Family Farm Defenders (Kansas Chapter)

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Xi-Iuy Gente (People) of La Pame, Mexico

On Saturday night, November 27th, the night before the Caravan set off, the international group and the national and local activists who were organizing the caravan, were joined by 21 people from La Pame in the far south region of SLP. They had had to travel by bus overnight and many additional hours, perhaps a whole day and for a long distance, to join us in SLP and at great hardship to themselves. Their descendents were the first humans to inhabit their region making them indigenous people. Their people are surviving, but badly. When they arrived their presence had a calming and grounding affect on me as well as a big impact on everyone else—exactly what the impact was on others I cannot say, but I noted when they entered, that the room got quiet. I mentioned earlier that they reminded me of my father who adopted me at birth,-- in physical appearance and comportment. They were about 5ft. 2 or so and tan colored with straight dark hair like my dad. There seemed to be a facial resemblance as well. My dad’s grandmother was indigenous from the Kentucky or Tennessee region, and it made me wonder if I was seeing a similar heritage. But more importantly, like my dad, they were people of great humility. It was difficult to make eye contact with them and sometimes they, especially, the women would not make eye contact or speak. Among the group, were only two women, Zita Castillo Castillo and her mother. After a couple of tries and spending some time together , they did open up a little bit. Nor did they have much education like my father. I remember sitting and talking with Mario Baltazar Navarro who seemed so old I wondered how he could make this trip. During the march in DF, Mexico City, he walked with a cane and often fell far behind the rest of us. It was an effort for him to write his name and a big deal but he did write it for me. His skin was wizened and he was missing many teeth like many others of his companeros—most of whom appeared older. But when we sat together on the bus he asked me if I came to “luchar”—to fight for what is right—to struggle forward for progress. We have to “luchar” he said we have to “luchar.” We have to always “luchar” he said. I was moved. The men wore mostly light colored lightweight cowboy hats and jeans. In talking to them later with one of my colleagues, Randy Jasper, the grain and soybean farmer from Western Wisconsin, with Family Farm DefendersI asked them if they were farmers, and they said. “Oh yes, can’t you see, our hats---oh yes of course we are farmers!” They grew corn and beans. What touched me most, was despite their humility and shyness or perhaps even shame—as my Dad often expressed and I too felt growing up poor in a society that blames the poor for their poverty--they came--as did I--all this way to march and to protest and to “luchar” as old Mario said, for social and environmental justice, and for the rights of their people to the sovereign control over their land. They literally came with the clothes on their back and perhaps a plastic bag or two with some things in it. Their clothes were worn. I longed to visit their home and see where they were from and how they lived. It became apparent to me the first time we “camped- out” as well, that many of them neither had a change of clothes nor even a matt or bedding to sleep on. Nor did many have even something to cover themselves. That first night we all camped out together, as I prepared to lie down, I noticed that many of the members of this group were sitting in chairs. I asked Juan Martinez Navarro whom I had gotten to know earlier, why some appeared to not be preparing to sleep because I was concerned they did not have something to sleep on, and he reassured me that they were just not ready to sleep. I do not know, however, now if I believe him or if he was just trying to cover up their poverty as those of us who are poor so often do—again in a society which believes that the poor are to blame for their poverty. In any case I returned with an extra matt a friend had loaned me, a raincoat and a towel just in case someone could use it. It hurt me to think that some had nothing to sleep on--on that cold hard tile or nothing to cover them in the cold night. As it was, I could not sleep well myself. The ground was very hard and cold and my matt did not help much; the hour was late and I was uncomfortable just sleeping in a big open room—men and women. Because I so admire all of them for coming to the caravan and Mexico city, and today they will arrive in Cancun, at such great hardship to themselves and despite all the obstacles, I want to name all that I can here. Please forgive any errors. I will try to correct them and share photos later. Randy and I took the time to get their names and addresses in Mexico City. They were: Teodore Castillo Gonzalez of Rayon, SLP. Bernabe Castillo Gonzalez of Tamasopo, SLP, Juan Martinez Navarro also of Tamasopo, Jose de Cupertino De La Cruz of Loc Huizachal, Mario Baltazar Navarro, Zita Castillo Castillo and her mother, Ramon Reyes de la Cruz or Rayon, Estaban Hernandez Alvarez or Rayon, Fidel Castro Zozales, Emeterio Banda Gonzales, Jeronimo Banda Gonzales, Fernando Resendiz Hernandez, Eusebio Castillo, and J. Sostenese Rodriguez Acuna of Rayon, SLP.!/photo.php?fbid=180474408646281&set=a.180473925312996.49697.100000511708132

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