baston1 Many of the small towns outside of the main city of Oaxaca are governed by a system called usos y costumbres (uses and customs).  Typically dominant in indigenous communities, such as the Zapotec community of Teotitlan del Valle, these systems engage the local citizenry in the governing and maintenance of the town, including the mayoral equivalent of duties, the collection of historical information, the organization of festivals, the participation (if relevant in representing the community as a dancer), etc.

And, this is also the way that policing is done to preserve public safety.  These bastons (canes) belong to the people serving in the leadership and public safety capacities.  An outsider should know that this cane is a symbol of authority.  It is a tool for peacekeeping, and it is an honor to carry one in service to the community.

I was admiring this display of bastons outside of the municipal building in Teotitlan del Valle during their Fiesta de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo when one man, just coming off duty, added his to the collection and then shook my hand, greeting me with a warm, “Buenas tardes.”

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