Indigeneity across borders: Hemispheric migrations and cosmopolitan encounters



The increasing migration of indigenous people from Latin America to the United States signals a new horizon for the study of indigeneity—complexly understood as subjectivities, knowledge, and practices of the earliest human inhabitants of a particular place and including legal and racial identities that refer to these people. Focusing on indigenous migration to San Francisco, California, I explore how government, service providers, and community organizations respond to the arrival of new ethnic groups while also contributing to an expanding Urban Indian collective identity. In addition to reviewing such governmental practices as the creation of new census categories and related responses to indigenous ethnic diversity, I illustrate how some members of a diverse Urban Indian population unite through participation in rituals such as the Maya Waqxaqi’ B’atz’ (Day of Human Perfection), transplanted to San Francisco from Guatemala. The rituals recall homelands near and far in a broader social imagination about being and belonging in the world. The social imagination, borne in part through migration and diaspora, acknowledges the local and the particular in a framework of shared values about what it means to be human. I analyze this meaning making as cosmopolitanism in practice. By merging indigeneity and cosmopolitanism, I join other scholars who strive to decenter classical notions of cosmopolitan “worldliness,” drawing attention to alternative sources of beneficent sociality and for cultivating humanity.

The possible connections between “indigeneity” and “cosmopolitanism”—two concepts that at first glance seem far apart—inspire the anthropological imagination and stimulate anthropologists to “think creatively about the politics of recognition, inclusion and exclusion, rights to scarce resources, sovereignty and citizenship, and conflict and violence.”1 Today, Native populations not only contend with local issues and long-standing nation-state relations but also with transnational political and economic dynamics and with the expression of indigeneity in supranational forums often informed by international alliances. In particular, contemporary global migration and attendant displacements and circulations create new experiences that continue to challenge narrow definitions of indigeneity that require geographic or cultural fixity (in the sense of immutable ties to place and tradition).

The “unmooring” that accompanies the migration of indigenous people and the experiences and expressions of indigeneity in novel settings provide one link to the concept of “cosmopolitanism,” classically associated with the transcendence of the local. The participation of indigenous people in global cultural flows, such as circulating ideologies, material culture, and aesthetic expression, is another link. Two recently published articles in American Ethnologist explore the link between indigeneity and cosmopolitanism through these two perspectives. Thomas Biolsi (2005) examines the American Indian experience in the United States, where historical forced migrations and contemporary relocations have contributed to the institutionalization of Native political and geographic imaginaries that are simultaneously local (such as reservation based) and continental in scope as well as increasingly hemispheric, if not global. Biolsi describes notions of “Native space” and its constituent political subjectivities, whereby “Indianness” includes but also transcends federal or tribal registration or government enrollment to involve people from vastly different social worlds whose indigeneity is based on some degree of descent from Native ancestors. Biolsi focuses primarily on enduring political issues of sovereignty and autonomy but uses the phrase “indigenous cosmopolitanism” (2005:249) to reference the expanding comfort of Native peoples in diverse social, economic, and cultural worlds. Mark Goodale (2006) explores indigenous cosmopolitanism in Bolivia through two distinct realms: new aesthetic forms, such as rap music generated by indigenous youth and related in part to the experience of rural-to-urban migration, and the Movimiento al Socialismo, a leftist political movement in which indigenous people align with non-Native others in a political imagination not limited to indigenous peoples’ issues or to solidarities bound to the nation-state. Goodale argues that, in both forms, indigeneity expresses a “more global belonging” (2006:635) that refers to but also extends beyond local or national frameworks.2

This article complements the two articles briefly described above and extends the nexus of indigeneity and cosmopolitanism by examining how international migration brings together members of diverse indigenous ethnic communities, who participate in meaning making that consolidates a certain view of global belonging. As new patterns of hemispheric migration expand the Urban Indian population in San Francisco, some of its members are building community through encounters that strive to cultivate humanity around cosmopolitan values of being and belonging in the world.3

Indigeneity, migration, and diaspora

Reckoning with indigeneity demands recognizing it as a relational field of governance, subjectivities, and knowledges that involves us all—indigenous and nonindigenous—in the making and remaking of its structures of power and imagination.

—Marisol de la Cadena and Orin Starn, Indigenous Experience Today

Although anthropologists have engaged in advocacy with indigenous peoples for some time (Wright 1988), it was not until the 1990s that anthropology firmly reconceptualized indigenous identity away from older ideas that depended on fixed cultural traits and territorially bound populations. Today, however, newer, more nuanced perspectives see indigenous identities and their collective and self-representation as always transforming and acknowledge that “ethnicity and ethnic group should be understood as processual terms that signify changing identities in relation to colonialism through history” (Field 1994:240). The concept of “indigeneity” has emerged to refer to historically specific and contingent understandings, expressions, and subjectivities of what it means to be indigenous, including self-identification and classification by others.

In America, the category “Indigéna,” or “Indian” was born of the historical colonial encounter between Native and non-Native populations. Unfortunately, those with prior presence did not have priority (Pratt 2007). Amidst ethnic distinction and power differentials, Natives and colonizers alike imagined a collective indigenous subject first in colonial then in national societies. The place of the Indian in American societies has underpinned deeply structured inequality throughout the hemisphere. Despite the homogenizing racial classification, the heterogeneity of experiences across time and space permits “indigeneity” to connect to language, culture, politics, economics, land, governance, human rights, worldview, and more. It can refer to individual and collective strategies and practices adopted in response to ongoing nation-state formation and attendant ideologies about citizenship and belonging. Indigeneity can respond to modernization, geopolitics, and the self-reflexive subjectivity born of coloniality and modernity (Quijano 2000). Indigeneity can be located as well in the palimpsests of personal and collective history, heritage, and memory.

In complicated ways, indigeneity is informed by racial identities and ideologies connected to governmental ascription and tribal membership. However, indigeneity cannot be reduced to such factors, and the struggles of indigenous people in contemporary nation-state contexts can involve fundamentally different cultural worldviews (Garroutte 2003). As Duane Champagne observes, “The native world is full of forces that have agency, soul, or spirit. … The land, plants, animals, and elements such as fire, wind, water and earth had specific powers, and humans have specific relations to the powers and must honor and respect those relations in order to maintain well-being and balance for living a fruitful and honorable life” (2005:7). To comprehensively understand contemporary indigeneity is, then, to acknowledge political claims of territorial sovereignty and self-governance as well as demands for nation-states, international systems, and others to recognize distinct cultural orientations. The conditions and experiences of being “indigenous” today are varied, nuanced, historical, contested, and always in process and reflect historical efforts to eradicate indigenous culture, including nation-state pressures to assimilate. This last point is particularly germane for research that involves people descended from Native ancestors who actively reclaim a heritage distanced from or formerly denied them. Their social and cultural participation with people more deeply and continuously steeped in indigenous worlds is a research project unto itself.4

Anthropologists are increasingly attentive to the international migration of indigenous people and study human migration alongside other global and transnational involvements, such as international human rights, global cultural commodity production, and membership in broad-based social and political movements (Brysk 2000; Postero and Zamosc 2004). The analytical terrain of this article is to connect indigenous migration to U.S. governmental, social service organization, and other community involvement and, thus, to highlight how new migration patterns alter understandings of U.S. ethnoracial classification and result in new social and cultural productions that broaden indigenous collective identities. Although contemporary migration may be essential for safety and survival, supplying an escape from homeland poverty, repression, or lack of meaningful nation-state participation, new contexts of reception ensure neither welcome nor well-being. Against new struggles for survival and opportunities for encounters with indigenous others, shared cultural epistemologies and diasporic attachments to original homelands fuel expressions of indigeneity.

Migration and diaspora add to the spectrum of contemporary indigenous experiences and introduce “a contradictory complexity with respect to belonging—both inside and outside national structures in contemporary multisited social worlds” (Clifford 2007:201). “Diaspora,” once narrowly applied by scholars to collective experiences of exile, is now readily applied to many instances of migration and belonging, to uprooting, travel, and connecting to some imaginary or distant homeland. As such, the concept today connects to an array of conditions and realities that accompany relocations. Indigenous and diaspora, like indigeneity and cosmopolitanism, seem an unlikely pairing of words, especially when indigenous is perceived as synonymous with Native locality and diaspora with dispersed rootlessness. The national, regional, and global migrations of indigenous people make diaspora—a longing for real or imagined homelands—a characteristic of contemporary indigeneity. Of interest to anthropological inquiry is how indigenous diaspora generates long-distance, transnational, and other cultural flows and connections. Simultaneously, however, the experience of indigenous migration may produce new social and cultural forms. Tensions exist between the reinforcement of bounded identities and the kinds of new interactions and subjectivities that challenge, transform, or enlarge such identities. For some who are actively building a multiethnic or pan-ethnic Native community in San Francisco, diasporic ties to distant social and cultural worlds are balanced with a broader inclusive framework of what it means to be and belong in the world (Werbner and Modood 1997). Whereas discourse and shared understandings acknowledge local and particular homelands and specific ethnic group identities, a broader collective identity is based on what I argue are cosmopolitan values and practices that cultivate humanity and promote a beneficent sociality.

Indigeneity as cosmopolitan being and belonging in the world

A more cosmopolitan city than San Francisco is hard to find. It attracts people from all over the globe, resulting in a vibrant multiracial and multiethnic environment. The arrival of indigenous migrants from Latin America adds to this diversity, and the city offers multiple opportunities for Native peoples from across the hemisphere to meet—opportunities that exist in great part because of San Francisco's cosmopolitan milieu. It is here that indigenous people from throughout the western hemisphere meet and share values that provide a source of cosmopolitan thinking and feeling.

The concept of “cosmopolitanism” has a long history in Western philosophical and political thought. Today the significance and potential of cosmopolitanism are vigorously debated and reimagined (Breckenridge et al. 2000; Cheah and Robbins 1998; Vertovec and Cohen 2002). Western thinkers from Immanuel Kant forward refer to cosmopolitanism as an escape from modern sociality and blame localism for ethnic conflict, war, and other strife.5 Although many discussions have framed cosmopolitanism in reference to actions of nation-states, some today tie cosmopolitanism to political worlds in which international law and international relations temper the sovereign state system and have the potential to motivate the substitution of conflicts by political peace (Fine 2007; Kant 1991). Conventional thinking about the identity of the cosmopolitan subject supposes a sophisticated world citizen who abandons or transcends the ethnic, local, or particular. Whereas some continue to equate cosmopolitanism with the status of world citizen, others criticize this view as too exclusive, privileged, and elitist. Against those who define cosmopolitanism as the antithesis of the local and the particular, others insist it be based on moral commitments that encourage a broader thinking about cosmopolitan sites, sources, and subjects. In Robert Fine's view, “What makes modern cosmopolitanism ‘modern’ is not so much that it stands for a universal human community over and above local loyalties, but rather it seeks to reconcile the idea of universal species-wide solidarity with particular solidarities that are smaller and more specific than the human species” (2007:15). Some today are attracted to a notion of cosmopolitanism that serves human ideals but is not linked to privileged access. For example, Anthony Appiah (2006) sees cosmopolitanism as a universal human trait, not as something cultivated by a privileged elite. Whereas classic frameworks see cosmopolitanism as antithetical to an attachment to the local, Appiah advocates for a “rooted” cosmopolitanism and insists that “loyalties and local allegiances … determine who we are” and that “[a] creed that disdains partialities of kinfolk and community may have a past, but it has no future” (2006:xviii). Importantly, cosmopolitanism involves obligations to others “beyond those to whom we are related by ties of kith and kind” and is underpinned by the recognition of the value, for example, of kindness (Appiah 2006:26). Appiah tells readers that the goals of the cultural anthropologist can serve as a guide for cosmopolitan thought and action: for recognizing that human beings are different and that we can learn from each other's differences. In a “rooted cosmopolitanism,” the migrant leaves home already cosmopolitan, not necessarily requiring travel to encounter the perspective but guided by an open heart and mind. Homi Bhabha (2001) refers to “vernacular cosmopolitanism,” which emerges from the margins, not from centers of global power, and is based on an episteme that emphasizes a multiplicity of views—in particular, those based in the knowledge, subjectivities, and practices of subaltern populations (guest workers, refugees, etc.) brought into contact through global migration. Both Bhabha and Appiah define cosmopolitanism not in reference to nation-states or legal and political institutions but to a worldly being and belonging informed primarily by interaction with others. Fresh perspectives on cosmopolitanism are being explored by anthropologists who utilize the concept in multisited projects in which research informants or subjects circulate, in contradistinction to the single-site focus of more traditional ethnographic research, and who also underscore how new definitions of cosmopolitanism are useful for studies of positive meaning making and practices involving new consciousness raising, affectivity, rights, and even kindness to strangers (Werbner 2008).

In my view, meanings consolidated by indigenous people in San Francisco via experiences of migration and diaspora also represent cosmopolitan values. Through the idiom of indigeneity, a shared discourse recognizes that the Other, though different, is like one's self and that all people are meaningfully related to each other in an animated, spirit-filled world. “Indigenous cosmopolitanism,” thus, offers an alternative source for a worldly social imaginary. It represents a moral imagination of the kind that many seek from cosmopolitanism, namely, a sociality inspired by humanistic values of care, respect, peace, tolerance, and love. It connects collective identity to nested social relations such as those encompassed by indigenous ethnic groups, hemispheric indigenous identity, and all humankind by producing inspired meaning making that promotes inclusion and belonging.

Contemporary migration from Latin America may release indigenous people from ambivalent or contentious nation-state belonging in places where racism structures inequality and concomitantly stigmatizes indigenous culture.6 Migration to San Francisco may bring indigenous bodies into a realm in which indigenous culture is valorized. However, racism and discrimination also exist, and new arrivals assume extremely low socioeconomic status. Whereas some Native Americans are open to building broader social networks, others are extremely resistant.7 It is in the context of continuing struggle that some indigenous migrants seek solace and support in gatherings with members of other indigenous groups. As an increasingly diverse indigenous population interacts, new encounters consolidate meanings that recognize ethnic specificity while emphasizing common values presented as integral to indigenous collective identity.

This article is based in large part on my participant-observation in the San Francisco Bay Area over the past nine years, both formally for research and informally as a community member.8 In conducting research, I met with and interviewed leaders of indigenous and other organizations advocating on behalf of indigenous migrants, spoke with service providers and local government officials about how they are responding to new indigenous ethnic communities that are forming, and monitored official efforts to acknowledge the new diversity that indigenous migration is bringing to the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition, I have participated in efforts by leaders in San Francisco's Native American community to engage socially, culturally, and politically with new arrivals from Latin America and have studied their motivation for and interests in doing so. My research leads me to conclude that the increasing migration of indigenous peoples from Latin America to the San Francisco Bay Area is slowly but significantly changing the area's ethnic landscape. Members of distinct indigenous groups are making the city their home—whether solo males who include San Francisco in their circular migration sojourn or others who settle their families and establish new roots there. As illustrated below, the arrival of indigenous newcomers from Latin America motivates some, though not all, Native North Americans to “widen the circle,” seeing new face-to-face encounters in terms of hemispheric ties and as a natural extension of long-distance affinities developed over the past several decades. I explore, therefore, facets of indigeneity observed in association with international migration of indigenous people to the United States (in general) and to San Francisco (in particular). I offer a brief review of recent anthropological and other scholarship on contemporary indigenous migration from Latin America to the United States. Then I discuss how U.S. federal and local governments, service providers, and community organizations respond to indigenous migration. Finally, as an illustration of how migration introduces new cultural encounters, I describe the Maya Waqxaqi’ B’atz’ New Year ritual that has been relocated from Guatemala to San Francisco. The event brings together members of diverse indigenous ethnic groups from North, Central, and South America and serves to reinforce hemispheric collective identity and promote positive social values. Building on the above discussion of new approaches to a classic concept, I analyze the gathering as an example of cosmopolitanism in practice. In sum, I demonstrate how indigenous migration from Latin America to San Francisco increases ethnic diversity, broadens Urban Indian collective identity, and, through the idiom of indigeneity, contributes to the production of values and views about an inclusive belonging in the world.

Anthropological studies of recent Latin American indigenous migration to the United States

To discuss contemporary indigenous migration from Latin America to the United States is to be highly attentive to the historical shifting of nation-state boundaries and how the boundaries of indigenous nations were altered and re-created in the process. As nation-state impositions affected Native access to traditional lands and resources and forced migrations or displacements ensued, indigenous people continued to strategize within and across nation-state boundaries.9 Discussing this migration is to be aware that the making of the U.S.–Mexican boundary divided indigenous kin between two broader political entities (as happened, e.g., to the Kumeyaay) but that, over time, it also served to influence attitudes among some Native people in the United States about who is and who is not an American Indian. The process contributed to some Native people in the United States disavowing any type of connection to indigenous people south of the U.S.–Mexican border. The historically conditioned attitude that sees separation and difference across the nation-state border also informs the less positive attitude that certain American Indians have toward new indigenous arrivals from Latin America. However, that perspective sits alongside the recognition by others of the many common experiences that Native populations throughout the continent have endured as a result of European colonization and modern nation-state building.

Some ethnographic research on recent indigenous migration from Latin America into the United States involves anthropologists who update previous fieldwork with Native populations in Native homelands when former key informants and interlocutors migrate internationally (Burns 1993; Loucky 2000). Ethnographic research in new homelands examines the social, political, and economic conditions in the original homeland that motivate migration and the migrants’ adaptation to and survival in particular U.S. communities, looking at work worlds, entanglements with immigration policies and citizenship status, and other aspects of local reception (Fink 2003; Hagan 1994). Some studies also consider the maintenance of long-distance or transnational ties with original homelands (Besserer 2004; Cohen 2004; Cornelius et al. 2009; Stephen 2007; Wellmeier 1998).10

Since the 1990s, the magnitude of indigenous migration from Latin America to the United States has grown. Anthropologists in the United States and Mexico studied earlier experiences of international migration, in particular of indigenous people from Mexico, as connected with agricultural, seasonal, and circular migrations. Important early studies by Michael Kearney, Carole Nagengast, and Rodolfo Stavenhagen examined Mixtec and Zapotec migration streams in the context of regional and global economics (Kearney and Nagengast 1989; Nagengast et al. 1992; Nagengast et al. 1993).11 Other more recent studies about the now well-networked routes of Mixtec migration examine binational economic, social, and political connections; the role of community organizations; and how indigenous intellectuals influence and represent Mixtec identity in the context of migration, diaspora, and transnational belonging (Cornelius et al. 2009; Escárcega and Varese 2004; Velasco Ortiz 2005). Jonathan Fox and Gaspar Rivera-Salgado's edited volume Indigenous Mexican Migrants in the United States (2004) presents a range of contemporary U.S. experiences and binational connective processes, including the widening of indigenous migrant-sending sites, the effect of which is greater indigenous ethnic diversity in the United States. In Mexico in recent years, traditional subsistence strategies no longer support indigenous households, in part because of crop competition ushered in by free-trade economic policies (López 2007). Longer-standing patterns of domestic migration are increasingly exchanged for international opportunities (Cornelius et al. 2008). However, as U.S. border security intensifies and border crossings become more dangerous and costly, migration routes are becoming less circular, and arrivals increasingly settle in the United States, bringing a degree of permanence to new ethnic diversity.12 An estimated 30 thousand indigenous people from Mexico migrate to the United States each year (Burke 2004:376).13 Many Mexican indigenous migrants, in particular those from Oaxaca, have organized politically and produced websites, videos, multilingual radio programs, and so on (Kearney 2000; Poole 2004; Velasco Ortiz 2005).

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the majority of indigenous migrants from Latin America are Maya from Guatemala and Mexico (Burke 2004).14 Guatemala Maya first began arriving in the 1980s as refugees from civil war but now arrive primarily as economic migrants (Davenport et al. 2002).15 In recent years, many Maya from Yucatan, Mexico, have begun to forsake domestic migration and labor patterns to tourism sites such as Cancun (Castellanos 2003) for work in the hospitality industry of San Francisco.16 Currently, an estimated 10 thousand Maya from Yucatan reside in the San Francisco Bay Area, the majority of them having arrived within the past six years. The city is also a destination for smaller numbers of migrants representing diverse indigenous groups from throughout Latin America, including Nahuat from El Salvador, Huichol and P’urhépecha from west Mexico, Quichua from Peru, Quiche from Guatemala, Shuar and Wari from the Amazon Basin, and others, who encounter a large North American Indian presence there.

Expanding U.S. Urban Indian identities

In the United States today, approximately seventy percent of the North American Indian population lives outside reservations or tribal lands, and the San Francisco Bay Area has one of the largest North American Indian populations in the country (Norrell 2005).17 In the 1950s, U.S. government policies relocated large numbers of North American Indians from reservations to urban areas with the goal of hastening their assimilation to mainstream society. However, relocation for many had a contrary effect, and urban relocations did not lessen tribal or other cultural ties. Meanwhile, encounters among indigenous people resulted in the building of new intertribal or pan-ethnic ties in which specific tribal identity was recognized along with a broader Urban Indian collective identity, fueled in part, from the 1960s forward, by national Native American movements for rights and improved conditions for indigenous people in the United States (Smith and Warrior 1997). San Francisco's Urban Indian community has been supported through government and nonprofit service providers, community organizations such as the Intertribal Friendship House, pan-tribal cultural and political events, and ethnic media (Lobo and Intertribal Friendship House 2002).18 The study of U.S. Urban Indian experience is often a focus of contemporary Native American studies (Fixico 2000; Lawrence 2004; Lobo and Peters 2001). I contend that indigenous migrants from Latin America today, displaced from original homelands and arriving in San Francisco, are experiencing diasporic realities comparable to those that generated an Urban Indian collective identity based on intertribal community ties. As new arrivals from Latin America engage with diverse indigenous nations and ethnic groups, as well as with government, service providers, and others, many new dynamics unfold for anthropologists interested in the study of contemporary indigeneity.

Few scholars of Native American experiences are addressing the impact of indigenous migrations from Latin America, how local governments and service providers regard the new arrivals both as particular ethnic groups and as Native Americans, or the new alliances and solidarities being created between indigenous people originating from North, Central, and South America. In Native Hubs: Culture, Community, and Belonging in Silicon Valley and Beyond (2007), anthropologist Renya Ramirez focuses on the Urban Indian community in San Jose, California, to examine struggles, networking, and efforts to foster transnational belonging. Ramirez uses transnational to refer to the sovereignty of American Indian tribes and nations and to the way migration involves traversing political boundaries within the United States as well as border crossings that some migrants from Latin America make between hemispheric nation-states. Her study centers primarily on the experiences of diasporic North American Indians but also addresses new migrations from Mexico. She argues that, although fraught with conflict, migration also unites members of disparate groups and facilitates an emerging indigeneity based on a discourse of hemispheric ties. My study, based on interactions in nearby San Francisco, complements the positive dimensions of Ramirez's argument while acknowledging that attitudes and tensions do exist among Native people that can impede broad-based community or coalition building.

Counting Indians: U.S. federal government responses

The U.S. federal government is paying some attention to the increased immigration of indigenous peoples from Latin America. In 2000, the U.S. census introduced the option to self-identify as “Hispanic American Indian” (Murillo and Cerda 2004).19 I do not have the space here for an in-depth discussion of the way race is defined in the 2000 census. Certainly anthropologists have much to offer to a discussion about the distance between vernacular and official uses of race and what biological science reveals about human difference (Caspari 2003). Regardless, through census innovation, “Hispanic American Indian” has emerged as a category that can capture data about indigenous migration from Latin America.

The 2000 census count of Hispanic American Indians resulted in a modest total population of 407,000, with California having the largest population (154,362). Members of advocacy groups and scholars working on indigenous migration assume that the numbers represent an undercount, and among likely reasons are the introduction of new census options for self-identification and the resultant confusion that unfamiliarity with categories can foster.20 Census undercounts can have a profound impact on the well-being of indigenous migrants and the provision of social services. Most migrants enter the United States disadvantaged by such factors as an incomplete formal education, illiteracy, and inability to speak Spanish, let alone English. These factors relegate many indigenous migrants to the lowest socioeconomic rungs. The undercount of Hispanic American Indians can be devastating to the social service programs that this population presumably could benefit from, as funding is allocated on the basis of population size and demands (Kissam and Jacobs 2004).

Governments and societies in Latin America have long managed social and cultural difference by conferring worthiness on the basis of racial classification. Mestizaje—the mixing of races throughout the American continent—created some degree of social mobility, enabling people to escape the rigid negative poles of the color line whereby being Indian has historically often conferred low status. In the United States, stand-alone “Latino” and “Hispanic” census categories conceal indigenous and other racial and ethnic identities and subjectivities. The new ethnoracial census category “Hispanic American Indian” allows indigenous people to be distinguished apart from the umbrella referents “Latino” and “Hispanic” and deters the reduction of their identity to nation-state origins that, in the United States, tend to function as markers of ethnic identity (Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, etc.). Although new ethnoracial census categories push beyond the façade of Latin American national identity and may permit and acknowledge indigenous peoples’ claims of distinction, how they will influence U.S. government policies of population administration remains to be seen. Scholars have examined the historical processes by which ethnoracial classifications in the United States and other nations generate subjectivities and collective identities and inform social relations (Omi and Winant 1994; Winant 2004). Anthropologists have an opportunity to chart the impact of the new census categories and concomitant social actions and collective identity formations.

Local government and community organizations respond

In San Francisco, local government also seeks information about indigenous migrants from Latin America in a process that expands the notion of Native American identity. In 2006, the city of San Francisco's Human Rights Commission held a hearing on local Native American issues. During the four-hour session, attended by 130 people, 47 people offered testimony. Although testimony focused primarily on local Native Californians (in particular, the Ohlone) and diasporic American Indians from throughout the United States who, for decades, have made San Francisco their home, there was also testimony from indigenous migrants from Latin America and others who advocated on their behalf. As a follow-up to the hearing, a working group was convened to study the status of Native Americans in San Francisco. The group, whose findings were released in August 2007, used the term Native American to describe “people with indigenous North, Central, and South American heritage as well as Native Hawaiians, Samoans, and the indigenous people of Guam (whether enrolled, federally or nationally recognized, or not)” (San Francisco Human Rights Commission 2007:1).

The group's report contains three references to “Native Americans” from Latin America living in San Francisco. Here I cite from “Section G: Cultural, Political, Social”:

12. Through free trade agreements, indigenous people are losing land in Mexico, Central, and South America. Native Americans from Mexico, Central and South America, become invisible in San Francisco because the census only provides a distinction between Latino and Native American. There are 51 Native languages spoken in Mexico and 21 in Guatemala. By not giving these people an opportunity to be recognized, the government will be unable to address their needs.

13. Many Native Americans from Mexico, Central and South America, work 14 hours a day in the restaurant and hotel industries in San Francisco, mostly without earning any medical benefits, or without understanding employment discrimination laws—many fear that they may be fired without cause at any moment.

14. Depression and stress are a result of being separated from their country and from working long hours, causing feelings of isolation, discrimination and marginalization. Many Mayan youth seek refuge in drugs, alcohol and gangs. Mayan youth facing criminal charges often lack appropriate translators. [San Francisco Human Rights Commission 2007:25]

Of the various solutions recommended by the working group, one highlights the pressing need to identify members of indigenous migrant communities: “The City needs to survey the Native communities, including those from Mexico, Central, and South America that are living in San Francisco in order to provide them improved government services” (San Francisco Human Rights Commission 2007:29). As city government attempts to address the concerns of local Native Americans, it is evident that new indigenous arrivals from Latin America are being included in the process.

In addition to local government, long-standing indigenous organizations are responding to the new migration through efforts that generate face-to-face interactions among members of diverse indigenous ethnic groups. For decades, San Francisco has been an epicenter of national and international indigenous activism. Alcatraz Island, which was occupied by the American Indian Movement from November 1969 to June 1971, is nearby. San Francisco is also the home base of the International Indian Treaty Council formed in 1974 by the American Indian Movement. The Treaty Council is an organization accustomed to long-distance advocacy for people throughout America. The widespread activism generated around the 1492 quincentenary was a tremendous catalyst for its efforts to network indigenous people. Today the Treaty Council sees migration to San Francisco in terms of strengthening hemispheric ties, and it sponsors annual events that bring together the region's diverse indigenous population.21 From 1983 to 1999, the San Francisco Bay Area was also home to the South and Meso American Indian Rights Center (SAIIC), a nonprofit organization in which indigenous people and scholars worked together. From 1990 to 1998, SAIIC published Abya Yala News, a journal that disseminated information about specific hemispheric struggles for indigenous rights. The organization attracted indigenous people arriving from South America, who became members of its local leadership, and today a few, such as Maria Chuquin (Quichua), continue to have an instrumental role in building ties among San Francisco's diverse indigenous populations.

New community-based organizations are emerging that serve particular indigenous groups from Latin America, create pan-ethnic or national ties among members of indigenous groups, and help extend service-provider access to emerging communities. Asociación MAYAB (Maya Yucateca de la Area de la Bahia) represents the city's growing Maya population, the majority of whose members have arrived from Oxcutzcab, Yucatan. Classes and workshops organized by Asociación MAYAB offer instruction in the Yucatec Maya language (for members of the community as well as for nonmembers) and the jaranero dance tradition and train bilingual interpreters to assist non-English-speaking Maya in medical and judicial arenas. Alberto Perez and other members of Asociación MAYAB's leadership are proactive in offering information about Maya culture and history and the Maya community in San Francisco to public officials and service providers. In doing so, they raise the profile of the Maya in San Francisco while advocating for their interests and needs. They host public social events such as vaquerías yucatecas, at which food, dance, and bombas (humor based on rhyme) unite the community, and more recently they have developed a baseball league for adults.22 Chan Kahal, another community-based organization in nearby San Rafael, represents Maya arrivals from Peto, Yucatan, and collaborates often with Asociación MAYAB, especially for cultural events. Most of the members of Chan Kahal are residents of San Rafael's Canal Zone. Although the Marin County city has one of the highest per capita incomes in the state, the Canal Zone, where the majority of Maya and other migrant newcomers reside, is a densely populated corner in which gaping socioeconomic disparities are revealed.

Grupo Maya Cusamej Junan, an organization in nearby Oakland, has long advocated for Maya migrants from Guatemala, initially working with civil war refugees and those seeking refugee or asylum status. Established in the late 1980s, it was the first group to host semipublic cultural events such as Waqxaqi’ B’atz’ (Maya New Year) rituals, which today bring indigenous people together from throughout the Bay Area. In 2004, when the “Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya” exhibition traveled from Washington, D.C.'s National Gallery of Art to San Francisco's California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Grupo Maya was included in the closing program, to which it brought marimba music, a lecture about Maya history and culture, and a spiritual ceremony. Its involvement in this high-profile arts and cultural event was the result of the active participation of Enrique Lopez and other members of the group in public forums to inform the broader local community about Maya issues. Today the leadership of the area's community-based indigenous migrant groups is sought out by those trying to enhance “cultural competency” in the delivery of social services or in their search for authentic culture-bearers for relevant public events. These small community-based organizations advocate on behalf of their members living in the San Francisco Bay Area, but often they also act as hometown associations, keeping ties with faraway homelands strong.

The Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) is another example of an organization responding to the city's changing demographics. Until recently, the nonprofit social service provider and advocacy organization was dedicated to an ethnically undifferentiated clientele of Central American civil war refugees and immigrants. The organization is now developing initiatives related to the new and increasing indigenous migrant population. In collaboration with Asociación MAYAB and with the backing of San Francisco's Department of Public Health, CARECEN recently completed an Indigenous Outreach Project, a health education intervention aimed at addressing the concerns of the Yucatec Maya and other Maya groups (Tzeltal, Chol, Tzotzil, Quiche, and Mam) in San Francisco. The health care issues and dynamics accompanying increasing indigenous migration from Latin America present anthropologists with opportunities to study cultural and medical pluralism as well as the incorporation of indigenous people into new biopolitical regimes (Ong 2003).

As the diversifying indigenous migrant population from Latin America gains a higher profile through community-based organizations and increased attention from service providers and government, the San Francisco Bay Area's Urban Indian community expands and its identity is transformed. Beyond individual and group interactions with local government and service providers, indigenous migrants from throughout Latin America and North America are interacting with each other. In late 2006, I attended an evening meeting called by Richard Moves Camp, a respected Lakota leader proactive in “widening the circle” through acquaintance with indigenous migrant newcomers. Thirty-five people (mostly adults but also adolescents and younger children) gathered in the conference room at Centro del Pueblo in the heart of the Mission district. Sitting in a circle, one by one we spoke what was on our minds. Conversations were translated back and forth between Spanish and English, although Maya languages could also be heard. The foremost mutual concern was the problems of older indigenous youth, many of whom are struggling in middle and high school and confronting gangs and drugs on the streets. Group members expressed agreement about the need to maintain cultural identity and help their youth by reinforcing indigenous values. It was obviously painful for some parents to tell the group that their children are embarrassed to identify as Maya (for example) or as indigenous. People shared ideas about cultural activities that might be held, such as events including indigenous language, dance, drumming, and rituals. During the meeting, a discourse of shared indigeneity informed intercultural ties and common interests. Many of those attending the meeting would meet again at upcoming social and cultural events such as the Waqxaqi’ B’atz’ ceremony described below.

Through migration to San Francisco, indigenous ethnic groups from Latin America are gaining recognition and, through intergroup encounters, are sharing views about being and belonging in the world, including the challenges they are experiencing. Recurring opportunities to gather, such as the Waqxaqi’ B’atz’ Maya New Year ceremonies, demonstrate how a collective practice reinforces indigeneity that is based on a sense of shared values, knowledge, and subjectivities.23 I have attended six B’atz’ ceremonies between the years 1999 and 2009. For the first few years, no local individuals were available to perform the ceremony, so a Maya practitioner traveled from Guatemala to San Francisco. Over the years, I have observed constants in the semipublic ceremonies, such as the use of copal, charcoal, and other ritual materials imported from Guatemala, and the overall structure of the event has remained the same. That aside, there have also been modifications. Different elements from North American indigenous cultures have been incorporated in certain ceremonies (medicine bags, sage, particular medicine-wheel color references, staffs tied with colored cloth that has specific referents, etc.). Over the years, I have noted that a core group of people participate in the B’atz’ ceremonies. I have also observed the infrequent participation of others, including members of local Native California communities such as Ohlone as well as some transplants to the San Francisco Bay Area from North, Central, and South America. The transformations that have taken place in the B’atz’ ceremony are a response to the broader Native population that participates.

I have asked core participants why they join the B’atz’ ceremony and what it means to them. Juanita Quintero, from Asociación MAYAB, is one of two members from that community-based organization who regularly attend the ceremony. When asked why more Yucatec Maya do not participate, Quintero responded that it is especially difficult to get the young people interested, even though she strongly believes that this cultural practice is fundamental to strengthening their indigenous identity. Others, such as Consuelo Saucedo (Yaqui), an esteemed elder, link the B’atz’ ceremony to a robust calendar of indigenous ceremonies and activities, among them the annual Xilonen ceremony, a revived Aztec coming-of-age ritual for young women in the community.24

Other Bay Area sites at which hemispheric pan-Indian gatherings take place include Indian Canyon, where members of the Costanoan-Ohlone California Native community host ceremonies for an inclusive indigenous community. Also in proximity to San Francisco is D-Q University. Though beleaguered by administrative and accreditation woes, it remains California's only tribal university. The university community endeavors to foster hemispheric connections between Native people and their descendants, and its ceremonial grounds are the site of intertribal gatherings that include the participation of new indigenous arrivals from Latin America.

Waqxaqi’ B’atz’: The Day of Human Perfection

In December 2007, I joined a group of about fifty men, women, and a few rambunctious children in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park for the Maya New Year Waqxaqi’ B’atz’ (Day of Human Perfection) ceremony. At the gathering were indigenous people representing various tribes and nations, including Ohlone, Navajo, Hopi, Cherokee, Yaqui, Nahuat, Quichua, and Maya from Guatemala and Mexico. There were mestizos as well (among them, myself and a group of Aztec dancers). Leading the ritual was Pascual Yaxon Saloj, Kaq’chiqel Maya spiritual guide and mental health professional. In Guatemala, the B’atz’ ritual occurs every 180 days. In San Francisco, when the B’atz occurs on a weekend, a public gathering may be organized. The December 2007 gathering did not begin at sunrise as it does in Guatemala and as it has in San Francisco in the past. Complaints from city neighbors of “noisy” drumming and an interest in making it easier for more people throughout the area to attend motivated the planners to start the ceremony later in the morning. These modifications illustrate migration and diaspora as forces of cultural transformation. The inclusion of non-Maya dancers and drummers and the invitation to all indigenous people to attend make the Maya Waqxaqi’ B’atz’ a pan-ethnic indigenous ceremony. In this regard, it is comparable to other San Francisco Bay Area Native American traditions, such as Lakota-inspired sweat-lodge ceremonies or the ever-popular powwows that, over the years, both locally and nationally, have come to inform indigeneity in the United States.

During the approximately five-hour-long B’atz’ ceremony, distinct indigenous nations are recognized (but without chauvinism), linking those in the circle to people across distant spaces of belonging. The last names of ancestors are recalled, marking the temporality of being and connectedness. The relatedness of human beings—seeing oneself in the other—is further underlined through messages about care for others: for the young, the elderly, the sick, and the needy. “Human perfection” is presented as a connection to all beings, including humans, but also plants, animals, rocks, fire, water, earth, and wind, thereby reinforcing knowledge that people exist and belong in an animated world. Individuals and group memberships are recognized and concomitantly placed in the larger framework of relatedness.25 The Maya B’atz’ ritual demonstrates this orientation of connectedness. What it expresses about being human resonates with the understandings shared by other indigenous groups. As migration brings together indigenous people from throughout the hemisphere, therefore, some are engaging in social and cultural practices that are perceived as consolidating expressions of indigeneity.

In February 2009, I participated in another Waqxaqi’ B’atz ceremony directed by Pascual Yaxon Saloj. Afterward, I spoke with him about his personal connection to the B’atz ceremonies and about building a community in San Francisco among diverse indigenous people. He describes his training as a traditional one, dedicated to mental health from an indigenous perspective. Between the years 2000 and 2004 he traveled to and from northern California and Guatemala to lead ceremonies. At the end of 2004, he permanently relocated to San Francisco from Guatemala. In addition to consulting with individuals and families and leading ceremonies, he is currently employed by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, working with homeless Latinos to help them secure needed services. Asked about his thoughts on the diversity of participants in the San Francisco B’atz’ ceremonies, Yaxon Saloj indicated that it makes perfect sense for members of different indigenous groups to come together to share rituals and ceremonies and to build community ties: “The worldview of indigenous people is one: the medicine, the fire, the way of thinking, the healing practices, and how they conduct and share their philosophy.”26 He told me that he gained this perspective in part by participating in a variety of indigenous ceremonies in northern California and by having the opportunity to meet and interact with other indigenous spiritual leaders and guides. I described to him the article that I was writing and my argument that Waqxaqi’ B’atz’ ceremonies are an alternative source for cosmopolitan values related to being human, which I described as “indigenous cosmopolitanism.” Though Yaxon Saloj nodded in approval, he also seemed somewhat amused at the particular way that I was intellectualizing the B’atz ceremony by connecting its emergence in San Francisco to the phenomena of hemispheric migration, indigeneity, and community building. Still, he wanted to emphasize that the values and perspective communicated and shared through Waqxaqi’ B’atz’ ceremonies can benefit all. He stated, “The cultural depth of indigenous peoples is great. It has always been available to the world, but the world has not been intellectually favored to recognize it.”27

As I understand it, “indigenous cosmopolitanism” primarily emphasizes how (individual, ethnic, national) difference and (collective, indigenous, human) unity coexist in a framework of relatedness. However, as important as the normative principles or social ideals of cosmopolitan thinking is the process that Ulrich Beck and Natan Sznaider refer to as “cosmopolitanization”: the changing of values and practices “from within” (2003:9). Through ritual activities taking place in San Francisco, participants from North, Central, and South America collectively and routinely engage in practices of cosmopolitanization by reinforcing an inspiring moral imagination about how to be human.28 The meaning making taking place can be compared to the observations of anthropologists exploring the link between indigeneity and alternative cosmopolitanisms in other places (Biolsi 2005; Clifford 2001; Goodale 2006; Varese 1982). Further, I believe it challenges Paul Gilroy's concern with academic and other discussions of identity: “We are constantly informed that to share an identity is to be bonded on the most fundamental levels: national, ‘racial’, ethnic, regional, and local. Identity is always bounded and particular. It marks out the divisions and subsets in our social lives and helps to define the boundaries between our uneven, local attempts to make sense of the world. Nobody ever speaks of a human identity” (2005:155). Gilroy believes that people have not exhausted the possible ways to achieve a more inclusive humanity. He suggests a “challenge of … articulating cosmopolitan hope upward from below rather than imposing it downward from on high” to “invent conceptions of humanity that allow for the presumption of equal value” (Gilroy 2005:67). His challenge resonates with the cosmopolitan values expressed through the idiom of indigeneity at B’atz’ and other community-building practices I describe as taking place in San Francisco, where a common human identity is expressed but not at the expense of denying or denigrating difference.


In this article, I explore a link between indigeneity and cosmopolitanism—two ideas that, at first glance, seem far apart. The increased migration of indigenous people from Latin America to the United States creates new opportunities for the anthropological study of the dynamics of indigeneity, complexly understood as knowledges, practices, and subjectivities. Migration can unmoor indigeneity from local iterations. The conditions in original homelands that motivate indigenous migration; migrants’ arrival at, and adaptation to, new destinations; and the maintenance of long-distance connections to distant homelands are among the vital topics indigenous migration presents for anthropological inquiry. As governments and service providers respond to indigenous migration at the level of ethnic specificity and in the broad framework of the experience of indigenous peoples, the ways in which new nation-state and civil-society engagements influence indigeneity pose another fruitful direction for future research. Further, the way in which the interaction of members of diverse indigenous groups influences expressions of indigeneity, collective identity, and community building merits more anthropological attention.

Indigenous migration from Latin America to the United States is altering the ethnic landscape of some communities. U.S. census technologies are attempting to account for new arrivals. The new census category “Hispanic or Latin American Indian” enables indigenous identity to emerge from the classification “Latino,” which has heretofore obscured indigenous differences. In California, indigenous migrants are forming organizations to represent the interests of fellow community members, just as local governments and service providers are becoming attentive to the cultural diversity that indigenous migration brings. The city of San Francisco's definition of “Native American” has expanded to include indigenous migrants from North, Central, and South America and beyond. Some members of the city's Urban Indian population, itself a product of domestic migration and diaspora, engage new arrivals in cultural exchanges that broaden the sense of Native American community.

Finally, international migration and diaspora can liberate indigenous bodies and worldviews in a way that, I argue, challenges classic definitions of who is a cosmopolitan subject and where the sources of cosmopolitan ideals can be found. Semipublic exchanges such as Maya B’atz’ rituals connect a diverse indigenous population in gatherings at which individual and group differences exist in a broader framework of hemispheric identity, shared values, and human relatedness. The sociality expressed through the idiom of indigeneity in San Francisco offers an alternative source of cosmopolitanism—one that promotes humanity by rooting “human perfection” in practices of positive social values of mutual respect, care, and recognition.



Acknowledgments Special thanks to Don Pascual Yaxon Saloj and Concha Saucedo for inspiring me to write this article, and to the members of Grupo Maya, Asociación Mayab, and especially Three Nations Indian Circle for their generosity of time and spirit. Thanks also to the anonymous reviewers of this article whose constructive comments strengthened my argument, analysis, and presentation.

1. For example, the theme of the 2007 American Ethnological Society–Canadian Anthropological Society joint conference was “Indigeneities and Cosmopolitanisms” (CASCA-AES 2007).

2. Another recent anthropological account that connects indigenous people to cosmopolitanism is Margaret Byrne Swain's (2005) study of the Sani in China's Stone Forest. Swain focuses on touristic encounters and representations, in particular how Ashima, a mythic heroine promoted at the site, connects to Sani ideologies of gender and sexuality. What Swain sees as cosmopolitan is the way the Sani combine their distinct identities with other ways of thinking as well as the way images of Ashima circulate in global places.

3. One inspiration for this article is Martha C. Nussbaum's Cultivating Humanity (1997). Discussing the capabilities of world citizenship that a liberal education can inspire, Nussbaum emphasizes seeing oneself as a human being who is bound to all humans with ties of concern. Whereas Nussbaum explicitly addresses the university as a site for promoting or instilling this capability, I am interested in drawing attention to how cosmopolitan indigeneity similarly expresses this capability and and, therefore, how it is also a source of positive social values.

4. I do not have space in this article for a detailed discussion of indigeneity as expressed by people with Native ancestors, such as those of mixed race who have examined historical dynamics of racial and cultural hegemony that have negatively influenced their personal and family ties, subjectivity, and distance from indigenous culture or community. Their renovation of indigenous identity and affinity can have cultural, political, and spiritual relevance.

5.  Goodale 2006 also provides a genealogy of key definitions and contemporary approaches to the concept of “cosmopolitanism.” Rather than retrace his fuller discussion, I acknowledge the contribution and refer readers to his excellent exposition.

6. Here I borrow the late Iris Marion Young's understanding of racism:
Racism consists in structural processes that normalize body aesthetic, determine that physical, dirty or servile work is most appropriate for members of certain groups, produces and reproduces segregation of members of these racialized groups, and renders deviant the comportments and habits of these segregated persons in relation to dominant norms of respectability. [2007:70]

7. It would be inaccurate not to acknowledge that some Native Americans maintain a fervent anti-immigration stance. However, speaking to the dynamism of contemporary realities, Native Americans are also organizing in cross-border solidarity with other indigenous groups and in general defense of migrants from Latin America. During November 7–10, 2007, the Indigenous Peoples Border Summit of the Americas II took place on Tohono O’odham tribal land in Arizona at the U.S.–Mexican border. The gathering of national-level Native American leaders was in response to increased militarization of the border and the U.S. government's construction of a secure fence, which violated ancestral remains and sacred places, divided Native communities, and was seen as infringing on the human rights of indigenous people. Leaders expressed a compassionate reaction as well to the upturn of migrant deaths on tribal lands. Finally, the summit acknowledged that, increasingly, indigenous people from Latin America are cross-border migrants. See Indigenous Border Summit 2007.

8. My membership on the board of directors of Three Nations Indian Circle, a small San Francisco–based nonprofit dedicated primarily to the support of indigenous communities in El Salvador has provided me with access to indigenous organizations and activities.

9. Among anthropological cases, see Alonso 1995 for a historical study of U.S.–Mexican border formation. Alonso analyzes Apache resistance and how Euro-American settlers in northern Mexico conceived of the Apache as both savage and symbol of fierce independence. The Felipe Latorre and Dolores Latorre (1976) study of the Kickapoo community in Coahuila, Mexico, references how, in the 1850s, the Algonquin-speaking Kickapoo migrated southward to that area from present-day Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Today there is still a vibrant Kickapoo (Kikapues) community in Coahuila. Three early 20th-century anthropological studies, by Thomas Waterman, Leslie Spier, and Edward Gifford, of the indigenous Kumeyaay (Kumiai), or Diegueño, whose territory spans southern California, Baja California and northern Mexico, were recently republished (Shackley 2004). I thank the anonymous reviewer who reminded me to connect current dynamics of indigenous migration to historical conditions.

10. The few ethnographic studies of international indigenous migration primarily involve Maya from Guatemala and Oaxacan groups from Mexico. Ethnographies of both groups reference how pan-Maya or pan-Oaxaca identities are formed in the context of migration.

11. The documentary film Invisible Indians: Mixtec Farmworkers in California (1993), by James Grieshop, Michael Kearney, and Stefano Varese, remains a rare representation of the indigenous migrant farmworker experience.

12. See NACLA 2007 for scholarship on the increased militarization of the U.S.–Mexican border.

13. Precise population estimates for indigenous Oaxacans in California are difficult to ascertain in part because of the interstate migration flows that follow the agricultural season. Today, a conservative estimate is that 70 thousand indigenous people from Oaxaca (Mixtec, Zapotec, Chatino, Triqui, and other ethnolinguistic groups) reside in California.

14. The Guatemala consulate estimates that 10 thousand Maya from Guatemala live in the San Francisco Bay Area, with the population concentrated in Oakland. There is an absence of census data, and more research is needed on the dynamically transforming indigenous migrant population. Anecdotal information suggests the newest stream of Maya migrants is made up of Tzeltal and Tzotzil from Chiapas, Mexico (personal conversation with Carlos Bazua Morales, September 2008).

15.  Maya is at once an umbrella term for many distinct ethnolinguistic groups and denotes an identity that can represent collective interests and shared understandings (Warren 1998). The arrival of indigenous migrants from Latin America to the United States, specifically to San Francisco, is also generating a broader indigenous identity that does not cancel out but references ethnic and linguistic diversity.

16. The recent ethnographic film El Recorrido/The Journey (2006), by Carlos Bazúa Morales, offers a rare insight into the San Francisco lives of Maya from Oxtcutzcab, Yucatan, and the transnational, translocal networks that link family, friends, and states.

17. The 2000 U.S. Census put the North American Indian population for the five San Francisco Bay Area counties at 57,262 (Alameda County: 23,177; Contra Costa County: 14,926; Marin County: 2,684; San Francisco County: 8,971; San Mateo County: 7,504). Native American advocacy organizations criticize the undercount of these figures and estimate the population at closer to 80 thousand (personal communication with Native American Health Center-San Francisco personnel, October 2008).

18. The Intertribal Friendship House in Oakland was founded in 1956. It keeps Native people connected to their culture and traditions through powwow dance, drumming, and other social activities. The American Indian Film Institute relocated to San Francisco from Seattle in 1979 and recently completed its 32nd annual American Indian Film Festival. The Bay Area also hosts no fewer than six intertribal powwows a year. There are also vibrant annual commemorations of Indigenous Peoples Day, including sunrise ceremonies on Alcatraz Island.

19. The census first asks a person if he or she is Spanish–Hispanic–Latino and provides the following responses to choose from: Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or Other Spanish–Hispanic–Latino. A second question asks a person's race, allowing for more than one of the following options to be selected: White, Black, African American, Negro, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Other Asian, Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, or Other Pacific Islander. Those selecting American Indian or Alaska Native are asked to provide the name of their enrolled or principal tribe. Those who select one of the “Other” options are asked to specify their race.

20. The causes of undercounts of Mexican and Guatemalan indigenous communities in both inner-city neighborhoods and in rural communities in California include a census that does not account for migration patterns throughout the year, “low-visibility” housing, English or even Spanish language ability, census forms that do not permit more than six persons per housing unit to be enumerated, and census categories that make it difficult to recognize indigenous households (Kissam and Jacobs 2004).

21. The Treaty Council recently hosted its 32nd annual sunrise ceremony on Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz Island, as the site of the 1969–72 takeover by Native American people, has great political and symbolic significance. Approximately four thousand people gather annually for the ceremony. Over the years, the event has been marked by a growing solidarity and commitment to hemispheric and global indigeneity, demonstrated in 2006 by the presence of a contingent of youth from Palestine.

22. The promotion of baseball over soccer is one way that the Maya in San Francisco distinguish themselves from other new arrivals from Mexico and Central America.

23.  Laura Velasco Ortiz (2002) describes a similar process in the context of Mixtec migration from Oaxaca, wherein ties to sacredness and the transportation of sacred symbols between transnational communities is fundamental to reconciling cultural identity and the territorial fragmentation of massive emigration. Recently I received a flyer announcing the February 1, 2009, Chijpiri Jimbani Uexurhini (P’urhépecha New Year Celebration) organized by the P’urhépecha community living in Auburn, Washington. The event combines daylong activities involving music, food, dances, and games and ends with the ritual lighting of the New Fire (Nuevo Fuego). I expect more such transplanted indigenous ceremonies and community celebrations to take place in the United States.

24. Over the years, the Xilonen ceremony has developed in California and elsewhere in the United States with the influence of cultural experts from Mexico who have nurtured local practices, in particular, as connected with Aztec dance communities.

25.  Jace Weaver describes the orientation thus: “Indigenous societies as synedochic (part-to-whole) rather than the more Western conception that is metonymic (part-to-part) … explaining why indigenous mentality declares ‘I am We’” (2005:227).

26. “La cosmovisión de las indigénas es uno: la medicina, el fuego, la manera de pensar, las prácticas de curación, y de dirigir y compartir su filosofía.”

27. “La profundidad cultural de los pueblos indígenas es muy grande. Siempre ha estado aportado al mundo pero el mundo no propocionado intelectualmente reconocersela.”

28. I do not claim that all indigenous groups share this understanding, and I acknowledge that it is in the social encounter that new meanings are created. Neither point takes away from the positive social values promoted through practices and expressions of indigeneity I observed in San Francisco.