We live in an era marked by excessive xenophobia in the United States, particularly towards immigrants from Mexico. On the southern side of the border, numerous indigenous villages in states like Oaxaca, Mexico, are scarcely populated— in search of work, most of the men immigrated to U.S. cities such as Los Angeles and Charlotte. Those left behind for months to decades, are often women, girls, and Muxe (transgender women).
Through the collaborative creation of an indigenous action research project rooted in postcolonial, border identity, queer theory, and feminist epistemologies, my goal is to foster an alternative mode of ethnographic art education in which indigenous transnational narrative construction and intergenerational material cultural production break new ground for participatory empowerment, self-representation, and visibility. Indigenous women, Muxe and girls are members of historically forgotten and oppressed communities both in Mexico and even more so, in the U.S., where their immigrant status often renders them invisible.
This action research project is focused on indigenous Zapotec women, Muxe, elder women, and girls who currently practice a form of visual culture production, (i.e. huipile making/embroidery, or weaving), or who would like to make art centered in the story of their lives. One group will currently live in Oaxaca, while another group will simultaneously live in Los Angeles, CA area. All participants, together with ally educators/artists will inform the curriculum's content and implementation. The needs and interests of participants will be reflected in our pedegogical and research approach. Each group will be guided by a team of indigenous and/or chian@ art educators. (I will also be part of this team.)
Over the course of 8 months, participants will be asked to engage with their individual and collective notions of gender, sexuality, history, time, migration, land, spirituality, beauty, and voice, via oral, visual, and textual narrative construction. Women and Muxe will be encouraged to work with their daughters or a mentee. Ideally, their work will be transferred a few times between family groups in each country so that for example, a Zapotec teen in L.A., collaborates on part of the work her younger sister made in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca. Their work may take the form of an accordion book alluding to pre and post-conquest codices made by Zapotec ancestors, or take on other visual manifestations such as textile or performance, as they see meaningful.
An overarching goal of this action research project is to create an intergenerational women/girl-centered art program that is self-sustaining within at least one community, so that there is continuity in the transmission of woman/girl-made indigenous knowledge and wisdom captured each year. A culminating exhibition of works or a publication would enable participants to reach a broader audience in cultivating awareness of the complex contemporary lives indigenous women, Muxe, and girls live in Mexico and/or the U.S. Of course, all these suggested parameters may shift in time and upon collaboration and council with the teams in each country.