Skip to main content
Expand AU Menu

For the Media

Multiculturalism Conference Examines Elections in Oaxaca, Mexico

WHAT:    “Reconciling Liberal Pluralism and Group Rights: Oaxaca, Mexico’s Multiculturalism Experiment in Comparative Perspective”

WHO: Todd Eisenstadt, researcher and professor of government, American University
- Moisés Jaime Bailón Corres, researcher, the Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca, Mexico
- Cipriano Flores Cruz, former director, State Electoral Institute, Oaxaca, Mexico
- Araceli Burguete Cal y Mayor, researcher, Centro de Investigaciones en Antropologia Social, Chiapas, Mexico
- More than 15 other leading researchers and experts

WHEN:   9 a.m.–4 p.m. Thursday, February 19
            9 a.m.–4 p.m. Friday, February 20   

WHERE:   Rooms 5 and 6, Mary Graydon Center, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC

MEDIA:    Jon Hussey, AU Media Relations, 202-885-5935 or

American University’s School of Public Affairs, along with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the the Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca, will host a two-day conference on February 19 and 20 at AU’s Mary Graydon Center to discuss customary law—unwritten law established by custom—and its effects on local elections in Oaxaca, Mexico. The conference is part of a three-year, $300,000 grant to American University, that has been led by School of Public Affairs professor Todd Eisenstadt.

As part of the grant, Eisenstadt and doctoral student Mike Danielson—along with colleagues in Mexico—designed a survey of officials in each of the hundreds of rural hamlets. Together with a team led by Moisés Jaime Bailón Corres, a researcher at Oaxaca’s major public university and Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission, and Cipriano Flores Cruz, the prior electoral institute director and strong advocate of transparency of electoral results, survey team members spent eight months in the field involving dozens of questioners surveying in several indigenous languages. Data were collected on over 350 municipalities. The authors will release partial findings of their study, which was part of the USAID grant proposal, for the first time at the conference. 

“Customary law may have improved participation by some citizens in local elections,” said Eisenstadt, previewing the team’s findings. “But some applications of customary law also discriminate against minorities such as all women and men residing in disenfranchised outer communities. And the secret ballot is rarely respected, meaning that people vote in communal assemblies where everyone can see how they raise their hands or hash mark a chalkboard, and the stronger can punish the weaker for how they vote.”

Two other SPA doctoral students will be among the dozen research presenters comparing Oaxaca’s multicultural legislation, heralded by supporters and detractors alike as an unprecedented international “experiment,” to such laws in other nations, such as Bolivia, India, and Turkey. Specialists from around the United States and Mexico on indigenous political representation elsewhere in southern Mexico will also present comparisons of multiculturalism in areas they study to practices in Oaxaca. Presentations will be in English and Spanish, with simultaneous translation on both days. The grant, administered by AU through Higher Education and Development, concludes in September, when Eisenstadt, Danielson, Bailón, and fellow Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca researcher Carlos Sorroza hope to submit a manuscript edited from the papers presented next week.

For a full agenda for the conference, please contact Jon Hussey at 202-885-5935 or

Ranked among the top 10 schools of its kind, American University’s School of Public Affairs offers public affairs education on the undergraduate, graduate, and executive levels. The school is also home to research centers and institutes in the fields of political science, public administration, public policy, and justice. American University School of Public Affairs is the only school of its kind with three accredited graduate degrees: MPA, MPP, and executive MPA. Graduates of the school are active in global policy legislation, advocacy, and in the nonprofit and private sectors.