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Migrating Performative Traditions: The Guelaguetza Festival In Oaxacalifornia


Migrating Performative Traditions: La Guelaguetza Festival in Oaxacalifornia, offers an comprehensive study of the Guelaguetza festival, an indigenous Oaxacan transborder cultural performance. Recognizing that festivals are important sites through which cultural ideals and values are displayed, transmitted, and reproduced or challenged, I conducted original ethnographic research over an eight-year period to produce the first transnational study of the Guelaguetza festival. My research not only analyzes the production of the festival in Oaxaca City, but also follows the same migratory route of Oaxaqueño migrants across what many scholars have called, Oaxacalifornia in order to document the multiple re-productions of the Guelaguetza festival on different social terrains, specifically Los Angeles and Santa Cruz, California.

Producing this elaborate festival requires a tremendous amount of labor, time and resources. Therefore, one of my principal concerns in this dissertation was to explore why and how Oaxacan migrants produce their own Guelaguetzas in California and to understand what the festival means to the people and community. By juxtaposing the Guelaguetza festivals in Los Ángeles and Santa Cruz, I highlight how Oaxacan migrants first devised it as a creative way to claim cultural citizenship in California and Oaxaca, and then came to use it to counteract racism, discrimination and gang violence.

Over the course of my research, I have come to appreciate how the migrant-produced Guelaguetza festivals offers insight on the negotiations of indigenous migrants' daily experiences and the process in constructing a sense of community in new geographical locations. The Oaxacan migrant community's ability to sponsor the festival in the United demonstrates that the migrant communities have established themselves within the political and cultural landscapes of California. In sum, this study offers a window into how indigenous working-class migrant communities with limited resources navigate new bureaucratic structures, cultural norms, and public spaces to maintain and assert their cultural identities in a transnational context.

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