Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 18TH, 1999 – CHIAPAS (CONT.)

Subcommander Marcos of the Zapatistas helps so that the government gives more respect to the Indians. 20 years ago, if a man likes a nice young Indian woman, he grabs her hand, pulls her to a car, rapes her, and nobody cares because she's only an Indian. Nowadays, that doesn't happen.

Only the girls try to sell the handmade stuff. Mothers teach daughters how to make handcrafts. The boys never sell handcrafts. Instead the boys sell candy and cigarettes from these wooden shelves (called "kangaroos" because they look like a pouch) they strap to their chests.

"Evangelist people" (he means Indians converted to Protestantism) aren't allowed to go back to their lands, to work their fields and farm. So they are forced to do handcrafts. But you can't make any money that way. So, they bring in cheap handcrafts from Guatemala. For example, the cotton bag backpacks, decorated with flowers, are from Guatemala. So when you buy something from an old woman, feeling sorry that she is being exploited -- she may actually be the one DOING the exploiting, exploiting the Guatemalans!

The missionaries are very clever. They make friends and give them gifts. They say, "It's not me giving you this present. The Father, God, sent this gift. I would like to introduce you to my religion so you can meet God. My church will give money to you, but you have to come every Sunday to worship." The Indians have necessities; they have to live. If these nice people say all I have to do is go to this church and listen to a man talk and talk and talk, I'll do that.

Missionaries are usually white North Americans. If you come to a village, with a lot of money, everybody says "You are welcome." The missionaries start learning the language to make friends. In 6 to 12 months they will speak it fluently. The priest takes a wine cup of sugar cane liquor, so OK, the Indians will do it too. The Indians believe that alcohol will take all their sins away, keep them clean.

Because some of the little girls seem quite desperate to sell, I ask Alfonso if the parents beat them if they don't sell. He's not sure. Maybe hit, maybe no supper. It's hard to understand the Indians. Many families never touch their kids. They "let them grow like animals, very wild, no educations".

Alfonso has a habit of adding "s" to some of his singular nouns in English. He also uses the wrong verb tense or pronoun sometimes. Or he says "has" instead of "have".

To have four wives, it keeps the Indians poor. It takes all the money they can earn to feed the family. In Zincantan, everybody is richer than in Chamula, because no polygamy. Also, no alcoholism problem like there is in Chamula. In Zincantan they accept the white person and get education. White people are allowed to buy land, too. But in Chamula, they are very racist. They still believe in the Evil Eye. If you shoot me with a camera, that's witchcraft, and I don't want to die.

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