Women in Usos y Costumbres Governments II: Teotitlán del Valle’s First Female Municipal Secretary

Kempf - Mexico - AntonioGonzalez
Fatima Antonio Gonzalez at her desk in her office in the Municipal Palace of Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca

“I am the first female municipal secretary in my town,” Teotitlán del Valle, says Fatima Antonio González. She was named to the position by the current municipal president at 23 years old in 2010. As municipal secretary, she deals with community records and documents.

Teotitlán del Valle is one of 418 towns governed by the indigenous system of usos y costumbres in Oaxaca, Mexico. While Antonio González earns a small salary, government posts in usos y costumbres systems are considered service to the community and are done to give back to the community and not for money.

At the time that she was named to the post, Antonio González was collaborating on Teotitlán del Valle’s Plan for Municipal Development, which identified community needs and goals for the current government’s 3-year term. She was one of the few in her generation to earn a college degree in economics. She says that only 5 or 6 out of the 30 or so community members her age have a college degree.

Antonio González says that people were critical when she was given the job, commenting on her appearance and ability to do the work. However, she says she is at work every day from morning to evening and people are recognizing her effort and commitment through the quick turnaround on paperwork. Antonio González says her predecessor only came in on Saturday mornings.

In the future, Antonio González thinks she will leave Teotitlán del Valle in order to have more job opportunities. She would like to open an office in Oaxaca City to offer consulting to municipalities on managing their resources and development.

Teotitlán del Valle, a community of Zapotec weavers about half an hour outside of Oaxaca City, became well-known in the United States through Lynn Stephen’s ethnographic study, Zapotec Women: Gender, Class, and Ethnicity in Globalized Oaxaca (updated and republished in 2005). In her book, Stephen addresses the desire and need for increased political participation of women. Five years later, the naming of Antonio González to a government post is perhaps a sign that things are changing for the better for women who want more of a voice in community politics.

Posted by Katharina Kempf – MA Candidate at CLACS/Global Journalism at NYU

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