Ashley HuicocheaEnglish 102Fall 2017December 17th 2017 The Anti-Indigenous Rhetoric in Mexico through The Media and its Effect Mexico, a country known for its prideful and prominent history of the great Aztecs and Mayas, with historical landmarks that yearly pull tourists from all around the world to visit the once great civilizations’ architect. The culture and the history of these indigenous civilizations remain an important key factor in the country’s history and advancement. Furthermore, the artifacts left behind are considered more sacred and important than the living remnants left behind: the indigenous population. The indigenous people living in mexico today face more discrimination than ever before. For a country that seems fairly progressive, Mexico has failed its indigenous population time and time again. Though, to truly understand the complexity of the anti-indigenous rhetoric the country has instilled in its populations sub conscious, the general public must understand the role media has played in part of its advancement.
While the media is meant to be an outlet that can give people content for relatability and understanding, the media in Latin America, not only Mexico, has white washed its characters and staff to the extreme. The whitewashing of Central and South American countries media content is dangerous to the latin american population in the sense that it creates anti-indigenous rhetoric in communities and even countries as a whole. A great example of whitewashing would be Univision, one of Mexico’s most prominent and esteemed broadcast channels.
The company has many telenovelas that are beloved and praised by people across all countries. As Sarah Radcliffe and Sallie westwood write in Remaking The Nation: Identity and Politics in Latin America, “The enormous impact on television in Latin America by telenovelas has not, however, created a passive audience. Instead active and engaged viewers drawing on a world which they know and value” (86). A passive audience is an audience that only observes what is presented and does not respond to it.
Rather than an active audience that does not just receive information passively but is actively involved, involved meaning people that watch these telenovelas draw and learn from them because of the way they relate to them. These active audiences take what they see and apply it to real life, hence the degradation of indigenous people and anyone with a darker complexion for that matter, in Mexico. Examining many of the current and past telenovelas on Univision, Televisa or Telemundo, they all share a similar general plot; a white woman or mestiza who is brunette and is “tragically” born into a poor family but is “lucky” enough to have two rich men who again, are either white or mestizo, fighting for her love.
A great example is “Al Diablo Con Los Guapos” and “Marichuy” both telenovelas convey anti indigenous rhetoric by casting the poor families as indigenous. Not only are most of the poor characters indigenous but creators of these shows add a sort of satire to their life story and add a foolish tone to their characters that makes it seem like they are not smart and do not keep up to date to the current world, the only world they know of is cleaning bedrooms and kitchens which creates a negative stereotype with an active audience that draws from these shows. Though the main protagonist of these shows are born into the poor family, they are not attached to the stereotypes created for the indigenous family because they are lighter than their family, which is what is so problematic about the constant casting of white/mestiza men and women as the main characters. The implication of only having a good life and being able to come out of the “poor” lifestyle if you are of a fairer complexion. These type of stories and characters send a message to the general population of Mexico and other South and Central Americans who watch this type of content and subconsciously create a stereotype of indigenous people. The masses are conditioned into thinking that indigenous people are not smart and not worthy of serious social commentary. The representation of indigenous people is vital, as Erica Cusi Wortham writes in “Indigenous Media in Mexico: Culture, Community, and the State” : Indigenous media matters because it is a form of self determination, a basic human right that Indigenous people have been denied for centuries.
Indigenous media matters because through these media we witness- and indigenous people themselves witness- their survival and the fact that they have managed to maintain a degree of “lived” autonomy despite the constant assault on their way of life (1)”. This type of representation shows and creates the racism and colorism problem in Mexico which ultimately leads to anti-indigenous rhetoric. It leaves to thinking if these big telecast companies create these stigmas inadvertently or not, and if so who is benefitting from these stigmas? The tragic scars left behind by the spanish conquistadors and their colonization of Mexico is very prominently shown in the treatment of indigenous people in the media and outside of it, essentially both intertwine within each other like cause and effect. The stereotypes and toxic anti-indigenous rhetoric shown in the popular media is drawn out all the way to the current ruling system in Mexico playing off the media’s skewed perception of indigenous people.
This system is generating more poor indigenous people by forcing them out their homes and lands to build bigger and shinier places, this takes away the sacredness and value of the land by simply putting price tag on it and disregarding its cultural significance, it’s an ongoing battle that has been happening for centuries. In example, Erica Wortham writes “Historian Emilio H. Kourí recovers how Andrés Molina Enríquez, the principal author of article 27, resurrected the crucial importance of communal land as a solution to Mexico’s ‘Indian problem’. He writes “Given the Indian’s ‘evolutive backwardness’ no other form of organization could have better served their interests” Indigenous people were deemed not ready in a developmental or evolutionary sense to handle the private property that was forced onto them during the nineteenth-century wave of liberal reforms that dismantled communal land protections. Nearly a century later, President Salinas, it seems, thought they were (61-62).” Though, still in the 21st century, these rhetoric’s that people such as Andres Molina Enriquez had about indigenous people not being capable, still haunt the country in low volume through modern television and still, the current mexican administration.
The negative impression in the media and the allowance the Mexican government gives to big money developers and business owners to gentrify and displace, exploits the indigenous people and their land. In example, in early 2016 Mexico moved ahead with a pipeline passing through indigenous territory. The Agua Prieta pipeline went through Yaqui land.
The issue worsened on October 21st 2016 when the pipeline’s supporters attacked a group of protesters, killing one and wounding eight. The construction of a pipeline without consultation of the Yaqui community is a violation of the authority of Yaqui land. Mexican authorities say that the pipeline construction will continue because “one community” cannot stop “a project that will benefit future generations.” Without permission of the Yaqui people the construction went ahead, disregarding the Yaqui community leader’s voices and precautions and with no negotiations what so ever. Another example of the Mexican governments exploitation of indigenous people was in July of 2016 when government officers and vehicles entered indigenous land unwarranted to build a highway. Activists posted online outraged in solidarity after the effort to begin construction in Toluca-Naucalpan highway, on the land of the Otomi tribe in the town of Xochicuautla.
The construction vehicles came a day after Enrique Peña Nieto, the Mexican president, authorized the removal of the 1954 order guaranteeing the Otomi tribe land rights in Xochicuautla. This is another example of the government allowing, exploiting and disregarding the indigenous people in exchange for money or what the government called “public interest” and the necessity of “easy transport” between Mexico City and the suburbs. An Official statement by government authorities reported by TeleSurTV said “the private highway will deliver huge financial returns to the community” which commentators say is false. The community of Otomi says that they were never advised or asked about the move nor had they given any approval, hence the move violated their rights given to them by the state itself. Furthermore, TelesurTV reports “Residents accuse the government of expropriation and say the plan will destroy the Xochicuautla forests and natural resources.” Although, it is not only big money developers exploiting and abusing the indigenous people of Mexico.
There is new epidemic in Mexico that is rapidly rising, which is the invasion,abuse and illegal capitalization of indigenous communities by cartels and narcos, threatening them to engage in crime. The drug cartels recruit the indigenous youth to partake in crime and if they refuse, they torture and kill them. In Example Benjamin Sanchez of age 18 was killed February 2015 after he turned down the request of work for the Sinaloa cartel. Later Sinaloa cartel members came for his father and failed in an attempted murder, it was then that Sanchez’ father decided to leave his town, El Manzano. The indigenous community leaders in the town were also recruited by organized crime and farming was made intangible for the people of El Manzano where corn had to make way for poppies. Another example of carteles exploitation of indigenous people is through the Tarahumara tribe.
The Tarahumara people created a unique style of running that brought them a new found esteem of accolades. This tribe of indigenous people made huaraches of tire treads and through them they were able to run unimaginable lengths that left many dumbfounded. Many Carteles in Mexico recognized these indigenous people as an opportunity for a new business strategy.
The Tarahumara people kept to themselves, but poverty made them prey for Cartel members, Texas Monthly reports “Narcos strolled along the plazas of small Mexican towns and bought blue jeans for those wearing traditional clothes and paired them with guides to lead them to the border at night. In the Tarahumara, the cartels found drug runners, who not only could cover incredible distances but were desperate enough to do it.” The drug cartels target these communities based off the stereotypes given out by the media, they see the displacement and mistreatment of indigenous people being done so often and easily that they must feel and think that they can do it just as easily too, and they did. Something that the Mexican government can’t do is force labor upon indigenous people, it is ethically and morally wrong and the public outrage and shaming of the country would be substantial. Cartels arguably have no sense of ethics and no sense of what is right or wrong, the power move is the money move and because of the skewed view of indigenous people portrayed by the media they decide to use them as manual labor workers. Narcos are basically enforcing a new way of colonization by forcing this labor on indigenous people and making them get their hands dirty because to them they ultimately are dirty and treated as machines that are unworthy of sympathy or of a second look.
This cruel epidemic of unfairly treating and utilizing indigenous people merely as objects is extremely harmful and toxic and is drawn off stereotypes from the media and the classism it conveys. The portrayal of indigenous people and the misrepresentation, or better yet, lack there of representation created these harmful stigmas of indigenous people that ultimately become the reality. The general masses across Mexico must ask themselves, if indigenous people would be in the situations they’re in today if they were represented in a way that praised them and made them out to be a people of strive and victory, representation matters. The reason these business owners,government developers and narco cartels target the indigenous population is because they are represented as an easy target, after mass media consumption of negative stereotypes took ahold of the subconsciousness of the people of Mexico, it’s suggested easy to target the indigenous population for exploitation and to an extent even humiliation. But, time after time the indigenous people of Mexico show their resilience and strength to beat all odds to ensure their voices be heard now and generations ahead. The indigenous people of mexico show an undying determination to preserve their land, culture and identity now and years to go.