This project documents and analyzes changing notions of masculinities in the Mixtec transnational community San Jerónimo Progreso. San Jerónimo is a small Mixtec speaking agencia municipal (town) in the municipality of Silacayoapan, and Region Mixteca of western Oaxaca, Mexico. Despite the town’s fragmented appearance (the majority people from San Jerónimo now live permanently outside of the town) San Jerónimo is by all accounts a transnational community; its members recreate their sense of community and belonging to the town across the borders and boundaries of nation-states. San Jerónimo’s families are now primarily located in two satellite communities: Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico and the small farming towns of the San Joaquin Valley, California, in the United States. This dissertation demonstrates how transnational migration and the development of households across the U.S. and Mexico borders have impacted and modified indigenous masculinities as they are constituted in the context of San Jerónimo’s usos y costumbres (uses and customs, including customary law). In telling the stories and experiences of San Jerónimenses (people from San Jerónimo Progreso), I explore indigenous masculinities as an outcome and expression of culture and ever-changing socio-cultural, political and economic contexts of their usos y costumbres.
This dissertation explores how usos y costumbres, as socio-cultural practices and customary law, continue to impact men’s sense of self. In Oaxaca, the referent of usos y costumbres (now sistemas normativos internos) is used to describe a broad gamut of socio-cultural practices often associated with indigenous communities. Many these practices, or costumbres, are pre-Hispanic but some originated with the Spanish Conquest of the Americas. These socio-cultural practices include the system of civic-religious posts called cargos (burdens), which are often the most cited and researched example of usos y costumbres. At times, usos y costumbres is very much about an indigenous community’s socio-cultural practices, but in other situations the term can take on more formal definitions associated with a community’s unwritten and uncodified customary laws or social rules. I consider how transnational migration has resulted in a growing number of men and women who no longer find many aspects of usos y costumbres important to their sense of self. These individuals are most visible amongst San Jerónimo’s non-Catholic Christians, who live predominantly in Central California. I explore how masculinities have or have not changed amongst these non-Catholics as they continue to take part in San Jerónimo’s transnational community.
This dissertation is the result of multi-sited and transnational ethnographic research gathered over the course of several years, beginning in 2011 and ending in the summer of 2015. I contextualize indigenous masculinities within these new transnational settings, and demonstrate how socio-cultural, political, and economic environments impact and at times reinforce people’s attitudes, practices, norms and values towards gendered identities. Although this dissertation examines masculinities, it is not just about men. This dissertation is also about indigenous families and their continuous efforts, despite tremendous hardships, to recreate a sense of community in an era marked by continuous political and economic change.