Fiesta Guelaguetza

Oaxaca Indigenous Win Ruling After French ‘Fashion Imperialism’

The ruling gives the Indigenous group the right to decide on how they maintain and protect their own identities.

Oaxaca’s congress has just awarded Cultural and Intangible Heritage status to the designs, costumes, handicrafts as well as the languages spoken by the Indigenous peoples of a community called Mixe.

The ruling concluded that Indigenous peoples and communities have the social right to maintain, develop, preserve and protect their own identities and the elements that comprise them.

Locals dancing in their traditional dresses during the Fiesta Guelaguetza, Oaxaca

They are also being protected in order to preserve their traditions and customs through cultural programs and public policies, which are meant to support the conservation of textiles and design.

The ruling gives the communities the right to choose how they maintain and protect their own identities.

Whereas the term “Cultural Heritage” used to be limited to monuments and physical buildings, UNESCO has expanded its meaning to encompass traditions and lived expressions inherited and passed on to new generations, oral traditions, performance arts, festive events as well as knowledge and techniques related to traditional crafts.

The “rebranded” dress as shown at the designers website

The declaration comes after French designers used a traditional blouse of the community of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, Mixe, and presented it as their own design in July 2015. The two designers, Antik Batik and Isabel Marant, repackaged the blouse and put a US$365 price tag on it, causing outrage among those in the community as well as activists on Twitter.