Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

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

In Chamula, the Indians have a special way of life, and try to keep their ancestral traditions. They want to live outside the Mexican government. Protestant missionaries go to Chamula. There were 2000 Indians who became Protestants and were expelled from Chamula. They live on the north side of town now.

When Alfonso means Protestant, he often says "evangelist". These two words seem connected to him.

The Chamulas can have up to four wives, but the women can only have one husband! The women are 2nd class citizens. They say, "God created first the man, then the woman. We are the owners of Creation. Women have to work for men because of what Eve did." The various wives take turns with the household chores. This week one takes care of the man: clean clothing and sleep with him. The other women take care of the fields, goats, children. It's a kind of rotation. One week you wash dishes, another week it's someone else.

The younger generations have more contact with the outside and they can see that there's a better life. There are "professional" Indians: people who go to Mexico City to study to be a doctor or engineer. He says that the Tzotzilas are "on the side of the PRI", so they get economic support. I suppose he means that the Tzotzilas don't object to the government. I'm not sure whether to believe this! The government approves loans (guarantees) favoring Tzotzilas. They have "pick up" trucks instead of donkeys & mules.

The government is against the Indians. Some drugs still come through San Cristobal. On the south side of Chiapas, the Pacific coast, it's very easy to cross the border by sea. Several (3 of 4) small boats were captured a year ago with two tons of cocaine. "tapachuk". And there were two big hits of narcotics last year, getting another 1.5 tons of cocaine. Policia Federal de Narcoticos: same as federal police, but a special group just for drugs.

It's getting cold again now at 6pm. Tell me more about the drug smuggling here in San Cristobal, I say. The druggies call the places where they can get drugs "Farmacias", which is the Spanish word for Pharmacy I've seen on signs everywhere. How does it work? Well it's a normal house, with a bed, tables, etc. The people in the house are only pushers, not the main people. So it's not expensive maybe only 10 pesos for each grapa.

The "master" first finds a poor Indian. Racial slang "Ay! Hey! Indio!" nasty way to call Indians, especially those who aren't living in villages (?). The master says, "poor people, you want to make some money doing nothing? I will pay your rent." The Indians sit in the house and sell grapas at 10 pesos a bag. The Indian doesn't even know the job is illegal, because he's naive. At the end of the month, they count the bags that remain & Indian must cough up the money for all the missing bags.

If the police find the house, they capture the poor Indian pusher and ask him to tell the name of the master. Or they stake out the house and wait for the next drug delivery. But the master always knows when a pusher has been captured, and he never goes back to the house. This is because the master has an "ojo" (pronounced "oh-hoh"), a watcher who is watching the house. "ojo" means eyes in Spanish.

The master has many watchers, who walk in the streets, especially where the Farmacias are, and watch the area. They call the master if there's trouble. They are not there to protect the pusher.

What kind of person would the master be like? Alfonso says, a wealthy person. It's impossible to hide your money if you're rich, because you buy a car or you spend your money. So wealth is always obvious. Sometimes they sell things, like metallic products: field tools for farmers, this helps to launder the money so that they can "wash" their riches.

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