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About the Site:

This website documents the 2006 social movement of Oaxaca, Mexico and its relationship to the global discourse on human, women´s and indigenous rights.  With more than 35 video testimonials supplemented with text, photographs and reproduction of documents, it offers the public—students, teachers, researchers, activists and other interested parties—direct access to the story of this social movement as told by those who participated in it and others who observed it first hand.

The ongoing social movement in Oaxaca is strongly linked to the emergence in June, 2006 of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), a coalition of over 300 organizations that inspired hundreds of thousands of people providing new models and mechanisms for social change.  Through organized marches and tactical takeovers of government and media facilities, the APPO interrupted the usual functions of the Oaxaca state government for six months, until the Mexican federal police force intervened in November of 2006 shut down much of the movement and arrested and imprisoned hundreds of people.

The APPO continues to be active through flourishing networks of community radio stations and the establishment of a people´s version of the Guelaguetza folk festival, an old indigenous tradition that had been taken over by commercial and political interests and was reclaimed during the height of this movement.  Yet, the APPO faces many challenges still.

Within the APPO and its larger context of political activism, the use of testimony and the claiming of rights are important tools that allow previously silenced groups to speak and be heard, enacting alternative frameworks of political and cultural participation.  Because the population of Oaxaca state includes sixteen different indigenous languages and a population that receivs news and culture through non-print media, oral testimonials are particularly important and compelling in shaping new models of citizenship.  The use of audiovisual testimonials in this website thus relates to how people appropriate rights ideas within their local communities and insert them into their own systems of cultural meanings and specific political circumstances.

The Making Rights a Reality website features brief video testimonials in Spanish with English subtitles that can be viewed online through the You Tube public use video website.  These testimonials are urgent oral accounts which bear witness to wrongs committed against the speakers, as well as providing descriptions and analyses of the events that unfolded during the movement.  These are supplemented with background information about the history of various social movements in Oaxaca during the past three decades as well as a video timeline of key events of the Oaxaca social movement from June to November of 2006.

The testimonials at the heart of this site are interlinked.  They emerge from open-ended interviews, public broadcasts, and footage of specific events.  They include statements by teachers and other participants who were illegally detained, tortured and imprisoned for their political activities as well as testimonials from their family members.  Women who participated in the takeover and reprogramming of public state television and radio stations provided their stories, as did the Mixtec and Zapotec participants in the APPO movement in Juxtlahuaca, Oaxaca City and Los Angeles.  Finally, the website includes testimonials from the “unorganized”—entrepreneurs, crafts merchants, students, housewives—whose experience of the social movement changed their understandings of local political culture, the concept of citizenship and forms of participatory democracy.

Making Rights a Reality was conceived as a digital ethnography which allows viewers to directly hear the voices of the participants and witnesses of the Oaxaca social movement of 2006.  Ethnography as a form of documentation strives to produce understanding through the richness, texture and detail found in the perspectives of local actors who directly experienced events.  The inclusion of video testimonials in the website allows students and other interested viewers a more direct interaction with the participants of the Oaxaca social movement, and invites reflection on wider perspectives of:

  •      Contemporary processes of ethnic, racial and gendered identity formation and claiming of rights

  •      Definitions of participatory democracy, political society, and citizenship

  •      Models for achieving cultural dialogue across different groups.

The Making Rights a Reality website is organized into chapters like a book.  Each digital chapter contains key video testimonials linked to particular actors.  Each chapter includes a written introduction to guide users through the different materials and many chapters include slide shows as well.  Enter here to read about each chapter and begin exploring the digital ethnography.