Saturday, December 15, 2007

It's Triqui!

Photo Source:

I have finally settled on my research topic as I mentioned in prior post. I'm very excited about this new direction and have more motivation than I have had in a long time to undertake this whole dissertation thingy. I'm going to research the Triquis (yes, sounds like Tricky).

Triquis is a Mixteca (an indigenous group of Oaxaca) dialect and those that speak it are called Triqui as well. They live in a region of Western Oaxaca close to the state of Guerrero. Western Oaxaca is one of the poorest regions of the state and since Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in Mexico (it switches places frequently with Chiapas for the honor of most impoverished) this area is very poor. The Triquis in Western Oaxaca have been fighting each other for some time now. Initial conflicts in the region were disputes over land rights and borders, a common source of disagreement in Mexico. Apparently the land dispute among the Triquis was especially violent and out of control because the government was sent in (I believe this happened in the late 70s) to resolve the conflict and in the process ended up killing a number of Triquis.

Feeling somewhat guilty about killing all these Triquis the government then began to funnel money into the community for clinics and infrastructure. This new source of money then began to result in conflicts between the Triquis which triggered more killing. Two Triqui political groups have formed the MULT (Movimiento Unificado de Lucha Triqui or Unified Movement of Triqui Struggle) who are, according to one of my interviews, "the bullies" and the UBISORT (Unión de Bienestar Social de la Región Triqui or the Union of Social Well being of the Triqui Region). These groups are now locked in fierce battle for money and power and according to one interview there have been 400 murders (very unscientific and rough estimate to be sure) between 1985 and today.

These groups kill the men who act as organizers and leaders of the rival organization. When the men of a particular family are killed the women flee the region because there is a chance that they will come for the children next, sort of like the Sopranos in Western Oaxaca. It is not just the women and children of the murdered that leave, many families migrate to Mexico City or even the United States to escape not only violence but also extreme poverty. Through my research I'm going to focus on the families, primarily the women and children, who leave and come to the city of Oaxaca.

The families arrive in Oaxaca and many of them live up on a hill (a typical Latin American pattern for slum dwelling), the Cerro Fortin, at the edge of the city. They live in absolutely deplorable conditions, dirt floors, no water, no plumbing, no electricity, basically a few pieces of tin comprise their house. They often pack two families into one small room, stringing hammocks to keep the babies off the floor at night so they won't get trampled by the 12 or more people sleeping in the shack. In a recent interview I was told of 21 people living in a shack. The man who related this story to me said he had taken one of his friends, a pig farmer in the United States, to the house (he went as a representative for a charity group) and the man remarked that in the United States he was not allowed by law to keep that many hogs in a pen of the same size. Very unpleasant.

Many of these Triqui children end up on the streets of Oaxaca selling Chiclets, candy, etc. 75% (mas o menos) of street children in Oaxaca are Triqui children. The women typically sell arts and crafts in makeshift stands (they are known for their bright red traditional huipiles) on the street but have been displaced several times by the government. The will also likely be kicked out of their most recent location soon as a Sanborn’s (Mexican chain) is supposedly going to be built soon.

I have started volunteering at the Centro de Esperanza Infantil which is an organization in Oaxaca that sponsors street children, giving them money for school uniforms and paying fees for the “free” public education. The Centro began in 1985 with one child who was living in a ditch but now sponsors almost 600 children. So far I have been doing only administrative work but I hope to go on home visits soon to some Triqui households. The Centro is actually the Mexican arm of an organization called Oaxaca Streechildren Grassroots.

This is the short version of my new project and I think it is a fascinating combination of urban expansion, household dynamics and gender. Stay tuned for more……

Oh and my title is a nod to Run DMC....they too have inspired me to research the Triquis because as you may or may not know they were the first to popularize the phrase "it's tricky!".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Marissa. I've been working with the Triquis for many years now and could direct you to some background resources and to others researching other aspects about the Triquis. I've visited the Triqui community in Oaxaca City many times (but only at their places of business). I live in an area in Baja California where thousands of Triquis live, but I have also visited many other places where they live in the US and Mexico.

Allan Lee -