Contesting Social Memories and Identities in the Zapotec Sierra of Oaxaca, Mexico
AdvisorAlonso, Ana Maria
Committee ChairAlonso, Ana Maria
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study examines the reactions of the Serrano from Capulalpam in the Northern Sierra of Oaxaca, Mexico to the pressures of global capitalism. This is examined through the community responses to mining exploitation, which began in mid 19th century and which during the early years of the 21st century became linked to a concept of global business.Historical memory of indigenismo and mestizaje of the 20th century plays a major role in the configuration of collective identities in Capulalpam, which the community has used to claim full ownership of gold and silver. This mobilization of lived experiences of the past is examined through the role of the elders, former indigenous miners, and indigenous authorities who are the intermediaries between the community and the state. They have mobilized major local spaces of collective representation such as the agrarian and municipal jurisdictions, as well as the communal assembly, to challenge the federal government's granting of mining concessions to multinational corporations. Members of the community adjust discourses about community to novel circumstances.Consequences of mining on Capulalpam's key resources for survival such as depletion of aquifers, pollution of water and communal lands, as well as the extraction of gold and silver, are assessed through the language of collective possession of resources. Former indigenous miners have used the landscape to attach memories to reconstruct and assess changes in the environment occurred over time due to mining. Documentation of communal land possession forged through time, memories of elders about mining and experiences of community cargo carried out across generations are connected to international and national law for Capulalpam to claim its indigenous rights and its inclusion into the politics of allocation of subsoil resources.In claiming a historical possession of gold and silver, Capulalpam has undermined major ideologies shaped by cultural anthropology depicting indigenous culture as part of indigenous traditions untouched by time and history. Thus, this study contributes to the discussion of the politics of culture and power in which ethnicity, gender, nationalism and law are interlocked and formed.