Resistance among Mixtec Indians of Oaxaca to the official school: 1920--1952

Gregorio Eduardo Rivera
College of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago
July, 2006


This research is a historical study of indigenous resistance in the municipality of Tequixtepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, after the national revolution (1910-1921), against the public system of education or "official school". Mexican political leaders had oriented the public education's ideology toward the socialist thought with the purpose of erasing the Catholic church's powerful influence. At the same time, the national directors of education ignored and scorned the living native cultures.
That socialist trend and its consequent attack on traditional religion and native cultures provoked resistance in all of Mexico. The opposition was especially hard among Indian groups because the new school tended to destroy their communal social being. At the end, the native Mixtecs were divided under the pressure of two powerful and foreign influences: the national government's social ideology and the pressure of the conservative Catholic church.
The ideological division generated in the Indian community antagonism and competition. Political authorities became enemies of the religious ones; socialist schools against parish schools; "red" people against "ignorant Indians"; and in conclusion, the community's destruction and dismembering through hatred and murders.
Tequixtepec's history may help to understand better the complex relationships between asymmetrical cultures and to see the possibilities for dialogue, in order to work for more equal and harmonic relationships and to prevent inappropriate interventions which can hurt people in their dignity and identity or destroy their cultural values.
Two questions have guided this study: What was the history of educational resistance of indigenous Mixtec people against the public school, during the post-revolutionary period 1920-1952? How did the natives negotiate their relationships with federal teachers and parish priests, who represented the national hegemonic culture? The result is a postcolonial history that recovers the narratives of a subaltern group, the marginalized Mixtec Indians, from a period of time little studied.