Oaxaca Just Gave Its Indigenous Community Cultural Heritage Status

Lead Photo: Viva Oaxaca
Viva Oaxaca
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Just before the end of 2015, a French court ruled that neither Antik Batik nor Isabel Marant could copyright the traditional huipl shirts of Oaxaca’s Mixe community. The blouses represent a part of the Mixe’s history, and last year, Marant ripped off the design and fabric. The brand repackaged the shirt as a “Viola embroidered cotton-muslin dress” and slapped a $365 price tag on it. Activists on Twitter called out Marant for the plagiarism, and the story began garnering attention from media outlets, including Vogue, the Guardian, Racked, and our own site. Things got more complicated from there, when another French brand, Antik Batik, jumped in the fray and sued Marant for the pattern, claiming copyright of the textile design.

Eventually, the Mixe succeeded in raising attention to the plagiarism. And this month, Oaxaca’s congress defined the traditional dress, designs and language of the Mixe and other indigenous communities as cultural heritage, according to ADN Sureste. The ruling gives these communities the right to choose how they maintain and protect their own identities.

The law’s preamble states the definition of “cultural heritage” has changed over time. Originally, UNESCO used the term for physical buildings and monuments, but now it encompasses traditions, festive events, traditional crafts, and other things passed down from generation to generation.