People Of Chia Essay, Research Paper
Fanon?s Three Stages Related to the Indigenous People of Chiapas
The passage Shadows of Tender Fury by Subcommander Marcos of the Zapatista Army explains that the people of Chiapas are currently facing a period of revolution. The Zapatista army (consisting of Chiapian campesinos) has risen to combat the intolerant system of oppression by the Mexican government and has attempted to create a better lifestyle for the campesinos of Chiapas. Frantz Fanon?s three stages to national culture; assimilation, self discovery, and revolution, relate to the struggle of the campesinos of Chiapas. In the last 500 years, the indigenous people of Chiapas have faced all three of Fanan?s stages during their struggle for the development of a national culture.
Five-hundred years ago when the first Europeans came in contact with the Mayan Indians, the first stage of Fanon?s theory, assimilation, began formalizing. Throughout history the colonizers of Mexico were more technologically advanced than the natives. The Europeans had guns, cannons and massive ships. Not only did these possessions enable them to have greater brute force, but it took the white man to the level of the gods in the eyes of the natives. The colonizers could easily take advantage of this reverence. Fanon states “The effect consciously sought by colonialism was to drive into the natives? heads the idea that if the settlers were to leave, they would at once fall back into barbarism, degradation, and bestiality.”(Fanon
211) The colonizers, believing the natives were savages that needed enlightenment, forced European culture upon them. The Europeans believed that to assimilate the natives to European culture was to help them progress. Therefore, to return to the old ways would have been regressing. When the natives objected to the forced assimilation, the colonizers smothered the rebellious efforts with stronger, more lethal weapons. Fanon compares the colonizer to a mother who restrains her “perverse” child so that he will not commit suicide.(Fanon 211) The analogy implies that the colonized must be protected (by the colonizer) from self-destruction. In the minds of the European colonizers, this idea of protection justified forcing assimulation onto the natives.
Although the native campesinos (the poor people of Chiapas) haven?t fully assimulated, they have adopted particular aspects of European and present day Mexican culture. The campesinos have learned the Spanish language and joined the catholic religion. An example of Fanon?s first phase is when the colonizer tries to calm the angry, poor and exploited colonized people by promising social reform.(Fanon 207) These reforms promise things such as employment, welfare and education. According to Fanon, the government rarely follows through with pledged social reform. They find it easier to simply increase the number of army troops, police officers and jail cells. The oppressors intention is to stop present campeseno rebellions by putting the rebels behind bars and instilling fear in the rest of the community. Instead of attempting to help the poverty stricken people of Chiapas, the authorities are pushing the problem into the background, hiding it and hoping it will go away on its own.
In the diocese of Cristobal de las Casas, a Priest argues that the campesinos should have the same rights to freedom and justice as other Mexicans. The white ranch owners and important
business men of the region fear rebellion. They call for the “white guards”, their security system, to crush any possible uprisings and put the most threatening rebels in jail.(Marcos 42 One half of the Mexican army is stationed in Chiapas, reminding the campesinos daily of the futility of their situation.
In Fanon?s second stage, the colonized person explores history in an attempt to learn about his culture. Fanon explains “Perhaps this passionate research and this anger are directed by the secret hope of discovering beyond the misery of today.”(Fanon 210) The native is frustrated and angry with life. He immerses himself in his culture in an effort to solve the problems of present day. The native learns about what his people have done in the past, and as a result, he starts to look toward the future with new guidance. It is during this second stage when the colonized people decide a revolution is the only way to regain land and freedom. In Chiapas, the elders remember Zapata, the revolutionary hero of the Mayans. He rose up for his people shouting, “land and freedom.” In the following excerpt, the old people find a calling to revolution from the very land the revolution is fought for.
The oldest of the old say that the wind and the rain and the sun tell the campesinos when they should prepare the soil, when they should plant, and when they should harvest. They say that hope also must be planted and harvested. And the old people say that now the wind, the rain , and the sun are talking to the earth in a new way, and that the poor should not continue to harvest death, now it is time to harvest rebellion.(Marcos 46)
As the second stage ages, it becomes more like the third, and soon the idea of rebellion becomes the reality of a revolution.
Now that the need for revolution has been established, the next step is to organize and army and wait for the suitable time to revolt. This relates to Fanon?s third stage which is rebellion. Despite the fact that the colonized person had previously been trying to escape the problems of the present, after learning about his culture he organizes the people to help solve the problems of the present. He thus becomes a leader. Presently the campesinos of Chiapas are revolting. During a peaceful demonstration, hundreds of indigenous chiapian people walked 1,106 kilometers to the capital of Mexico to get an interview with the viceroy.(Marcos 48) On another peaceful march to the capital the colonized people renounced the changes relating to NAFTA. They recited poems, spoke on the issues and sung songs.(Marcos 49) In less peaceful acts of revolution three state troopers were kidnapped and the Pan-American Highway was taken over. This was all in retaliation for being detained and fined for cutting wood to use in campesino houses. Fanon?s third stage of revolution was relevant seventy years ago with Zapata. From the very beginning of colonialization, the area of Chiapas has had periods of revolution.(Marcos 46) Fanon?s stages describe a cycle that has continued throughout the history of the oppressed campesinos. The day the cycle stops is the day the third stage succeeds in converting dignity and rebellion into dignity and freedom.(Marcos 47) The campesinos will have ended this five-hundred year struggle for a national culture.
During the past five centuries, Fanon?s three stages; assimilation, discovery of ones history and revolution, have been repeated through many people and many communities. It is not predictable when the campesinos of Chiapas will regain the land and freedom that they claim is rightfully theirs. The Zapatistas and campesinos of
Chiapas hope that this period of revolution will be the final stage, and the people will have “dignity and freedom”.