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Power, Identity and the Production of Buffer Villages in “the Second Most Remote Region in all of Mexico”

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This paper draws on an empirical example in Oaxaca, Mexico to understand how space is (re)constructed through material and metaphorical practice. Our research on the ways in which the Zoque-speaking Indians of Chimalapas—a forest region of the state—have sought to reframe space through the formation of buffer villages to prevent encroachment on communally held land is motivated by two broad theoretical concerns. The first is to draw attention to a region of Mexico not widely addressed in geographic literature where there exist very active indigenous struggles. A second motivation relates to the continued decoupling of binaries, in particular the construct of “powerful vs powerless”. We argue that the strategies of the marginalized are enacted through the reconfiguration of spatiality and power relations predicated in part on the differentially situated subjects within a social group. Our concern is to hint at the multiplicities involved in subordination tangibly and materially within a population that often is categorized unproblematically and scripted as ‘powerless’. In examining the intricacies of the spatial strategies employed by members of the Zoque minority we show how unities and stabilities are produced against a backdrop of conflict.

Keywords: Mexico; communal lands; ethnic politics; indigenous movements; spatial strategies

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geology and Geography, Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, OH, USA, Email: 2: Department of Geography, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2008


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