Introduction: Leaving the Pueblo
1. The majority of residents in Villa Hidalgo (Yalálag) speak Sierra Norte Zapotec,
although roughly 20 percent speak the unrelated but neighboring indigenous language
Mixe. I use Limeta Mestas’s real name because he was frequently mentioned in press
coverage of his death. Throughout this book, I use the real name of anyone who might
be considered a public figure—published authors, for example—and pseudonyms for
all others. This choice is not unproblematic. For example, it is sometimes difficult to
know where to draw the dividing line between the public and private lives of authors I
know personally. My hope is that even if the result is flawed, the spirit behind the con-
vention is clear. I want to protect the identity of most people I discuss while openly
acknowledging the achievements of, and challenges faced by, those to whom I refer by
their true names.
2. The anthropological literature on community factionalism and political violence
in Mexican indigenous communities is vast, as is the subset of this literature concern-
ing Oaxaca specifically. Some of the most important examples in the latter category are
classic texts in anthropology: de la Fuente 1949; Greenberg 1989; Kearney 1972; Nader
1964, 1990; Parsons 1936.
3. The radio station is programmed and managed locally, unlike most radio stations
broadcasting in indigenous areas, which were initiated under the Instituto Nacional In-
digenista, now known as the Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indí-
genas, the government agency designed to interface with Mexico’s indigenous popula-
4. See the Oaxaca government’s website at (accessed
October 25, 2012). Note that Oaxaca also has a sizable population of afro- mestizos as
well as smaller groups of speakers of other indigenous languages, including political
and economic refugees from Chiapas and Guatemala.
5. Indeed, the only other language grouping that comes close is the country’s most
widely spoken variety, Nahuatl. It has only thirty variants, less than half the number of
variants of either Mixtec or Zapotec, although those languages have a third the number
of speakers that Nahuatl does
2008a, 2008b).
6. Nda Xo is the Mazatec name for both the county seat (cabecera) and its surround-
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