Projects

Este Lugar Tiene Muchas Historias / Lajtre Yuduxh Rextiixni

El Calvario, one of Mitla’s heritage sites with ‘muchas historias’ (many histories) Hilary Morgan V. Leathem © 2018
El Calvario, one of Mitla’s heritage sites with ‘muchas historias’ (many histories) Hilary Morgan V. Leathem © 2018

Location

San Pablo Villa de Mitla, Oaxaca, México

Synopsis and Position

Este Lugar Tiene Muchas Historias / Lajtre Yuduxh Rextiixni is a decolonial repatriation and public art and history project based in Mitla, an Indigenous Zapotec town located in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Previously funded by the American Philosophical Society, it is led by a joint team of Euro-American and Indigenous Mexican scholars and stakeholders. The project reimagines what an archive is, could be, and should be through re-assembling and transforming the ethnographic and historical knowledge extracted from Mitla through a combination of transcription, translation, and innovative visual methodologies that emphasize Indigenous ontologies (worldviews).

Objectives and Methods

First, the project translates English ethnographic and historical texts into Spanish and Indigenous Zapotec, making those texts freely available to Indigenous community members. Second, it supports travel to an archive in Mexico that holds Mitleño visual heritage (photographs) in order to acquire access and scan materials for return. Third, it centres an Indigenous perspective by crafting a community-curated map linking historical knowledge and selected images to their associated landmarks across Mitla. Fourth, it supports a series of townhall meetings to share these images and documents and discuss the final content of the digital map. The project results in an Indigenous-curated exhibition of historic and ethnographic photography of Mitla at the town’s Pitao Bezelao Cultural Centre.

Workshops and Events

18 – 29 October 2022: Mitla’s International Festival of Murals, hosted by the Pitao Bezelao Cultural Centre.

Leathem, Ramón Celis, and Méndez will share an update of their work with attendees and the town. Exact date and time TBD.

Activities

From October 2022 to March 2023, we will continue our work transcribing and translating papers from the Elsie Clews Parsons archive from English into both Spanish and Zapotec with the aid of two commissioned local Mitleño translators. Alongside this, we will also be repatriating historic and ethnographic photos back to the community from the American Philosophical Society and Fototeca (in Pachucha, Mexico), as well as several other cultural institutions and repositories.

From March 2023 to June 2023, the team will convene in Mitla. First, Leathem, Ramón Celis, and Méndez will conduct a collaborative survey or ‘reconnaissance’ of the town, re-incorporating Indigenous Zapotec names of various historic landmarks and places of deep significance into the community-curated map. They will then host several town hall meetings where the community will respond and continue to steward the creation of the map.

From June 2023 to September 2023, the team will work with the community to achieve a local, Indigenous-led exhibition at the Pitao Bezelao Cultural Centre showcasing digitally repatriated photographs of Mitla.

San Pablo Villa de Mitla, Oaxaca, Mexico