FROM THE EDITORS: The Mexican state celebrated the country’s bicentennial independence with a strange mix of a military parade and pre-Hispanic mischaracterizations of indigenous peoples. The day of independence in many countries has in fact become to represent forced assimilations and territorial theft in the creation of these “new republics,” in the name of nationalist progress and development. The editors of Tzam: Las Trece Semillas Zapatistas present a series of works to reinterpret the word independence, “In each of the texts and creations, the word ‘independence’ is resignified, reappropriating it from both nationalist history and individualist interpretations. Independence can be reinterpreted as socio-political units instead of nation-states and claimed as a collective desire that is closely related to the concept of ‘autonomy’ of indigenous peoples.” You can find below an English translation of these essays.
SOURCE: This article was originally published in Spanish and Tenek by Tzam: Trece Semillas Zapatistas, translated to English by Awasqa. See: https://tzamtrecesemillas.org/sitio/independencia-2/
I am thankful for the space given to me to express what our villages and our culture experience deeply, an opportunity is not always at hand. History has witnessed the blood spilled by all the people of the world who have been subdued, slaved, or murdered and stripped from their territories; some have been able to free themselves, moderately speaking, while others are still resisting today.
Talking about independence implies enjoying freedom and human rights to their fullest; nonetheless, despite the fact that we live in a pluricultural country, free from the Spanish crown, the settlers and their descendants who took power are still administrating and selling our nation’s wealth. That means that there has not been a real and palpable change for the indigenous population, since, to this day, we are still suffering from discrimination, injustice, exploitation, theft, and big landowners, to mention a few, which lead to poverty, economic inequality, and social problems. This becomes evident in the infinite number of irregular jobs and scarce salaries, which, together with overpriced basic goods, are simply not enough to cover the main necessities of a human being. This goes to show a whole nation or society’s insecurity and instability.
But all this has an explanation: mainly, the reality of unpunished corruption and living under the subjugation of Yanqui imperialism. Through the complicity of the “people’s representatives” majority, devices have been used for the approval of structural reforms and agreements that make it easier to hand over our country to foreign powers. This situation makes us think that we are very far from the reality of being a truly independent country. Nevertheless, despite the theft of and removal from our territories, as native people we are still resisting and defending our culture and our mother earth, until the day we die.
As a member of the Tenek people, I dare to point out that all these consequences are provoked by a capitalist mode of production, which has an effect on the daily life of indigenous communities and the life choices of families or even one person’s choices, since we have to face every day the onslaughts of western culture and the particularities of a globalization process that are now part of our daily life. Despite the mainly ideological cultural domination and imposition that we have suffered, we have been able to keep alive our customs, traditions, ancestral wisdom, clothes, language, and most importantly, our cosmovision, thanks to which we’ve kept a very strong bond with our mother earth, by virtue of the millenary heritage that our grandparents have shared with us generation after generation.
Today, what remains for the indigenous woman is her daily fight for a dignified life. It has not been an easy to fight against family and institutional violence, personal and work-related discrimination, against machismo, jealousy, illiteracy, and the lack of political participation in the decision-makingof the state and even within their own communities. On top of having to carry the responsibility of the house on their shoulders, when the man is absent out of necessity, women are the ones who in most cases have to confront poverty, when their children get sick or die from malnutrition, when young people emigrate to other states and have to face the crude exploitation of landowner and industrial labor. We, the women, also witness how our elderly live with the hope of waiting for their children and grandchildren to come back, to tell them stories about their community.
There are grandmas in many families who still wake up very early at dawn to wash the “nixtamal,” to prepare lunch; others, travel down the road with their husbands to clean the corn fields or bean fields hoping for a good harvest and become food sovereign. When they come home, they continue with their housework until nightfall and get ready for the next day’s daily routine; there are few instances and space for recreation, and they do so during cultural events in their communities.
All this hard labor by women is essential for the political, economic, social, and cultural development of our societies. That is why we have to recognize that, despite the daily difficulties, we have the desire to live, to fight with the firm conviction of carrying on with our own development process, because we are the seed of a society that looks for a better life in its own independence.
Elda is a lawyer of the Tenek people. She belongs to the community of Tamaletóm, Tancanhuitz, San Luis Potosí. She has a degree in law, specialized in Indigenous Affairs and certified by the National Institute of Indigenous Languages as an interpreter and translator of the Tenek language. She is also a violinist and performer of the thousand-year-old dance Tsak k’aniláb, also known as Danza del Rey Colorado, in the community of Tamaletóm, third section.