Identities in resistance: indigenous peoples in Mexico

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Boris Berenzon Gorn.

Jades and quetzal feathers

with stones they have been destroyed,

my great lords,

those intoxicated by death,

there in the aquatic cement factories,

at the water's edge,

the Mexicans, the magueyes.


We live in a country where many cultures converge, many of them are ancient and others, centuries old, heritage of the Mesoamerican civilizations that flourished in the territories that we know today as America and that have inserted their universe and understanding in our memory and even in our present. . And likewise, memory of people and groups who have been facing exploitation and manipulation of all kinds since their arrival in New Spain. Contrary to what is often thought, we can trace the origins of our roots in everyday life, from gastronomy and language, to the rituals, beliefs and festivities that are part of our identities.

We must be clear that we coexist in a fictional "world-system for charity", which seeks to remedy its faults in the appearance of the "inclusion of the excluded." Most of the time we see that it is a discursive melodrama that aims to correct consciences.

Most of our traditions, myths and rites are crossed by a series of cultural syncretisms that cause, at first glance, the origins of certain elements to be diluted and lost in the midst of a plural and diverse mosaic of representations. Cultural syncretisms are, in a sense, irreversible, but if we analyze them methodically and critically, we can identify some of the elements that converge in the mixtures of what turns out to be the resulting culture or cultures.

Based on the idea of ​​cultural syncretism, there have been both anthropological and sociological and political currents that deny the indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples of Mexico of our time their cultural identity and the right to define themselves through difference. Some opinions—which I will not point out here so as not to get lost in a debate that already makes no sense—have gone so far as to ensure that we do not find indigenous people and Afro-descendants of Mexico “in their pure state” and that, therefore, syncretism and interculturality will end up prevailing.

Now, if we admit that syncretism is, on many occasions, a result of colonization, cultural enrichment does not justify domination or the imposition of long-term conditions of inequality admitted in abstract narratives. The indigenous and Afro-descendant groups of Mexico exist and resist, their identities are protected and reproduced beyond time and even space, regardless of the syncretisms that mark modern and postmodern representations of what it means to be indigenous. The incorporation of Christian religious motifs, gastronomic elements, musical instruments, clothing and others over the years has failed to undermine the core of their cultural beliefs and practices.

Being indigenous implies, among other things, self-assignment to a community with its own cultural identity, which continues with the existence of the native peoples who were here since times before the conquest. It implies being part of the heritage of these peoples, having their own way of seeing the world and the human being, the natural environment and how to relate to it, that is, an ordering of the world based on the beliefs and representations of each culture, what has been called worldview. The members of an indigenous community share traditions, practices, rituals, artistic representations, forms of social organization, languages, and systems of self-government and community organization.

Furthermore, the members of an indigenous community recognize themselves as such; This recognition of being part of a group and a culture is what we call identity and it runs through people's lives in basic aspects such as belonging to a social and family system, the way of expressing themselves through language (and as Wittgenstein said, limits of my language mean the limits of my world), belonging to a territory and its natural resources, historical heritage and memory of resistance and self-preservation, as well as shared spirituality and worldview.

In our country, 10% of the population belongs to an indigenous people, which is equivalent to twelve million people. Likewise, 2% of the population is Afro-descendant, that is, 2,576,213 Afro-descendant people according to statistics by INEGI-2020. There are more than sixty indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples of Mexico and eleven linguistic families. The main ones, due to the number of their population, are the Nahuas, who live in the central and southern area of ​​our country; the Mayans, belonging to the Yucatan Peninsula and southeastern Mexico; the Zapotecs, from Oaxaca; the Mixtecs, from Oaxaca and Guerrero; the Tzotziles, from Chiapas; the Tzeltals of Chiapas; the Otomi, from the central zone; the Mazatec groups of Oaxaca and Veracruz; Purépechas from Michoacán; Totonacas from Veracruz and Puebla; wixáricas from Nayarit, Jalisco and Durango; rarámuris from Chihuahua; and the list goes on. It is also worth recognizing that there is a plurality of cultures among Afro-descendants in Mexico, where the vast majority communicate through Castilian or Spanish, while other Afro-descendants in Mexico speak and communicate in 7 of the indigenous languages ​​of Mexico, as as also expressed by the INEGI.

But, despite recognizing the importance of multiculturalism, the heritage and wealth that the indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples of Mexico represent not only for the nation, but for humanity; The challenges and problems that its members have to face to this day have not diminished. Historically, they have been targets of inequality, neglect, injustice, violence, marginalization and even persecution. The debt of the institutions, governments and hegemonic narratives with the indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples of Mexico remains unpaid and to date the situation of the members of the indigenous peoples remains in suspense.

Members of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities in Mexico face discrimination and racism in a society that, although it declares itself “plural and diverse,” is still marked by prejudices imposed from the West about racial superiority, progress, whiteness, and religious values ​​disguised as secular. Discrimination affects equal opportunities, access to basic services and rights such as education, health, access to water and sanitation or decent and well-paid work. The tendency for the highest levels of poverty to be recorded in areas where indigenous peoples live is regrettable and shameful. At the same time, violence, conflicts due to the exploitation of natural resources, as well as rates of gender violence are worrying.

However, it must be understood that contributing to the construction of more just societies does not imply the imposition of Western or colonial values ​​that are detrimental to cultures. To improve the living conditions of the people of indigenous peoples, it is necessary to promote the active participation and well-informed decision-making of the members of said communities; educate without wasting the knowledge of the native peoples, their languages, their customs, traditions and worldviews; guarantee the self-determination of their territories and resources; as well as promoting the development and access to services taking into account their needs and allowing them to gradually access the advances in science and technology.

Consumer tourism has not improved the living conditions of indigenous peoples, it promotes clichés and racist attitudes and does not allow for the promotion of cultural diversity, since it takes from the difference only what is striking and useful and forgets the rest of its richness. Promoting diversity is promoting respect from the knowledge of the other in their entirety, from the recovery of their memory and representations without widening the gap of inequality, lack of access to services and rights and lack of access to justice.



And below is a Mayan poem by Briceida Cuevas Cob published in Tercera Vía Mx:


Báan yéetel bin k áalkabch'int sajkil wa mina'an tuunich.

Bíin konk k k'áajch'inti k'áanche' your yóok'ol

wa tak k'anchebo'ob sajako'ob ti'.

Bin wáaj k k'óoy k ich utia'al k ch'inik.

Kun waaj ku ch'áik ku kapik tu jóojochil u yich ku k'ajoltiko'one'.

Bix konk k k'ubeentik k pixaan

ts'o'ok u púuts'ul jak'a'an yóol ti' to'ono'!



How would we drive away fear if it did not exist?


How to throw chairs at them

if they also feel afraid.

Should we gouge out our eyes and throw them out?

What if he puts them in his sockets and recognizes us?

How to commend the soul

If she fled in terror from us!


Narcissus the obscene

He just thought he was different... his memory was fallacious.

The post Identities in resistance: the native peoples in Mexico appeared first in El Arsenal.

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