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AU and University Honors | Study/Travel | Oaxaca, Mexico 2013

  • Monte Alban
  • CPIMAGE:3724569
  • Benito Juarez Market
  • Punta Cometa landscape
  • AU students at Machu Picchu

The southern Mexico state of Oaxaca offers a window into Mexican politics and society--not to mention its own mix of academic, sensory, and experiential treasures. In March 2013, students in the University Honors Program experienced Oaxaca firsthand. On the Honors Study/Travel trip, they met some of the people whose contributions make Oaxaca distinctive, including local officials, scholars, and indigenous community leaders. They also explored Zapotec ruins, visited one of Mexico’s most beautiful museums, and took in the state’s vibrant range of cultures.

The trip offered an opportunity to study firsthand some of the vital issues that shape society and politics in Mexico, including the following:

  • Immigration
  • Human rights
  • The interaction between indigenous and state “positive law” systems
  • Democratization at the national and subnational levels
  • Rural economic development and its challenges

In addition, students enjoyed the beautiful Sierra Madre Mountains and the many splendors of Oaxaca’s capital city, which has all the comforts of a modern metropolis as well as architectural, culinary, and other charms not found anywhere else.

Todd Eisenstadt (Professor, Department of Government) led the trip in conjunction with the Honors colloquium he taught in the spring: “Mexico 2013: Democracy, Development, and the Challenge of Violence.” Joining Professor Eisenstadt as a guide was Ms. Tabatha Mata, a recent AU alumna from Mexico City who works for the state government in Oaxaca.

Registration for the trip is now closed.


Professor Eisenstadt’s research focuses on the intersection of formal institutions and laws with informal institutions and practices in democratizing countries. His 2011 book on Oaxaca and other indigenous rights movements in southern Mexico was researched during his participation in a three-year program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to train lawyers and other advocates about judicial reforms in Oaxaca and elsewhere in Mexico. While writing that award-winning book, Politics, Identity, and Mexico’s Indigenous Rights Movements, Eisenstadt spent several months learning his way around Oaxaca.

The winter of 2013 will see the publishing of his latest book—Latin America's Multicultural Movements: The Struggle Between Communitarianism, Autonomy, and Human Rights. This book features the work of three Oaxacan colleagues we hope to speak with during the trip, including sociologist and former state legislator Moisés Jaime Bailón Corres, sociologist and political analyst Carlos Sorroza Polo, and lawyer, journalist, and Electoral Institute ombudsman Víctor Leonel Juan Martínez.


Highlights of the spring break 2013 Study/Travel trip to Oaxaca, Mexico included:

  • A visit to the state government, electoral institute, and the Offices of Indigenous Affairs and Migrant Affairs
  • Sight-seeing at Monte Alban, a pre-Columbian archaeological site important to Olmec, Zapotec, and Mixtec societies.
  • A day trip to the town of Santa Catarina Minas and visit to local migrant communities.
  • An excursion to the Sierra Juarez Mountains.
  • Meetings with local officials, including the former mayor of Guelatao.

Fodor’s travel guide describes the capital, Oaxaca City, as a “magical concoction of sights, smells, and sounds both ancient and modern.” The site also highlights Monte Alban, the area’s small towns and the overall beauty of this mostly rural region. Frommer’s calls Oaxaca “a land of mountains and valleys checkered with cornfields” and points to the vibrant culture that’s developed over centuries.


Students who wanted to earn academic credit for the trip could sign up for an independent study with Professor Eisenstadt. Major credit was available in some majors.


Please don't hesitate to ask. Email us at, call us at 202-885-6194, or drop by the Honors Center on the first floor of Hughes Hall.

Click here to learn more about the Study/Travel Program, including previous years’ trips.