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“La Mexicanización del Indio”

Nancy Mendoza-Ruiz (Mixtec) earned her BA in American Ethnic Studies from University of Washington, Seattle and came to the APS...

I came to the American Philosophical Society (APS) with no prior experience with archival research and was excited to have the opportunity to work with the archival material that the APS offers. When I began my research, I knew that I wanted to focus on the Indigenous Mixtec people. As a Mixtec person whose family comes from a small pueblo (town) in La Mixteca region in Oaxaca, Mexico, I searched for archives that centered on Mixtec people. As I searched through the APS collections, I came across a report released in 1950 through the Instituto Nacional Indigenista (National Indigenous Institute) written by economics professor Moises T. de la Peña, Problemas Sociales y Económicos De Las Mixtecas.

book cover
Cover: Peña, M. T., & Instituto Nacional Indigenista (México). (1950). Problemas sociales y económicos de las Mixtecas. American Philosophical Society

As I began to read the report, I noticed the language used throughout addressed Indigenous people in a negative way, and the report also expressed interest in the colonization and exploitation of La Mixteca region. The title of my research project comes directly from a quote that I found in the report; it expresses the desire to assimilate the Indigenous population, “...la medidas que deben tomarse para activar la mexicanización del indio…” (p. 31, italics added), or as translated into English, “the measures that must be taken to activate the Mexicanization of the Indian” (my personal translation, italics added). Reading the negative language used to describe the Indigenous people in La Mixteca shifted my expectations on what this report focused on. Due to the report being released through the Instituto Nacional Indigenista I assumed that it would focus on supporting Indigenous people in La Mixteca, but my assumptions were incorrect.

As I continued to read through the report, I found that the president of Mexico at the time, Miguel Alemán Valdés, asked for the final production of this report to be completed. President Alemán is known for the rapid industrialization of Mexico. With this information, I was able to make connections to why the lead reporter was an economics professor and why there was interest in encouraging Indigenous people to leave their homelands, as well as to assimilation of Indigenous people, colonization, and exploitation of La Mixteca. 

Mapa de las Mixtecas
Mapa De Las Mixtecas: Peña, M. T., & Instituto Nacional Indigenista (México). (1950). Problemas sociales y económicos de las Mixtecas, p. 25. American Philosophical Society

This report sought to examine the region for the purposes of colonization and exploitation of the land, “...para facilitar la explotación de las riquezas forestales de Juxtlahuaca y Tlaxiaco y sobre todo, los recursos en que abundan estas dos distritos, potencialmente los más rico del Estado, según parece desprenderse de las exploraciones preliminares que se han llevado a cabo (cobre, plomo, zinc, antimonio, fierro, oro y plata" (p. 27, italics added), or as translated into English, “...to facilitate the exploitation of the forest wealth of Juxtlahuaca and Tlaxiaco and above all, the resources in which these two districts, potentially the richest in the State, abound, according to what seems to emerge from the preliminary explorations that have been carried out (copper, lead, zinc, antimony, iron, gold and silver” (my personal translation, italics added).

With the release of this report being somewhat recent, it showcases how the Mexican government viewed Indigenous people and the land. The language used throughout the report made it clear to me what the true intentions were: it was never meant to aid Indigenous people but to analyze the ways the Mexican government could colonize the region for their own benefit. I now hope to continue building off of this research project by asking my grandmother about the time period in which this report was written in order to investigate if this report had any direct impact on my family and/or their pueblo.