Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Education and the economy – both formal and informal – are institutions that link rural communities to Oaxaca City, capital of the eponymous southeastern Mexican state. Oaxaca is renowned for a rich cultural mosaic that integrates customs from over a dozen indigenous populations and thousands of rural communities. The state is simultaneously infamous for both notoriously low schooling levels that lag three decades behind national averages and high rates of poverty. Both coincide with Oaxaca having the nation’s highest level (80 percent) of informal sector workers. Through participant observation over the past 30 years, my research has explored ways that cityward migrants relied on a combination of formal education and informal sector employment to, in the local vernacular, “get ahead.” This discussion explores research related to cultural phenomena that two “informants” cum close friends identified as issues that they felt were understudied by anthropologists. These Oaxaqueños – both of whom are cityward migrants who worked in the informal sector while studying – played an invaluable role in helping to shape research designs and in data collection. Their desire to be involved, together with the emic insights they provided, are critical reminders of ways that locals’ knowledge of their own communities enriches ethnographic research at the same time that these enduring relationships enrich the fieldwork experience.