Communities Where We Work

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We work with various indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. We invite you to learn more about these communities.


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Teotitlan Del Valle

Teotilán del Valle is a Zapotec community located in the foothills of the Sierra Juarez mountains in the Valles Centrales (Central Valleys) region of Oaxaca. It is one of the oldest Zapotec villages in the region, and the Zapotec language and culture is still a mainstay of community life. Teotitlán del Valle is a municipality that covers some 82km2 with a total population of 5,638.

Local economy and work

The village is well-known for its textiles, especially rugs, which are woven on hand-operated looms. The tradition of weaving dates back to 500 BC and is a skill that is passed down from generation to generation. It is estimated there are about 150 weaving families in the pueblo and the weaving is carried out by both young and old. Overall 68% of the population of Teotitlán del Valle works on the elaboration of textiles and crafts. Teotlitlán del Valle has only been connected to Mexico City since the 1940s, but with the arrival of tourism to Oaxaca there has been a bigger market for the textiles produced in the village. While once the men of the village had to travel out of state to sell the rugs, now many shop fronts selling rugs and textiles can be found in the township.

The residents of Teotilán del Valle engage in a range of economic activities. While textile production is the main source of income, agriculture is also important for the local economy (and in reality people often work in both areas). Most of the public land is used for the cultivation of crops, the majority of which are consumed within the village, and many residents are involved in the cultivation of corn.

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San Jeronimo Tlacochahuaya

San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya is a Zapotec community located just 25 kilometers outside of the state capital, Oaxaca de Juarez. Oral tradition says that the town was founded around 1100 a.c., by a Zapotec warrior named Cochicahuala, which means “he who fights at night”. As the Zapotec population grew in the central valley of Oaxaca, better land was sought and found in Tlacochahuaya, which means “damp or wet soil” in Náhuatl. The community lived dispersed among the cerros (hills) and remained unconquered for much time. In 1550, after the marriage of the son of the last Zapotec emperor to a native woman of Tlacochahuaya, the town was incorporated into the Spanish Crown. Town titles were officially transferred in 1566, and during these same years the convent of San Jerónimo was constructed. The town was one of the most populous in the central valley, with approximately 600 people. The town economy revolved around the production of corn, pomegranate, and cuajinicuil (an antidote to the poison of venomous animals).

Local economy

Now the municipality of Tlacochahuaya covers some 47km2 and has a total population of approximately 5000. The land in Tlacochahuaya is still good for farming due to the soil’s large concentration of a type of calcium, which gives the soil a fertilizing property. The main economic activities are agriculture, dairy farming, and mezcal production. In 2010 the gross income of the town was measured at $19.2 million pesos (roughly US$1.47million).

People

Tlacochahuaya has a primary school and middle school. In Tlacochahuaya 41.82% of the population 5 years and older have completed primary school and 9.32% of the population is illiterate. The indigenous language of Zapotec is spoken by 41.82% of the population.

Church

The ex-convent of San Jerónimo, constructed in the 16th Century was a retirement home for the Dominican friars. The seminary was one of the most accredited of the 16th century because the rules of penance were so strictly followed that some say the friars looked like statues due to years of punishment and meditation. It is said that a monk who lived there, Juan de Córdoba, was the first to compile a dictionary in Zapotec and was viewed as a saint to the local community and only wore shoes when giving mass. Today, many tourists travel to Tlacochahahuaya to visit the ex-convent and admire it's uniquely, and beautifully, painted walls design by the local indigenous community members, and also its antique German Organ that dates back to 1725.

Community

 The town's annual party, held on September 30, honors their patron saint San Jerónimo. The celebrations last for five days and include fireworks, dancing, sports competitions, and lots of eating and drinking. In the summer the town also celebrates the Guelaguetza to honor the corn harvests and the community. Everyone gathers on the hill overlooking the community, and celebrates through food and dance. It is tradition that a group of men dress as women, and generally lead the dancing.

Political landscape

The municipality of San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya is semi-autonomous from the federal government because they operate under a system of self-governance called usos y costumbres. This system allows the community to appoint their own representatives independent of any political parties and bypasses the national voting system. This system is in widespread use across Oaxaca and almost three-quarters of state municipalities have adopted the usos y costumbres system of governance. The town has switched back and forth several times between usos y costumbres and the civil law system. In the late 1990s Tlacochahuaya switched to the civil system, and in 2010 returned to the traditional system. This has created some tension within the community, especially in relation to land ownership. Under usos y costumbres land is communal and cannot be purchased as private property. The transitions have created some confusion and debate among whom owns what land and what land belongs to the community.

In Tlacochahuaya a system called tequio requires residents to carry out community work. It is also obligatory for residents to perform administrative duties for community councils known as cargos, which community members are typically called upon to do every few years. Council members do not receive monetary compensation for their work and may not undertake other paid activities during this time, which can last anywhere from a few months and up to three years to fulfil the function of the municipal president. The town government consists of a: president, syndicate, mayor, treasurer, and various administrative personnel. Five council members are in charge of the various committees who oversee tequio; these include finance, government, markets, education, and public works committees.

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San Sebastián Abasolo

A Zapotec community named in honour of a Roman saint and a hero of Mexican independence, San Sebastián Abasolo sits approximately 21 kilometers from the state capital, Oaxaca de Juarez.

There are no historical documents that say exactly how the town was founded, but oral tradition reports people inhabiting the area beginning in the year 1345. The temple was erected in honour of the patron saint, San Sebastián Mártir. There are 3 mounds in the town where vestiges and objects there were used by ancient populations exist. Current residents of the town consider the hill Danni Yeri a historic site because near the stream there is a tunnel, which they believe these ancient people used to travel to the lands of Zaachila; a Oaxacan town some 20 kilometers away.

For some time the land where Abasolo sits was considered part of the San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya territory. In 1670 natives from Tlacochahuaya began to build huts out in the fields to tend their animals and crops. Over the years an entirely new community was formed. In 1878 San Sebastián Abasolo was officially founded and ceased to belong to Tlacochahuaya. In 1908 an agreement between the two towns fixed the territories for each town, with Abasolo receiving mostly wetlands where it was almost impossible to cultivate any product. As the water levels lowered, the land became very fertile and Tlacochahuaya disregarded the previous agreement. As a result, there was a conflict between the two towns in 1954, and it was not until 1975 that incidents of violence ceased. The conflict remains unresolved.

Local economy and work

The municipality now covers some 16.58km2 and has a total population of approximately 2000. The town is largely agricultural, specializing in the production of beans, garlic, and chiles de agua. There are also large zinc deposits. In 2010 the municipality had a gross income of $5.1 million pesos (roughly US$428k).

In Abasolo 55.54% of the population five years and older have completed primary school and 4.65% of the population are illiterate. Zapotec the indigenous language is poken by 28.83%

Political landscape

The municipality of Abasolo is semi-autonomous from the federal government under a system of self-governance called usos y costumbres, which allows the community to appoint their own representatives independent of any political parties and to bypass the national voting system. The town government consists of: the municipal president, syndicate, and three council members who are in charge of housing, public safety, and education. Regular meetings are held, conducted by the municipal secretary, and the secretary records all decisions taken during the meeting. Members of the government while elected, are completing a voluntary service for the community known as a cargo. These cargos are obligatory for residents. Citizens may complete several cargos throughout their lifetime, whose terms of service can last anywhere from a few months to three years. A citizen who aspires to reach a town government cargo must start from the lowest position and work up.

In order to complete the various tasks that develop in the administration, there are subordinate employees (volunteers completing honouring their cargo) who are in charge of organizing the tequios for the benefit of the entire community. Tequio requires residents to carry out voluntary community work, a regular part of town life that may involve cleaning the streets, building a school, putting up a fence, etc. The Mayor of public works oversees all of the tequios. There are also three mayores de vara (police officers) who take week-long shifts to assist the president and the syndicate.

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Santo Domingo Tomaltepec

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Tomaltepec means, “On the hill of the tomatoes.” The name is an amalgamation of “tomatl”, meaning tomato, “Teperl”, meaning hill, and “c”, meaning on or over.[i] Situated 10 short km from Oaxaca city, Santo Domingo is hidden behind Tule, and its only entrance boasts a sign that says, “Santo Domingo – panadería y tabalataría.

The local economy and work
The municipality covers some 49.76 km2 and has a total population of 2790.[ii]

The primary economic activities are agriculture and trade. The soil in Santo Domingo is vertisol pélico, and is a very grey-black, thick soil. Its agricultural use is extensive, varied, and productive, but its hardness and consistency can make it difficult to manage.[iii] The main trades conducted in the town (and with other towns) are making and selling bread, and leather work.

People
In Santo Domingo 48.6% of the population has completed primary school. There is an illiteracy rate of 6.95%, and 20.1% of the population speak Zapotec.[iv]

Political landscape
The municipality of Santo Domingo Tomaltepec is semi-autonomous from the federal government and operates under a system of self-governance called usos y costumbres (uses and customs), which allows the community to bypass the national voting system and to appoint its own representatives who are independent of any political parties. The town government consists of: the municipal president, syndicate, and three council members who are in charge of housing, public safety, and education. Regular meetings, which are conducted by the municipal secretary, are held and the secretary records all decisions taken during the meeting. While members of the government are officially elected, they are also completing a voluntary service for the community called a cargo (position or charge). Cargos represent an integral part of usos y costumbres and are obligatory for male residents. Citizens may complete several cargos throughout their lifetime, whose terms of service can last anywhere between a few months to three years. A citizen who aspires to reach a certain cargo must start from the lowest position and climb the established system of cargos until he can hold a cargo in the town government, which include the highest positions available.

In order to carry out the various tasks completed within the administrative system, there are subordinate employees (also completing a cargo) who have organizational responsibilities. There are three mayores de vara who take week-long shifts to assist the president and the syndicate. The Mayor of Public Works oversees all of the tequios (organized, collective work). The tequio is considered a regular part of town life and requires all residents to complete voluntary work that benefits the entire community.[v]

[i] Enciclopedia de los Municipios de México, www.e-local.gob.mex. [ii] Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI). Finanzas públicas estatales y municipales (2010). [iii] Ibid. Citation (i). [iv] Sistema estatal y municipal de bases de datos. Instituto nacional de estadística y geografía. http://sc.inegi.org/mex/sistemas/cobdem. [v] Ibid. Citation (i).

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Díaz Ordaz

We are currently working with nine women in Díaz Ordaz.

The origins of Villa Díaz Ordaz date back to the prehispanic settlements of the Zapotecs and Mixtecs who inhabited the land, which is located in the outskirts of Mitla. In 1646 the town was officially placed under Spanish control, and until the year 1860 the town was named Santo Domingo del Valle. In 1860, there was a great battle between the conservative and liberal forces of the Guerra de Reforma of 1857-1861. Then governor, General José María Díaz Ordaz, travelled the 40 kilometers from the capital to lead the liberal forces. During battle the General was wounded and as a result of his injury, passed away the following day. The conservative forces were defeated, and on October 31, 1860 the State Congress declared Díaz Ordaz a hero and renamed the town in his memory.

The local economy and work

Now the municipality covers some 209 km2 and has a total population of approximately 6200. Overall the municipality had a gross income of $5.1 million pesos (roughly US$428k) in 2010.

People

In Díaz Ordaz 62.8% of the population five years of age and older have completed primary school and 13.65% of the population are illiterate. The indigenous language, Zapotec is spoken by 79.72% of the population.

Political landscape

The municipality of Díaz Ordaz is semi-autonomous from the federal government under a system of self-governance called usos y costumbres, which allows the community to appoint their own representatives independent of any political parties and bypasses the national voting system. This system is in widespread use across Oaxaca and almost three-quarters of state municipalities have adopted the usos y costumbres system of governance.

In Díaz Ordaz a system called tequio requires residents to carry out community work. It is also obligatory for residents to perform administrative duties for community councils called cargos, Community members are typically called upon every few years to serve on a cargo. Council members do not receive monetary compensation for their work and may not undertake other paid activities during this time, which can last anywhere from a few months and up to three years to fulfil the function of the municipal president.

The town government consists of: the municipal president, syndicate, and three council members. There is also a municipal secretary, a treasure, and five assistants. The five assistants alternate weekly to assist the president and syndicate.


Accordion

First Pane

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UnitedThemes

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Second Pane

Strike while the iron is hot

Third Pane

Snug as a bug in a rug

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