Made in Mexico

Made in Mexico: Tradition, Tourism, and Political Ferment in Oaxaca

Chris Goertzen
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Made in Mexico
    Book Description:

    This book concerns the aesthetic, political, and socio-political aspects of tourism in southern Mexico, particularly in the state of Oaxaca. Tourists seeking "authenticity" buy crafts and festival tickets, and spend even more on travel expenses. What does a craft object or a festival moment need to look like or sound like to please both tradition bearers and tourists in terms of aesthetics? Under what conditions are transactions between these parties psychologically healthy and sustainable? What political factors can interfere with the success of this negotiation, and what happens when the process breaks down? With Subcommandante Marcos and the Zapatistas still operating defiantly in the area, these are not merely theoretical problems.Chris Goertzen analyzes the nature and meaning of a single craft object, a woven pillowcase from Chiapas, thus previewing what the book will accomplish in greater depth in Oaxaca. He introduces the book's guiding concepts, especially concerning the types of aesthetic intensification that have replaced fading cultural contexts, and the tragic partnership between ethnic distinctiveness and oppressive politics. He then brings these concepts to bear on crafts in Oaxaca and on Oaxaca's Guelaguetza, the anchor for tourism in the state and a festival with an increasingly contested meaning.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-797-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-1)
  4. 1. Introductory Case Study: Tales Told by a Pillowcase from Chiapas
    (pp. 3-34)

    A beautiful pillow rests on a chair in our home in Louisiana. I bought the pillow’s colorful cover in May 1997, in the far south of Mexico, in San Cristóbal de las Casas, the only sizable city in the highlands of Chiapas. My trip to the highlands was partly a happy accident. Air fares to Cancún were absurdly cheap that summer, so I flew there, then bussed to Mérida and San Cristóbal in turn, looking for crafts and events that would aptly complement those I encountered on numerous trips to my main research destination of Oaxaca. I would revisit Mérida...

  5. 2. Crafts and Tourism in Oaxaca
    (pp. 35-73)

    Indian hunter-gatherers lived in Oaxaca as early as twenty thousand years ago and added agriculture to their strategies for survival as early as 7000 BC. The “three sisters” that sustain many peasants today—corn, beans, and squash—have been staples for at least as long as villages have existed, that is, since about 2000 BC. To hunt they had spears and bows and arrows; to cultivate they had digging sticks. Many other tools must have been part of daily life long before traces of them were left for archaeologists to find. At some point the Indians began making their everyday...

  6. 3. Tradition and Tourism in Festival Life: Shaping and Marketing Oaxaca’s Guelaguetza
    (pp. 74-103)

    On two Mondays each July, the indigenous populations of the state of Oaxaca collaborate with the state tourist board and various cultural organizations to present the country’s most spectacular festival, the Guelaguetza. A dozen or more dance troupes from all over the state, accompanied by either their own small band or the state brass band—a total of about five hundred dancers and musicians—perform for an audience of over twelve thousand in an open-air hillside venue built for the festival overlooking the city of Oaxaca. Many thousands more watch on television, and the two sessions of dance and music...

  7. 4. Southern Mexican Contemporary Traditional Culture That Is Little Affected by Tourism
    (pp. 104-134)

    What can we learn about living tradition from the apron a woman wears as she sells produce in a southern Mexican market, from the shopping basket in which a customer carries some of that produce away, from the words adorning the truck that brought the saleswoman and her family’s crops to town, and even from the music playing on that truck’s radio? These illustrate down-home, often regional practices learned from person to person. They mark processes of creation and consumption that reinforce layered identities that exemplify thriving contemporary traditional culture. Of special significance, these traditional items and practices are shaped...

  8. 5. Things Fall Apart: Attacks on Tourism in Oaxaca and the Prospects for Recovery
    (pp. 135-172)

    I hoped to go to Oaxaca in July 2006 to attend the Guelaguetza. I would find out if the festival continued to evolve or had reached a stable balance between the authenticity that tourists demand (however romantically and imprecisely) and the aesthetic intensification outsiders also favor without knowing they are doing so. I hoped to visit friends who wove rugs or carved and painted wooden figures for tourists and the international market, and to see how similar issues were playing out in their work. And I expected to evaluate how the parallel world of new traditional craftsnotsupported by...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 173-176)
  10. References
    (pp. 177-184)
  11. Index
    (pp. 185-192)