Maya leaders visit Oakland in defense of their culture

Opening ceremony at the meeting with Mexican Maya leaders held at the Omni Commons in Oakland. Photo: Fernando A. Torres / La Opinión de la Bahía

By: Fernando A. Torres / La Opinión de la Bahía

December 7, 2017

In a meeting catalogued as an “extraordinary” opportunity, residents of the city of Oakland had the opportunity to learn –in the voice of some of their own protagonists– details about the process of indigenous autonomy and self-determination through which Mexico travels.

On an information tour, the Maya leaders and representatives of the University of the Earth in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Ángel Rafael Kú Dzul and Valiana Alejandra Aguilar Hernández, stated that the so-called democratic institutions in Mexico are “falling apart,” and that it no longer matters if someone is “more to the left or the right” because “that system is dead… totally destroyed,” they said.

Marichuy: the first indigenous woman candidate to the presidency

 The leaders also reported on the nomination of María de Jesús Patricio Martínez –known as Marichuy– as an indigenous candidate in the 2018 presidential elections, based on a joint initiative between the National Indigenous Congress (CNI, its initials in Spanish) and the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN).

During last May and in a three-month consultation process between 543 different indigenous communities in the country, the Indigenous Government Council (Consejo Indígena de Gobierno) was created and it was agreed to seek Marichuy’s registration as a citizen presidential candidate (without a political party). Marichuy would thus become the first indigenous woman candidate to the Mexican presidency.

“Many communities said that it’s not for reaching power. We don’t want that rotten power from above. We want to recuperate the power that we peoples have of doing things: Being able to work collectively, being able to make agreements and being able to govern ourselves. We see that as a new way of doing politics. Because the candidate was elected by an assembly unlike the other candidates that assume themselves,” said Kú.

“It was and is the word of the communities that is making Mexico reverberate and is making the politicians tremble because they realize that their way of doing politics is rotten and is falling,” added Kú, a Maya from the Yucatán Peninsula and a member of the organization Ka’ Kuxtal Much Meyaj for the defense and rescue of native seeds in Campeche.

The University of the Earth: new worlds were born

They also explained the concept of the University of the Earth, a space of collective learning where the current reality is reflected on in order to create tools. “It’s more that a school, it’s an alternative to education,” said Kú.

“There are no teachers, no students, no classrooms. It’s a space for learning among each other. We must organize ourselves for that new time that is coming… We want to weave bridges and relationships with our brothers and sisters that are in the city. We know that there are people that are already organizing and that already gave birth to these new worlds and that all we need to do is to weave more, connect more,” said Aguilar, a Maya from Sinanché that has participated in different collectives, struggles and resistances related to the regeneration of the community social fabric and has worked especially with Mayan women on the Yucatan Peninsula. Currently, she lives in a small Oaxaca community and collaborates in the University of the Earth, where she coordinates the area of student exchanges and “Cultivating Dignity workshops.”

In California, the indigenous Maya leaders participated in a series of gatherings called ‘Convivial Tools,’ organized by Unitierra Califas and in Oakland by the Chiapas Support Committee (Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas) [1]. According to Aguilar, self-management and self-government are part of a new way of doing politics. “Creating a new way to govern beyond the structures of formal democracy and the institutions,” she said.

In defense of Maya culture

Kú asserted that the autonomy of the indigenous peoples is important because the non-indigenous educational institutions don’t reflect the needs of the Maya people. For example, when a young person returns from the university to the community “something changes in him or her. They return with that idea of development and want roads, Internet and more schools in the community. But for us that is not what’s most important. For us that way of seeing the developed world does not exist. We think of the world with the idea of a good life. Being able to plant our food, being able to organize, being able to make our language live and that the word of our grandparents is kept and is respected. For us, that is the good life,” said Kú.

For Aguilar, the new way of doing politics is going to achieve “creating an alternative and peacefully dismantling the regime through the exercise of power from below.”

[1] Art from the Zapatista communities was (and still is) on display at the Omni Commons during this December 2, 2017 event.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Opinión

December 07, 2017

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee





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