Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

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

The San Juan Chamula call themselves a traditional people, but they use Catholic symbols to perform the old Mayan rituals and have the old Mayan beliefs. They don't want other people to have another religion. If one Indian changes religion, they expel the whole family: even the parents if the child converts.

Three months ago, a Presbyterian church was working in San Juan Chamula. There were coleto missionaries who went there and converted people. There were seven Indians who were talking with them (converted, I assume) who got killed by the other Indians. How did they kill, I ask, expecting a machete or stabbing. With a Kalashnicof 47, he says.

Web sites for tourism: www.unach.mx, www.wotw.com/mundomaya, mexico-travel.com

An ugly tourist couple comes in. They have brown skin, but are clearly Americans from their dress and hair style. We're sitting in the tour guides office and they come in and just start asking questions with no intention of hiring the guide.

Tourist: "How does the government take power away from the Indians?"

The guide says, "Well, for the first time when the Spanish come here --"

Tourist (interrupts): " -- but that was long ago."

The guide talks about poor people... Tourist (interrupts): "but there are poor people everywhere!"

This makes me mad. They're demanding, asking questions as though this guide is responsible for defending what he's saying. They're not listening. They're pointing to the map and demanding to know where they should go next. Same sneakers: dark blue with white bottoms. "pocket pack" strapped in front of her stomach. Wearing jackets, faux wool, the expensive kind that hikers wear.

South of San Cristobal the % of Indians is less than 50%. North, it's more than 50%. In Guatemala it's almost 70% Indians. The tourists insist they didn't see any Indians at all in Tuxtla. The guide says that the Indians in Tuxtla don't wear their traditional clothing, so when you go through Tuxtla you can't see any obvious "Indians" but they're there.

These tourists are from Los Angeles and are driving down to South America. Sounds crazy to me. The tourist asserts, "You cannot turn your back on civilization. If you do, it will run you over." The tourists seem to insist they have everything figured out, and they know what's right for the Indians.

The tour guide is explaining that the Indians pray to the Gods for rain. Instead of respecting the Indians and listening, the tourists break out laughing. "To PRAY!" she laughs, filling in the end of his sentence with an amused tone. They chuckle when he is done talking about the myths. "It's a nice STORY," he says in a superior tone.

I bet you they will leave without paying him for the 45 minutes they've been asking him questions. They say thank you and turn to go. I speak up and them if they can spare 30 pesos for my friend, since normally he gets paid for his time. They do it.

OK, so back to the Kalashnicofs. Here's the story. The US is a big weapons maker. Drugs go north and guns go south. Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada in the 80s, remember? The US was fighting against an army with Soviet weapons (these Kalashnicofs). The US won, and when they occupied Grenada they picked up these Soviet guns from the losers. Then the CIA gave these guns to the Contras fighting in Honduras & Nicaragua.

Remember Oliver North and the Iran/Contra scandal? When the Contras gave up and signed the peace accords, they never handed over their weapons -- they kept them. Then they sold those guns and now they come through Guatemala to Mexico.

The Zapatistas and the Indians in Chiapas all have these Soviet guns. The Zapatistas also got self-propelled antitank rockets. The army just captured a shipment of these "Motozinta de Mendoza" very close to the Guatemalan border, to the SSE of San Cristobal.

I ask, What's the difference between Guatemala & Mexico? They're both very poor people, but Guatemala is smaller, so it's easier to see the poor people. Not sure what he means by this.

I mention that I haven't seen many smokers here. He says that there's an Indian tradition of snorting tobacco in the nose, but only the high-level rulers do that. So there's no tradition of smoking cigarettes here.

However, they had marijuana even before the Spanish came. Marijuana is from Mexico. The Spanish discovered it; they did not bring it with them. Also coffee, and corn -- the Spanish had neither of those things when they came here in 16th century.

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