Accepted Paper:

Indian women as native chefs. Gender, culinary tourism and resistance in Oaxaca (Southern Mexico)  


Renata Hryciuk (Warsaw University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyzes the emergence of native women chefs in Oaxaca’s culinary industry and its role in challenging and redefining the image and position of Indigenous women in the public sphere (at the local, national and transnational level).

Paper long abstract:

The state of Oaxaca is famous for its regional cuisine considered to be the most sophisticated in Mexico. Thus, over the last decades it has become the site of booming culinary tourism industry owning to both state-led strategies for local development based on promoting cultural and ethnic tourism as well as numerous private enterprises.

The key element for its success are Indigenous women who provide government officials, professional chefs and cookbook authors with local knowledge of products and techniques of cooking. Although, such dissemination of native 'know how' may help to preserve the culinary heritage of Oaxaca, it generally leads to appropriation, commodification and commercialization of women's expertise for the benefit of mestizo or foreign chefs and cookbook authors. At the same time Indian women are widely perceived as skillful but passive and subordinate exotic 'others' and marginalized in the public celebrations of Oaxacan cuisine.

This paper analyzes the emergence of first Oaxacan native women chefs who have managed to parlay their local knowledge into a marketable commodity and the authenticity of being an ethnic minority into business opportunities. The owners of highly acclaimed restaurants, authors of books, special guests at international food shows and festivals Indian women have been recently moving from the sphere of female domestic and ethnic cookery to male haute cuisine crossing the boundaries of gender, ethnicity, class and space.

It demonstrates culinary tourism as a site of grassroots resistance and (re)negotiation of the image and position of Indigenous women within their local communities, and more broadly national and transnational public sphere

Panel G01
The gendering of public space in the globalized world (IUAES Commission on the Anthropology of Women)