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Angel Gabriel Cabrera Silva
S.J.D. 2024
acabrerasilva at


Infiltrating the State: How an Indigenous Movement is Transforming Mexican Bureaucracies from Within

My dissertation conducts an ethnographic study of the Mexican indigenous movement, to explore the operation of an institutional experiment called “Direct Indigenous Budgeting” (DIB). The DIB is an unprecedented model of indigenous self-governance that transformed sub-municipal indigenous institutions into autonomous political bodies with budgetary powers.

In Mexico, municipalities have played a crucial role in managing and distributing public funds to the indigenous communities within their jurisdiction. When the DIB was created it removed the mediating role of municipalities, so that indigenous communities could establish a direct relation to State and Federal governments. This transformation resulted from a particular instance of strategic human rights litigation, and has diffused mostly through judicial means (which means that each community must litigate its own case before adopting a DIB). The first case that originated a DIB was decided in 2016, when the Federal Electoral Court adopted an innovative interpretation of indigenous political rights. Since that moment, the DIB has introduced various points of social friction and legal uncertainty about how other bureaucracies should incorporate these budgetary reallocations into the federal structure of Mexico.

Through this project, I seek to better understand the potentials, risks and challenges of DIB. The ethnographic lenses would allow me to approach this innovation, not only as an institutional experiment, but also as a socio-political space through which indigenous groups are transforming their relation with with the State (and also with each other). In this way, I aim to bring the DIB into the academic discussions about the capacity of social movements to effect institutional transformation and the role that human rights law might have in such processes.

Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • Democratization and the Global South with Professor Lucie White, Harvard Law School, Principal Faculty Supervisor
  • Global Governance and Resistance with Professor David Kennedy, Harvard Law School
  • The Future of International Human Rights Law with Professor Kathryn Sikkink, Harvard Kennedy School

Additional Teaching and Research Interests

  • Social Movements
  • Latin-American Politics
  • Critical Legal Studies
  • Drug Policy
  • Democratic Theory
  • Constitutional Law
  • Inter-American Human Rights System


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D. Candidate 2017-Present
  • Harvard Law School, LL.M., 2016
  • Universidad de Guadalajara, Mexico, Abogado, 2015

Academic Appointments and Fellowships

  • Harvard Law School, Human Rights Program, Summer Fellow 2019
  • Harvard Law School, PSVF Kaufman Fellow 2016-2017
  • Harvard Law School, Salzburg-Cutler Fellow 2016
  • Harvard Law School, Summer Academic Fellow 2016

Additional Information

  • Languages: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese

Last Updated: September 3, 2020