Gods in resistance
Mis à jour : févr 29
from magnificence to oblivion
Chamula : An Indigenous village at the summit of Chiapas, Mexico,
Fighting for its identity
New varieties of propaganda have arrived in the village. The nights turn the place into brothels, with dens of young people addicted to alcohol and cocaine. The sources of natural water evaporate, disappear. The elders' voices are echoed but unheard. The kaxlan or half castes pride themselves on the pre-Hispanic culture but ignore the present moment, that of indigenous native people.
Here, from the ground, dwellings begin to rise and seek to reach up to the sky. The nothingness is reduced, the trees are disturbed. The adobe houses’ with their straw roofs disappear. The landscape changes at high speed. Anyone who visited Chamula in the 1990s would have been witness to the ‘chaos-progress’ evolvement that has arisen over virtually three decades. It has vaguely been able to uphold the image of abundant fields of corn, fruit trees, stamped with the tranquility of pedestrians walking through the streets.
What does remain standing proud, is the local white church. The main tourist attraction in the village, it leaves some visitors astonished, and others, stunned, judging the acts of healing that are carried out in the temple as acts of sorcery.
It mustn’t be forgotten that in Mexico, the Catholic Churches in indigenous communities have now become clean and neat places.
Chamula continues its plight to reaffirm its identity. It is a village proud of its language and culture. In households, streets and markets, the official language that is spoken and passed on to children is bats'i k'op or Tsotsil.
"It is the offerings and the belief in dreams that distinguishes us from the city dwellers"
Despite the proximity of the city, traditional clothing continues to be worn and it is the women of the village who wear the traditional outfits with pride everyday. When there is any religious festival, they proudly wear the finest woolen coat with new designs embroidered on their bodices. Curiously, the feminine bodice is made by men, as it is them who have the courage to suggest colors and materials on the fabrics.
To live in harmony, man is responsible for upholding rules and maintaining order. Not to disrespect a woman's talent and ability, but rather as a means to facilitate the arduous tasks that arise in times of social conflict and community service, that a woman could find dangerous and exhausting.
In this sense, community life and the verbal traditions of indigenous communities are the essential links for the maintenance and upkeep of language, cosmogony and customs. It is the woman who is responsible for transmitting or transforming ancestral knowledge. Water is not respected if it is not conveyed and specified as being thought of as a sacred good. It is the offerings and the belief in dreams that distinguishes us from the city dwellers . Here water is protected, fire can feel our rage and our anguish, and the earth takes ownership of a part of our soul. "This will allow strangers to stop thinking of our way of life as folklore."
However, the external dialogue tells villagers in the community that it is necessary to progress, to improve the level of human well-being: pave the streets, have access to the internet. Having phones, cars and refrigerators are the clues that measure our development. Because of this, knowledge is turned upside down. And with an unfaltering step, new ways of life are created to attain our well-being but taking us further away from the teachings of the elders.
Why, then, should we describe progress as chaos? Whether in Chamula or other native communities within the country. The "novelty" suddenly strikes. Young people, adults, men and women want to wear Converse trainers, surf social networks, take drugs, watch pornographic films and videos and access the American dream, to go North. Values are abandoned. My 95-year-old grandfather says, "We are a generation that has lost the value of work, respect for elders and knowledge to understand nature."
What is new are the scraps that Western culture rejects: a mountain of rubbish, thermal cups, chemicals that contaminate the earth, foods that harm our health, ways of thinking that fragment the unity of Community. All that is missing is the next ‘new thing’ to arrive to offer solutions to what it has provoked.
We need to value the knowledge that indigenous people can offer to other cultures. Building linguistic, conversant and artistic bridges. This will allow strangers to stop thinking of our way of life as folklore.
By Enriqueta LunezTraduction of Laura Morley