By Callan Elswick,
Through the help of Atzin, we traveled to Tlamacazapa and Amatlán last week in order to learn more about globalization’s effect on the environment, medicine, and indigenous cosmovision. Aztin is a non-profit organization that supports holistic community development in Tlamacazapa by providing clean water, investigating public health issues, and empowering women economically, socially, and politically. In addition to speaking with Susan Smith, the co-founder of Atzin, we also met with Agustin Perez Garcia*, a member of the Amatlan Communal Land Council, about community organizing and indigenous rights. Through our visits we experienced, albeit superficially, the poverty and the culture of both Amatlán and Tlamacazapa.
Amatlán is a small village that was founded 4,000 to 7,000 years ago. While it was the home to many illustrious revolutionaries and religious figures, it currently has 1,000 residents including Agustin. When we visited on Tuesday, Agustin spoke to us about pre-Colombian traditions and the indigenous struggle to protect these traditions from the Spanish conquest, economic imperialism, and globalization. He explained the importance of communal land to the indigenous population by recounting Mexican history and described how Emiliano Zapata’s demand for “Tierra y Libertad” under the Plan de Ayala became a reality in Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution of 1917 by making indigenous communal lands inalienable and redistributing land into ejidos for the public. However, in order to appease its NAFTA partners, the Mexican government reformed Article 27 and permitted the privatization of ejido land without consulting the indigenous population or the campesinos.
Today, indigenous groups including the Amatlán Communal Land Council politically oppose and organize against the idea of private property which many feel is “just a tool that governments used to oppress people.” While Amatlán has thwarted the development of many of the government’s megaprojects through community organizing, Agustin emphasizes that the point of this struggle is “to put tools in the hands of our peoples so that they may know their rights in the community” for “our land is also our capital because here lie the bones of our ancestors, here are our traditions.”
Tlamacazapa is another indigenous town, but unlike Amatlán, it has a population of 6,100, 40% of its children are not in school, and 50% of its young women are illiterate. Most of the community members are weavers who trade their art to vendors who, then, make a profit by selling them in places like
After speaking to Agustin and Susan, we traveled to Tlamacazapa and visited community members. We saw wells full of trash and green algae. In addition to carrying water down rocky and slippery slopes, we attempted to make tortillas and weave baskets. Although I cannot even begin to understand the poverty, the malnourishment, and the culture of either Amatlán or Tlamacazapa, I feel informed and empowered to question
Photo: A Well at Tlamacazapa