Arts & Entertainment

Art becomes a refuge for Indigenous people in Mexico’s troubled south

By Mitzi Mayauel Fuentes

San Juan Chamula, Mexico, Jul 29 (EFE).- Amid pervasive poverty, communal violence and a tradition of out-migration driven by lack of opportunity, this town in Mexico’s southernmost state is home to a unique space showcasing the art and culture of the Tzotzils, one of the nine distinct Indigenous peoples in Chiapas.

ArTex is the brainchild of San Juan Chamula native Andres Lopez Lopez, known as “Tex,” a 28-year-old painter and musician.

He told Efe here Friday that the idea started germinating when, as a 12-year-old, his mother encouraged him to start taking art classes at the town’s House of Culture.

“It’s an important element for San Juan,” he said of the town that is the hub of the 80,000-member Tzotzil nation.

Tex honed his craft under the guidance of masters such as Japan’s Akio Hanafuji and Mayan artists Juan Chawuk and Antun Kojtom and has embraced teaching art to the boys and girls of San Juan Chamula.

Last year, ArTex added another dimension to its activity, opening a gallery where the public can view works by more than 30 local artists that reflect the mysticism and ritual aspect of life in San Juan Chamula.

One visitor, architect Cristian Cigarroa, said that her tour of ArTex inspired her to spend more time in the town, which lies near San Cristobal de las Casas, the cultural capital of Chiapas.

“What I find wonderful is the use of the arts to make that impact, that change in San Juan Chamula,” she told Efe.

Part of the change brought by ArTex is the emergence of the first generation of female Tzotzil artists.

“It really excites and pleases us a lot to see the young people, my brothers who are undertaking a different path, a path that is no longer migration or working the land, rather dedicating themselves to the arts and crafts,” Tex said.

Across Mexico, nearly 380,000 have been forced from their homes by violence connected with struggles over control of land, resources, drug-smuggling routes and other assets.

And the situation in Chiapas is so acute that the Inter-American Human Rights Commission’s rapporteur for Indigenous peoples, Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, recently traveled to the state on a fact-finding mission. EFE mmf/dr

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