woman even lifted up Dominguez’s poncho to blow incense underneath. The journalists stared for awhile, then gradually drifted away. When all seemed to calm down, I asked the hunger strikers, who were now sitting on the hot basalt ground of the Zocalo, for interviews. They agreed and one observed that no one had asked them. Here is what they said: Silverio Herncindez Jimenezfrom Cerro Colorado, near San Pedro Sotiapan, Veracruz: “We arrived on a piece of idle land seven years ago. In Mexico, according to the law, the land belongs to he who works ‘it. No one said anything to us for years. But now that we are harvesting 32 tons of corn a year, a wealthy man has said the land is his, and he wants it back. The officials in Veracruz do not listen to us.” Luis Ambrosio Santanafrom Tilapan, Guerrero: “People from a neighboring village invaded our land and attacked us with sticks. We’ve tried to reach an agreement, but the authorities are playing us off one another.” Eustacio Hernandez Sanchezfrom San Martin, near San Pedro Sotiapan, Veracruz: “We’ve been in San Martin, which is 1,800 hectares, for 30 years, but we don’t have papers. Now Antonio Chac6n, a local cacique who came to San Martin in 1985, wants to kick us off our land. He’s threatened us with weapons and has had some of us jailed. He’s a cattle rancher. He has a big house and lots of land. He’s robbed our cattle and our corn and bean crops. He gets armed people to stand guard while his men harvest and steal our crops. Some of the men are uniformed police. They’ve hit the women and children, and kidnapped them. Then they return them two weeks later, raped. [His eyes began to water.] We got an order for Chacon’s apprehension two or three years ago, but he still bothers us every three or four months. It seems there is no authority above that man. When we first tried to get an order against him, Chao& had some of us jailed and beaten. We had to pay bail, but we could pay only in parts. So every week we had to make the two-hour journey each way from our village to the town to pay a part of our bail. Eventually, we stopped going and the order is out again for our arrest. Some federal officials, told us that Chao& plants poppy and marijuana. They’re looking for him, but they never find him. I’m glad I’m doing this hunger strike. Faced with dying from bullets, I’d rather die of hunger.” Carmela Arcos Mendez from Ejido Ursula Galvan, near Salto de Agua, Chiapas: [Manuel Mendez translates for her from Tzeltal to Spanish.] “In 1969, President Diaz Ordaz authorized us to expand our ejido [communal farm] to include an extra ranch. But a large landowner, Flabio Cuoctitio Velasco, won’t let us have it. The state government supports the landowner. They tell us to wait and wait. For years they’ve told us to wait. We’ve waited 23 years.” Anonymousfrom El Garro, near Villa Isla, Veracruz: “My husband and my son have been fleeing since 1988, because there is an apprehension order out against them. This happened because, in 1988, the CNC [Central Nacional Campesino, a government-run peasant organization] wanted to take our land. The CNPI defended us. An agreement was drawn up in which the CNC got part and the CNPI got part, but the CNC didn’t respect the agreement. There was a fight. Six people from the CNC were killed, and only one was killed from the CNPI, that was one of my sons. So we were all taken to jail. My husband and my son fled. My other two sons were jailed. One was there for two years, and another for three years. He was just released. Genaro Dominguez was our lawyer. He got my sons out of jail. All I want is for the apprehension order to be lifted so that my husband and my last living son can return home.” Neonice Ramirez Mendiolafrom Ejido Salvador Gonzalo Garcia, near Tierra Blanca, Veracruz: “My father was kidnapped on November 19, 1990. On that day, my father was going to pay rent on a Ford tractor he had borrowed, but the leader of the UGOCP [Union General Obrera Campesina Populara government organization], Margarito Montes, wouldn’t give my father credit. Montes had helped us acquire a parcel of land in 1989 at a cost of 10 million pesos [about $4,000]. We paid, but then we didn’t get the land. We had to fight for it through the courts. We got the land, but the neighboring cattle ranchers said it wasn’t legal. Then Montes offered to sell my father some cows, but he charged a high price and the cows were not fit for our hot climate. We didn’t buy them, and Mont& got very angry with my father. I think that’s why he denied him credit on the tractor. My father wanted to ask Montes why he wouldn’t give him credit, and Mont& told him to come see him on November 19th. He went with a friend, but at the door to the UGOCP they said my father should enter alone. My father never came out. His friend asked for him, but they said he had already left. That night at 11 p.m., some men came to our door. They said they were undercover police. My mother told them to show us some identification. They said that if we didn’t open the door,, they’d kill us. They forced the door open and ransacked the house, but the only thing they took was my father’s briefcase. It had the land papers for everyone in the village. The men told us to shut up and never say anything. Then they went to our ranch where we have 100 heads of cattle and killed five. We’ve gone to our state government and to the National Commission on Human Rights, but we’ve gotten no response. They tell us .to wait. I want to know if my father is alive.” Santa Subaran Cartillerofrom Vergo de Pescador, near Bajapan, Veracruz: “Pescador has existed since 1950. We have 50 fruit trees mango, lime, orangeand 4,300 cedar and other kinds Of trees.. But our lands still are not officially recognized. We want papers, because we are worried with the new agricultural reform that wed might lose our land. We’ve come to Mexicd City before. We had a hunger strike before. But no one pays any attention to us. So, we’ll try again.” Agustin Sanchez ,Diazfrom Nuevo Ixtacomitan, near Las Choapas, Veracruz: “We arrived on virgin land in 1982. We cultivated it, and now the owner appears and has tried to claim the land. But it had been idle before we worked it. In 1989, we asked for papers. Someone from the government even came out to measure it. That was when the owner appeared. Now the government won’t give us papers.” Before I could finish interviewing the 13 strikers, the New-Age Indian assistant chased me away: “You have no right to be interviewing these people! You’ve been here for hours!” “I called Genaro Dominguez from New York,” I explained. “I don’t care! Leave!” she said. One of the hunger strikers, an older woman, tried to protest. The other strikers looked down at the ground and one campesino, who had accompanied the strikers, spoke out: “It was good to get my story off my chest.” Ten days later, the CNPI appeared in the Zocalo again for the anti-celebration of Columbus Day, which, in Mexico, is called El Dia de la Raza or The Day of the Race, in reference to the creation of the mestizo race from Spaniard and Indian. The hunger strike was still going on. The strikers had moved to the side of the Zocalo. A curious mix of people had gathered at the Zocalo, the former heart of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. There were political groups, ranging from the CNPI and other somber protestors to anarchists and punks. These groups, along with dozens of unaffiliated citizens, nearly destroyed the statue of Christopher Columbus with spray paint, eggs and rotten fruit. The statue was such a sorry mess that the Spanish Embassy declined to lay the hbnorary wreath of flowers at its feet. There were also concheros or dancers dressed in feathers and loin cloths. With their hairless brown chests and legs, these dancers actually looked like Indians. Then there was a proliferation of New-Age Indian types, 90 percent of them fair-skinned and European-looking, some of them white Americans. The New-Age types with their conch shells, gladiolas and incense so dominated events that several campesino onlookers called for their removal: “Go away! The government sent you!” “This is a day for protest, not incense and flowers!” “Campesinos have come from all over the country to be here today, and they still don’t have a voice!” One campesino, furious, yelled, “We don’t want this day to be an official farce. I don’t have to dress up as an Indian to be one. I’m an Indian because I am a campesino, because I have problems, and because no one listens to me!” Amidst the shouting, a woman tapped me on the arm. I recognized her from the day the hunger strike began. She had been in charge of photocopying Dominguez’s speeches. “I’m sorry about what happened the other day,” she said. “I was surprised,” I answered. “The hunger strikers didn’t have a chance to talk, but they are the ones risking their lives.” She nodded. “By the way, who are the most important people in the CNPI?” I asked, careful to use the plural “people.” “Genaro, of course,” she said, referring to Dominguez. Our conversation was interrupted by a chant that overtook the entire crowd. Ironically, it went: “El indio callado, jamas sera escuchado.” The silent Indian will never be heard. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13 ^!..,P
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