For years, conventional scholarship has argued that minority groups are better served when the majority groups that absorb them are willing to recognize and allow for the preservation of indigenous identities. But is the reinforcement of ethnic identity among migrant groups always a process of self-liberation? In this surprising study, Carmen Martinez Novo draws on her ethnographic research of the Mixtec Indians' migration from the southwest of Mexico to Baja California to show that sometimes the push for indigenous labels is more a process of external oppression than it is of minority empowerment. In Baja California, many Mixtec Indians have not made efforts to align themselves as a coherent demographic. Instead, Martinez Novo finds that the push for indigenous identity in this region has come from local government agencies, economic elites, intellectuals, and other external agents. Their concern has not only been over the loss of rich culture. Rather, the pressure to maintain an indigenous identity has stemmed from the desire to secure a reproducible abundance of cheap ""Indian"" labor. Meanwhile, many Mixtecs reject their ethnic label precisely because being ""Indian"" means being a commercial agriculture low-wage worker or an urban informal street vendor-an identity that interferes with their goals of social mobility and economic integration. Bringing a critical new perspective to the complex intersection among government and scholarly agendas, economic development, global identity politics, and the aspirations of local migrants, this provocative book is essential reading for scholars working in the fields of sociology, anthropology, and ethnic studies.
Carmen Martinez Novo is a professor and researcher in the anthropology program at Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales Sede Ecuador in Quito, Ecuador.
Contents; Acknowledgments; 1 Introduction; 2 Mixtec Communities at the Mexican Border. 3 The Making of Vulnerabilities: Indigenous Day Laborers in Mexico's Neoliberal Agriculture; 4 ""We Are Against the Government, Although We Are the Government."" State Institutions and Indigenous Migrants in Baja California in the 1990s; 5 Representations of Indigenous Women Street Vendors in Tijuana; 6 Race, Maternalism, and Community Development; 7 Conclusion: Cultural Difference and Democracy; Notes; Bibliography; Index.