Oaxaca Resurgent
Indigeneity, Development, and Inequality in Twentieth-Century Mexico
A. S. Dillingham



The Double Bind of Indigenismo

The sigh of history rises over ruins.

—Derek Walcott1

THE RUINS of the ancient city sit more than a mile above sea level. On a leveled mountain ridge, where the Sierra Madre del Sur and the Sierra Norte form the central valleys of the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, lies Monte Albán. A Zapotec city once home to tens of thousands of people, Monte Albán was one of the largest metropolises of pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica. The ruins of the urban center, its expansive central plaza, raised platforms, and astronomical observatory, stand just above the contemporary state capital, Oaxaca de Juárez (Oaxaca City). During the rainy months, the stone structures stand out against the verdant green of the mountain ridge, a reminder of why the ancient Mixtecs referred to Monte Albán as Yucucui, “green mountain.”

In recent years, urban sprawl has brought the ruins of Monte Albán and twenty-first-century Oaxaca City even closer. At roughly 1,200 feet above the valley floor, the ruins sit just above the western edge of the contemporary city. The ancient ball courts and elite housing that line the main plaza offer an impressive view of the capital of what is today one of Mexico’s poorest states. Monte Albán, a city that endured as a center of pre-Hispanic civilization and empire for nearly a millennium, is feted as an international tourist destination. UNESCO declared the ruins and the colonial downtown a World Heritage site in 1987. In Oaxaca, as at other sites of pre-Conquest civilization, tourism has become one of the few profitable industries.

FIGURE 3. The ruins of Monte Albán.
Source: Roberto A. Turnbull, 1932. Courtesy National Geographic Society.

The dissonance between the boisterous city below and the now-silent series of blocks and boulevards of Monte Albán speaks to the broader dissonance within the indigenista project in the Americas. Indigenismo, which originated in the late nineteenth century as Latin American elites attempted to distinguish themselves from their former European colonial powers, has come to signal state discourses and practices that celebrate Indigenous aesthetics and a pre-Hispanic past while figuring contemporary Indigenous populations as a problem to overcome. The ruins, like other state celebrations of Indigenous aesthetics, cut both ways. On the one hand, they serve as a tourist attraction for national and international visitors alike, as well as a source of regional pride, with groups of local secondary students racing across the site almost daily. On the other hand, these very same state invocations of the Indigenous past have served as a cudgel against those marked as Indigenous today, as a glorious past is contrasted against an allegedly degraded Indigenous present. Monte Albán thus hangs over the city the way folkloric treatments hang over Indigenous people throughout the Americas. Indeed, the very act of memorializing and celebrating pre-Conquest sites casts Indigenous peoples as intrinsically part of the past.2

State invocations of indigeneity in the Americas have invariably framed Indigenous peoples as part of a colonial heritage, a subject of social reform, or a barrier to development and modernization—anything but a universal subject of history. The unique situation that Native peoples have faced in Mexico, and to varying degrees throughout the Americas, is to live in a context in which states invoke Native history and culture in projects of nationalism and state building. These national projects frequently have meant the loss of Indigenous land, language, and governing structures. Native peoples thus confront a situation in which their history and culture are wielded by others for divergent ends. Yet these same state invocations have proven useful to those marked as Indigenous to make claims for rights, resources, and autonomy. That dilemma, which I call the double bind of indigenismo, is the subject of this book.3

The relationship between the ruins of Monte Albán and the history of indigenismo is no mere metaphor. The person responsible for much of the site’s modern excavation was Alfonso Caso. Beginning in 1931, Caso and his team initiated the large-scale excavation of the site’s platforms, central plaza, and tombs. The Mexican and international press celebrated the team’s discovery of the treasures of Tomb 7. While archaeological excavations had expanded during the final years of Porfirio Díaz’s administration (1876–1911), Caso’s excavation formed part of a broader postrevolutionary nationalism in Mexico. Following the 1910 Revolution, federal officials increasingly turned to the country’s Indigenous past and regional aesthetics to form a new, national culture. Mexican art of the period, feted in New York and Paris, drew on similar aesthetic influences. Indeed, Mexico’s entry into modernity was premised on its ability to invoke its Indigenous past in international arts and statecraft. Excavations of sites such as Monte Albán were part of this postrevolutionary state building. During the years of Caso’s excavation, Oaxacan authorities inaugurated an annual folkloric dance festival, then called the Homenaje Racial and later renamed with the Zapotec term guelaguetza, in an effort to employ Indigenous music and dress as a unifying element in a politically fractious state.4

In this context, Caso excavated Monte Albán not out of an esoteric interest in the ancient past but rather as part of a vision of what constituted Mexico’s present and future.5 The archaeologist went directly from overseeing the excavation work and analyzing Mesoamerican codices to leading the Instituto Nacional Indigenista (INI), Mexico’s Indigenous development agency. By midcentury, these earlier indigenista efforts fused with projects of modernization aimed at the transformation of both people and places marked as Indigenous. Midcentury indigenista policy reflected the broader assumptions of modernization theory, facilitating a transition from “tradition” to “modernity” and favoring industrial models of development. From the institute’s founding in 1948 until his death in 1970, Caso directed the most ambitious Indigenous development agency in the Americas, overseeing an array of programs, including agricultural support services, public health campaigns, infrastructure construction, and education extension programs. Indeed, the man who excavated the ruins of Monte Albán, popularizing Mexico’s Indigenous past for the world, became the top federal official in charge of transforming the contemporary Indigenous population for Mexico’s modernist future.

FIGURE 4. Alfonso Caso (center with glasses) and his Monte Albán excavation team. Also pictured are María Lombardo Toledano, Caso’s wife, to his immediate right and Eulalia Guzmán, then an archaeology student, on Caso’s left.
Source: Roberto A. Turnbull, 1932. Courtesy National Geographic Society.

As a project of applied social science, indigenismo required a discrete subject. For states, particularly those that emerged from Spanish rule, language practices often served as the primary marker of Indigenous difference. Throughout the twentieth century, the Mexican census used language ability to determine the percentage of the national population categorized as Indigenous. In the 1950s countryside, the decline of those who declared themselves speakers of Native languages was lauded by reformers such as the economist Moisés de la Peña, who declared that the Indigenous population had become “campesinos,” a politically salient category that bore a nationalist character associated with the postrevolutionary regime. While slippage between the categories of “campesino” and “Indigenous” sometimes occurred, the policies of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) generally privileged campesino political rhetoric up until the 1970s. The state’s emphasis on language as the primary marker of indigeneity no doubt shaped subsequent Indigenous resurgence projects, which frequently focused on language revitalization as a primary struggle for Indigenous empowerment.6

While official constructions of Indigenous difference emphasized language, Oaxacans expressed indigeneity through a host of practices, including dress, foodways, and the celebration of hometown saints’ day festivals.7 Ultimately, indigeneity is a particular form of making the past speak to the present. These practices engage with a cleavage produced by colonialism, yet at the same time are unquestionably modern.8 As the pages that follow show, those involved in Indigenous politics repeatedly debated the question of colonialism and colonial legacies over the course of the twentieth century. As they wrestled with Native peoples’ relationship to contemporary states and persistent inequalities, they articulated varied theories of anticolonialism. Some viewed states as facilitating colonial exploitation of Indigenous peoples, while most indigenistas viewed statecraft as a tool to challenge said inequalities.

Indigenismo was an Americas-wide phenomenon. Indeed, the “Indian problem,” articulated as such, was one of the defining intellectual constructions of modern Latin America.9 Twentieth-century indigenismo went beyond aesthetics and was intertwined with development projects globally.10 Popular and state invocations of the Indigenous past have distinct but parallel histories in the Anglo-Americas. Despite divergent colonial histories, one sees an analogous ideological operation at work in Canada and the United States as Native history and culture were employed to distinguish these national projects from former European colonial powers and to mark a vanishing frontier during westward expansion. In the twentieth century, oscillating projects of Indian removal, reservations, and assimilationist education policies found overlaps with their Latin American counterparts. Nonetheless, the unique form that Spanish colonialism took in the Americas differed sharply from its Anglo-American counterpart and produced distinct legacies of racialization.11

As a development practice indigenismo incentivized the self-representation of Indigenous people.12 This spirit of self-representation directly counters the late nineteenth-century quest to measure and represent Indigenous peoples described in the Prologue. The ambivalent space of indigenista practice was far from monolithic or predetermined. Just as modernizing efforts threatened Indigenous particularism, indigenista agents also at times sought to empower Indigenous communities with tools to defend themselves. The goal of this book is to move beyond normative judgments of the indigenista project, beyond even the vocabulary of indigenistas themselves, to examine quotidian indigenista practice and the way in which understandings of indigeneity, both in state discourse and in individual self-identification, were shaped by the development process.13

Oaxaca Resurgent

This book focuses on the state of Oaxaca because it has been a prime site of thinking on indigeneity. Prior to Spanish arrival, the region’s strategic position between the civilizations that inhabited the valley of Mexico to the north and Mayan societies to the southeast made it a key transit point and center of long-distance trade. Within its three mountain ranges lay the highland central valleys, which afforded an advantageous position vis-à-vis other regional powers. The Isthmus of Tehuantepec to the south, with its long-standing rivalry between the Zapotec towns of Juchitán and Tehuantepec, has been another key node of trade and commerce in the area from the pre-Hispanic period to the present. Within a relatively small geographic space, 58,279 square miles, one finds an astonishing diversity of climate, culture, and topography.

The Spanish arrived in the area in 1521 and named it Antequera. Colonial officials empowered the Dominican order to begin large-scale evangelization efforts, and Dominican priests and their Indigenous interlocutors created many of the early vocabularies of Native languages. A small Spanish merchant elite established itself in the central valleys and relied on Indigenous counterparts to facilitate trade and commerce. This model of colonial rule made Antequera a center of colonial wealth in New Spain, with silk and cochineal trades flourishing. Antequera was one of the wealthiest parts of the Spanish Empire, in part because of the relative strength of its Indigenous population and elites. This was reflected in colonial judicial proceedings, where the lingua franca was Nahuatl, the language of the Mexica Empire, along with other Native languages.14

MAP 1. The State of Oaxaca

With independence from Spain came the destruction of the repúblicas de indios system, a form of colonial rule that allowed a measure of autonomy for Indigenous communities through usos y costumbres, Indigenous customary law. Oaxaca was a center of liberal reform, producing one of Mexican liberalism’s most important spokesmen and presidents, Benito Juárez.15 Because of Indigenous retention of communal lands in much of the state, agrarianism did not take hold in the way it did in other areas of Mexico.16 This has led some scholars to portray Oaxaca as a relative backwater during the 1910 Revolution. In 1915, Oaxacan governor José Inés Dávila organized a movement opposed to the centralization favored by President Venustiano Carranza and the Constitutionalists.17 This effort, termed the sovereignty movement, drew on nineteenth-century traditions of Sierra caudillos mobilizing campesinos through kinship and clientelism, though anger over taxes also fueled campesino participation. In the Isthmus town of Juchitán, the cleavages produced by the Revolution nationally allowed for local insurgents to challenge long-standing forms of political power.18

In the twentieth century, Oaxaca became central to theorizations of Indigenous peoples’ relationship to modernization and the site of multiple pilot projects of Indigenous education and development. The state’s varied topography, its multiple mountain ranges, high central valleys, and coastal plains, had once supported pre-Hispanic civilizations and robust regional economies that persisted well into the nineteenth century. Yet that same topographical diversity increasingly became an obstacle to the models of development Mexico pursued in the twentieth century.19 The microclimates and localized crops that had served to sustain regional production and consumption now emerged as barriers in a model of development that privileged monocultures and mechanized agriculture. Many in Oaxaca’s central valleys fared well during this period, and vallistas, as the people of the central valleys are known, became prominent actors in the state’s economy and politics. Nonetheless, by midcentury this development model favored northern rather than southern Mexico. Highland regions such as the Mixteca Alta and parts of the Sierra Juárez struggled at midcentury as development officials neither invested in large-scale agriculture in these regions nor reckoned with their unique characteristics. Indeed, many highland Oaxacans began migrating to northern Mexico and the United States to labor in growing industries and commercial agriculture. Development officials framed these dynamics as a problem of “underdevelopment” and claimed that regions such as the Mixteca Alta suffered from “overpopulation.”

Oaxaca Resurgent explores the relationship between indigeneity, education and development policies, and anticolonial thinking. With over sixteen officially recognized languages, many with their own mutually unintelligible variants, Oaxaca is one of the most linguistically diverse regions in the world. Just within the Zapotec language family, one observes distinct forms of Zapotec spoken in the central valleys, the Sierras, and the Isthmus, with healthy rivalries over who speaks the correct form of Zapotec. Oaxaca’s languages, from Zapotec to Mixtec, from Huave to Chinanteco, are unique in the Americas for both their diversity and their geographic proximity. While Oaxaca and in particular the Mixteca Alta serve as this book’s primary case study, indigenismo was an Americas-wide project. I examine how that project was articulated in national and transnational networks. Throughout, I explore two related questions: First, how did ideas regarding the relationship between indigeneity and modernization change over the twentieth century? And second, what was the lived experience of indigenismo as a developmentalist and education practice in Oaxaca?

During the twentieth century, successive generations of indigenista intellectuals theorized and put into practice projects of Indigenous reform. Through institutions such as the Secretaría de Educación Publica (SEP) and the INI, Caso and other functionaries leveraged federal resources and political power in their efforts to transform Indigenous Mexico. In Oaxaca, state governors, municipal officials, and church authorities all held competing visions of modernization and sought to put them into practice. While modernization took place through a multiplicity of actors and forces, including the growth of national and international markets, private industry, the Catholic Church, and migration, the state played a disproportionate role in the history of formal efforts to transform Indigenous Mexico. Frequently Indigenous development brokers themselves, as teachers, public health campaigners, and agricultural extensionists, shaped the on-the-ground experience of modernization efforts in the state. These go-betweens, the central actors of this book, occupied a contradictory role, at times allying with top-down projects and at other times collaborating with and leading local struggles for progressive change.

While Oaxaca was a major target of indigenista efforts, material impoverishment remained a reality for most of the state’s inhabitants throughout the century. In the 1950s and 1960s, federal and state officials transformed regions such as the Mixteca Alta through infrastructure initiatives, including roads and electrification, as well as public health and education campaigns. Large-scale development initiatives such as the Papaloapan Dam project in the northeast corner of the state, completed in 1954, were part of global high modernist trends that imagined regional development projects, such as hydroelectric projects, as transformative. The spread of the Green Revolution in agriculture did little to stimulate the economies of southern Mexico, where there were many small farmers. Rather, during the second half of the century, growing numbers of Oaxacans engaged in seasonal labor migration, traveling to the neighboring state of Veracruz, Mexico City, northern Mexico, and then increasingly areas in the western United States for work. Primary and secondary school teaching was one of the few consistently remunerated forms of employment in the state, and the education sector became a principal component of Oaxacan politics, both within the PRI and within oppositional politics. Given this context, development and education policies were a central site of contestation.

The PRI dominated Oaxacan electoral and mass politics. Indeed, Oaxaca was a net exporter of politicians, providing high-level federal functionaries to the PRI throughout the republic. These include Genaro Vicente Vásquez (1925–28), Victor Bravo Ahuja (1968–70), and Diódoro Carrasco Altamirano (1992–98), all of whom served as governors of the state before taking positions in the federal government. Mirroring national politics, a system centralized around the governor administered life in the state. The ruling party did not lose the governorship of Oaxaca until 2010, proving itself a bastion of uninterrupted PRI power. Compared to its eastern neighbor Chiapas, which witnessed an armed insurgency led by the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) in 1994, Oaxaca’s political history might appear calm.

But formal PRI control masked the highly contingent forms of power holding in the state. Oaxaca’s 570 municipalities frequently exchanged deference to outside authorities, voting for PRI candidates in state and federal elections, in exchange for local rule, often in the form of usos y costumbres. When governors appeared to not comply with local demands or understandings, they were overthrown. In 1947, a social movement in the state capital successfully ousted Governor Edmundo Sánchez Cano, in a dispute fueled by new taxes and state repression. Just five years later, a similar effort ousted Governor Manuel Mayoral Heredia. In the post-1968 era, students at the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca (UABJO) sparked a movement that eventually overthrew Governor Manuel Zárate Aquino in 1977. In the town of Juchitán, on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a coalition successfully ousted the PRI from power in municipal elections in 1981. This is not to dismiss the staying power of PRI rule but rather to emphasize its unstable and negotiated nature.

As federal, cabinet-level agencies, the INI and the SEP were deeply entwined with the PRI’s political project. Working within these agencies often required participation in the ruling party’s internal politics or public events. In the pages that follow, I pay attention to the intersection of indigenista practice and PRI rule.20 Anthropologists who occupied top positions in federal agencies had to navigate and participate in the ruling party by necessity. At the same time, federal security agents’ surveillance of these individuals attests to the heterogeneity of political opinion among federal personnel. A central element of the party’s power was its vertical control of trade unions and peasant federations. I examine a key moment in the unraveling of PRI rule, when the dissident Oaxacan teachers of Sección 22 of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE) successfully broke from the party’s control. I also explore Indigenous peoples’ relationship to the PRI. Many Native individuals found a political home within party structures and participated in indigenista agencies as low-level staff members, anthropologists, and at times directors of INI regional coordinating centers. This reality undermines any facile Indigenous-versus-state dichotomies one might wish to employ. It also further demonstrates the heterogeneity that existed within the PRI project.

Perhaps because of the historical weight of the 1910 Revolution and the postrevolutionary state it produced, historians of Mexico have struggled to move their analytic frameworks beyond the nationalist politics that engulfed the country.21 Scholars have often treated Mexico as a notable exception in twentieth-century Latin American history, with its relatively stable political system and close relationship to its northern neighbor standing in stark contrast to the civil wars, dictatorships, and US intervention that characterized much of the region.22 Historians have recently challenged Mexican Cold War exceptionalism, demonstrating how hemispheric events as well as wellsprings of domestic opposition transformed the Mexican political landscape. I deepen this deprovincialization of Mexican history by demonstrating the ways the history of Oaxaca elucidates two related but distinct hemispheric trends: movements of Indigenous resurgence and official multiculturalism.

Struggles centering the experience of Native peoples’ marginalization emerged throughout the Americas in the 1980s and 1990s. Scholars have often emphasized a rupture between previous models of politics focused on class and the rise of so-called identity politics. This scholarly emphasis on a political break has failed to reckon with crucial developments in the 1970s, specifically the cultural pluralism produced within New Left and Third-Worldist circles. As people throughout the globe articulated new theories of revolution, they reckoned anew with questions of culture and colonial legacies. A Oaxacan example of this global dynamic is the theory and practice of comunalidad (communality). Oaxacan intellectuals such as Floriberto Díaz and Juan José Rendón began to theorize a radical politics in dialogue with their own experiences of Indigenous communal life. Díaz and Rendón combined the academic studies and Left political practices they encountered in Mexico City with the traditions of communal work and obligation in their hometowns. As such, they articulated communality as a political practice based on the communal nature of many Oaxacan villages that could serve as a model for transformative politics. Communality was not a homogenous project, nor did it originate in just one individual. Liberation theology and Catholic base communities in Oaxaca shaped the development of these politics as well.23

Teachers working in the Indigenous education sector were also at the forefront of challenging PRI rule and rising economic austerity. The teacher trade union struggle unfolded in the late 1970s and early 1980s as the INI and the SEP simultaneously adopted policies of etnodesarrollo, ethnic development, and indigenismo de participación, participatory indigenismo. During this period, leaders within the PRI adopted neoliberal policies, which in turn created a crisis of legitimacy.24 In the coming years, the government’s inept response to the Mexico City earthquake of 1985, which killed upwards of ten thousand people, further eroded the legitimacy of the ruling party. Its leaders attempted to solve this problem, in part, through a multicultural reinvention of the party, embracing rhetoric and policies that celebrated Indigenous languages and cultural rights. And as formal policies of economic austerity and official multiculturalism emerged simultaneously, some scholars argued that neoliberal multiculturalism was nothing more than a tautology. I take a different view, underscoring how multicultural policies in Mexico emerged as a response to antiracist and anticolonial politics of the 1960s and 1970s.

Mexico was at the forefront of multicultural reform in the Americas. Beginning in the 1980s, state and federal governments enacted legislation and policies that officially recognized and embraced the cultural and linguistic diversity of the country. These included education reform as well as constitutional amendments officially recognizing Indigenous languages and customary law. Mexico’s long history of indigenista policy placed it at the forefront of the multicultural turn, but there were significant differences from previous policies and rhetoric that celebrated mestizaje, or racial mixture, and the official celebration of the plurality of Mexico’s Indigenous peoples. Mexico was not alone in this multicultural turn; the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169, organized in 1989, called for respect of Indigenous peoples’ cultures, land, and access to natural resources. Many Latin American governments soon endorsed the international treaty.

This combination of economic austerity and the official celebration of Indigenous difference led critics to argue that as a model of governance, neoliberal multiculturalism articulated forms of social inclusion without reckoning with growing social inequalities. Within academic accounts, the multicultural turn has been treated with a healthy degree of skepticism. Scholars have rightly pointed out that talk of cultural rights appeared to emerge hand in glove with a conservative economic project that exacerbated existing social inequalities. As such, neoliberalism and multiculturalism have frequently been treated as one and the same.25 In contrast, I offer a distinct periodization and historical explanation for the emergence of multiculturalism. I frame multiculturalism as a partial concession to antiracist demands. We fail to understand both neoliberalism and multiculturalism through facile narratives of neoliberal entrapment. In effect, scholarly cynicism has erased both the historical contingency of the 1970s and the demands of Indigenous activists.

The experiences described in this book reveal a different history, a history in which questions of cultural liberation and social transformation were intimately linked. Indeed, “cultural revolution” was a common analytical framework of anticolonial thinkers. The delinking of theories of cultural and social liberation during the neoliberal era should not distort our understanding of the past. Oaxaca today appears as the epitome of neoliberal multiculturalism, with its varied cultures and crafts commodified for an international tourist market. But even here, in a place that in recent years has embraced a model of development based on folkloric tourism, a radical history underlies the rise of state-sponsored multiculturalism. In sum, Oaxaca Resurgent traces the interaction of post–World War II development projects engaging Indigenous brokers, transnational discourses of anticolonialism, and education reform. In the 1970s these factors, along with the actions of Indigenous educators, produced two interrelated but distinct outcomes: an official multiculturalism that recognized and embraced Indigenous alterity, and a politics of Indigenous resurgence frequently marshaled against state authoritarianism. In this context multiculturalism emerges not merely as a clever hegemonic tool wielded by powerful interests but also as an antiracist achievement of grassroots activism and negotiation.26


1. Derek Walcott, “The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory,” Nobel Lecture, December 7, 1992,

2. See Fernando Benítez, Los indios de México, 2 vols. (Mexico City: Biblioteca Era, 1967–68), vol. 1. Henry Ginger, the Mexico City correspondent for the New York Times in the late 1960s, engaged in similar tropes regarding Monte Albán: “They show a desire for change but the Mixtec area is still a long way from the modern elegance of the Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. Likewise is it distant from the splendor of the pyramids of Monte Alban just outside Oaxaca City, where the two major Oaxacan races of Zapotecs and the Mixtecs once showed their true capabilities.” Henry Ginger, “Mexico Pursuing Program of Self-Help for Poverty-Stricken Mixtec Indians,” New York Times, February 5, 1968.

3. The general concept of the double bind is most associated with the anthropologist Gregory Bateson. Others have also deployed it to explore questions of indigeneity. See Jessica R. Cattelino, “The Double Bind of American Indian Need-Based Sovereignty,” Cultural Anthropology 25, no. 2 (2010): 235–62.

4. Rick López, Crafting Mexico: Intellectuals, Artisans, and the State after the Revolution (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010); Poole, “Image of ‘Our Indian’”; Mary Kay Vaughan, Cultural Politics in Revolution: Teachers, Peasants and Schools in Mexico, 1930–1940 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1997); Helen Delpar, The Enormous Vogue of Things Mexican: Cultural Relations between the United States and Mexico, 1920–1935 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1995).

5. See Ann Stoler, “Introduction. ‘The Rot Remains’: From Ruins to Ruination,” in Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination, ed. Ann Stoler (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013), 11. For more on cultural patrimony in Mexico, see Christina Bueno, The Pursuit of Ruins: Archaeology, History, and the Making of Modern Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2016); Mónica Salas Landa, “(In)Visible Ruins: The Politics of Monumental Reconstruction in Post-revolutionary Mexico,” Hispanic American Historical Review 98, no. 1 (2018): 43–76.

6. See Paja Faudree, Singing for the Dead: The Politics of Indigenous Revival in Mexico (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013).

7. Dress, in particular women’s dress, frequently served to signal membership in a particular community. Local foods, such as tlayudas, memelas, and the famous mole, have their roots in Indigenous gastronomy, but the quotidian practices of food consumption can also serve to mark Indigenous difference. In southern Mexico, connection to a community or municipio has often been one of the strongest forms of identity. See John Monoghan, introduction to The Covenants with Earth and Rain: Exchange, Sacrifice, and Revelation in Mixtec Society (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995), 3–16; Roger Brubaker and Frederick Cooper, “Beyond ‘Identity,’Theory and Society 29, no. 1 (February 2000): 1–47; Paula López Caballero, “Introduction: Why Beyond Alterity?,” with Ariadna Acevedo-Rodrigo, in Beyond Alterity: Destabilizing the Indigenous Other in Mexico, ed. Paula López Caballero and Ariadna Acevedo-Rodrigo (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2018), 3–30.

8. As Paige Raibmon has described in the case of Kwakwaka’wakw: “They have been involved in the contested and dialogical practice of producing cultural meaning, of making the past and present speak to one another, of using old things in ways that resonate with new needs. Absent such utility, tradition becomes not much more than a burden Aboriginal people must carry.” See Paige Raibmon, Authentic Indians: Episodes of Encounter from the Late-Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 206.

9. See Rebecca Earle, The Return of the Native: Indians and Myth-Making in Spanish America, 1810–1930 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007); David Brading, “Manuel Gamio and Official Indigenismo in Mexico,” Bulletin of Latin American Research 7, no. 1 (1988): 75–89; Alan Knight, “Racism, Revolution, and Indigenismo: Mexico, 1910–1940,” in The Idea of Race in Latin America, 1870–1940, ed. Richard Graham (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990), 71–102. Carlos García Mora argues that indigenismo “fue la forma mexicana del racismo en el siglo XX”; see “Los proyectos tarascos, implicaciones actuales,” Diario de Campo: Boletín Interno de los Investigadores del Área de Antropología, no. 95 (November-December 2008): 100–115.

10. Claudio Lomnitz has offered a succinct definition of the phenomenon as “indigenizing modernity and . . . modernizing the Indians.” Claudio Lomnitz-Adler, “Bordering on Anthropology: The Dialectics of a National Tradition in Mexico,” Revue de Synthèse 121, nos. 3–4 (July-December 2000): 349. On twentieth-century Mexican indigenismo, see Steve Lewis’s Rethinking Mexican Indigenismo: The INI’s Coordinating Center in Highland Chiapas and the Fate of a Utopian Project (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2018); María L. O. Muñoz’s Stand Up and Fight: Participatory Indigenismo, Populism, and Mobilization in Mexico, 1970–1984 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2016); Paula López Caballero, “Las políticas indigenistas y la ‘fabrica’ de su sujeto de intervención en la creación del primer Centro Coordinador del Instituto Nacional Indigenista (1948–1952),” in Nación y alteridad: Mestizos, indígenas y extranjeros en el proceso de formación nacional, ed. Daniela Gleizer and Paula López Caballero (Mexico City: Ediciones Educación y Cultura, 2015), 69–108; Estelle Tarica, The Inner Life of Mestizo Nationalism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008).

11. On the underexplored influence of Mexican indigenista thought on US civil rights history, see Ruben Flores, Backroads Pragmatists: Mexico’s Melting Pot and Civil Rights in the United States (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014).

12. Emiko Saldívar has examined the experience of Indigenous employees of the INI in “Everyday Practices of Indigenismo: An Ethnography of Anthropology and the State in Mexico,” Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 16, no. 1 (2011): 67–89.

13. Alejandro Arauho Pardo and Paula López Caballero, “¿Quién es indígena? El legado insospechado de Alfonso Caso,” Horizontal, December 9, 2015, One could read the history of indigenismo, even its more self-critical post-1968 period, as what Franz Fanon decried as a “strategy of containment.” Just as Fanon critiqued moves to decolonize Africa safely within European frameworks, indigenismo sought a state-sanctioned management of cultural difference and empowerment of Native peoples. Nonetheless, just as in processes of decolonization, the daily practice of indigenismo could not always contain insurgent forms of indigeneity, and it at times produced intellectual and political cleavages, which those marked as Indigenous exploited. See Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (1961; repr., New York: Grove Press, 2005), 31.

14. As María Elena Martínez has pointed out, the exceptional nature of Spanish colonialism in the Americas—its “control over some systems of labor, its transformation of large Indigenous populations into tributaries, and its collective incorporation of Native people as Christian vassals of the Crown of Castile”—had long-term consequences for definitions of race and indigeneity in former Spanish colonies. See María de los Ángeles Romero Frizzi, Economía y vida de los españoles en la Mixteca Alta, 1519–1720 (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia: Gobierno del Estado de Oaxaca, 1990); Kevin Terraciano, The Mixtecs of Colonial Oaxaca: Ñudzahui History, Sixteenth through Eighteenth Centuries (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001); Yanna Yannakakis, The Art of Being In-Between: Native Intermediaries, Indian Identity, and Local Rule in Colonial Oaxaca (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008); María Elena Martínez, Genealogical Fictions: Limpieza de Sangre, Religion, and Gender in Colonial Mexico (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008), 16.

15. During the years of liberal reform and French invasion, Oaxacans played key roles as politicians and generals and provided a disproportionate number of troops to liberal armies. See Peter Guardino, The Time of Liberty: Popular Political Culture in Oaxaca, 1750–1850 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005); Francie Chassen-López, From Liberal to Revolutionary Oaxaca: The View from the South, Mexico 1867–1911 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004).

16. See Ronald Waterbury, “Non-revolutionary Peasants: Oaxaca Compared to Morelos in the Mexican Revolution,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 17, no. 4 (October 1975): 410–42.

17. Margarita Dalton, Breve historia de Oaxaca (Mexico City: El Colegio de México y Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2004), 228.

18. Paul Garner, “Oaxaca: The Rise and Fall of State Sovereignty,” in Provinces of the Revolution: Essays on Regional Mexican History, 1910–1929, ed. Tomas Benjamin and Mark Wasserman (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990), 163–83. In this regard Garner remains faithful to Alan Knight’s concept of “serrano revolts”; see Alan Knight, The Mexican Revolution, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 115–17. See Colby Nolan Ristow, A Revolution Unfinished: The Chegomista Rebellion and the Limits of Revolutionary Democracy in Juchitán, Oaxaca (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2018).

19. As José Maria Caballero has observed in the case of the Andes, “What had once been an advantage became a liability.” See José Maria Caballero, Agricultura, reforma agraria, y pobreza campesina (Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1980), 113.

20. See Gilbert M. Joseph and Daniel Nugent, eds., Everyday Forms of State Formation: Revolution and the Negotiation of Rule in Modern Mexico (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994); Vaughan, Cultural Politics in Revolution; Gilbert M. Joseph, Anne Rubinstein, and Eric Zolov, eds., Fragments of a Golden Age: The Politics of Culture in Mexico since 1940 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001).

21. This has meant much ink has been spilt debating the nature of the postrevolutionary state and the political party that came to dominate Mexico, the PRI, without much discussion of how Mexican history reflected broader trends in the Americas and the world.

22. Paul Gillingham and Benjamin T. Smith, eds., Dictablanda: Politics, Work and Culture in Mexico, 1938–1968 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014); Gladys McCormick, “The Last Door: Political Prisoners and the Use of Torture in Mexico’s Dirty War,” The Americas 74, no. 1 (January 2017): 58.

23. Michael Denning, Culture in the Age of Three Worlds (London: Verso, 2004); Kevin Young, “Introduction: Revolutionary Actors, Encounters, and Transformations,” in Making the Revolution: Histories of the Latin American Left, ed. Kevin Young (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 5–6; Alejandra Aquino Moreschi, “La generación de la ‘emergencia indígena’ y el comunalismo oaxaqueño: Genealogía de un proceso de descolonización,” Cuadernos del Sur 15, no. 20 (July-December 2010), 7–21; Juan José Rendón, La comunalidad: Modo de vida en los pueblos indios, vol. 1 (Mexico City: CONACULTA, 2003).

24. Sarah Babb, Managing Mexico: Economists from Nationalism to Neoliberalism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004); Randal Sheppard, A Persistent Revolution: History, Nationalism, and Politics in Mexico since 1968 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2016); Louise Walker, Waking from the Dream: Mexico’s Middle Classes after 1968 (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013).

25. Charles R. Hale, “Neoliberal Multiculturalism: The Remaking of Cultural Rights and Racial Dominance in Central America,” Political and Legal Anthropology Review 28, no. 1 (2005): 10–28; Nancy Postero, Now We Are Citizens: Indigenous Politics in Postmulticultural Bolivia (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007); Rebecca Overmyer-Velázquez, Folkloric Poverty: Neoliberal Multiculturalism in Mexico (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010).

26. Bret Gustafson has made a similar point in the case of late twentieth-century and early twenty-first-century Bolivia. See Bret Gustafson, New Languages of the State: Indigenous Resurgence and the Politics of Knowledge in Bolivia (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009).