I just returned from San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas Mexico and the neighboring states of Michoacan and Tabasco. The area is occupied by over 4 million inhabitants and many of them are of the regions' indigenous people, decendents of both the Mayan, Aztec and others, such as the present day Zapatistas.
Chiapas is the southernmost state in Mexico, and borders Guatemala. Some of these indigenous areas have been granted autonomy and have their own laws and answer to their own legal systems. Polygamy is an accepted practice in some areas and the problems of alcohol and spousal abuse are of particular concern. We visited the villages of Chamula and Zincantan where the catholic churches have yielded to local customs and the communities are autonomous.
Traveling with a group of 9 sponsored by The Center for Global Justice out of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. https://www.globaljusticecenter.org Arrangements had been made for us to visit a variety of towns as well as social organizations whose goals were the preservation and protection of the rights of these people. Many of these people still speak only their native tongues and are poorly educated; we were told there were 33 original languages and dialects.
We also visited Oventic which is a Zapatista community where a hoped for meeting and tour was declined due to other commitments by the officials, but a few days later we had an in depth tour of an impressive Zapatista vocational school. The Zapatista, the best known group, are well organized and committed to their autonomy.
Native women are pregnant early in life and the exponential population growth appears to make the possibility of social services and sustained gain difficult. The crowded population has the attendant problem and complications of overpopulation; i.e. slums, drug abuse, lack of services, poverty, pressures, demands on the environment, etc.
At 7200 ft in San Cristobal, tourism contributes substantially to the economy and the markets and street vendors offer a large variety of beautiful hand woven local fabrics. Street vendors are all around, a stop at a sidewalk cafe for coffee will yield a bevy of shoe shine boys, trinket girls, garment peddling women, etc.
I saw a lot of Gringo heavy hippy types, dreadlocks, some clean, some filthy, the works, i wondered where they had gone as I had not seen many in years.
The entire area is, of course, supported by the agricultural products and agriculture is in trouble in Mexico due to a variety of factors. If the United States reneges on its’ 1994 NAFTA commitment, things could get worse long before they get better. Mexican agriculture has made great changes since NAFTA, such as; since U.S. government subsidized corn (think ethanol) has become cheaper for them to import rather then grow their own, they have changed to other crops such as palm oil from palm trees which in a few years are abandoned as their productive life is over after about 20 years. Subsistence farmers raise family crops of basics, corn, beans= the total protein.
In Morelia, my friends Clay and Dorian Slate told me how planting and production of avocado (nicknamed "oro verde" or "green gold" by locals) trees has replaced traditional crops. As a result market prices are dropping due to increased production as young orchards start to come into production. I have noticed the drop in avocado prices in Dallas for some time.
There are local organizations such as CIDECI-UNITIERRA non profit http://seminarioscideci.org and SIPAZ http://www.sipaz.org working to promote “fair trade” practices to protect the native farmer from middle man exploitation as well as designs by Canadian mining interests on their farms as well as educate the farmer in proper ag practices. If minerals are found on private property they are considered the property of the state to be dealt with as behooves the government and properties can be confiscated with compensation should the government decide to.
The burning of fields continues on a large scale in spite of the environmental hazard, and yes, global warming/climate change is causing concern with changing rain fall patterns. Underground water tables are being reduced greatly in some areas. Areas in Mexico City specifically have had annual drops in surface elevation of up to 9”, sinking due to aquifer draining. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/02/17/world/americas/mexico-city-sinking.html?_r=0 There are large rivers in Chiapas/Tabasco/VeraCruz drainage area and a great amount of navigable water with aquaculture enterprises such as tilapia.
As you can see, it gets complicated.
After leaving San Cristobol, i traveled overland through the mountains and jungles to the ancient city of Palenque, capping the trip with visits to Mayan pyramids and palaces retrieved from the jungles. Then a visit to and outdoor museum in VillaHermosa of an even more ancient civilization, the Olmec people, Residents of the Yucatan long before the birth of Christ. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olmec
After my visit to Ancient Persia last year, the coincidence of visiting an equally ancient unknown civilization on the other side of the world this year, has opened new areas of curiosity and research for me to explore. Don’t be surprised if the next time we meet i have a few tidbits of trivia for you on the subject.
Thank goodness I don’t need to be a genius.