By Amalia Córdova and Gabriela Zamorano, Latin American
Programs, Film and Video Center, NMAI.
"In reality I am not an independent videomakerwhile
the technical questions of videomaking are solved individually,
the feeling and content of my videos belong to the people."
-Mariano Estrada Aguilar (Tzeltal)
over a decade, indigenous videomakers in Mexico's rural and urban
communities have been creating rich and varied views of Native
life and concerns, reflecting the great diversity of the country's
indigenous population. Crossing language and geographical borders,
the work has opened a space for Mexican indigenous realities in
festivals and other venues around the world.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Mexico's indigenous video
production is the extent to which
the communities participate in the process, often directly, and
at other times, embodied in the imaginations and interests of
individual videomakers. The works vary in genredocumentary,
experimental, video-letterand, recently, fiction. Almost
all are produced in Native languages, and often are used in programs
of cultural preservation, especially as a way to involve community
Over a dozen independent media organizations are currently engaged
in indigenous production and training, along with four regional,
federallysupported indigenous media centers (CVI). These
often work together-and with other independent video collectivesto
provide video training and production support or to produce community
screenings, regional festivals, meetings and seminars.
indigenous video production groups continue to be formed despite
the difficulties mediamakers facefunding opportunities are
very limited and indigenous communities are economically marginal.
Moreover, political and social inequality are the everyday reality
of indigenous life. The extensive federal controls on all forms
of television broadcast limit the possibilities for indigenous
community broadcasting. Working in this context, media collaboratives
have proven to be flexible and creative in using the technology
in an attempt to both serve the needs of community and address
individual artistic goals.
One of the important benefits of video technology has been to
strengthen the voices of indigenous grassroots organizations.
At various moments, video productions have played crucial roles
in community efforts to assert land rights, expose human rights
violations, or defend women's rights.
there is an ongoing conversation among communities, media organizations,
independent producers and audiences in which issues of collective
and individual authorship, social commitment and artistic creativity
are being examined. These discussions, along with increasing interregional
collaboration, are encouraging new and exciting directions for
indigenous video in Mexico.
beginning to make video themselves, many indigenous communities
in Mexico were already familiar with filmmakingmostly as
the subjects of ethnographic films. But by the early 1980s the
first indigenous experiences in using video were beginning, as
NGOs introduced video into their work with communities.
In 1985 a video workshop with weavers took place in San Mateo
del Mar, Oaxaca, as part of a documentary series for the Instituto
Nacional Indigenista, now the Comisión Nacional para el
Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas de México (CDI).
Teófila Palafox, a participating Ikood weaver and midwife,
co-directed Tejiendo Mar y Viento (Weaving Sea and Wind).
This workshop set an important precedent for a shift of perspective
on community production. Building on this and similar experiences,
in 1989 the Instituto Nacional Indigenista embarked on a collaboration
with established film-and-video makers in an initiative to provide
video training and equipment to indigenous communitiesTransferencia
de Medios Audiovisuales a Organizaciones y Comunidades Indígenas
(Media Transference to Indigenous Communities and Organizations).
filmmaker-trainers began an exciting interchange with indigenous
community members, many of whom were political and cultural leaders.
A number of participants were working in community radio and were
eager to explore a new communications technology. They found video's
capacity for self-representation to be a powerful alternative
to the distorted images of indigenous peoples in the mass media.
The right to self-representation and the use of media soon became
enfolded in the country's widespread mobilizations for the recognition
of indigenous rights.
1992, indigenous videomakers formed the Organización Mexicana
de Videoastas Indígenas (OMVIAC). Their attempt to create
a national organization resulted in a host of productions and
helped emerging indigenous videomakers to define themselves as
communicators. However, the lack of funding and the members' geographic
dispersal were obstacles the fledgling organization could not
overcome. Instead, the energy and enthusiasm generated by individuals
and communities taking up video around the country resulted in
the development of local initiatives.
Currently, a variety of independent indigenous media production
centers exist along with eight state-sponsored Indigenous Audiovisual
Production Units (UPAI), which work closely with CVIs in different
states throughout the country.
geographical and cultural diversity, incorporating sixteen different
indigenous groups, is reflected in the diversity of its media
producers. In the early 1980's community media groups in the Northern
Sierra and in other regions, assisted by various Mexican NGOs,
began using video and radio to document cultural activities and
political processes. These groups, some still in existence today,
helped create a fertile ground for the further development of
de Medios Audiovisuales, the state initiative that stimulated
media making by indigenous producers, resulted in the opening
of the first Centro de Video Indigena (CVI) in Oaxaca City in
1994, directed by filmmaker Guillermo Monteforte. The center has
served as a significant learning space for video production skills.
Directors including Juan José García (Zapotec),
Emigdio Julían (Mixtec), Crisanto Manzano (Zapotec) and
María Santiago (Zapotec) were among the initial participants.
They among others helped form CVI's mission and programs, producing
en exchange between community media organizations and individual
1999, a group of media makers launched Ojo de Agua Comunicación,
an independent indigenous media center. Ojo de Agua produces videos
for indigenous and educational organizations, periodically provides
training to indigenous producers, and works with local initiatives
to host meetings and conferences.
Several independent media organizations in Oaxaca have also
engaged in media production and regional broadcasting. For more
than 10 years in the Northern Sierra, both Comunalidad and TV
Tamix have produced and broadcast programs in Zapotec and Mixe
to communities of the region. In the eastern region, the Driki
Cultural Center is using video as a tool for cultural preservation.
In Oaxaca City, Arcano 14, in coordination with Universidad de
la Tierra, organizes annual video workshops called Mirada Biónica,
which have significant indigenous and youth participation, and
Casa de la Mujer "Rosario Castellanos" employs video
in its work concerned with the rights of indigenous women. In
Oaxaca, popular venues such as the free theater Cineclub El Pochote
and the public square, known as the Zócalo, have screened
Indigenous grassroots organizations working with media for communication
within their communities and regions include the Grupo Solidario
de Quiatoni in the Zapotec region of the Sierra Sur; the Centro
de los Derechos de la Mujer Nääxwiin, which specifically
targets women's rights, and the regional Unión de Comunidades
Indígenas de la Zona Norte del Istmo, a union of indigenous
communities in the isthmus of Tehuantepec.
has recently been a way for indigenous migrants to stay engaged
with community issues and their culture, and to raise awareness
of the migrant experience and migrants' rights. The Centro Binacional
para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (Binational
Center for the Development of Indigenous Communities of Oaxaca)
provides information on migrant rights and issues in Oaxaca and
southern California, using radio, a journal, Website, and community
events and screenings to get its message out.
traditional home of many different Mayan groups, Chiapas has transformed
in the past thirty years into an area with one of the largest
and most diverse indigenous populations in Mexico. Its Mayan communities
gained international attention in 1994 when, in the Zapatista
movement, they defended their land and fought for autonomy. A
number of these now self-governing Zapatista communities are using
media to communicate their issues to the outside and, internally,
as a tool to define and promote community objectives.
1998 the bi-national partnership Promedios de Comunicación
Comunitaria (Chiapas Media Project) has been instrumental in bringing
video into the hands of these of the autonomous indigenous communities.
Based in Mexico and in the U.S. in Chicago, the organization subtitles
the productions into English, making the work widely accessible
at festivals and conferences, and through a touring program and
media groups in Chiapas include the Proyecto de Videastas Indígenas
de la Frontera Sur, which, in collaboration with a social anthropology
research center, the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores
en Antropología Social-CIESAS, holds workshops for Native
youth and organizes forums on indigenous video that draw participants
from throughout Mexico.
lively cultural center Sna Jtz'ibajom in San Cristobal de las
Casas has partnered with independent production companies to hold
video workshops in indigenous languages of the area. The Mayan
grassroots organization Comité de Defensa de la Libertad
Indígena Xi'nich produces works on local traditions and
struggles that have circulated nationally and internationally.
the past three years Promedios de Comunicación Comunitaria
has extended its work into the state of Guerrero. Their collaborations
with local organizations include the Centro de Derechos Humanos
de la Montaña "Tlachinollan" which has long used
video in its human rights work.
media producers include the grassroots community media organization
Altepetl Nahuas de la Montaña de Guerrero and the independent
production company Ojo de Tigre Comunicación/Mirada India.
Michoacán the second Centro de Video Indígena began
operation under the Transferencia project in 1996 with Javier
Sámano as its first director. In this center, P'urépecha
media makers such as Valente and Aureliano Soto, Dante Cerano
and Raúl Máximo Cortés started their work
In recent years, Dante Cerano has founded Exe Video
in Paracho, Exe being the acronym for "Exéni, Xéparini
ka Erátseparini," which in P'urépecha means
"seeing with responsibility". This energetic group produces
documentaries with a contemporary feel, and has created some of
Mexico's few indigenous fictional works. Exe Video holds youth
video workshops, produces traditional and contemporary P'urépecha
music, television and radio.
Michoacán has a long history of migration to the United
States, indigenous media from the region often revolves around
emigration stories. One interesting project is the Taraspanglish
Migrants Video Project, which has provided video training to P'urépecha
migrant communities in Michoacán and Madera, California,
and generated an exchange of works between the communities. The
name "Taraspanglish" is an amalgam of Tarascan, Spanish,
and English, indicating the multi-lingual environment in which
the migrantsand the workscirculate, becoming an appropriate
symbol for the migrant experience.
1998 Yoochel Kaaj/Cine Video Cultura has organized youth media
workshops in Mayan communities of Yucatan. In collaboration with
other contributors, Yoochel Kaaj produces Turix, an eclectic,
multilingual video-magazine produced by workshop participants
from Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec, Tzeltal, and Chol communities. The
works circulate in screenings in the communities
where the workshops are given and other communities in the region.
Yoochel Kaaj also organizes an annual regional festival, Geografías
Suaves/Cine Video Sociedad.
The newest of the four state-supported CVIs was established
in 2000, offering video training and production in coordination
with local organizations.
CVI opened in 1997 in the city of Hermosillo, serving Yaqui, Mayo
and Seri communities of northwest Mexico, which have produced
documentaries on cultural heritage, current community issues,
and migration. There is also an Indigenous Audiovisual Production
Unit (UPAI) in Sonora. UPAI-Sonora is actively producing documentaries,
music videos, and video essays with Yaqui, Mayo and Seri participation.
The Unidad de Televisión Educativa (UTE or Educational
Television Unit), a program of Mexico's Department of Education,
has also provided training. In the near future, UTE plans to produce
educational television programs with Native mediamakers.
In March 2005, the CVI of Sonora hosted, in coordination with
the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National
Insitute of Anthropology and History), the first indigenous video
festival in the region. The Festival de Video Documental Indígena
featured the work of indigenous videomakers trained at Mexico's
four CVIs and works by the regional CVIs' staff.
and International Networks
the past decade indigenous media from Mexico has increasingly
been included in networks of production and presentation in Mexico
and internationally. Festivals in Mexico have enthusiastically
embraced Native-made work, among them Contra El Silencio Todas
las Voces an international festival that emphasizes works with
strong social and political content; Geografías Suaves/Cine
Video Sociedad featuring productions from southeast Mexico, Belize
and Guatemala; and the Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia
in Michoacán, which has become a major Mexican cinema event.
Film and Video tours have facilitated exchange between indigenous
mediamakers and audiences in different countries. In 1998 the
Video America Indígena/Video Native America (VAI)
tour was organized by the Film and Video Center of NMAI in collaboration
with indigenous media organizations in Mexico and the Centros
de Video Indígena in Oaxaca and Michoacán. Video
América Indígena hosted Native American directors
in more than 15 indigenous towns in the states of Oaxaca, Morelos
and Michoacán. To reciprocate, Video México Indígena/Video
Native Mexico (VMI) circulated in the US in 2003, organized
by Film and Video Center of NMAI in collaboration with Ojo de
Agua Comunicación. VMI brought Mexican native filmmakers
to Native, Mexican and Latin American audiences in various cities
of the US. In 2004 the Chiapas Media Project-Promedios (CMP) toured
works of indigenous videomakers from Chiapas and Guerrero in Australia,
in collaboration with Aboriginal media associations from Australia.
work has also been screened widely in festivals and programs around
the world, including National Geographic's All Roads Film Festival,
Cine las Americas, Environmental Film Festival, Margaret Mead
Film Festival, San Antonio CineFestival, Smithsonian's Native
American Film and Video Festival, and Taos Talking Pictures in
the U.S; the ImagineNATIVE Media Arts Festival and Montreal's
First Peoples' Festival in Canada; Wairoa Maori Film Festival
in New Zealand; Festival Internacional de Cinema e Vídeo
Ambiental in Brazil; International Film Festival D'Amiens in France;
the Audiovisual Universe of Indigenous Peoples Showcase in Spain
and the Indigenous Peoples Film and Cooperation Showcase in the
Basque Region. Festivals play an important role in exposing indigenous
mediamakers to wider audiences in their own country as well as
internationally, and they provide a valuable networking opportunity.
first International Film and Video Festival of Indigenous Peoples,
an important collaborative effort of indigenous media organizations
throughout the hemisphere, organized by the Latin American Council
of Indigenous Peoples' Film and Communication (CLACPI), was held
in Mexico two decades ago, hosted by the then-emerging indigenous
media community. In May 2006, Mexico is again hosting the event,
in Oaxaca City.
peoples' increasingly visible role in the national political process
and participation in media production has led to more support
from Mexico's arts, cultural, educational, and state institutions.
The Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (National Arts
Council) and Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes have supported
indigenous video making through individual grants and travel stipends.
An indicator of greater inclusiveness is an effort by the Secretaría
de Educación Pública (National Education Council)
to counteract the lack of cultural diversity in the country's
mass media through the nationally broadcast television series
Pueblos de México, produced by Media Llum Comunicación.
Focusing largely on Native cultures, producers from the indigenous
media world have contributed a number of the segments.
The generous support of many international organizations and
foundations, including the Program for Media Artists, currently
funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation,
the MacArthur Foundation, the U.S.-Mexico Fund for Culture, and
the human rights organization Witness, has nurtured the development
of many individual video makers and community-based media organizations.
exchange of works, experiences, and ideas with both Native and
non-Native media producers and audiences in Latin America and
other parts of the world has brought indigenous media makers of
Mexico a new sense of possibility for their use of media. Despite
financial and political challenges, they continue to work with
passion and a sense of responsibility, joining the world-wide
media community while retaining their identities as members of
particular cultural, historical, and linguistic communities.
Screened by NMAI
The below is a list of related media from Mexico.
Native Networks Resource Lists
Film and Video Organizations
Sources on Indigenous Video in Mexico
- Anaya, Graciela (ed.). 1990, "Hacia un Video Indio."
INI Cuadernos 2, Archivo Etnográfico Audiovisual.
Instituto Nacional Indigenista: México DF.
- Brígido-Corachán, Anna. 2004. "An Interview
with Juan Jose García, President of Ojo de Agua Comunicación."
American Anthropologist. Volume 106, Number 2, June,
- Fernández, Yanet and Ruth Martínez. 2003. Catálogo
de Producciones en Cine y Video. Instituto Nacional Indigenista-Centro
de Investigación, Información y Documentación
de los Pueblos Indígenas de México: México.
- Flores Arenales, Carlos Y. 1998. "El Video Indígena,
entre la Antropología y la Modernidad." In: Anuario
1997. Centro de Estudios Superiores de México y Centroamérica.
Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas & Universidad de Ciencias
y Artes del Estado de Chiapas: Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas,
- Flores, Carlos, Axel Köhler and Xochitl Leyva. 2000.
"Videoastas Indígenas de Chiapas y Guatemala."
In: II Encuentro Indígena de las Americas, Memoria
1999, 19 - 24 Abril. Sna Jtz'Ibajom: San Cristóbal
de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, pp. 460-469.
- Köhler, Axel. 2002. "Algunos dilemas éticos
en la antropología (tele)visual compartida: más
allá de las docu-soaps." In: Anuario 2000. Centro
de Estudios Superiores de México y Centroamérica.
Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas & Universidad de Ciencias
y Artes de Chiapas: San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas,
Mexico, pp. 381-411.
- Köhler, Axel. 2004. "Nuestros antepasados no tenían
cámaras: el video como machete y otros retos de la video-producción
indígena en Chiapas, México." Revista
Chilena de Antropología Visual 4.
- Köhler, Axel and Tim Trench. 2004. "Medios y Mimesis
en El Mundo Maya." In: Anuario 2002. Centro de Estudios
Superiores de México y Centroamérica. Universidad
de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas: San Cristóbal de las
Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, pp. 381-426.
- Singer, Beverly R. "Video America Indígena/Video
Native America" Wicazo Sa Review - Volume 16, Number 2,
Fall 2001, pp. 35-53 University of Minnesota Press.
- Smith, Laurel. (2003). "The Search for Well-Being: Placing
Development with Indigenous Identity." In Mobilizing
Place, Placing Mobility: on the Politics of Representation in
a Globalized World. Edited by T. Cresswell and G. Verstraete.
Rodopi Press: Amsterdam, pp. 87-108.
- Wortham, Erica Cusi, 2004, "Between the State and Indigenous
Autonomy: Unpacking Video Indígena in Mexico." American
Anthropologist, June, vol.106, No.2, pp. 363-368.
We appreciate the collaboration of filmmakers, media centers
and researchers involved in indigenous media in Mexico for contributing
their images and insight.
Video Worshop in Ojitlán, Oaxaca, 2002. Organized by Ojo
de Agua Comunicación - photograph by Laurel Smith; OVERVIEW:
Video workshop in the village of El Pípila in the Isthmus
of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, organized by UCIZONI's women´s commission
and Ojo de Agua Comunicación, 1999 - photograph by Xóchitl
Zepeda; Still from Uaricha en la Muerte by Dante Cerano
(P'urépecha), 2004 - courtesy of Dante Cerano; Community
screening in Michoacán. NMAI's Video América Indígena
tour, Mexico 1998 - courtesy of the Film and Video Center of Smithsonian's
NMAI; Womens video training workshop in Morelia, Michoacán
- courtesy of Promedios/Chiapas Media Project; BEGINNINGS:
Julio Manzano (Zapotec) setting a TV antenna in San Juan Yaee,
Oaxaca, 2002 - photograph by Laurel Smith; Still of Weaving
Sea and Wind, the life of an Ikood Family, San Mateo del Mar,
Oaxaca, 1985 - courtesy of the Comisión Nacional para el
Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas de México, photograph
by Alberto Becerril; Community screening in Teotlaxco, Oaxaca,
Mexico, at NMAIs 1998 Video América Indígena
tour - courtesy of the Film and Video Center of Smithsonians
NMAI; OAXACA: Ojo de Agua team shooting on-location in
Oaxaca in 2003 - courtesy of Ojo de Agua Comunicación;
Guillermo Monteforte at a video workshop in Chiapas, 1995 - courtesy
of Ojo de Agua Comunicación; Video Worshop in Ojitlán,
Oaxaca, 2002. Organized by Ojo de Agua Comunicación - photograph
by Laurel Smith; Crisanto Manzano (Zapotec) and Héctor
Sandoval (Driki). San Juan Yaee, Oaxaca, 2002 - photograph by
Laurel Smith; CHIAPAS: Production shot from video Caracoles,
at Oventic, Chiapas, credit Francisco Vásquez - courtesy
of Chiapas Media Projects/Promedios; Video production shot, Morelia,
Michoacán - courtesy of Promedios/Chiapas Media Project;
Visual Anthropology course, Chiapas 2002 - courtesy of the Project
of Indigenous Videomakers from the Southern Border; Cinemaíz
logo - by Erasto Molina, courtesy of Cinemaíz; GUERRERO:
Still from Atzatzilistli: Praying for Water by José
Luis Matías - courtesy of José Luis Matías;
Still of Eyes on What's Inside: The Militarization of Guerrero
by Carlos Efraín Pérez (Mixe), 2005 - courtesy of
Chiapas Media Project; MICHOACÁN: Valente Soto
Bravo (P'urépecha) during the Video América Indígena
tour in Michoacán, México, 1998 - courtesy of the
Film and Video Center of Smithsonian's NMAI; Director Dante Cerano
(Purepecha) reviewing script with actress Crisanta Baltazar (Purepecha)
on "Uaricha" - courtesy of EXE Video; YUCATÁN:
Production shot of a videoletter for "Turix" - courtesy
of Yoochel Kaaj; Televisión TURIX logo - courtesy of Yoochel
Kaaj; SONORA: Still of Dance by María Esperanza
Molina (Yaqui), 2004 - courtesy of the Comisión Nacional
para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas de México;
NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL NETWORKS: Panel on Indigenous
Media at the Morelia Film Festival 2004. Dante Cerano (P'urépecha),
Aureliano Soto (P'urépecha), Raúl Máximo
Cortés (P'urépecha), and Amalia Córdova -
photograph by Pedro Lopez; Left to right: Dante Cerano (Purépecha),
Sergio Julián (Mixtec), Amalia Córdova, Fabiola
Gervasio (Mixe), Elizabeth Weatherford, Juan José García
(Zapotec) and Guillermo Monteforte at Taos Talking Pictures Festival,
NM, Video México Indígena tour, April 2003 - courtesy
of the Film and Video Center of Smithsonians NMAI; Mexican
participation at the Hemispheric TV session of the Smithsonian's
Native American Film and Video Festival in New York, 2003. Marcos
Sandoval (Driki), Amalia Córdova, José Luis Matías
(Nahua), Roberto Olivares y Sergio Julián (Mixteco) - courtesy
of the Film and Video Center of Smithsonian's NMAI; 8th International
Film and Video Festival of Indigenous Peoples "Image Roots"
- courtesy of Ojo de Agua Comunicación; Juan José
García (Zapotec) and Guillermo Monteforte receiving Mountain
Award at Taos Talking Picture Festival, Taos, NM, April 2003.
- courtesy of Ojo de Agua Comunicación; Production Shot,
Chiapas Media Project - courtesy of Chiapas Media Project