In January 2022, the Federal Law for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage of Indigenous and Afromexican Peoples and Communities was issued in order to protect and safeguard the cultural heritage, knowledge, traditional cultural expressions, and collective intellectual property of indigenous and Afromexican peoples and communities.

This, in response to the multiple cases of plagiarism and unauthorized appropriation of indigenous designs and creations, especially by international fashion brands.

This new law aims to prevent unauthorized appropriation and unauthorized use, exploitation, or commercial exploitation of cultural knowledge, identity, and other expressions that are part of the material and immaterial heritage of indigenous and Afromexican peoples and communities, as well as it also seeks to sanction the use and exploitation by third parties outside the community.



In terms of the law, "cultural heritage" refers to the set of material and immaterial assets that comprise the languages, knowledge, objects, and all the elements that make up the cultures and territories of indigenous and Afromexican peoples and communities, which give them a sense of community with their own identity and which are perceived by others as characteristic, to which they have full rights of ownership, access, participation, practice, and enjoyment in an active and creative way.

While "collective property rights" refers to the real or direct ownership rights that indigenous and Afromexican peoples and communities have over their cultural heritage, based on their knowledge, manifestations of their sciences, technologies, and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the associated manifestations that, continuously or discontinuously, they have practiced and that were transmitted to them by members of their own community from previous generations.

As for what is meant by "Afromexican peoples and communities," the law states that they will be all those who self-identify, under different denominations, as descendants of African populations and who have their own forms of organization, social, economic, political and cultural aspirations, and who freely affirm their existence as culturally differentiated collectivities.

While "indigenous peoples and communities" will be understood as those who form a social, economic, and cultural unit, settled in a territory and who recognize their own authorities according to their customs and traditions.


All cultural heritage of indigenous and Afromexican peoples and communities shall be reserved by the corresponding people or community, and it will be each people or community who decides the expressions of its cultural heritage that are inaccessible to any kind of use or exploitation by third parties, and those available prior agreement or consent of the interested parties.

The right over the elements of the cultural heritage of indigenous and Afromexican peoples and communities is inalienable, imprescriptible, irrevocable, unseizable, and collective right by nature.

All the elements of cultural heritage constitute a collective heritage of each indigenous and Afromexican people or community. The right of collective property is non-transferable.


Indigenous and Afromexican peoples and communities may authorize the use, exploitation, and commercialization of their cultural heritage elements and collective property, through their express, free, prior, and informed consent.

All authorizations will be onerous and temporary and will involve a fair and equitable distribution of benefits, except as otherwise agreed. Additionally, all agreements must be executed before the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples.

Protecting Cultural Heritage Of Indigenous And Afro-Mexican People (

Originally published in wipr, 13-07-2023

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.