from the Dream, pp. 45–72; Agustín, José, Tragicomedia Mexicana 2: la vida en México de 1970–1988 (Mexico: Editorial Planeta Mexicana, 1998)Google Scholar.

42. The bombs were placed in the Palacio Municipal, the offices of the newspaper Oaxaca Gráfico, and a military garrison. See “Atentados dinamiteros contra tres locales en Oaxaca; un muerto,” Excelsior (Mexico), July 23, 1972.

43. Foweraker, Joe, Popular Mobilization in Mexico: The Teachers’ Movement, 1977–1987 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 22CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

44. See Stephen, Lynn, Zapata Lives! Histories and Cultural Politics in Southern Mexico (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Karen D. Caplan, “Poverty, Policy, and the World Bank in Mexico,” paper presented at the Latin American Studies Center, University of Maryland, College Park, October 8, 2007. Caplan details the experience of the Programa Integral para el Desarrollo Rural (PIDER), which was funded by the World Bank and the Mexican government and guided by a World Bank policy termed “redistribution with growth.”

45. Alan Knight, “Cárdenas and Echeverría: Two ‘Populist’ Presidents Compared” p. 28.

46. Gilbert M. Joseph and Jürgen Buchenau report that in the 1970s the population grew at more than 3.5 percent annually. See Joseph and Buchenau, Mexico's Once and Future Revolution: Social Upheaval and the Challenge of Rule since the Late Nineteenth Century (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013), p. 173.

47. Zolov, Eric, “Introduction: Latin America in the Global Sixties,” The Americas 70:3 (January 2014), p. 349CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

48. Amelia Kiddle and Maria L. O. Muñoz, “Introduction,” in Populism in Twentieth Century Mexico, pp. 1-14; Joseph and Buchenau, Mexico's Once and Future Revolution, p. 168.

49. Keller, Renata, “A Foreign Policy for Domestic Consumption: Mexico's Lukewarm Defense of Castro, 1959–1969,” Latin American Research Review 47:2 (2012), pp. 100119CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

50. Walker, Waking from the Dream, p. 21.

51. Paul Gillingham and Benjamin T. Smith, “The Paradoxes of Revolution,” in Dictablanda: Politics, Work and Culture in Mexico, p. 22. For a rejection of “authoritarian” as useful descriptor of PRI practice, see Jeffrey Rubin's concluding essay in that work, “Contextualizing the Regime: What 1938–1968 Tells Us about Mexico, Power, and Latin America's Twentieth Century,” pp. 379–395.

52. Gilbert M. Joseph and Daniel Nugent, eds., Everyday Forms of State Formation; Mary Kay Vaughan, Cultural Politics in Revolution; Joseph, Gilbert M., Rubinstein, Anne, and Zolov, Eric, eds., Fragments of a Golden Age: The Politics of Culture in Mexico since 1940 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

53. Krauze, Enrique, La presidencia imperial: ascenso y caída del sistema político mexicano (1940–1996) (Mexico: Tusquets Editores, 1997), p. 370Google Scholar.

54. Jeffrey Rubin, “Contextualizing the Regime,” p. 390.

55. In effect, I argue for moving beyond revisionist approaches to the post-1968 period. Historians have done this successfully for other periods in Mexican history but revisionist interpretations persist in discussions of the PRI's response to 1968-era dissidence.

56. “Regresan las mejoradoras a sus comunidades a enseñar,” Carteles del Sur, May 3, 1969.

57. Periódico Oficial, Gobierno Constitucional del Estado Libre y Soberano de Oaxaca (August 2, 1969), Tomo LL, 31, decree no. 68, Archivo General del Poder Ejecutivo del Estado de Oaxaca [hereafter AGEPEO], Concertación, Costal IIISEO; “Castellanización e integración es la meta de las mejoradoras y promotores sociales,” Carteles del Sur, March 23, 1969; “Plan de castellanización,” Carteles del Sur, March 24, 1969. For a brief description of the IIISEO's origins, see Sigüenza, Salvador, Héroes y escuelas: la educación en la Sierra Norte de Oaxaca, 1927–1972 (Mexico: INAH; IEEPO, 2007), pp. 251253Google Scholar; and María Luisa Acevedo Conde, interview by author, May 12, 2010, Oaxaca City.

58. See Ahuja, Gloria Bravo, La enseñanza del español a los indígenas mexicanos (Mexico: Colegio de México, 1977), pp. 292326Google Scholar. Here she outlines the linguistic foundation for what she termed the “audiovisual” method.

59. While the INI did engage in research, especially during the early 1950s, it focused much more on development work and the administration of government resources. This would become a major point of criticism by dissident anthropologists in the 1970s.

60. Over the course of the decade that the IIISEO operated, it graduated a number of people with bachelor's degrees, and a handful of master's degrees, but it never produced a PhD.

61. Elsie Rockwell, interview by author, April 5, 2010, Mexico City.

62. This shift was on display at the1968 Inter-American Indigenista Congress in Mexico in which young social scientists denounced the previous generation as facilitating exploitation and internal colonialism. See A. S. Dillingham, “Return to Pátzcuaro: Dependency Theory and Language Policy at the 1968 Congreso Indigenista Interamericano,” in “Indigenismo and its Discontents: Bilingual Teachers and the Democratic Opening in Oaxaca, Mexico, 1954–1982” (PhD diss., University of Maryland, College Park, 2012), pp. 82–114.

63. Warman, Arturo, Nolasco, Margarita, Bonfil, Guillermo, Olivera, Mercedes, and Valencia, Enrique, De eso que llaman antropología mexicana (Mexico: Editorial Nuestro Tiempo, 1970), p. 58Google Scholar. Some of the same figures were involved in a short-lived project in Chiapas, the Escuela de Desarrollo Regional (School of Regional Development), opened in 1971. The school's first director was Alfonso Villa Rojas; the second was Mercedes Olivera.

64. Arturo Warman, et al., De eso que llaman, p. 80.

65. Rosemblatt, Karin Alejandra, “Other Americas: Transnationalism, Scholarship, and the Culture of Poverty in Mexico and the United States,” Hispanic American Historical Review 89:4 (November 2009), p. 639CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Shepard, Todd, “Algeria, France, Mexico, UNESCO: A Transnational History of Anti-Racism and Decolonization, 1932–1962,” Journal of Global History 6:2 (July 2011), pp. 273297CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

66. Cardoso, Fernando and Faletto, Enzo, Dependency and Development in Latin America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979)Google Scholar.

67. For his most representative work, see Illich, Ivan, Deschooling Society (New York: Harper & Row, 1971)Google Scholar.

68. See the influential work of Calvet, Louis-Jean, Linguistique et colonialisme. Petit traité de glottophagie (Paris: Editions Payot, 1974)Google Scholar.

69. Hartch, Todd, Missionaries of the State: The Summer Institute of Linguistics, State Formation, and Indigenous Mexico, 1935–1985 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2006), p. 157Google Scholar.

70. Gloria Ruiz de Bravo Ahuja, Beatriz Garza Cuarón, and Margarita Nolasco, ca. April 1974, IIISEO, María Luisa Acevedo Conde's personal papers, Oaxaca City. In addition, Evangelina Arana de Swadesh, a linguist from the ENAH and the wife of US linguist Morris Swadesh, along with researchers from the Summer Institute of Linguistics, collaborated with the IIISEO in its initial years.

71. Bravo Ahuja et al., IIISEO, ca. April 1974, María Luisa Acevedo Conde's personal papers, Oaxaca City, p. 3. “For the first time, this group is offered real access to higher levels of education without necesarily ceasing to be indigneous."

72. The entrance exam was framed along the lines of a Spearman factor G exam. The institute chose the Spearman model because of its alleged ability to test general aptitude and intellectual capacity regardless of one's language abilities.

73. Bases del IIISEO, Victor Bravo Ahuja and Ramón Bonfíl, ca. 1972, Secretaría de Educación Pública, Dirección General de Educación Extraescolar en el Medio Indígena [hereafter SEP DGEEMI], caja 9188, folio 38, p. 8. See also Gloria R. de Bravo Ahuja and Beatriz Garza Cuarón, Problemas de integración (Mexico: IIISEO, 1970), p. 14. The predominance of young women in the first entering class reflected the institute's history as an all-girls school in its previous iteration as the EMHR.

74. María Luisa Acevedo Conde's personal papers, Oaxaca City. In this way the institution drew directly from Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán's “regions of refuge” thesis. See Beltrán, Aguirre, Regiones de refugio. El desarrollo de la comunidad y el proceso dominical en mestizo América (Mexico: Instituto Indigenista Interamericano, 1967)Google Scholar.

75. Felipe Feria, interview by author, April 28, 2010, Santa Rosa, Oaxaca City.

76. Los promotores del IIISEO, ca. April 1974, María Luisa Acevedo Conde's personal papers, Oaxaca City

77. Eleazar García Ortega, interview by Alverino López López, August 2, 2007, Oaxaca City.

78. Servando Vergulo Aparecio, interview by author, San Lucas Yosonicaje, Oaxaca, September 8, 2010.

79. One conflict involving a local cacique took place in San Pedro Amuzgos (Putla) and involved the promotores Melchor Camerino López and Filegonio Moreno Olmedo. See the report of January 23, 1976, AGN IPS, caja 1770C, exp. 12.

80. Bases del IIISEO, ca. 1972, Victor Bravo Ahuja and Ramón Bonfíl, p. 9, SEP DGEEMI, caja 9188, fol. 98.

81. Acevedo Conde, interview, May 12, 2010.

82. While there is a substantial literature on the social role of rural schoolteachers, particularly during the Cárdenas years, by mid-century teachers trained in normal schools often focused on classroom instruction as opposed to community involvement. The promotores’ job description along with their political formation led them to collaborate closely with communities, be it in basic health routines or in land seizures.

83. IX Censo General de Población, January 28, 1970, Estado de Oaxaca, Vol. I (Mexico: Secretaria de Industria y Comercio, Dirección General de Estadística, 1971), p. 3.

84. The 1971 documentary film México: la revolución congelada by Argentine director Raymundo Gleyzer dramatically depicts the crisis facing parts of rural Mexico. In 1972 the INI commissioned a documentary on the Mixteca Alta's regional market, entitled Iño savi and directed by Olivia Carrión, Epigmenio Ibarra, and Gonzalo Infante. It too depicted material deprivation affecting the rural population. This agricultural crisis was also tied to overall population growth.

85. For long-standing disputes, see Smith, Benjamin T., Pistoleros and Popular Movements: The Politics of State Formation in Postrevolutionary Oaxaca (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For examples of land seizures, see Pacheco, Cuauhtémoc González, “La lucha de clases en Oaxaca: 1960–1970 (primera parte),” in Oaxaca: una lucha reciente: 1960–1978, Bustamente, René V.et al., eds. (Mexico: Ediciones Nueva Sociología, 1978), p. 29Google Scholar.

86. Francisco José Ruiz Cervantes, “La lucha de clases en Oaxaca: 1971-1977 (segunda parte),” in Oaxaca: una lucha reciente: 1960–1978, p. 49.

87. Jeffery Rubin, Decentering the Regime, p. 131.

88. Corres, Jaime Bailón, “Los avatares de la democracia (1970–2008),” in Oaxaca: Historia Breve (Mexico: Colegio de México/Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2010), p. 254Google Scholar.

89. This lack of basic material support led Santiago Salazar, an eventual leader of the promotores’ movement, to describe his generation as “soldados sin fusil” (soldiers without arms). Santiago Salazar, interview by author, December 15, 2009, Oaxaca City.

90. Report, April 30, 1975, AGN IPS, caja 1544-A, exp. 2.

91. Santiago Salazar, interview, December 15, 2009.

92. Ricardo López has offered a parallel argument for youth employed in Alliance for Progress initiatives in Colombia. See López, , “From Middle Class to Petit Bourgeoisie: Cold War Politics and Classed Radicalization in Bogotá, 1958–1972,” Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe 25:2 (2014), pp. 99130Google Scholar.

93. Eleazar García Ortega, interview, August 2, 2007.

94. Ibid.

95. Miguel La Serna, Corner of the Living, p. 64.

96. Santiago Salazar, interview, April 19, 2010.

97. IIISEO rosters, ca. April 1974, María Luisa Acevedo Conde's personal papers, Oaxaca City.

98. Felipe Feria, interview. For a discussion of postrevolutionary athletic reforms, see Vaughan, Cultural Politics in Revolution, p. 94.

99. María Luisa Acevedo Conde, interview, May 12, 2010.

100. Convenio que se celebra entra la Dirección General del IIISEO y la Coalición de Promotores, April 23, 1974, personal papers of Santiago Salazar. The coalition was officially founded on April 2, 1974.

101. For a comparable experience in the state of Michoacán, see Vargas, María Eugenia, Educación e ideología: constitución de una categoría de intermediarios en la comunicación interétnica. El caso de los maestros bilingües tarascos (1964–1982) (Mexico: CIESAS, 1994), p. 140Google Scholar.

102. Report, November 30, 1974, AGN IPS, caja 1544-A, exp. 2.

103. Ibid.

104. Report, July 31, 1975, Archivo General de la Nación, Dirección Federal de Seguridad [hereafter AGN DFS], Zarate Aquino, caja 148, parte 1/4.

105. Each report by federal agents at the time ends with the phrase, “Until now, no violent incidents have occurred.”

106. The director of the Tlaxiaco center, José Martínez Fortiz, cabled INI offices in Mexico City, on April 7, stating, “Allow me to inform you that a group of IIISEO promotores are causing problems at this office.” Radiogram, April 7, 1975, Archivo Histórico del Centro Coordinador Indigenista de la Mixteca, Tlaxiaco, costal 1975, Radiogramas.

107. Report, April 8, 1975, AGN IPS, caja 1544-A, exp. 2.

108. Santiago Salazar, interview, December 15, 2009.

109. Francisco Abardía Moros, interview by author, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, March 11, 2014.

110. Report, April 30, 1975, AGN IPS, caja 1544-A, exp. 2.

111. Rubin, Decentering the Regime, p. 131.

112. Despite their lack of representation in movement leadership, promotoras were arrested in similar numbers to their male counterparts. Out of 81 people detained after a COCEO demonstration in Oaxaca City on February 10, 1976, 43 were women from either the IIISEO or the state normal school. See the report of February 10, 1976, AGN IPS, caja 1770C, exp. 12.

113. Eva Ruiz Ruiz, interview by author, Santa Lucia del Camino, December 11, 2009, Oaxaca City.

114. Convenio que se celebra por una parte la Secretaría de Educación Pública y por la otra los representantes de los Promotores Bilingües egresados del Instituto de Investigación y Integración Social del Estado de Oaxaca, May 3, 1975, AGEPEO, Concentración, costal IIISEO, exp. S.P.-5.12/9/75-IIISEO.

115. Estado de Oaxaca (306), undated report, ca. April 1975, AGN DFS, caja 147, primera parte. The report states that it “became known that a commission of the promotores, led by members of the Coalición Obrero-Campesina-Estudiantil, will meet with the president of the republic on May 2, in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca, and that they will make known to him their problems.”

116. Paco Ignacio Taibo II, “Experimento en Oaxaca (1): ‘En esta barranca se enseña castellano,’ “El trabajo de los promotores en pueblos perdidos,” El Universal (Mexico), December 27, 1976.

117. Reports of March 2, 1977, at 22:20 hours and 23:15 hours, AGN IPS, caja 1770C, exp 15.

118. The IIISEO's Xoxocatlán campus was converted into a technical agricultural school. It was rumored that the subsequent governor used the school to host private parties.

119. Initial agreement with castellanización policies. See Eva Ruiz Ruiz, interview, December 11, 2009. Freire's most important work was first published in 1970. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 30th ed. (New York: Continuum, 2000).

120. For an analysis of the intellectual formation of this generation, see Moreschi, Alejandra Aquino, “La generación de la ‘emergencia indígena’ y el comunalismo oaxaqueño. Genealogía de un proceso de descolonización,” Cuadernos del Sur 15:20 (July-December 2010), pp. 721Google Scholar. See also Rendón, Juan José, La comunalidad. Modo de vida en los pueblos indios, Vol. 1 (Mexico: CONACULTA, 2003)Google Scholar.

121. See Bojórquez, Fernando Soberanes, ed., Pasado, presente y futuro de la educación indígena. Memoria del Foro Permanente por la Reorientación de la Educación y el Fortalecimiento de las Lenguas y Culturas Indígenas (Mexico: Universidad Pedagógica Nacional, 2003)Google Scholar.

122. Jeffery Rubin, “Contextualizing the Regime,” p. 390.

123. Acevedo Conde, interview, May 12, 2010.

124. Ramón Cota Meza articulates the argument regarding developmentalism's unintended consequences in his article, “Indigenismo y autonomía indígena,” Letras Libres (Mexico), August 2001, pp. 47–50. Similarly in the case of Ecuador, Marc Becker, citing Fernando Guerrero and Pablo Ospina, identifies the Communist Party, developmentalist policies of the 1960s, and progressive Catholic groups as the main contributors to indigenous resurgence. See Becker, Mark, Indians and Leftists in the Making of Ecuador's Modern Indigenous Movement (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008), p. 12CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

125. While it may be alluring to tell a story of the “perfect dictatorship” as if it were comparable to understanding the interworking of a timepiece, neither the state nor the PRI functioned in a sealed metal casing. Rather, they dealt with changing circumstances, foreign and domestic, and were themselves internally heterogeneous.

126. Servando Vergulo Aparecio, interview by author, September 8, 2010.