Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

MONDAY, DECEMBER 13TH, 1999 -- BIOTECH PLACES & DZIBILCHALTUN RUINS (CONT.)

Culture in Chiapas: life is more poor, they depend on tourism & farming. Jungle, rainforest, rivers. The Lacandon are a Mayan people who are direct descendants of natives without much influence from the outside. They're still living in the jungle.

We're passing through a village. Corrugated metal replaces the straw roofs sometimes. Stucco is cracking and falling off, revealing cement on some buildings. A man has a mustache & beard, lots of long hair. They sell handcrafts for tourists, including bows and arrows. You can't bargain in a mall. But you can bargain at a Mayan marketplace or in a village.

Would you find a mall (like in North Merida) in Chiapas? Maybe around Tuxtla, but not Palenque. Tuxtla is the capital. The authorities and the banditos carry guns in Chiapas.

The bandits are by themselves; they are not allied with the Zapatistas. The Zapatistas hold up buses "politely", asking for money and getting 10 pesos from each tourist. The banditos are violent; they'll stick the gun right up to your head and rip off your jewelry and watch.

From Palenque to Ocosingo there's a jungle where the Zapatistas area. It's a beautiful town that is very touristy. There's a beautiful canyon nearby, waterfalls, lakes, and jungle. How would a hold-up work? Three or four Zapatistas stop the bus, and tell them "nothing to worry about. 10 pesos per tourist". It shows they have control politically, and they won't take anything violently. They get maybe 100-500 pesos for the whole bus. Would they get angry if you refused to give money? Jorge says, I don't want to find out.

Both men and women are Zapatistas. They dress differently than banditos. A bandito would get you out of your car, hit you, search your body, then it's all over and they leave. Banditos mostly at night. Other kinds of crime: well, you can get mugged in Tuxtla if you're walking around at night. Palenque is OK to walk during day, but at night, even for Mexicans it is not safe to walk around.

Most villages are on the Zapatista's side in Chiapas. The government keeps trying to "have chats" with them. Since 1994 this Zapatista movement. Twice they broke off relations. The government then says to the people, "please, let's chat". When it started in 1994, the government sent the army over there.

Two financial problems the Zapatistas caused: Many people think that Zapatistas caused the devaluation of Mexican currency, because investors stopped investing when the Zapatista uprising happened. Also bad for tourism industry. Thus the politicians and businessmen are angry with the Zapatistas.

There are 2.5m Indians in Mexico, the biggest concentration of native American people. The woman is a symbol of respect, the old Mayan fertility god -- the calendar is based on 260 days (length of gestation). A macho man still respects his mother, and respects his wife because she's a mother. The mother always supports her girls -- very close, especially when girls are teenaged. They visit church to pay tribute to Virgin of Guadalupe, and visit graveyards and bring floewers. Your mother is an inspiration to work hard, so you can take care of her.

In the old days, typically parents would come to live with their children, who'd take care of them, instead of sending them to a retirement home (except for the rich). Children can even look after their elderly parents if they're living in a separate home. The woman is typically given more money and attention by the children.

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