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Hound Dog

Nov 6, 2009, 3:22 PM

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Chiapa de Corzo

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The gourd lady, a significant artist, lives high above the river Grijalva just at the entrance of the Sumidero Canyon in an unimposing and modest home on one of the best plots of land one can imagine anywhere and on perfect days which outnumber imperfect days on countless occasions, one can look out over the high banks and down to the magnificent and wide and clear river and imagine one is in heaven but there are the nearly lifeless drunks inhabiting the street just outside the house including a boy of, maybe, ten years old passed out in total inebriation in the middle of the street and you just know he will never live to be fifteen and you bemoan this waste of life as you see it to the matron of the house and you express this thought to her and her take is that the lethargic drunks wasting away on the street outside her house discourage burglars. Everything is perspective.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Nov 6, 2009, 3:25 PM)



frito

Nov 6, 2009, 6:01 PM

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Re: [Hound Dog] Chiapa de Corzo

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Thought you might be interested in this...Moon Handbooks, the travel guide series, has a new Chiapas Handbook out. Chiapas used to be covered under their Yucatan Peninsula Handbook which I have. I'm holding off 'til after Christmas to order it from Amazon but hopefully it's got more comprehensive coverage.


wendy devlin

Nov 6, 2009, 6:03 PM

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Re: [Hound Dog] Chiapa de Corzo

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You don't need a book to tell you what your eyes see everyday.

However Christine Eber's ethnography gives background information on the subject of women's identities, roles, relationships, and sources of power and drinking in the Highland Chiapas, Mexico, community of San Pedro Chenalho.

Read this book published in 2000, some years after our only visit to Chiapas.
Women and Alcohol in a Highland Maya Town: Water of Hope, Water of Sorrow

Christine Eber is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at New Mexico State University.

There seemed to be little written about Chiapas back then and I don't know if that has really changed much. Mexicans, I know, who live in other states, have described that they feel like strangers/tourists when visiting Chiapas. Also it seems to me that some Mexicans don't even 'see' the poverty/despair around them, because, from their viewpoint, they can do little or nothing about poverty. Some operate from the belief, that the poor have always been among us. Or any number of other beliefs eg. the poor are lazy, naco etc. that justify, non-involvement or social inaction. Some even feel, showing compassion to others, is weakness.

That is not to underplay the effort of other Mexicans that get involved in many ways, shapes or form of bettering the condition of others. Some believe compassion strengthens the social fabric and binds people to each other in a positive way.

There's certainly more than one way to look at anything. Dissuading burglars, is one of them.


frito

Nov 6, 2009, 6:16 PM

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Re: [wendy devlin] Chiapa de Corzo

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Hard to beat a good guidebook for those taking baby steps learning about a new place. Moon Handbooks specialize in giving background info so that a traveler has a grasp of the culture they're visiting. There are other good guidebooks out too but Moon covers Latin America really well.


Vichil

Nov 7, 2009, 7:03 AM

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Re: [wendy devlin] Chiapa de Corzo

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Chenahlo is a beautiful municipality that has quite a few problems.

Like many other indigenous areas in the highlands the non indigenous inhabitants had to leave their houses and land .
I believe there are 3 ranches still owned by non indigenous over there. My neighbor has one and goes there every two or three months. He does not live there although he speaks both Tzeltal and Tzotzil. He ran for the Presidency but lost to a local.

The municipality has autonomous Zapatista villages, an Abeja village such as Acteal where a massacre took place in 98, a big army base and protestant and catholic villages. Lots of land disputes so it is a place where conflicts arise on a regular basis.

The hills are spectacular with small coffee plantations shaded by almandras trees. The villages up in the hills do not have electricity and many people live off the land. Some men go away for odds and ends jobs and the women supplement their income with their beatiful weavings. Weaving is a way to get some cash for them but their main job is to take care of the farm and the children while their husband goes away.

I visit quite a bit as my Tzotzil teacher is from a small hamlet way up in the hills, it is a dream land. I remember being up there with his mother helping her putting the drying coffee up in bags as a storm was approaching, it was a magical moment.
Unfortunately the place is not particularly safe, she was attacked and raped by a young man who is known for his attacks.
The young man raped a 10 year old girl and was fined 3000 pesos then he raped a widow and got away with it claiming she wanted sex and nothing happened to him yet about the third rape. The families of the victims are discussing setting a trap to catch him and kill him and his family is claiming he is innocent so more trouble on the horizon in this tiny hamlet in the mountains.

Chenalho itself is not particurlarly interesting nor pretty but they have some great celebrations away fom the tourist areas.

Both Chenahlo and Pentehlo municipalities have a mixture of Tzeltal and Tzotzil people and the people wear beautiful and colorful dresses. You can get some wonderful organic coffee flower honey and coffee if you are in the mood for roasting some coffee on the comal.

Acoholism there, just like anywhere in the Highlands, is chronic and wife and child beating is a way of life. I do not know of a woman there who has not be beaten. It is pathetic but as alcohol is part of the religious ritual of the traditional catholics it is difficult to stop it. The evangelists are not supposed to drink so slowly the alcoholism may disappear in some villages although I know quite a few of them who drink as well.

The villages do get aid and my teacher and his brothers are some of the lucky recipients who got an education and managed to escape the vicious cicle of poverty. They received grants for their education and were educated in San Cristobal: one of the brother received a grant to study psychology in Spain and just got back, unfortunately, he will have to leave the area as there are no paying jobs for him in the area. My teacher is a bilingual teacher and teaches in the Chamula municipality and one of his brothers is in the army in the Benemericito las Americas area. The girls are living in a poor area of San Cristobal but also seem to have ecaped the hold of their pueblo; a great achievement considering that their parents are still going bearfooted in the hills and do not speak any Spanish. It is interesting to hear from them that the parents value education as they are evangelists and their hope in life is to be able to read the bible. The father can read but the mother cannot. The children are all educated and totally anti-religion..They believe that the government is encouraging missionaries in the area as a way to divide the indigenous population. Mistrust between themselves and of the outside world is high among the Highland Mayas.


I will get the book on the area, it will be interesting to hear Christine Eberīs point of view.

I am afraid you are right Wendy, past just a few basics on the culture, no tarvel book can describe the incredible beauty of the area and its complex people as well as the ignorance, the violence and the dire poverty that are omnipresent in the area.


(This post was edited by Vichil on Nov 7, 2009, 8:20 AM)


Hound Dog

Nov 7, 2009, 10:55 AM

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Re: [wendy devlin] Chiapa de Corzo

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Wendy writes:

There seemed to be little written about Chiapas back then and I don't know if that has really changed much. Mexicans, I know, who live in other states, have described that they feel like strangers/tourists when visiting Chiapas. Also it seems to me that some Mexicans don't even 'see' the poverty/despair around them, because, from their viewpoint, they can do little or nothing about poverty.

Mexicans in most parts of the country despise Chiapas and consider it the other side of the moon. The only reason Chiapas and its now inclusive region, The Soconusco, are a part of Mexico is that, when Mexico gained its independence, the few privileged property owning people who had the franchise to vote, voted to secede from Central American Spanish colony of Guatemala and become part of the new Mexican Republic but I must say that our luncheon guests just arrived so more about this later.

Just let me say that if you think Americans are ignoramt about Chiapas, wait ītill we discuss the enormous prejudice against Chiapas and extraordinary ignorance about that state among Mexicans from the north. More later.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Nov 7, 2009, 10:57 AM)
 
 
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