Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-684899dbb8-489z4 Total loading time: 0.542 Render date: 2022-05-24T10:25:24.992Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }

The Participation Paradox of Indigenous Autonomy in Mexico

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Jonathan T. Hiskey
Vanderbilt University.
Gary L. Goodman
Marshall Goldsmith School of Management at Alliant International


As indigenous movements around the world seek to strengthen their collective voice in their respective political systems, efforts continue to design political institutions that offer both sufficient local autonomy and incentives to participate in the broader political system. The state of Oaxaca, Mexico, offers a test case of one such effort at indigenous-based institutional design. This article argues that such reforms often fail to confront the tension between local autonomy and citizen engagement in politics outside the borders of the community. Testing this theory through a comparative analysis of voter turnout rates in municipalities across the state of Oaxaca and the neighboring state of Guerrero, this study finds that the adoption of indigenous institutions at the local level is associated with significantly lower voter turnout rates for national elections.

Research Article
Copyright © University of Miami 2011

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Anaya Muñoz, Alejandro. 2004. Explaining the Politics of Recognition of Ethnic Diversity and Indigenous Peoples' Rights in Oaxaca, Mexico. Bulletin of Latin American Research 23, 4: 414–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Anderson, Christopher J., and Guillory, Christine A.. 1997. Political Institutions and Satisfaction with Democracy: a Cross-National Analysis of Consensus and Majoritarian Systems. American Political Science Review 91, 1: 6682.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bailón Corres, Jaime. 1999. Pueblos indios, élites y territorio. Sistemas de dominio regional en el sur de México. Una historia política de Oaxaca. Mexico City : Centro de Estudios Sociológicos, El Colegio de México.Google Scholar
Banducci, Susan A., Donovan, Todd, and Karp, Jeffrey A.. 1999. Proportional Representation and Attitudes about Politics: Evidence from New Zealand. Electoral Studies 18, 4: 533–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Benton, Allyson L. 2005. Dissatisfied Democrats or Retrospective Voters? Economic Hardship, Political Institutions, and Voting Behavior in Latin America. Comparative Political Studies 38, 4: 417–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Benton, Allyson L. 2007. Latin America's (Legal) Subnational Authoritarian Enclaves: The Case of Mexico. Working paper 196. Mexico City : División de Estudios Políticos, CIDE.Google Scholar
Benton, Allyson L. 2008. The Effect of Electoral Rules on Indigenous Voting Behavior in Mexico's State of Oaxaca. Working paper 205. Mexico City : División de Estudios Políticos, CIDE.Google Scholar
Blais, André, and Dobrzynska, Agnieszka. 1998. Turnout in Electoral Democracies. European Journal of Political Research 33, 2: 239–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bowler, Shawn, and Hiskey, Jonathan T.. 2005. Local Context and Democratization in Mexico. American Journal of Political Science 49, 1: 5771.Google Scholar
Bowler, Shaun, and Donovan, Todd. 2002. Democracy, Institutions, and Attitudes about Citizen Influence on Government. British Journal of Political Science 32: 371–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bowler, Shaun, Brockington, David, and Donovan, Todd. 2001. Electoral Systems and Voter Turnout: Experiments in the United States. Journal of Politics 63: 902–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cleary, Matthew. 2007. Indigenous Rights and Democracy in Southern Mexico: Liberalism Laughs Last? Paper presented at the meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, April 13.Google Scholar
Cleary, Matthew. 2008. Indigenous Autonomy and Insulation from Electoral Competition in Oaxaca, Mexico. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, August 28.Google Scholar
Colomer, Josep M. 2004. Taming the Tiger: Voting Rights and Political Instability in Latin America. Latin American Politics and Society 46, 2 (Summer): 2958.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eisenstadt, Todd. 2007. Usos y Costumbres and Post-Electoral Conflicts in Oaxaca, Mexico, 1995–2004: an Empirical and Normative Assessment. Latin American Research Review 42, 1: 5277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fornos, Carolina A., Power, Timothy J., and Garand, James C.. 2004. Explaining Voter Turnout in Latin America, 1980–2000. Comparative Political Studies 37, 8: 909–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fox, Jonathan, and Aranda, Josefina. 1996. Decentralization and Rural Development in Mexico: Community Participation in Oaxaca's Municipal Funds Program. Monograph series 42. San Diego : Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, University of California.Google Scholar
Franklin, Mark N. 1992. The Decline of Cleavage Politics. In Electoral Change: Responses to Evolving Social and Attitudinal Structures in Western Nations, ed. Franklin, Thomas T. Mackie, and Valen, Henry. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. 383405.Google Scholar
García, María Elena. 2003. The Politics of Community: Education, Indigenous Rights, and Ethnic Mobilization in Peru. Latin American Perspectives 30, 1: 7095.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goodman, Gary L., and Jonathan, T. Hiskey. 2008. Exit without Leaving: Political Disengagement in High Migration Municipalities in Mexico. Comparative Politics 40, 2: 169–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gray, Mark, and Caul, Miki. 2000. Declining Voter Turnout in Advanced Industrial Democracies, 1950–1997: the Effects of Declining Group Mobilization. Comparative Political Studies 33, 9: 1091–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hiskey, Jonathan T., and Mitchell, A. Seligson. 2003. Pitfalls of Power to the People: Decentralization, Local Government Performance, and System Support in Bolivia. Studies in Comparative International Development 37, 4: 6488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jackman, Robert, and Miller, Ross. 1995. Voter Turnout in the Industrial Democracies during the 1980s. Comparative Political Studies 27, 4: 467–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jackson, Jean E., and Warren, Kay V., eds. 2002. Indigenous Movements, Self-Representation, and the State in Latin America. Austin : University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
Jacobson, Gary. 1983. The Politics of Congressional Elections. Boston : Little, Brown.Google Scholar
Jesuit, David. 2003. The Regional Dynamics of European Electoral Politics: Participation in National and European Contests in the 1990s. European Union Politics 4, 2: 139–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Klesner, Joseph L. 2001. The End of Mexico's One-Party Regime. PS: Political Science and Politics 34, 1: 107114.Google Scholar
Klesner, Joseph L., and Lawson, Chappell. 2001. Adiós to the Pri: Changing Voter Turnout in Mexico's Political Transition. Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 17, 1: 1739.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kostadinova, Tatiana. 2003. Voter Turnout Dynamics in Post-Communist Europe. European Journal of Political Research 42: 741–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lassen, David Dreyer. 2005. The Effect of Information on Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Natural Experiment. American Journal of Political Science 49, 1: 103–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
López Bárcenas, Francisco, Peña Jumpa, Antonio, and Mallol, Vicente Cabedo. 2002. Derecho y justicia en el estado de Oaxaca, México. In Constituciones, derecho, y justicia en los pueblos indígenas de América Latina, ed. Jumpa, and Cabedo, . Lima : Fondo Editorial de La Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. 171281.Google Scholar
Lupia, Arthur, and McCubbins, Matthew D. 1998. The Democratic Dilemma: Can Citizens Learn What They Need to Know? New York : Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Maybury-Lewis, David, ed. 2002. Identities in Conflict: Indigenous Peoples and the State in Latin America. Cambridge : Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Middlebrook, Kevin J. 1995. The Paradox of Revolution: Labor, the State, and Authoritarianism in Mexico. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
Rodrígues, Moog, Guadalupe, María. 2002. Indigenous Rights in Democratic Brazil. Human Rights Quarterly 24, 2: 487512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nagler, Jonathan. 1991. The Effect of Registration Laws and Education on U.S. Voter Turnout. American Political Science Review 85, 4: 13931406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Posner, Paul. 2004. Local Democracy and the Transformation of Popular Participation in Chile. Latin American Politics and Society 46, 3 (Fall): 5581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Radcliff, Benjamin. 1992. The Welfare State, Turnout, and the Economy: a Comparative Analysis. American Political Science Review 86, 2: 444–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Radcliff, Benjamin, and Davis, Patricia. 2000. Labor Organization and Electoral Participation in Industrial Democracies. American Journal of Political Science 44, 1: 132–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Roper, Montgomery J. 2003. Bolivian Legal Reforms and Local Indigenous Organizations: Opportunities and Obstacles in a Lowland Municipality. Latin American Perspectives 30, 1: 139–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rosenstone, Steven J., and Hansen, John Mark. 1993. Mobilization, Participation, and Democracy in America. New York : Macmillan.Google Scholar
Rubin, Jeffrey W. 1996. Decentering the Regime: Culture and Regional Politics in Mexico. Latin American Research Review 31, 3: 85126.Google Scholar
Schlozman, Kay, and Verba, Sidney. 1979. Injury to Insult: Unemployment, Class, and Political Response. Cambridge : Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Selverston-Scher, Melina. 2001. Ethnopolitics in Ecuador: Indigenous Rights and the Strengthening of Democracy. Coral Gables : North-South Center Press.Google Scholar
Shadlen, Kenneth C. 2004. Democratization Without Representation: The Politics of Small Industry in Mexico. University Park : Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
Van Cott, Donna Lee. 2000. The Friendly Liquidation of the Past: The Politics of Diversity in Latin America. Pittsburgh : University of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
Van Cott, Donna Lee. 2003. From Exclusion to Inclusion: Bolivia's 2002 Elections. Journal of Latin American Studies 35, 4: 751–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Verba, Sidney, and Nie, Norman. 1972. Participation in America: Political Democracy and Social Equality. New York : Harper and Row.Google Scholar
Wolfinger, Raymond E., and Rosenstone, Steven. 1980. Who Votes? New Haven : Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Yashar, Deborah. 1998. Democracy, Indigenous Movements, and the Postliberal Challenge in Latin America. World Politics 52, 1: 76104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Participation Paradox of Indigenous Autonomy in Mexico
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

The Participation Paradox of Indigenous Autonomy in Mexico
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

The Participation Paradox of Indigenous Autonomy in Mexico
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *