The current status of human rights in Latin America has been profoundly affected by the legacy of colonial institutions. Since the time of conquest, through colonialism, and after independence, the growth of the Latin American state has been challenged by the alternative discourse of indigenous rights. In Mexico, the dominance of mestizaje (or the quest for a single Mexican ethnic identity) in the formation of its modern state apparatus has left indigenous cultures out of the realm of political participation and exposed to human rights violations. With the Zapatista uprising of 1994-1996, the contradictions inherent in Mexico’s constitution were brought to the forefront and placed the discourse of indigenous rights squarely on the global human rights agenda. Mexico provides an interesting case in the evolution of indigenous rights discourse, considering the large number of indigenous groups within its borders, especially in Oaxaca and Chiapas. The Zapatista rebellion illustrates the ways in which indigenous claims have sought to challenge the state, as well as claims of universality in global human rights policies. It has, in many ways, forced the leaders of the Mexican State to take a hard look at its colonial past.

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