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Fascinating and revealing… from Upside Down World.  I encourage you to read the full article.

Defying the Myth of Native Desolation: Cultural Continuity in Oaxaca
Written by Kathleen Melville
Friday, 09 December 2011 15:56

Woman grinding masa on stone matate

“There is no remedy, and the Indians are coming to an end.” – Don Felipe Huamán Poma de Ayala, 1615 (quoted in Restall, 100)

Despite the passage of nearly four hundred years, Huamán Poma’s dismal pronouncement remains the sad ending to many popular narratives of the conquest. In classrooms throughout the United States, students learn that the arrival of Columbus spelled the end of Native American civilization and that the Spanish conquest obliterated indigenous culture and society in the Americas. As Matthew Restall notes in “The Seven Myths of the Conquest”, this pervasive “myth of native desolation” (102) obscures the strength and vitality of indigenous people throughout history and into the present.

In Oaxaca, Mexico, the lives and work of indigenous people belie the myth of native desolation and attest to thousands of years of continuous, evolving culture. In July, over 30 educators from the United States convened in Oaxaca for a summer institute funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities. Our goal was to better understand the histories and cultures of indigenous people in the region so that we might help illuminate and preserve them through our teaching. With unit plans that we designed and shared, we hope to disturb and diminish the myth of native desolation and to enrich our students’ perspectives on native culture.

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Globalization and transnational corporations also pose a significant threat to indigenous cultural continuity. Artisans in Oaxaca complained that Asian companies have been mass-producing textiles and wood carvings abroad and then undercutting the tourist market locally. As documented in several articles on this site, the agricultural corporation Monsanto aims to expand its reign into Oaxaca and eliminate small maize farms like the Vicente family’s. Drug cartels, their own breed of transnational organization, also jeopardize indigenous culture by increasingly luring young people into lives of violence far from home. These giants make for formidable foes in the fight for cultural survival, but the indigenous communities of Oaxaca have faced formidable foes in the past. From the Aztec conquest to the Spanish conquest to the present day, indigenous communities in Oaxaca have endured and evolved, defying the myth of native desolation and defining a culturally sustainable future for themselves.  [Full article]

(FYI:  I just had first-hand experience with the threat cheap imports pose to the livelihoods of Oaxaca’s artisans.  I do all my Christmas shopping in Oaxaca (so much more enjoyable than hitting the malls in the USA) and purchased backscratchers for stocking-stuffers that “looked” like they were made from the ubiquitous carrizo found anywhere a trickle of water is found in Oaxaca.  However, there they were in a bin at one of the chain drug stores here in el norte!  I’m thinking they were made in China.  Wood carvers, potters, and weavers, the conversation is the same; business is down and these creative and talented folks are being forced to return to work in the fields.)  — casitacolibrí

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