Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Akil 28

There had been considerable whimpering and whining going on the whole day from the children. Mostly I can just ignore it but this time it really set me off. Lupe had just complained that she did not want to go any further. She, in the best disgusted voice a 13 year old can use, complained that it was boring, totally uninteresting and a waste of time. She did not want to be here and thought we should all just leave.

Juan translated this to me and I went off on him, even though he did not deserve it. Call it the heat, call it bottled up frustrations of the week pouring out, or call it just plain stupid, but I let him know what I thought of her whining. Mostly I said that Lupe should be ashamed of herself. This was her heritage we were viewing and she should take pride, interest and great satisfaction knowing that she had the blood of these great people running through her veins. Juan looked at me aghast and said, “We are not Mayan!” I was dumbfounded. If they weren’t Mayan I was prepared to eat my dirty, sweaty flip flop right then and there. I said, “Juan, yes you are. You and your ancestors all come from the Yucatan and trace your family back to the Mayan culture. You even speak Mayan! That certainly makes you a modern day Mayan.” He acknowledged that this was true but that did not make HIS family Mayan. It was just his ancestors that were Mayan, he and his family were Mexican.

I was flabbergasted but shut my mouth. I could not believe that he really believed this, but while he was talking, his wife, Maria, was vehemently shaking her head yes, approving of everything he said. As we walked on towards the smaller pyramid, Lupe’s whining having ceased, probably because of the heated exchange between her father and me, I thought about what he said a lot.

If one compares the Mayan culture to the American Indian and how they were treated, it becomes understandable. Unfortunately, even in present day Mexico, the Mayan people are looked down upon by the rest of the country as the lowest class of people, only one swing out of the jungle. (as, I believe, are most indigenous people here) They totally disregard the fantastic achievements and intelligence of the wonderful and rich contributions made by the Mayans. I find that very sad. I suppose Juan and his wife had spent their lives experiencing the subtle discrimination imposed upon them due to their heritage and were trying to distance themselves from it. Like a light going off in my head, I suddenly understood Juan a whole lot better. I became determined during those moments of thought to praise the Mayan culture to anybody and everybody who would listen and let people know what a great society it had been and still was.


John W said...

Maybe the discrimination Juan suffers isn't so subtle after all. My friend Sergio is always classifying his countrymen as "white Mexicans" or "brown Mexicans." He himself is a "brown Mexican," and still he looks up to "whites" and down on "browns."

As a teenager, I was reading one of John Steinbeck's books. I've forgotten the characters, the plot, even the title. But I've never forgotten the young Mexican man, a minor character, who, full of pride, insisted he was "pure Castilian," even though he patently was not.

Brenda said...

Sad for anyone, anywhere to have to deny their heritage/culture to fit in and avoid discrimination.