Sunday, January 14, 2018

The indigenous people of Oaxaca, Mexico documented in stunning detail

Mexico has such breathtaking treasures, many of which are found in its indigenous cuisine, languages, dialects, cultures, and traditions.  I've been to Oaxaca many a time and have family there, as well.  It's depth and beauty, particularly with respect to feminine power—as captured in these images by Mexican photographer, Diego Huerta—flies in the face of patriarchy in aesthetics and conduct and speaks to exactly why indigenous heritage and identity must be preserved and cultivated even further.


For a country that is doing its best to take the Indian-ness out of its people—not unlike the U.S. or subtractively assimilationist, de-indigenizing projects elsewhere—these images speak to their strength and resilience.  After all, it doesn't make sense, and has never has, to surrender those aspects of self, family, community, and identity that give them strength.  Not that bilingualism and biculturalism aren't options.  Survival depends on it.  


Bilingualism and biculturalism are conceptually distinct, however, from the massively limiting proposition of one-way, assimilation to the Spanish language and Mexican culture when this relegates them to the margins of society where indigeneity of which feminine power is an important component, gets relinquished.  Assimilation to Mexican culture is great for patriarchs, patriarchal designs, and systems of privilege and oppression that are not only culture-eviscerating, but also injurious to both women and men, as a whole.  It not at all great for what you see here in these photos. 


These same logics apply perfectly to our own cultural context in the U.S. where culture-erasing assimilation and de-indianization projects work in tandem with enduring imperialistic, colonizing projects. Just as enduring, however, and thankfully, is our community's struggle against this cultural chauvinism expressed in policy and practice, even if our efforts do not always bear fruit.  Sometimes, of course, they do, as in the recent win against a racist textbook put forward by the State Board of Education.  The victory in the recent Arizona court case is another great, recent example.


It's great to see that UNESCO sees all of this differently, too.  After all, in 1987, UNESCO acknowledged Oaxaca and its archeological sites as cultural patrimony to humanity.  So indigneity and preserving languages, cultures, and identities aren't just for them, but also for the world as part of our collective inheritance.  Like the French say, "Vive la différence!I very much look forward to my next visit. 


Many thanks to maestra Santa Yanez-Montemayor for sharing.

Angela Valenzuela



The indigenous people of Oaxaca, Mexico documented in stunning detail

by James Gabriel Martin | Lonely Planet (4 d

In south-central Mexico, flanked by rugged, rolling mountain ranges, sits Oaxaca, a state with a rich cultural heritage and a diverse gathering of proud, indigenous people who still celebrate their unique historical identities and way of life. Travelling to the region, Mexican photographer Diego Huerta has created a collection of stunning portraits of these people, using Oaxaca as a colorful backdrop for the images that tell their stories.
El Torito, “The Bull” at Istmo de Tehuantepec, Oaxaca. Image by Diego Huerta

The project, called Inside Oaxaca, started four years ago, when Diego witnessed Guelaguetza (known locally as Los Lunes del Cerro), a week-long festival the state hosts every July that sees participants from 16 different indigenous groups around the region meeting to play music, sing, dance, and celebrate cultural exchange, all while donning traditional dress. The event dates back hundreds of years, with the festival proving popular with global visitors. The festival sparked an interest in Diego, who was intrigued to learn more about the indigenous culture of the people he saw and met there.

A woman from Juchitan captured on horseback.
A woman from Juchitan captured on horseback. Image by Diego Huerta
What followed was a passion project that saw Diego making multiple trips across Oaxaca to take portraits of indigenous communities. “To speak of Oaxaca is to speak of magic. The magic of its people, their colours, their culture and traditions. Oaxaca is the living example of how the new generations are the ones who take the love of their traditions and show it through all their celebrations throughout the year. Maybe I’m short of wanting to capture so much beauty, but I try to do my best. Sometimes you need to cross mountains and lakes, walk day and night. There are times that you spend all of your energy for one portrait. But at the end of the day everything’s worth it.” Diego told Lonely Planet Travel News.

The Devils of Collantes.
The Devils of Collantes. Image by Diego Huerta
The project includes a wide-sweeping collection of dynamic, colourful portraits, including images of women from Dainzú in the Central Valley of Oaxaca in Tehuana dresses (made iconic by Frida Kahlo), a woman from Juchitan captured on horseback and the Devils of Collantes, men who don traditional dress and dance around fires in a special ceremony. Approximately 15% of the Mexican population identifies as indigenous, and in Oaxaca, that figure jumps to 56%.

A woman photographed at Istmo de Tehuantepec, Oaxaca. Image by A woman photographed at Istmo de Tehuantepec, Oaxaca.
“It does not matter if someone born in Mexico or abroad, seeing each one of the portraits of Oaxaca, they find an immediate connection with the spirit of the human being, and that for me, is the most important thing. It is necessary to show people from all over the world the true Mexico, and to tell the stories of Oaxaca is to show the living heart of Mexico.” Diego said.
More of Diego’s work is available at his official website.

1 comment: