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Mixtec Evangelicals

Mixtec Evangelicals: Globalization, Migration, and Religious Change in a Oaxacan Indigenous Group

Mary I. O’Connor
Copyright Date: 2016
Pages: 160
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    Mixtec Evangelicals
    Book Description:

    Mixtec Evangelicalsis a comparative ethnography of four Mixtec communities in Oaxaca, detailing the process by which economic migration and religious conversion combine to change the social and cultural makeup of predominantly folk-Catholic communities. The book describes the effects on the home communities of the Mixtecs who travel to northern Mexico and the United States in search of wage labor and return having converted from their rural Catholic roots to Evangelical Protestant religions.

    O'Connor identifies globalization as the root cause of this process. She demonstrates the ways that neoliberal policies have forced Mixtecs to migrate and how migration provides the contexts for conversion. Converts challenge the set of customs governing their Mixtec villages by refusing to participate in the Catholic ceremonies and social gatherings that are at the center of traditional village life. The home communities have responded in a number of ways-ranging from expulsion of converts to partial acceptance and adjustments within the village-depending on the circumstances of conversion and number of converts returning.

    Presenting data and case studies resulting from O'Connor's ethnographic field research in Oaxaca and various migrant settlements in Mexico and the United States,Mixtec Evangelicalsexplores this phenomenon of globalization and observes how ancient communities are changed by their own emissaries to the outside world. Students and scholars of anthropology, Latin American studies, and religion will find much in this book to inform their understanding of globalization, modernity, indigeneity, and religious change.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-424-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Figures (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Tables (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. List of Abbreviations (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Acknowledgments (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Introduction (pp. xix-2)

    The indigenous Mixtec people of Oaxaca, Mexico, have developed complex, multisited transnational communities rooted in the ancestral villages of their homeland, the Mixteca region. The ways that these transnational communities are maintained are tightly connected to the tradition ofusos y costumbres. This system is a hierarchy of alternating civil and religiouscargos, or posts, which must be taken up by representatives of each of the families in the community. This includes people outside of the village in the far-ranging transnational communities. By continuing to recognize and participate in this system, Mixtecs help to create and maintain transnational networks. While...

  8. 1 Ñuu Shaavi, The Land of Rain (pp. 3-26)

    It is said that Benito Juárez was once asked to describe the geography of the Mixteca region. He responded by crumpling up a piece of paper. That is what the area looks like. It is extremely irregular, with many small valleys between rippling steep mountains. The terrain is so difficult to tame that even today most of the roads are dirt and many communities are accessible only on foot. Both paved and dirt roads go around precipitous turns and hills, hugging the sides of the mountains. Landslides and mudslides are common occurrences. The extreme fragility of the soil in the...

  9. 2 Mixtecs and Modernity (pp. 27-42)

    Are indigenous people modern? Can they be modern? Is modernity the absolute opposite of tradition, which indigenous people such as the Mixtecs honor as their tie to their villages? These are questions that social scientists ask (Ariel de Vidas 2006; Sahlins 1999; Singh 2011; Pitarch and Orobitg 2012). Most Mixtecs do not recognize the term“modernity”as having anything to do with them. Yet they are surrounded by the products and symbols of modernity. Indeed, even in many villages, symbols of modernity such as cellular phones and video cameras are common. By embracing these, do Mixtecs become “less indigenous”? By...

  10. 3 San Juan Mixtepec: Ñuu Vicu, the Land of Clouds (pp. 43-60)

    The municipio of San Juan Mixtepec is one of the most studied communities in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca. Federico Besserer has spent the better part of the last twenty years documenting and tracing the travels of the transnational community of Mixtepec (Besserer 2002, 2004, 1999). Before Besserer, Steven Edinger (1985) published a very informative book on the community and the path of the migrants to Baja California and the United States. Together, these works comprise the most research done in a single Mixtec community in the contemporary age. In other words, there are literally thousands of communities in the...

  11. 4 San Juan Diquiyú: Village on a Rock (pp. 61-72)

    I decided to work in the agencia of San Juan Diquiyú for a variety of reasons, most having to do with the ways it contrasts with the Mixtepec agencias. First, its population (700) is larger than the agencias I worked with in Mixtepec. Second, it is in the district of Huajuapan de León, while Mixtepec is in the district of Juxtlahuaca. Third, the municipio that Diquiyú is in has a low rate of emigration compared with the municipio of San Juan Mixtepec. There is also a smaller percentage of non-Catholics in Diquiyú, and it is much closer to the main...

  12. 5 Colonia Sinaí: Los Expulsados (pp. 73-80)

    Along one of the winding, hilly roads leading out of Huajuapan de León, there appears a small sign saying “Colonia Sinaí.” The Colonia Sinaí was built by Mixtec Pentecostals who were expelled from their village, San Antonio Yodonduza Monteverde, in 1987. I learned of this community in 2003 from Hermano Heriberto of the Centros Bíblicos, the organization that has helped relocate three different groups of people expelled from their villages. I knew that many expulsions of this type had occurred in Chiapas (Cantón Delgado 1997), and some in Oaxaca (Montes García 1999; Marroquín 1996), and now I saw an opportunity...

  13. 6 Four Communities Compared (pp. 81-90)

    As the last three chapters have shown, Mixtec villages vary considerably in their acceptance of Evangelical Protestants, their continuation of the cargo system, and other aspects of their cultural systems. It could also be said that the ways that modernity is selected in each community are different from the others. At present, it probably is not possible to describe a “typical” Mixtec village. I have tried to demonstrate a certain amount of variation among the communities in my study, but this by no means exhausts the possibilities. Obviously, more field research is needed. In the meantime, it is possible to...

  14. 7 Mixtec Diaspora? (pp. 91-114)

    The worddiasporahas been used in so many contexts that it is rapidly becoming too broad to be useful (Kleist 2008:1130; Brubaker 2005). The most common meaning, prior to the 1990s, was the spread of the Jewish people throughout the world after the destruction of Jerusalem (Brubaker 2005:2). Since social scientists began studying transnational networks, diaspora has come to mean almost any group of people who have moved. Hence the question mark in the title of this chapter. Do Mixtecs constitute a diaspora? They are certainly more than a group of people who have moved. They are maintaining their...

  15. 8 Concluding Remarks (pp. 115-120)

    The casual visitor to a present-day Mixtec village might be forgiven for thinking its residents are far removed from the modern world. But Mixtecs have been part of the world-system since they were colonized by the Spanish in the sixteenth century. Their relationship with the world today is still one of neocolonial dependency, although the Spanish empire is long gone. Mixtecs began migrating for work in the nineteenth century because the world market for cochineal—a product they exported for profit—collapsed. World market forces have been at the bottom of their migrations ever since. Today, in the Mixteca region,...

  16. Glossary (pp. 121-122)
  17. References (pp. 123-130)
  18. Index (pp. 131-136)