Re: Different prejudices

John Pastore (venture@CANCUN.RCE.COM.MX)
Tue, 23 Apr 1996 13:24:53 +0000

Hi Jay,

I know that all generalizations are wrong, but here goes:

On 23 Apr 96 at 10:38, Kotliar wrote:

...I think his idea
> that in Mexico all people are accorded full dignity is not in accord
> with my experience in the Yucatan where John lives. I found many
> people in the ladino population to be openly derisive towards the
> more traditional Maya.

Allow me: "ladino", and even "Latino" is considered to be
derrogatory by those to whom the terms refer: Mexicans, who are
Mestizo --a mix of any of many indigenous nationalities and Spanish.
I have never heard the terms "ladino" and "Latino" by the way, used
by anyone here except in reference to books non-Mexican and non-Maya
are writing about either of them. In any case, they do not however
take it as an attack on their dignity if they know that you don't
know, and they never assume that anyone outside their culture should.
In all events, I have never witnessed anyone being "openly derisive"
of anyone -quite the contrary.

... I was told quite frankly that it was beneath my dignity to
> be seen talking to much or walking around with Maya farmers

Yes that is true, and I have been told by Maya themselves -but never
by mestizos, or in reference to them. Creolles from old families,
yes, and even a slight few in Yucatan who believe themselves to be
of such families. The incidence of that though I can count on the
fingers of one hand in the 17 years that I have been living here. In
each of those incidences concerning the traditional Maya, it has
always been more of a warning made in confidence associating the Maya
to being "evil" --a legacy of the Spanish Inquisition, and not the
Mestizos. In every case it was quickly dispelled by the mere reply:
"Evil? When was the last time you saw a Maya do anything evil?" In
every case the person would reflect for just a moment to recall:
never, and a smile of both enlightenment and appreciation would adorn
their human faces. The notion lingers in the provincialism of such
places as Yucatan and is disappearing faster. I have never met
anyone here who seeks being predjudice. That would be very
"gachupine" (Spanish).

In any event, no matter who anyone might be, or from what family, no
one is exempt from a code for respect, an ettiquette, a courtesy
when relating to others which could even begin to encroach on individual
dignity. No matter how foreboding the potential for danger that a
rare interpersonal relationship may signal, everyone involved is
expected to conduct themselves like ladies or gentlemen. It is
paramount. And no one, except a miniscule few, will be so stupid to
violate that dignity accorded anyone. Even in times of war.

For lack of a better word it is ettiquette --the grease which can
make all the components of a society run smooth, or smoother, with
minimal friction. It is the essence of the genteelity all here
cultivate and respect. It is a grease totally lacking in many
cultures today, but not this one.

That is not to say that even that can be abused to discriminate and
oppress a whole segment of a population. However courteous someone
may be to avoid violence, if that someone is robbing you, that
someone is still robbing you, and, yes, that is discorteous. But it
is not racist. It is avarice --even avarice nurtured by a lingering
patroon system-- and, in the end, avarice is totally
non-discriminatory. The Maya's struggle is not a racial one.

> carrying one of those useful woven plastic bags to market because it
> was something a indian carried and people would comment.

I remember wearing the nicest leather sandals I had ever owned, from
Valladolid, Yucatan. I was teaching English classes to
"quincenan~ras" (15 year-old girls) when, one day, one of the
students asked me why I was wearing sandals: "The Indians wear
sandals." It was not a racist remark. It was more like how one who
could afford better should have better. I told her that whether the
Indians wore them or not, I didn't think shoes were better in the
tropics and I prefered sandals so I wouldn't have to wear socks that
I'd have to wash. I then pointed to my sandals and said: "Look. There
nice and polished" (meaning "correcto"). Within a week everyone was
wearing sandals.

...The Maya
> on the other hand, I found to be as John describes them, an
> extremely tolerant folk with a good sense of humor. (Great punsters
> and jokesters). I enjoyed their company very much, learned alot from
> it and thus braved the disapproval of other segments of the
> population by continuing to make unseemly contact. Fortunately a
> gringo is already assumed to act inappropriately at times so I don't
> think it hurt my relations with ladinos very much.

Jay, you are observant. While my being exempt from Mestizo value
systems, as yourself, has more likely than not biased some of
observations, you can't imagine what a courtesy that is. I am
afterall still here, not only, making my observations, but
communicating them as well.

As far as hurting your relations, no: only enhanced them with both
the Mestizos who do not forget even part of their heritage or the

> I think both Mexico and the U.S. have far to go in treating
> peoples
> different from oneself with dignity, and that both societies have
> much to learn from each other as well.

There can never be too much.

> What use are anthropologists? I think they can act to draw
> attention for
> different communities to try and tolerate differences, and in
> understanding those differences learn and grow. I think cultural
> anthropologist, biological anthropologists, archaeologists,
> linguistic anthropologists etc. etc. can all contribute to this
> dialog.

Bravo! and thanks for your "2 cents". Now if we can only get the
price of other such valuables down to just "2 cents", we'd really be
getting somewhere.

Ka Xiik Keech Ya Utzil,

John Pastore
Writer/Guide in 'El Mayab'
("The Mayan Homeland")