Latin America is also characterized by globalization: economic, technological and political. Not military dictators further represented the continent but – a transition – more social democratically oriented politicians, some of whom took Indian postures.
Alejandro Toledo, who had grown up in an Indian family, was in 2001 sworn in as President of Peru at Machu Picchu with participation of shamans, and he promised to protect Indian rights. When Evo Morales, as Bolivias first president with Indian back-ground, was reinstated as President, it happened in the Tiahuanaco ruins where he appeared in chiefs attire. Both Perus President Humala and Ecuadors President Rafael Correa referred to their mestizo background as a qualification.
The question is whether the new Presidents took anything other than Indian postures to cover neoliberal economic reforms, corruption and personal enrichment, continued violent extraction of the worlds raw materials and daily discrimination – some call it racism – of the Indian population. In both Peru and Mexico, governments presented them selves with nationalist phrases, flags and colors to blur many unresolved issues.
The 2012 inauguration in Congress of the jacket-and-tie-clad Enrique Peña Nieto – the ceremony with the glossy glittering presidential sash as Mexicos President and the subsequent military parade – had none of these ‘Indian’ postures, but was celebrated by his PRI as the partys recapture of ‘their’ presidential power.
In the streets there were extensive protests.
The still armed Zapatists established more than fifty alternative communities with about 300,000 people in the state of Chiapas. Most of them were Indians, but they were not much heard in international news coverage.
A friend summed up the Indian reality at the turn of the 21st century: Indians are poor and some whites are also poor. Some whites are smelly rich, but so are none Indians.
I nodded but asked if money was everything?
No – but it’s easy to say when you have the money, he replied.
In Latin America, discrimination against Indians is debated. Many tourists say that they travel to Latin America to experience Indians. They climb ruins and visit museums where the large stone sculptures of the past are exhibited and reproduced in beautiful catalogs. Many tourists are also attracted to Indian feasts such as Inti Raymi in Cusco, equinox feasts in Teotihuacán and at Chich’en Itza.
In the experience economy, neo-Indian movements have unleashed creativity: halberd-armed Incas are accompanied through Cuscos streets by princesses with large golden mugs. At Palenque ruins in Mexico, Lacandon Indians, dressed in foot-long tunics of bark hiding their blue jeans, sell everything from bow and arrow to jewelry and hand-rolled cigars. At the Zócalo in Mexico City, muscular men with feathers, small bells and big drums self-assured perform with adorable ‘Aztec’ princesses. Is it Indian fertility cult or global pop culture? Similar staging can be seen at numerous theaters and shows in Peru and Mexico. These are recreated Indian rituals that are occasionally performed for the benefit of both the performers and the photographing tourists.
I have sensed that performers are getting their self-consciousness stiffened by the experience of the moments dominance.
Some tourists stop by and the dressed-up manages the show. The tourist can buy into the encounter with a strange culture that looks like the searched authentic, observe, photograph and continue.
I have also experienced that tourists irritation over Indians begging with a child on their arm because they are hungry, over Indians demand for payment for a photo or their attempt to palm anything off upon from chewing gum to small handmade items can trigger outbreaks like: That baby is rented of that beggar! Why don’t they clean up the mess? Why are Indians so lazy? Why don’t they work?
And when desperate or angry Indians protest by blocking a road or an entire city – so the tourist has to wait to continue driving on – it can trigger anger over a wasted holiday.
The Indians do not live up to all tourists dream pictures.
Aztecs had given crucial importance to the sacrifice of human hearts; also the way designated victims approached their place of sacrifice was crucial to the ritual. Every 52 years, Aztecs rebuilt the double temple of Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc, godfigurs were sacrificed and the new fire was lit in the heart of a human being. The religious staging should be visible.
Christians ascribed prayers, lighted candles, and incense decisive importance; also the way believers flogged themselves or were flogged was crucial for their salvation.
Twelve years after the Spanish conquest had begun, in Mexico a religious worship of the Virgin of Guadalupe began, a mixture of Aztec and Christian faith, which had good conditions because both Aztecs and Catholics sought to make their faith visible in extensive rituals.
The desire to make belief and feelings visible contributed to the flourish of aesthetic in Mexico, and the aesthetic was not reserved for the religious sphere but became part of a mentality. When making an object it should also be decorated with signs and patterns; outside, the waste could flow – we think – because the aesthetics were targeted. In some villages, they specialized in the production of a few items for use, exchange and sale: Mexican crafts had become a commodity.
To highlight the Indian in the Mexican Revolution in the beginning of the 20th century, handicrafts were collected and exhibited in the center of Mexico City and presented as something exceptional. In the post-Revolutionary era, US-American tourists traveled to Mexico, admiring Indian craftsmanship that was different from the industrially produced which was used in the United States. Not least for Mexican women, selling handicrafts became a source of income.
The fact that Mexican handicraft became internationally renowned was among other things due to that the visual aspect originated from generations religious practices, which then came to characterize everyday objects, made and used by those who could not afford to buy industrial goods, as well as a revolutionary ministers conscious commitment to anonymous Indian/mestizo creativity plus growing sales for tourists. In addition, Mexican handicraft were continually developed through teaching, competitions and exhibitions.
The special Mexican appeared in the material production.
Incas had believed that everything could be animated; as apus, spirits, were invisible, rituals had given crucial importance, and rituals left only a few visible traces in the form of few coca leaves blown in the wind, ashes after firesacrifice and seldom some bones.
Inca priests and -rulers had worshipped almost faceless gods, but for most people in the Andes, ancestral worship was most important. The Children of the Sun worshipped the Sun Inti, but everyone in the Andes asked their ancestors for advice.
Catholic missionaries recognized these rituals importance to Andean Indians. The Indians dealings with mummies, their dances and drunkenness did provoke dismay among the Spaniards, yet some missionaries tried to exploit Indian rituals by reinterpreting them as Catholic.
Catholics urged Inca nobels to take part in the Catholic Corpus Cristi-processions so many more Indians would convert to Christianity and accept the Spanish order. Violence against Andean peasants was used, but some missionaries wanted to exploit Andean traditions in the mission.
Quyllurit’i, worship of the 21,000 ft high Ausangate mountain, was eventually also recognized by Catholics. Today it is celebrated by many thousands of masked Indians with Christian crosses and prayers, as well as lama fetuses and blocks of ice carried down from the mountain in battle with the spirits of the mountain. With the blessing of the church.
The fact that Andean feasts were kept alive was among others due to the ayllu community, that had been crucial for generations.
The special Peruvian appeared in the rituals, in their ways of beeing together.
(pp. 481-486 in volume 2, reproduced without notes and illustrations):
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO AZTECS AND INCAS: MYTHS AND STORIES FROM MEXICO AND PERU. Edited, translated, retold and commented by Mikael Witte. Volume 1 + Volume 2
476 pages + 540 pages. Richly illustrated in colors
Published by Selskabet for smukkere Byfornyelse