Postcolonial Sites and Markets: Indigenous Organizations in Chiapas, Mexico

By Vargas-Cetina, Gabriela | Tamara : Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science, January 1, 2001 | Go to article overview

Postcolonial Sites and Markets: Indigenous Organizations in Chiapas, Mexico


Vargas-Cetina, Gabriela, Tamara : Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science


Postcolonial Sites and Markets: Indigenous Organizations in Chiapas, Mexico[1]

ABSTRACT

This article discusses different forms of misrecognition regarding indigenous people in Chiapas. It is based on the author's extensive fieldwork with Chiapas organizations between 1995 and 1999, and questions the idea that postcolonials' participation in the geography (the writing of the world) could transform current power structures. Indigenous organizations have to adjust their everyday operations to those perceptions from which indigenous people are 'others' who live in a realm different from non-indigenous everyday life. The paper calls attention to the ways in which misrecognition affects the markets and the long-term viability of indigenous organizations in Chiapas.

INTRODUCTION

In 1997 a woman from San Cristobal de las Casas began a project to promote the creation of cooperatives and collectives in the municipalities of Las Margaritas and Altamirano, in the state of Chiapas. These two municipalities are part of the region where the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion (EZLN) has its widest base among the indigenous population. To get her project going, this woman sought funds from the Chiapas government and from international foundations. Soon, a minor constellation of indigenous cooperatives had sprung across the Chiapas jungle. This woman does not charge for her services as the organizations' consultant; her only income comes from the sales of crafts she makes, which she markets along with the crafts produced by the indigenous people in the cooperatives, making them pass for indigenous products.

Why do people from many countries want to work for free for indigenous people in Chiapas? Why do the indigenous communities accept this type of help? And, why is it so difficult for a nonindigenous person to sell crafts, while it is so much easier for those people seen as indigenous? Is the crafts market the only specialty market indigenous people have an advantage in? Could an indigenous organization sell, say, electrical appliances, directing them to the "indigenous" niche markets? These questions seem not to make much sense, because we already "know" the answers. However, the very fact that we have "natural" answers for them should make us stop and think hard about our preconceived notions of "indigenous peoples" and their place in the contemporary world. This paper, based on six years of research in Chiapas, between 1995 and 1999, reflects on issues concerning indigenousness, the publicly imagined Chiapas, and the market as they affect actual indigenous organizations in that state of Mexico. Here I argue that there are multiple misperceptions of who or what indigenous people are, and these misperceptions, in turn, increasingly affect the everyday operations of indigenous organizations in Chiapas.

Gayatri Spivak (1999: 30) says that the only way postcolonials are ever going to stand on equal footing with those from colonial nations is through their participation in the geography, the writing of the world. I want to speak to this notion, and suggest that having the possibility of writing the world is not enough in itself. The conditions of that -or any- writing continue to be colonial environments and colonized relationships. The case of indigenous organizations in Chiapas is paradigmatic in this respect, as they have both limitations and advantages when entering the national and international markets, precisely because of their subordinate position in contemporary Mexican society.

As the mythical legend goes, Christopher Columbus arrived in the beaches of what we now call the Americas believing he had reached Asia. Because of this confusion, the people living there came to be called Indians. Subsequent explorations and discoveries led to the realization, which Columbus apparently never quite accepted (O'Gorman, 1993[1958]), that these lands were previously unknown to European geographers and to the public at large. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Postcolonial Sites and Markets: Indigenous Organizations in Chiapas, Mexico
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.