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Military-backed Mapping Project in Oaxaca Under Fire

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In this devastating blow to the México Indígena project the community go on to demand that México Indígena, the American Geographic Society, the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) of the United States Army, the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí, and the University of Kansas, as well as all other agencies "whose participation has not come to our attention," give the maps back to the community, destroy all information about the community in their possession and remove the maps from their website. They also demand a public apology "for having violated our rights as indigenous peoples and for having violated the very norms that appear in the Code of Ethics of the American Geographic Society that you profess to respect."

A month later, the maps of Tiltepec are still on-line on the México Indígena site, and neither Dobson, Herlihy or México Indígena have responded. No apology has been issued yet.

Due to the furor surrounding the controversy, the issue has being taken up on a national level. Opposition deputy Carlos Martinez Martinez from the PRD party and representative from Guelatao, Oaxaca, brought up the matter to be debated in the Mexican Congress, demanding that the México Indígena project be investigated at a federal level.

Back in the U.S., Professor Jerome Dobson attempted to get elected President of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) at its annual conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Questioned on the matter of the Tiltepec demand for
México Indígena to "cease and desist and return of the data", Dobsons response was evasive, passing the buck onto Peter Herlihy.

"I was in some of the villages, I was not in Tiltepec. There's no question in my mind that people knew where the funding was coming from, that was clearly communicated to key people - do they want to say that now, apparently not...So I'm just befuddled by why this has reached this point. I know that the initial charges by Aldo Gonzales were false...I've seen the video of the press conference of the discussion by the commissario of Tiltepec but I also know what was happening when we were there and Peter was there... I know Peter is to be trusted, so if he said it, I believe it."


The AAG voted Dobson's Presidency bid down.

"This issue is a defining moment for the AAG and for U.S. geography and geographers in general," wrote the Indigenous Peoples Specialty Group, putting the gravity of the situation into perspective. "Our reputation is now at stake in many Indigenous communities. The AAG should not be seen as doing little to address their legitimate concerns, at a time when the whole world is watching."

For the IPSG, this is a critical first step towards dealing with geography's murky past relations with indigenous peoples, and hopefully a beginning towards building a better present and future.

Meanwhile, on the ground in Oaxaca, representatives of the Zapotec communities affected and their resident NGO UNOSJO, are relieved that their voice is being heard.

"It's great that these things are finally becoming public knowledge, especially in the U.S.," said Juan Perez Luna, "It is great news that they voted against Dobson in that AAG meeting and he didn't get rewarded for lying to the world. But this is not over yet."

Cyril Mychalejko is an editor at www.UpsideDownWorld.org. Ramor Ryan is an Irish journalist based in Chiapas, Mexico who wrote Clandestines: the Pirate Journals of an Irish Exile (AK Press, 2006).

 

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Cyril Mychalejko is an editor at www.UpsideDownWorld.org, an online magazine covering politics and activism in Latin America.
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So what will the Society do? Probably change its r... by Archie on Thursday, May 7, 2009 at 1:45:25 PM
Being a Kansan, I am appalled that a professor fro... by Paula Sayles on Thursday, May 7, 2009 at 3:14:59 PM