Vocation or Vacation? Perspectives on Teachers' Union Struggles in Southern Mexico



For decades following the 1910 to 1917 Mexican Revolution, rural maestros (teachers) in the Mexican state of Oaxaca were respected for their “vocation” and the hardships they suffered while working in poor, remote, rural communities where they played an instrumental role in forging a national culture. Since the early 1980s, politicization of Oaxaca's Local 22 of the national educators' union and work stoppages that close schools coupled with teachers' high salaries contribute to negative attitudes toward the profession. Using ethnographic data collected in Oaxaca among teachers and other members of the public, I discuss the support and opposition for federal teachers who practice what was long considered a “noble” profession, and union members' justifications of their labor actions.