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Dispatches International


six out of 100 people in Mexico speak an indigenous dialect and that there are 62 native lan- guages spoken across Mexico. Approximately 330,000 people speak Tzotzile – a number that is shrinking day by day. According to Gutierrez,


this is a common attitude in Mexico. “We have not recognized the wealth of the Tzotziles, we do not appreciate their own rich- ness” she says. And what is the result of applying this attitude over and over again, in commu- nity after community? “We have destroyed it with our ‘mestizo’ [Spanish-indigenous mixed cul- ture and race] vision.” As I neared the end of my


visit to Naranjatic Bajo, I became acutely aware of the poverty in these communities. The obvious need due to the lack of schools, health clinics, clean water, and food are soothed to an extent by the pride of the Tzotziles. The words of Ruiz, Santis, and their friends reveal a culture that has bravely withstood modernity but is slowly being eroded. Their life- styles seem locked in time, with- out a place a few decades hence. Yet there are still one-third of a million Mexicans speaking Tzotzile and many more that are working to support indigenous communities. Although every day there are fewer Tzotziles, they will probably never be com- pletely gone. My interest in the Tzotziles


and desire to write of their situa- 36


tion did not end with the closure of my visit to Naranjatic Bajo. I recalled that if there is one place in Mexico where cultures mix, it is Mexico City, which has the largest concentration of indig- enous people in the entire coun- try. And if there is one place in Mexico City where heritages are as diverse as the buttons on each person’s jacket, from locals to foreigners to indigenous people, it is the Zócalo, or Plaza de la Constitución, in the center of the city. It is common to see indig- enous people from the north, the south, and even other countries, selling traditional wares and oth- erwise inhabiting the Zócalo. Indigenous migration, tem-


porary as well as permanent, has been common in Mexico since the 1940s, when the railways were the most common route for Tzotziles and other peoples tired of trying to resist modernity. Those who come to Mexico City, however, do not always find a better life: according to the Unit- ed National Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 50% of the in- digenous people living in cities earn between $15.00 and $30.00 USD each month. Strolling through the Zóca-


lo after returning from Naranjat- ic Bajo, I meet Oliva Robledo Fu- entes, a 26-year-old indigenous woman from Chiapas. She lives in Mexico City with her husband and baby daughter. “We moved here because there was no work where we lived,” she says, ex-


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