Accepted paper:

Insurgent Maya Urbanism: Moving to the city and claiming land and rights

Authors:

Heidi Moksnes

Paper short abstract:

Indigenous claims on the right to land, and self-determination on these lands, concern almost exclusively rural territories. This paper explores the insurgent urbanism by highland Mayas in a city in southern Mexico and their challenge of the "right" place to claim indigenous rights.

Paper long abstract:

Indigenous claims on the right to land, and self-determination on these lands, have won recognition both by national constitutions and international conventions. Almost exclusively, these claims have concerned rural land. However, a growing number of indigenous persons live in cities. Here, they can usually not exert forms for collective self-determination as indigenous peoples. Furthermore, they are commonly, in the racialized praxis of urban planning and governance, neither recognized as subjects with full urban citizenship, granted equal rights as other residents. I investigate this dilemma in the colonial town of San Cristóbal de las Casas in the highlands of Chiapas in Mexico. This town has the last decades experienced a rapid urbanization by Mayas from surrounding rural communities searching livelihoods, many of whom have been politicized by regional waves of indigenous mobilization, most notably the Zapatista movement. Some argue their right to this urban land since it was occupied by their ancestors when the Spanish colonizers arrived. Most hold a critical gaze of the continued mestizo governance and control of the city, privileging mestizo interests and keeping indigenous inhabitants in a marginalized position. Mayas live in shanty neighborhoods around the town center with none or only partial recognition and access to urban resources. However, they exercise a range of claims on the city, forming collective forms of neighborhood governance, and creating their own spheres for transportation, infrastructure and markets. In my paper, I discuss the potentials of this insurgent urbanism and its challenge of the "right" place to claim indigenous rights.

panel P065
(Post-)colonial settling and native staying: indigeneity and land rights in the Americas [law net]