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January 09, 2003

snuck down from the mountains for a minute

i know i said i`d be away for 2 weeks, but someone had to come down to buy supplies for our campamento and i volunteered, cause i wanted to buy a hammock and some soy sauce and a roll of film, and cause i wanted to update my blog before i forgot all that i`d recently seen.

roberto barrios is about 2 hours from palenque town, where i am now. i went in a big ass ford truck that would make mark proud, bouncing through the countryside, passing indigenous people dressed in bright clothes walking along the side of the dirt road, sometimes carrying big bundles of wood. whenever the road forked, it seemed like we took the worse worn path. i would duck when branches came by, then pop back up. as i looked at the countryside i thought about how all this land was mayan for hundreds and hundreds of years, how they had civilization and culture and gods and monuments. the view was breathtaking, towards the horizon were layers of hills that looked smoky, lined up like sets of waves coming in to a shore. after the river crossing, an amazing moment in which the truck crossed on an underwater rock bridge and i stared back upstream at the waterfalls then downstream at the jungle greenery beyond, we arrived at the aguas calientes. i hopped down and was greeted by two españolas and a mexican guy. i checked in my visitador card and dumped my backpack in the bunkhouse. the ground was covered in mud, and i switched quickly to my rubber boots. we sat around cooking and i filled them in on my experience of the zapatista protest march that i`d seen a few days before.

the town of roberto barrios is not entirely zapatista, there are priistas living there as well. priistas as supporters of the government, being called that because the pri was the ruling party for 70 years, think i already wrote about that once before. anyways, about half the people in the village are nice and friendly to us, and the other half either won`t look at us or give us mildly dirty looks, while their children call us gringos and feign throwing rocks and stick at us. it`s unnerving to say the least, since we`re here because we want to help.
what do we do to help, i ask myself? well, we just sorta sit around in case the government shows up in trucks to move everyone or to murder anyone or stuff like that, which has happened. the first houses on the way into the town from our campamento, which is at the entrance to town, are where the paramilitares live. 2 years ago they killed a zapatista man, i can`t get the details, not really supposed to ask for them, but just knowing that makes the situation a little more real, you know?

so pretty much my day consists of waking up, making some food, maybe painting the women`s co-op building a bit or carrying rocks around to make paths through the mud, swimming in the river and washing my clothes down there like the natives do, making some more food, reading a ton, napping, and playing with the local zapatista kids.

the kids, and when i say kids i mean boys, the girls never come around, well, the boys came around a lot more when the spanish girls were here, always wanting to play this card game called burro, a really really simple game that involves passing of cards and slapping hands on the table, they love it and every once in a while one of the kids will let out this hi pitched ¨aiiiiiiiiiiiiii,¨ from the top of vocal range, it was unnerving at first but it`s normal for them, and it`s kinda cool. my favorite kid is named modesto, he`s about 10. he gets up at 5 every morning to walk 2 hours to the fields to work, and gets back around 4. yesterday he was telling me stuff about his life, while i tried to teach him to juggle. apparently they killed 2 snakes yesterday, poisonous ones, the best method involves either using a machete or throwing rocks from a distance. modesto favors the machete method, a while ago they brought a dead snake up to the campamento, it lives in a pickle jar, it`s severed head bumping against it`s body.

a few days ago had a long conversation with a few older zapastista youths, they were quizzing me about what i thought their chances were to make it to the u.s. to work. the first chilango, also named daniel, was there, and he tried to dissuade them from going. i told them the truth as i know it, that it`s dangerous as hell to cross the border and they could get caught and sent back at any minute. they listened to us trying to tell them that it wasn`t worth it, but i`m sure they`ll make their own choice. israel, the leader of the youths, talked about some guy he knew who went up and came back with a bunch of money. they asked if i knew anyone who could give them jobs, i said no, even though i might. the phenomenon of mexicans coming up and crossing the border is really hard on their families back home, and although i don`t know what my place is as an american in advising them against it, i know from having talked to lots of people here that especially in the north, there are towns bereft of men, left only to unwed mothers and ancianos.

so i just reread what i`ve written, semi inarticulate, eh? it`s like i`m mumbling as i type. i think i`ll chock that up to no speaking any english the last week, i think my dreams have been in spanish, not entirely sure though. i do know that up there i have more time to think then i`ve ever had, it`s almost unnerving, i lay around and make long distance plans for travelling and the future, then erase them and think of new ones. with another 8 days ahead of me, i expect i`ll have sorted out my entire life by the time i come down. yeah right.

una cosa mas, es que quiero decir que por haber visto la pobreza en la que viven ellos los zapatistas, me impresiona un montón su fuerza y su convicción contra todos que les oponen a ellos. los niños vienen and nunca nos piden nada, todos ellos son nobles y tienen mas sabiduria que cualquier otra gente que he conocido, es increible.

ok, gonna go buy supplies, you might find posted within the next few days some fotoshopped fotos of me, courtesy of my old boss mark gandolfo from unr, he`s a champ eh?
alright, gonna mumble on out of here.

Posted by bendan at January 9, 2003 08:15 AM

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