PLACE ANDI DENTITY
MATERIAL CONDITIONS AND SOCIAL IDENTITY are closely intertwined. This chapter narrates the establishment of place and the formation of urban identity among the citizens of Colonia Hermosa. The narratives you will read are a testament to this community's determination and their endless work, and an intimation of their hopes and dreams—for themselves and for their community. Landscape and identity are always intertwined, and the environment of the colonia is no exception. Through their construction of houses and the development of the large compounds that came to contain them over the years, residents reveal their material successes, the fruits of their immediate labor, which are direct and measurable evidence of their progress. These houses embody a central part of the social, material, and symbolic capital of the new residents.
My introduction to Colonia Hermosa was very simple. In 1968 I was a member of a group of graduate students from the University of Illinois who traveled to Mexico, along with our academic adviser, Doug Butterworth, to investigate the squatter settlements of Oaxaca. After driving close to 2,000 miles from Champaign-Urbana, we began our first summer of fieldwork in Oaxaca. When we arrived at the colonia, it was a very hot morning in June. After parking on the side of a broad, dirt road, we walked over to a nearby construction site. The workers were all men, and all wore cotton shirts with their sleeves rolled up, and cotton pants in varying states of wear and tear; some of the men wore western or rancho-styled hats, with the cords hanging off the back brim. Everyone was working. Surrounding them were piles of dirt, bricks, bags of