Department or Program



This thesis studies the phenomenon of migrants returning to their communities of origin to run for municipal president (mayor) in San Pablo Huixtepec and Silacayoapam, two indigenous communities in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico. I ask why political parties seek migrants to run on their ticket for the municipal presidency, a puzzling phenomenon given that Oaxacan local politics is rooted in traditional indigenous governing norms which privilege in-person communal service. I also ask why return migrants seek the role of the municipal presidency. Data is collected through 19 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with return migrant municipal presidents, return migrants who sought the municipal presidency but lost, other prominent community members of the two communities, as well as Oaxacan and American migration scholars. I find that political parties seek partnerships with return migrants to increase their odds of electoral victory by associating with ‘return migrant prestige’ - a set of positive communal perceptions which are attributed to migrants. I also find that international migration instills in migrants a vision of how to modernize their communities of origin, which I posit is linked to new forms of administrative knowledge and personal administrative efficacy. This vision, and its constitutive phenomena of knowledge and efficacy, motivate return migrants to seek the municipal presidency.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Perez-Armendariz, Clarisa

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.