Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

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

I ask her about the Zapatistas. She says she's not very involved in politics. This is not even a real Indian problem, she says. The leader is not even from Chiapas. They've asked for education and some independence, but she thinks it's not really about the Indian people. She thinks it's about power. She says that outside groups like the UNO keep muscling in and telling the Mexicans what to do with the Indians. I think she's implying that if the Indians don't say what they want, these outsiders must not be representing them.

She says that the local religious guy has been helping the Indians, but she says that all he really wants is power. He wanted to build schools for the Indians, but then he wants them to come to church. The bishop in San Cristobal is an old man, about to retire because the Catholic Church won't accept a man older than 75 years.

I ask her to identify the types of people in San Cristobal. She says there are two groups: 1. People who "wants" votes for left parties, involved in Zapatistas, and the bishop and the priests 2. Right side: Against these people, but not against the Indians She says we don't even know really who the Zapatistas are. How many are there? I ask her a number of questions, but she doesn't really get what I'm after.

Chiapas was once a province of Guatemala. For 11 months before Sep 1824 it was an independent country. Maybe I can get her to show her colors and say something racist about the Indians.

I ask her: the Indians who come to San Cristobal & become modern: what are they like? 1. People who change their religion, local tradition, customs, must come here because they will be rejected by their village. They come here to find a job. 2. Others who were very young when their parents came here and have grown up in the city... may have been born in the village. 3. Indians who only work in the marketplace. They still speak their own Indian language, and they work in nearby communities. They don't become maids, they just work in the market.

The waiters & maids & babysitters all rent an apartment in the city. They prefer a house to an apartment, but land is very expensive. The owners of this hotel, for example, are Swiss, have money but even they rent an apartment. In communities, land cannot be sold to outsiders. It's not a written law, but a tradition.

In 1975, the first Jehovah's Witnesses and Protestants came and "caused trouble" by converting the Indians to Protestantism. All these Indian people were sent away. (I guess Catholics are the alien religion the Indians accept, Protestants aren't.) The Chamula think they are the "sons of St. John the Baptist".

To write my book, I need to write about bad guys as well as good guys. Who are the bad guys in Chiapas? 1. assassination: political leaders or revenge 2. kidnapping. They kidnap rich people & demand ransom money. 3. rape 4. The organization that runs Taxis has 2 or 3 subgroups which are always fighting. Sometimes one group will kidnap a taxi driver from another group, and take his car. 5. stolen cars might be taken to someone's house or driven across the state Indians of the same or different cultures fight each other.

Mestizos = mixture of Indian and Spanish, maybe born in village or born in San Cristobal. Coletos = mixed race, but born in San Cristobal. There aren't many Guatemalans here in San Cristobal. "Tapachula". There's more closer to the Guatemalan border. I close the interview, and offer to pay her, but she refuses. Doesn't want to be associated with tour guides? We shake hands and I notice she has heavy hand lotion.

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