A big question arises in the question of transnationalism and that is, how has migration affected indigenous cultural and political identities? An example of this was recently studied in how the Indigenous Oaxacans living in California today have managed to maintain their rich cultural heritage and keep exchanging cultural ideas with their old communities back in Mexico?


The southern Mexico state of Oaxaca have the Indigenous peoples of Zapotecs and Mixtecs who have lived there for thousands of years. As time has passed, many of these Indigenous people started to cross the American border and settled in California. Most of these people were migrant workers in the 1970s, and they did jobs in the fields and other agricultural work that the American workers did not want to undertake. During the next four decades they integrated more with their host nation and started to filter into other industries.


Today these peoples engage in a raft of rich cultural exchanges between Mexico and the United States. On their trips back home they bring new qualities with them to their home communities. New styles, commodities and certain different life attitudes.

Zapotecs and Mixtecs

The Zapotecs and the Mixtecs during the 1970s and 80s began to develop a sense of their original ethic origins. Surprisingly this came about as they were far away from home, and it was most dominant in California, Northwest Mexico and in the shantytowns of the Mexican and American border. Some of the more prominent expressions of this new sense of ethnic awareness include the traditional festivals and celebrations such as fiestas. Not only have these traditional get-togethers stayed a part of their lives but they have become even more elaborate than they used to be back in their home country.

Long Term Settlement

California has seen a great influx of these Indigenous people in the last forty years almost up to critical mass status. The parallel geographic concentration together with the long-term settlement of these peoples is altering the very fabric of parts of California. Organizations have sprung up to display the culture of the Zapotecs and Mixtecs, and these groups form a close bond with the local religious and political ideals of Oaxaca. This allows the immigrants to draw on ancient and traditional culture and bring these cultural differences to America.

These cultural differences can be displayed in many ways, and it is the identity of the Indigenous peoples that is most prominent. Civic and political organizations are formed, traditional festivals are celebrated and traditional forms of music are enjoyed. There has been many Guelaguetza (a type of village band) formed to attend these festivals, and some even return home to play.

These activities promote the revival of old crafts such as traditional weaving and the printing and publication of literature including binational newspapers. Spanish and Indigenous radio stations are now aired which preserve the old Indigenous languages. And finally there has been an emergence of new writers and artists with cross-border skills and topics. In part two we continue with the Zapotecs and Mixtecs migration into California and see how it has changed the status quo.