ACCULTURATION AND THE NATIONAL INTEGRATION OF THE TARAHUMARA INDIANS OF NORTHERN MEXICO (SYMBOLISM, SOCIAL INTERACTIONISM).
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractA framework for the study of acculturation in terms of the larger historical context was developed through research on the Tarahumara Indians of the Sierra Madre in northern Mexico. A new definition of acculturation based on concepts from symbolic anthropology is presented. Acculturation is defined as a complex process of social interaction based on two sets of cultural symbols. Field research focused on a community of Tarahumaras and Mestizo Mexicans. Spanish and Mexican efforts to integrate the Tarahumaras into a larger political system are examined since acculturation is assumed to be integrally related to these processes. The roles of the principal participants in acculturation: traditional Tarahumaras, nontraditional Tarahumaras, Mestizos and mainstream Mexicans and their relationships to each other were examined. Sierra acculturation processes were mainly analyzed in terms of traditional Tarahumaras and Mestizo symbols, their inherent compatibility, and their use in a number of different social contexts in the community. Mainstream Mexicans are mainly involved in national integration efforts which affected both Tarahumaras and Mestizos. Formal education seemed to be the fastest and most effective means through which Tarahumaras were being integrated into the national structure. Nontraditional Tarahumaras were prominant in putting bilingual Indian education programs into effect in the Sierra. In the community it was found that nontraditional Tarahumaras are significantly linked to traditional Tarahumaras, that in spite of strong cultural barriers, Tarahumaras and Mestizos have developed working relationships with each other and that Tarahumara and Mestizo symbols were used not only in common social interactions, but also in political and economic realms. Rather than 'becoming Mestizo,' Tarahumara cultural identity was maintained through the use of central Tarahumara symbols, by redefining Mestizo symbols in Tarahumara social contexts and by using Mestizo symbols (e.g., the Spanish language) in practical ways. The fact that some of the most politically and economically influential members of the community were Tarahumaras provided additional support to the maintenance of Tarahumara cultural identity. It is concluded that Tarahumaras may change their lifestyle and appearance, but depending on how Tarahumara and Mestizo symbols are used, and in which contexts, Tarahumara cultural identity can persist in the face of national integration efforts.