Friday, September 13, 2013

Juxtaposing “the Spirit of ʻ76” with the Bicentennial of Mexican Independence

In his recent book, Trans-Indigenous: Methodologies for Global Literary Studies (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), Allen asks us to move away from a comparative frame in which one simply looks at what is the same or different about multiple Indigenous texts and contexts. What happens when we bring together two or more texts in “focused juxtapositions,” placing them close together and honoring their difference? He urges us to pay attention to the process of crossing from one context to another and to see what such crossings tell us. We too are interested in Indigenous exchange and collaborative production. In this week’s posts, we think about Chadwick Allen’s recent book and pose a few of our own juxtapositions.

Juxtaposing “the Spirit of ʻ76” with the Bicentennial of Mexican Independence

By Eréndira Neri Aldana 

In the sprit of turning ands into trans, I would like to share one of the ways that Mexico celebrated the bicentennial celebration of independence from Spain and the 100-year celebration of the Mexican revolution in 2010. I feel this differing approach to bicentennial celebrations can add to the discussion started by Allen’s chapter 2,  “Unsettling the Spirit of ’76: American Indians Anticipate the U.S. Bicentennial.” In that chapter, Allen juxtaposes diffuse and lesser-known responses to the U.S. bicentennial with the more well-known responses of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to the bicentennial celebrations of the Australian settler state in 1988. In so doing, he aims to make visible and legible the American Indian responses to the 1976 bicentennial celebrations in the US.

I was in Mexico in the months leading up to the actual celebrations on September 16, 2010. I spent time in Mexico City, Puebla, and Oaxaca. I was living in the capital of Puebla and traveled around to various other rural communities and there did not seem to be coordinated efforts to challenge the celebrations. I spent 10 days in Oaxaca during their important agricultural festival where all indigenous communities come together to celebrate and share. This gathering could have served as a platform to challenge the bicentennial because there is representation from all indigenous groups from across the state, but I saw nothing.

Overall the feeling during the bicentennial was of excitement and pride. The national government even created a special “Bicentennial” travel route to encourage Mexican citizens to get to know the “magic” and “treasures” of our country. My family and I have made similar travels, and in my experience, Indigenous groups have welcomed me and my family and have always been open to sharing about their cultures. However, this is because my mother is a gifted storyteller and has an amazing ability to connect with others. She understands the cultural scripts and social protocols necessary to be accepted by other communities. We have even been able to witness cultural ceremonies because of this.

The video below is an ad that premiered during the national nightly news hour during that time leading up to the bicentennial. It is part of a series that highlights the beauty of several states of Mexico, and the ads were created specifically for the bicentennial. This particular video is of Chiapas, Mexico. Similar ad campaigns were done for several states.  

The video closes with: “Esto es México. El estado de Chiapas, una estrella más del bicentenario.” (“This is México. The state of Chiapas, one more star of the bicentennial.”) The music in the background in sung in the dialect of the region. The lyrics and translation are below:

Ch'ul awilal                                                          Sacred place
Ta sk'inal yu'un ants-winik                                    On man's earth                   
Banti te ja' sok te nichim                                      Where water and flower
Junax yak'sbaik                                                    Become one
Banti te choje skananta                                        Where the puma protects
Te sk'ayoj yu'un te chich me'el-mamal                  The chants of our past
Ja in yawil to                                                      In this place
Banti x-a'in te ch'ulchane sok te balumilale...       Where sky and earth are born
Chiapas                                                                         Chiapas 

I think that it is important to note that public schools in Mexico play a very important role in passing on cultural values and traditions to younger generations. It is the norm for all children to participate in end of the year school celebrations that consist of Indigenous dances and music. Each grade showcases a different region of the country at a ceremony that is open to the community and family. In fact, family is expected to attend and normally always does. From a very young age children are taught to appreciate cultural practices that existed before the conquest. Because of this I feel that the dialogue surrounding the bicentennial celebrations served to bring together communities and reinforce various Mexican identities. My time in Mexico was divided into primarily two different regions, and I attended an important Indigenous festival in yet another. Across all this land, I felt the sentiment to be the same. People of the community welcomed Mexican visitors (I don’t know if they would be as open with international tourists) with open arms and were eager to share their culture.

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