Home Institution

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Publication Date

Spring 2008

Program Name

Mexico: Grassroots Development and Social Change


The current system of public education in Oaxaca is riddled with problems too numerous to list here. There is an obvious need for reform or for a new system all together. The argument presented in this paper is that the latter is not a feasible option for most in Oaxaca, especially for rural indigenous communities. For reasons explained throughout this study, it is necessary to work within the present confines of the existing education system in order to make significant improvements in the quality of education for these communities. Many activists seek to reject “the system” all together, but this paper not only presents a case study of how one organization has managed to make change from within this system but also argues that this approach is the only realistic possibility. I worked with the Coalición de Maestros y Promotores Indígenas de Oaxaca (CMPIO), a multi-faceted organization whose mission is to improve education in indigenous communities. In addition to reporting to the State Institute of Public Education in Oaxaca (a government institution), CMPIO is actively involved in the National Union of Education Workers and maintains a separate identity as a non-governmental organization. These three divisions of CMPIO grant it maximum flexibility to fight for the educative rights of all indigenous children. The State pays its bills, the union fights for its concerns, and the NGO grants it the independence needed to develop its own innovative alternatives. My research methods included both formal and informal interviews with various workers at CMPIO. I regularly attended d pedagogical meetings and workshops that they hosted. I also once accompanied two CMPIO pedagogues on a trip to a Chinanteco pueblo in order to observe first-hand the current state of education in a typical indigenous community. Background information was obtained from secondary sources and casual conversations with Benjamín Maldonado, who was an invaluable adviser to this investigation. He is a resident anthropologist of Oaxaca and an expert on indigenous affairs in the state. His impressive experience as a researcher includes collaborative efforts with the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, the Secretaría de Asuntos Indígenas del Gobierno del Estado, and the Centro de Encuentros y Diálogos Interculturales. In the past, he has also served as an adviser to CMPIO.


Education | Latin American Studies | Social Welfare


Article Location