Undocumented Zapotec Mobilities

Authors: Michelle Vasquez Ruiz*, University of Southern California
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Immigration/Transnationalism, Social Geography
Keywords: Indigenous peoples, immigration, social media
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Through shaky pans across the hillsides, one YouTube user captures the dirt road entrance to his small community of San Dionisio Ocotepec, Oaxaca. In the comments section, undocumented immigrants express how significant these images are due to their inability to return home. As Zapotec people, their comments express a desire to reconnect with the natural elements of their communities: to smell the air and touch the land. However, because of their legal status and the constant threat of deportation, their mobility is limited; they cannot move freely across borders. This presentation explores what it means for these immigrants to watch these travel videos, as well as visualize and anticipate the videographer’s arrival when they physically cannot. Through an analysis of videos and other digital interactions produced by these communities, I explore how digital technologies and social media platforms enable a type of mobility to a population who exists in containment. I consider how their identities as members of these Indigenous communities are not stripped by conditions of immobility but are enacted through virtual connections to their ancestral lands. These virtual spaces allow them to imagine themselves existing in conditions outside of deportability and displacement.

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