Wednesday, July 26, 2006


This week I have begun preliminary research for my dissertation topic which will also simultaneously act as my final project for the study abroad program I’m attending in Oaxaca. My investigations this week will not only give me information to take home and use to write (and hopefully receive) grants to come back and study, but will also result in a 15 page paper I will present to my peers. I’m sure they are excited (please note sarcasm)!

I’m attempting to study urban expansion in Oaxaca, the land use change associated with that expansion and how the transition from rural to urban affects not only the land but the social, political and cultural lives of those in the communities experiencing these transformations. The research is coming along slowly but surely, right now I’m focused on learning about types of land, the expansion of the city, gathering contacts etc. Luckily one of my classmates is helping me and he speaks Spanish much better than I, which, as you might imagine, is a big help.

Oliver gave me a contact in a community about 7km from Oaxaca City, San Jacinto Amilpas (SJA). This contact was the municipal president of this town in the mid to late 90s. I interviewed him last week and on Tuesday he drove us around the municipio for a first hand look at the urban encroachment and land change. In addition to this we have spent a lot of time gathering information about types of land in SJA (private, ejido, communal) and are trying to understand how agricultural land is being bought and sold and developed into housing, businesses etc. As with all research we have been scrambling around, following various leads people give and generally asking stupid questions in bad Spanish. The land tenure system in Oaxaca is very confusing, I’m too tired to go into it now, but let’s just say there are so many shades of gray regarding privatization and sale of land it makes your head spin.

Originally I had hoped to compare two communities in this final project/preliminary research but it is becoming increasingly clear that we need to narrow our scope due to the short amount of time and the complexity of the issue. We met with an Anthropology professor today from San Diego State University and she described the years long process of worming your way into a community and gaining the trust and respect of those living there. So, I had to make the executive decision to only focus on one community and learn all I could about the change occurring in this municipio. Tomorrow we are headed out for a meeting with someone who is selling a plot of land. On our tour of the town Tuesday I took a picture of a sign advertising the land (lotes) for sale, we enlarged the photo to retrieve the phone number on the sign, called the seller and they agreed to talk to us about land in the area. Gotta improvise!

So not much to tell right now, actually there is a lot to tell I’m just mentally exhausted from trying to make sense of it all and don’t feel like mulling it over again at this point. I did learn from the Anthropology professor that Oaxacan (maybe Mexican) men find shoulders and the clavicle the sexiest part on a woman’s body so I need to cover these up if I’m to get decent interviews and prevent harassment. This professor is married and has two kids and the machismo bastards still harass her! I have already experienced this a bit and it is very maddening when you are simply trying to collect data. I also need to figure out a WIFM (What’s in it for me?) so that people will be more willing to help me out. Suggestions are welcome.

It is raining perros and gatos in Oaxaca right now….

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