The “technocratic revolution” that ushered in the age of neoliberalism in Mexico under the presidency of Carlos Salinas (1988–1994) helped create the conditions for, and the constraints on, a resurgence of activism among the indigenous communities of Mexico. This resurgence was given further impetus by the protests in 1992 against the official celebration of the five hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s landing in America and by the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas in 1994. Local, regional, and national indigenous organizations formed to pursue a variety of causes—cultural, economic, legal, political, and social—to benefit Indian peoples in all regions of the country.
Folkloric Poverty analyzes the crisis these indigenous political groups faced in Mexico at the turn of the twenty-first century. It tells the story of an indigenous peoples’ movement in the state of Guerrero, the Consejo Guerrerense 500 Años de Resistencia Indígena, that gained unprecedented national and international prominence in the 1990s and yet was defunct by 2002. The fate of the Consejo points to the ways that Mexican multiculturalism‚ indigenismo, combined with neoliberal reforms to keep Indians in a political quarantine, effectively limiting their actions and safely isolating their demands on the state.
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Rebecca Overmyer-Velázquez is Associate Professor of Sociology at Whittier College.Review:
“This is an outstanding contribution to critical analysis of indigenous movements in Mexico, not simply because it offers an ethnographically grounded diagnosis of the difficulties that confront organizations with militant origins that try to work through institutional channels, but also because it provides a long-term historical perspective that enables us to grasp seldom-discussed continuities between the old ‘official indigenism’ and more recent developments. The insights that this study offers into the contradictory visions and practices of state functionaries and indigenous intellectuals and activists alike make it essential reading for anyone interested in multicultural Latin America.”
—John Gledhill, University of Manchester
“In this historically grounded work, Overmyer-Velázquez ably demonstrates the ways in which both the state and indigenous organizations in Guerrero used the figure of the folkloric Indian to frame, motivate, and pursue their goals over time. Drawing on extensive fieldwork in the region, she narrates the evolution of a regional indigenous movement as it interacts with state agencies and officials and attempts to build alliances and strengthen its base of support. Not enough attention has been paid to indigenous organizations in Guerrero, which is surprising given their importance to larger Indian organizations on the national level in Mexico. This engaging and eminently readable book will be of great interest to scholars and students in a range of fields, including anthropology, sociology, political science, and public policy.”
—Shannan Mattiace, Allegheny College
“Rebecca Overmyer-Velázquez has written a highly readable and lucid account of the rise of one regional indigenous movement organization, the Guerrero Council 500 Years of Resistance, and its subsequent decline, mirroring the general fortunes of Mexico’s Indian movement more broadly.”
—Shannan L. Mattiace, The Americas
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