Singing for the Dead
The Politics of Indigenous Revival in Mexico
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Duke University Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Note on Orthographic and Linguistic Conventions
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Introduction: Leaving the Pueblo
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Two months after I began research for this book in the Zapotec town of Yalálag, in Mexico’s Oaxaca State, a man named Roberto Limeta Mestas was killed.1 According to half of the town, he was murdered by his political enemies. According to the other half, he was the victim of so-called friendly fire, killed not by those he was fighting against but by his own compatriots...
1. From Revolution to Renaissance: A Political Geography and History of “Deep Mexico”
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As some Mazatecs would have people believe, they are the only Indians left in Mexico yet to lose their heads.1 Yet whatever it is that unites people as Mazatecs— setting them apart from other groups while creating a place for them in the national imagination—is not nearly as heroic and primordial as the story suggests. Nevertheless, the attempt to draw such boundaries is itself...
2. Revival in the “Land of the Magic Mushroom” : A Recent History of Ethnic Relations in the Sierra Mazateca
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In this chapter I focus on the social implications of two recent historical events in the Sierra Mazateca. These events involved encounters between cho4ta4xi1n and cho4ta4yo4ma4—locals from the Sierra and people from outside it—and suggest how locals’ understandings of indigenous identity are at odds with those who arrive from beyond the region.1 Although both events...
3. Singing for the Spirits: The Annual Day of the Dead Song Contest
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In this chapter, I consider how the histories of literacy, writing, and politics of ethnicity laid out in previous chapters condition indigenous revival in the present. While ethnic revival has taken various forms in Mexico, this book concerns a particular type centering on revitalizing and strengthening indigenous languages that are still widely spoken. Though such movements...
4. Scenes from a Nativist Reformation: The Mazatec Indigenous Church
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In chapter 3 I discussed the annual Day of the Dead Song Contest, a revival project that has found enormous popular success.1 I argue that the movement has such astonishing grassroots appeal because it was tailored so carefully to local values and norms and draws so heavily on existing, highly salient, ethnically marked practices and discourses. In this chapter, I present a case...
5. Meeting at the Family Crypt: Social Fault Lines and the Fragility of Community
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This chapter considers what the Sierra’s two revival projects—the Mazatec Indigenous Church and the Day of the Dead Song Contest (and its associated activities)—can tell us about the politics of ethnic revival when viewed on an intimate scale. I first discuss the contentious position the Mazatec Indigenous Church occupies in the Sierra. Objections other people have launched...
6. Seeing Double: Indigenous Authors, Readers, and the Paradox of Revival
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The poem excerpted in the epigraph, “Tu laanu, tu lanu” (“Who Are We? What Is Our Name?”), is from a widely anthologized work by Victor de la Cruz, one of Mexico’s most prominent indigenous writers.1 While his history is unique in many ways, it is also representative of the indigenous intellectuals who drive “the continent-wide rise in . . . literatures in the indigenous languages...
Conclusion: Singing for the Dead and the Living: Revival, Indigenous Publics, and the National Afterlife
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Just before I left for Mexico to begin research for this book, I attended a conference required by one of the granting agencies that generously funded my research. The program was interdisciplinary, and I was one of the few anthropologists participating. Most of the other attendees were social scientists from other disciplines. The keynote address, for example, was given by a sociologist...
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Page Count: 331
Illustrations: 23 photographs, 4 tables, 3 maps
Publication Year: 2013