Defying Inequality by Fortifying Communal Life: Experiences of “comunalidad” from Oaxaca

Lois Meyer, University of New Mexico, Benjamin Maldonado, Integrated Communal High Schools, Oaxaca, Mexico

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Throughout the last five centuries of their history, the lives of indigenous peoples who inhabit Oaxacan territory have been characterized by inequality at the hands of the dominant mestizo sectors. Inequality, exclusion, and especially ethnocide have been the conditions first- established by the Spanish government and then by the Mexican State in relationships with indigenous peoples.  This situation worsened with the development and spread of capitalism in both the 19th and 20th centuries. The local community is the place from where domination has been resisted, and where indigenous peoples have tried to provide themselves basic social wellbeing from which they otherwise have been marginalized.  During this struggle, many communities have been debilitated, thus making strengthening of communities the main objective of the indigenous movement in Oaxaca since 1980. Education has been one of the most important aspects of this effort to recuperate communal strength and to make local autonomy a priority.  Various experiences of community education have been obtained that fortify communal life and culture, as part of a commitment in confronting inequality and its tenacious roots in the Mexican State.

About the Presenter: 

Lois M. Meyer is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies at University of New Mexico, meyer   Albuquerque. She is an applied linguist and bilingual educator who has collaborated for more than a decade with the Coalition of Indigenous Teachers and Promoters of Oaxaca (CMPIO).  Dr. Meyer received the Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, with specialty areas in bilingualism, second language acquisition, and language education.  After eleven years preparing bilingual teachers at San Francisco State University, followed by a year as a Fulbright researcher in Oaxaca, Dr. Meyer moved to the Department of Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies (LLSS) in the College of Education at the University of New Mexico.  She is now serving as chair of LLSS.  She has published books and articles on the education of minoritized learners in the United States, effective strategies for working with second language learners, transformative pedagogies, indigenous language revitalization efforts, and comparative (Mexican/U.S.) language policies.  New World of Indigenous Resistance is her second book produced in collaboration with Benjamín Maldonado. E-mail:

Benjamín Maldonado Alvarado is Academic Director at the College for Integral Intercultural Education of Oaxaca in Oaxaca, benjaminMexico. An anthropologist originally from Mexico City, Benjamín Maldonado Alvarado has lived for 30 years in Oaxaca, where he has worked professionally alongside diverse indigenous communities.  In 2010 he received his doctorate in Amerindian Studies from the University of Leiden, Holland.  Presently he is advisor to the State Coordination of Indigenous Communal Secondary Schools of the State Institute of Public Education of Oaxaca (IEEPO).  Dr. Maldonado has published many books and articles on topics such as indigenous education, Oaxacan indigenous “comunalidad,” Magonist anarchism, and autonomy.   His most recent book with Lois Meyer (Eds.) is  New World of Indigenous Resistance. Noam Chomsky and Voices from North, South and Central America. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-87286-533-4. 

Presented on: 
April 20, 2011
Symposium 2011
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