Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 11TH, 1999 -- CHICHEN-ITZA (CONT.)

Jorge has met tourists. He can tell from their smiles whether they're stressed out or whether they don't want to be rushed. Jorge has studied psychology. It's easy to talk about changing politics when you're not struggling for survival.

Personality quirks of my guide. He likes to tap my knee for emphasis. He likes to point & wave his hands. He points to his own eye: "Get it?" He has short hair, greased back and "up", and very thin sideburns. Brown shoes and dockers, a plaid dressy shirt with a baseball cap saying "Olympic Games 2000". "cool" sunglasses, brown braided leather belt. Short sleeves, button-down collar with white t-shirt underneath. Wearing a green-yellow tourist guide necklace says "official tour guide". Likes to repeat phrase for emphasis. "This stairway... hmm? (making sure we see it)... this stairway was... (and he goes on)."

When he makes a statement, he holds up a finger as if to say "interesting, yes?" He keeps saying "Look carefully." and then talks about what we're supposed to look at. Also, "This is interesting to know."

On the way to Chichen-Itza, we pass through a Mayan village. Lots of straw roofs. Children, dirty, all cluster around the car, asking for money. I don't have much change to give them. The villagers are bilingual in Mayan & Spanish.

Jorge's great-grandmother used to live in a town like this. They grow corn & vegetables. She moved to Merida and married. Main meals: corn, beans, chili. Dirt road. Deer in the jungle.

We pass men cooking: they dig a shallow hole in the ground & start a fire. Then they drop in pork & cover it with banana leaves, water and paprika, radish spice, and rub the meat with syrup and a mixture of lemon and paprika. Then more banana leaves. They cover it back up with soil, still burning. Two hours later they open it and eat.

The villagers here are used to photos being taken. The natives think it's bad when you use the flash. Our tour guide was once in Chiapas and a native grabbed someone's camera and smashed it to the ground.

In Chiapas, Zapatistas stop the buses and ask for money. The Zapatistas are "polite", unlike bandits. It's a way of demonstrating their control over the land. There's power sharing in Chiapas between the revolutionaries and the government. They want to become independent. There are much more poor in Chiapas than here in Merida. The government has "forgotten" the Chiapas natives.

People in Yucatan complain about currency devaluation, but in Chiapas they complain about needing jobs, education, and food. The government is always saying "let's talk", but are they really listening? The land-owners pay the workers very poorly. The owner says I'll give you money, but you'd better shut up about the conditions, especially when the inspectors show up. They refuse to pay "infoamavit", which is this institution that gives houses to workers who make minimum wage.

The owner is supposed to give three services: 1. social security, 2. infoanavit, 3. medical services. Also minimum wage. But in Chiapas most business-owners don't give all these services.

The role of religion is huge. 80% Catholics of 96 million people in Mexico. 55% are young: 18-28 yrs old.

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