We Are the Face of Oaxaca

Testimony and Social Movements

We Are the Face of Oaxaca

Book Pages: 368 Illustrations: 26 photographs, 1 table, 4 maps Published: October 2013

Author: Lynn Stephen

Activism, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies > Mexico

A massive uprising against the Mexican state of Oaxaca began with the emergence of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) in June 2006. A coalition of more than 300 organizations, APPO disrupted the functions of Oaxaca's government for six months. It began to develop an inclusive and participatory political vision for the state. Testimonials were broadcast on radio and television stations appropriated by APPO, shared at public demonstrations, debated in homes and in the streets, and disseminated around the world via the Internet.

The movement was met with violent repression. Participants were imprisoned, tortured, and even killed. Lynn Stephen emphasizes the crucial role of testimony in human rights work, indigenous cultural history, community and indigenous radio, and women's articulation of their rights to speak and be heard. She also explores transborder support for APPO, particularly among Oaxacan immigrants in Los Angeles. The book is supplemented by a website featuring video testimonials, pictures, documents, and a timeline of key events.


We Are the Face of Oaxaca is well suited for upper- or graduate-level courses, and is supported by the web site contents which are a welcome additions for interactive teaching. The work is unique in that the author has a personally informed view of the area of study and was able to capture testimonies and events on video and tape to create the book’s accompanying web site. . . . We are the Face of Oaxaca is an engaged ethnography that represents what the struggle was about, the voice of the people.” — Paulette F. Steeves, North American Dialogue

“The analysis of testimony and human rights is valuable well beyond the case of Oaxaca. Woven throughout the text are segments of testimonies from the activists involved in the APPO, and links to a bilingual website containing video clips, maps, and photos, which will be particularly useful for university classes. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.” — C. M. Kovic, Choice

"Readers who are familiar with conditions in Oaxaca as well as those who were unaware of recent events will appreciate Stephen’s masterful weaving of scholarship in English and Spanish to provide a concise yet probing summary of 50 years of social unrest across a diverse state." — Jayne Howell, Journal of Anthropological Research

“Lynn Stephen's retrospective tracing of these various movements, and of their bonds of solidarity bucks and shivers with the energy of the voices that shared in the moment.” — Dylan Roberts, Canadian Dimension

“Through the lens of oral history, Stephen offers a new way of looking at how the state engages with native peoples. . . . [T]his rich and innovative book offers an incredible contribution to social movement literature. It will be of interest to activists and scholars alike.” — Kathleen M. McIntyre, The Latin Americanist

“While Oaxacan journalists and scholars have published articles and anthologies about the 2006 movement, We Are the Face of Oaxaca is the most important English language study on the movement to date. The pages of this book are seeped with the insights of a distinguished scholar with years of fieldwork and personal ties to Oaxacan transnational communities.”  — Luis Sánchez-López, Biography

“While this reviewer found Stephen’s book to be highly effective overall, it has a few attributes that make it particularly productive. First, the author does, in fact, make use of actual testimonials often throughout the book, and these are integrated gracefully with each chapter’s narrative construction. … Second, Stephen not only does the important work of focusing the reader’s attention on these particular events, located in a specific time and place; she also situates the movement globally. . . . Last, Stephen’s deft implementation of additional forms of media via links to the book’s website, which offers videos of extended interviews and supplementary imagery, among other things, is truly innovative, and engages the reader in ways that move beyond the confines of the written text.” — Erin Routon, Latin American Politics and Society

“[A] good book is one that provokes thought, new questions, and new research. Lynn Stephen’s book chronicles one of the most important contemporary Latin American social movements and raises many questions key to their analysis. For that she is deserving of much praise and a wide readership.” — Howard Campbell, The Americas

"This book contains a new and important analysis of social movements, emphasizing the way contemporary heterogeneous movements are organized and what their impact can be, especially bringing those on the margins to the center and creating multiple political subjects. This book is a model of the kind of engaged anthropology that is the future of our discipline." — Louise Lamphere, North American Dialogue

“[Stephen] presents many of the testimonials in relatively unvarnished form so as to allow activists to speak for themselves and to come alive to an enlarged audience…. It is this kind of innovative ethnographic approach and politically engaged scholarship that marks this book as an important work that will be of interest to scholars studying social movements within Mexico and around the world.” — Rick López, Hispanic American Historical Review

"Few scholars are better qualified than is Stephen to write about the arc of social protest that led to the formation of APPO, and its eventual unraveling." — Marc Becker, Latin American Research Review

"We Are the Face of Oaxaca is a magnificent book. A model of engaged scholarship and the best work yet by Lynn Stephen, it is an original analysis of the massive popular rebellion in Oaxaca, Mexico, during 2006–07. Given her deep, long-term ties to Oaxacans in both Mexico and the United States, Stephen is uniquely positioned to analyze the social movement and the significance of participants' testimonials in its production and reception." — Patricia Zavella, author of I'm Neither Here nor There: Mexicans' Quotidian Struggles with Migration and Poverty

"Given the new visibility of protest, Lynn Stephen's fascinating book offers a valuable opportunity to understand how protest movements work at the grassroots. This ethnography of the Oaxacan protest of 2006 focuses on testimony: the performed, embodied act of telling a story. Protesters’ courageous testimonies broadcast over the radio made a difference. The book and its website with recordings provide a wonderful opportunity to hear the testimonies of those with courage to speak." — Sally Engle Merry, author of Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice


Availability: In stock
Price: $28.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lynn Stephen is Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences, Professor of Anthropology, and Director of the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies at the University of Oregon. She is the author of Transborder Lives: Indigenous Oaxacans in Mexico, California, and Oregon and Zapotec Women: Gender, Class, and Ethnicity in Globalized Oaxaca, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Maps, Illustrations, and Videoclips vii

Acronyms and Abbreviations xi

About the Website xv

Acknowledgments xvii

1. Testimony: Human Rights, and Social Movements 1

2. Histories and Movements: Antecedents to the Social Movement of 2006 36

3. The Emergence of the APPO and the 2006 Oaxaca Social Movement 66

4. Testimony and Human Rights Violations in Oaxaca 95

5. Community and Indigenous Radio in Oaxaca: Testimony and Participatory Democracy 121

6. The Women's Takeover of Media in Oaxaca: Gendered Rights "to Speak" and "to Be Heard" 145

7. The Economics and Politics of Conflict: Perspectives from Oaxacan Artisans, Merchants, and Business Owners 178

8. In Indigenous Activism: The Triqui Autonomous Municipality, APPO Juxtlahuaca, and Transborder Organizing in AAPO-L.A. 209

9. From Barricades to Autonomy and Art: Youth Organizing in Oaxaca 245

Conclusions 276

Notes 289

Bibliography 303

Index 323
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, 2015 Delmos Jones and Jagna Sharff Memorial Book Prize, presented by the Critical Study of North America from the Society for the Anthropology of North America (SANA) section of the American Anthropological Association.

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5534-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5519-9
Publicity material