By Lee Van Ham
Every morning I wake up and wonder what I can do for The Resistance,” he said. We were in Nuevo Yibeljoj, an Indigenous village in the beautiful highlands of Chiapas, MX. Then this elder of the Tzotzili people looked at the three of us and asked, “What are you doing for The Resistance?” I froze.
“The Resistance” (La Resistencia), among Indigenous peoples, names their tireless struggle against the oppressions of modern NAFTA, globalization, and neoliberalism. As such, it is the same struggle Indigenous peoples have been in for centuries, ever since soldiers, missionaries, corporations, and settlers came in the name of foreign powers to live in their land. Indigenous peoples worldwide became colonies of the invaders. The colonists had a different worldview than the one being lived by Indigenous peoples for whom the land was sacred. It could not be colonized or owned. But in the worldview of the colonizers, land was to be owned, and the resources used to finance civilization. The colonizers believed deeply that their cause was just, even God-given. And the Indigenous peoples were backward, behind the times of progress, and heathen.
So it was that at the end of the 20th century, with the imposition of NAFTA, that the Tzotzilis, along with Tzetzilis, Chols, and many others were forced from their communal, historic, and sacred land. Mexico’s elite had agreed to NAFTA’s demand that these lands could now be owned. Land shifted from being sacred. The authority inherent in its sacredness was ignored. It became a commodity, real estate to be privately bought and sold. In a different, nearby mountain village a young elder stood near the altar of their church and community center, and told us with big eyes: ”NAFTA is the latest form of genocide.”
These villages could not be moved into thinking that it was progress to desecrate land. I was utterly humbled by the radical devotion of these villagers to their beliefs. So when I heard the question: “What are you doing for La Resistencia?” it overwhelmed me. I stumbled into some kind of unconvincing response. But I heard the voice inside, “Lee, get more focused in acting for La Resistencia.”