A new Mexican nationalism? Indigenous rights, constitutional reform and the conflicting meanings of multiculturalism


  • *An earlier version of this paper was read at the Nationalism and National Identity Workshop (Centre of Latin American Studies, University of Cambridge, 1–2 July 2004). I express my gratitude for the comments received from the participants, and in particular to Charles Jones, Montserrat Guibernau and James Mayall. I am also grateful for the comments of two anonymous referees of Nations and Nationalism.


ABSTRACT. This article focuses on the recent Mexican controversy about the legal status of the indigenous population and the nature of nationalism, which is linked to recent constitutional amendments and new policy strategies. Changes in legislation and policy are examined in the context of a widespread economic and political crisis of the populist regime after 1982, which radically affected the previous indigenist discourse; but they are also seen as having been motivated by Indian demands and mobilisations against the official vision of citizenship as a function of cultural homogeneity and mestizaje. The article analyses the implications of the new constitutional amendments and the heated debates that they have provoked among different political actors, including indigenous organisations. In particular, it examines two areas of disagreement. The first concerns the multiple meanings of multiculturalism – as a threat of fragmentation and fundamentalism, a new form of state control or a strategy for indigenous national participation and empowerment. The second concerns the definition and levels of implementation of indigenous political autonomy. Negotiation over such disagreements, leading to inclusive citizenship, constitute a great challenge for ethnic intellectuals and theoreticians of Mexican nationalism.