Arts & Entertainment

Indigenous people in southern Mexico honor Mother Earth

By Mitzi Mayauel Fuentes Gomez

Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico, Oct 14 (EFE).- Some 700 bearers of the Mayan culture legacy are gathered this week in the capital of the southern Mexican state of Chiapas for the Maya Zoque Chiapaneca Festival, five days of performances and rites in honor of Mother Earth.

For more than 30 years, members of the Tzotzil, Zoque, Tzeltal, Chol and Tojolabal Maya communities have come to Tuxtla Gutierrez to take part in the observance, sponsored by the Chiapas State Council for Culture and Art.

“It is an event where symbolic aspects of knowledge converge with millenarian philosophy,” Nicolas Huet Bautista, an anthropologist with the State Center of Indigenous Languages, Art and Literature, told Efe.

“Its theme this year is co-existence with Mother Earth, because with the illnesses and social problems we are experiencing we need to reassert the philosophy of the (indigenous) peoples. And we do it through music, dance and ritual,” he said.

The festival provides an opportunity for young people who have chosen to immerse themselves in ancestral knowledge as a way to preserve those traditions.

“I have always been involved, I like it,” said Nereida Sanchez Gomez, a young female dancer from Ocozocoautla, which is also the hometown of schoolteacher and dancer Alejandro Burguete, who sees financial support from governments as crucial to the prospects of keeping traditional music and dance alive.

“In Ocozocoautla we have seven traditional dances and countless sounds” corresponding to various figures of legend, Burguete said.

Another dancer, Jorge Hernandez of the town of San Fernando, said that youth are the best hope for rescue of ancestral culture.

Amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, most of the activities – including music, dance, ceremonies, readings, workshops for children – are taking place in the open air.

Data from the 2020 census show that more than 7.3 million people, or roughly 6 percent of Mexico’s population, speak an indigenous language as their mother tongue.

Those indigenous-language speakers are concentrated in the southern states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Yucatan, Guerrero and Quintana Roo.

While President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government has put the emphasis on “indigenous resistance” as it marks this year’s quincentennial of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, the original peoples continue to struggle against what they describe as neglect and marginalization by the present-day Mexican state. EFE mmf/dr

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