introduction
Making Culture Visible
Indigenous Media in Mexico
Indigenous people in Oaxaca and Chiapas are using video, television,
and radio communications media to represent themselves to their
communities and regions, to the nation of which they are a part, and
to broader, diverse transnational audiences. Inherently contentious
and political, indigenous media matters because it is a form of self-
determination, a basic human right that native peoples have been de-
nied for centuries but are guaranteed in international law.∞
It is a well-
known fact that indigenous people across the globe make up one of
the poorest and most marginalized sectors of society, with a dispro-
portionately higher number of victims of human rights abuses.≤
Mex-
ico has nearly twelve million indigenous people living within its bor-
ders, the largest number in Latin America. They speak over sixty-five
different languages despite multiple generations of Castilianization
programs. Oaxaca has at least one million native people, close to a
third of the state population, who speak over sixteen different lan-
guages. In Chiapas the numbers are very similar, though there is less
cultural diversity.
Indigenous people in Mexico are joined by millions more across the
globe—300 million, in fact, spread across 4,000 different societies
(Neizen 2003, 4)—whose demands are heard loud and clear through
documents and ratified covenants that are intended to hold govern-
ments accountable and safeguard not only the well-being of indige-
nous people, but the possibility of life on their terms. Given this sit-
uation, indigenous media matters because through these media we
witness—and indigenous people themselves witness—their survival
and the fact that they have managed to maintain a degree of ‘‘lived’’
autonomy despite the constant assaults on their ways of life, assaults
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