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Salud mental

versión impresa ISSN 0185-3325


VEGA, Leticia; GUTIERREZ, Rafael; JUAREZ, Angélica  y  RENDON, Ernesto. Researching of intercultural paths in indigenous migrants communities in Distrito Federal. Salud Ment [online]. 2008, vol.31, n.2, pp.139-144. ISSN 0185-3325.

The migrant indigenous population living all over Mexico City is increasing. The settlement of families in a single piece of land has magnified their visibility and political participation in the city based on their kinship and <<compadrazgo>>* relationships. This family settlement has given the indigenous migrant population the opportunity to maintain its cultural patterns and to speak its mother tongue; but this collective coexistence often creates serious problems and conflicts among its members. However, these communities must concur with institutional criteria and with local social programs' requirements for gaining access to resources (mostly coming from welfare) such as land regulation, medical assistance, grants, groceries, house building, and so on. Those criteria and requirements are usually established from the outside, without a proper knowledge of the communities they attempt to benefit. They do not have enough sensitivity towards the community's social organization, this situation has created conflicts and breaking-offs among the allegedly favored communities, as well as alterations in their traditional forms of organization. Urban resources, for instance, tend to promote group organization among indigenous with a community leader who has to be an agent for getting resources; but he often acts on his own rather than as the traditional guide originally in charge of maintaining the community life inside the limits of the public agreements reached through assemblies. Another troublesome experience that indigenous people face in the city is the frequent inter-ethnic links they have with the academic community, which approaches them to <<study and to help them>>. Migrant Triquis, Otomies, Mazahuas, and other groups have a negative opinion of the academic community; they do not see it as an inter-ethnic link but as an inquiring one. Interviewers and pollsters from academic, government, ecclesiastic, news, and school agencies have asked them the same questions for many years: their school history, eating habits, income, occupation, and their reasons for migrating. Apparently researchers tend to believe that this population has an <<official answer>> for these questions. The use indigenous groups make of the <<official answer>> underlines their demands before the State about their right to work, to have a house, to medical attention, and to education and constitutes one of the few channels they have to be heard, though a lot remains unheard or in the dark. Even though they have received some attention, many of the places where they live in the city still are in dreadful health and living conditions, lacking the most basic services. After ten years, many of these indigenous camps have nothing but the poorest houses. On the other hand, recent non-indigenous migrants already have much better conditions. Indigenous communities living in the city often think that organizations use them, that they do nothing or very little to understand and benefit them, but that they can make things worse for them (for instance, breaking off their camps and generating more violence and alcohol use among their families). Although in the present there is a paradigm of egalitarian coexistence and multicultural tolerance in the urban centers, being part of an indigenous group still means disadvantage in comparison to a mixed race person. The idea that indigenous people are barbarians or savages still exists in the usual representations of mixed race society and their attention policy is filled with an integration thinking which considers indigenous societies as lower and incapable, as well as prone to be absorbed by the higher culture to finish the civilization process. The fundamental frame for knowing and understanding indigenous communities as well as their experiences in the way they experience them, is through the intercultural paths they are following in the city, their contact with resources, the inter-ethnic relationships they have from the moment they leave their homes until they arrive to the city. Achieving this goal implies that sponsors, researchers, and services providers stop looking at themselves as external observers and the communities as <<objects to study>> and start training informants in professional skills to become collaborators in the researches or in the social programs. Thus members of these <<cultural minorities>> could be part of the knowledge production in the enclosing culture without sacrificing neither their identity, nor their cultural values but revitalizing them instead. It is also needed that researchers do something more than just tackling indigenous communities' knowledge from the perspective of informants to capture their voice in the final reports, even being cautious not to publish material that could hurt them. The people who get involved in a research as subjects have very little influence on what is published so they do not feel represented. Even though using a classical research model helps to save time and to simplify responsibilities in managing funds and reporting research results, the challenge to access informants and gaining their trust still exists. Generally this approach creates skeptical reactions among participants who do not believe neither in the results nor in the purposes and products of a study because they do not feel part of the planning. It is necessary to practice alternative ways to relate to informants and to make more inclusive participant research projects. That way it would be possible to gradually involve subjects in every step of the research process to found a cooperative model where informants are trained during research to participate in designing, performing, analyzing, and reporting research results. This new team is the one that would present and conduct the research. Such new approach would guarantee that subjects' needs are covered and their experiences recognized. It would also help the researcher to access informants, to gain their trust, and to consider ethical aspects in treating them. This article describes some of the present problems involved in assisting and researching indigenous groups that live in Mexico City. The nature of the socio-cultural organization of indigenous groups living in the city is analyzed, as well as the transformation their communities experience when they contact with urban resources. A brief count of the elements involved in the meeting between indigenous people and the academic staff interested in studying them is presented. The usual failure in setting egalitarian inter-ethnic relationships, which has often resulted in damaging indigenous groups, is exposed. Finally, the need for alternative approaches in assisting and researching cultural minorities is discussed, especially from the perspective that there is an interest in creating equality, renewing their identities and their socio-cultural life, and improving their general living conditions based on the inter-cultural paths these groups follow in the big cities.

Palabras llave : Inter-cultural paths; indigenous communities; indigenous migrants; indigenous living in Mexico City; indigenous communities research.

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