ROBERT THE GOOD is just plain wrong.
mike salovesh (T20MXS1@MVS.CSO.NIU.EDU)
Sun, 12 Feb 1995 16:44:00 CST
Robert Johnson to the contrary notwithstanding, anthropologists are
not the cause of what's happening in Chiapas.
Yes, we have been working in Chiapas for many years. What do the
communities we have visited have to show for it? Bilingual teachers,
improved access to medicines and medical care, communication across
formerly rigid boundaries between communities . . . and access to
political power beyond the community level.
No, we didn't do all that by ourselves. But we helped! (The first
bilingual school in V. Carranza was established by a few of my Indian
compadres there; I helped them find a qualified teacher. Now one of
my godsons has grown up to work as a teacher in that school. When he
was born, it was unheard of for an Indian to dream of that. Working
with the town's M.D., I helped get improved water supplies and
prenatal care into the town--and infant and child mortality dropped,
between 1958 and today, from nearly 50 per cent to about one per cent
while deaths from umbilical tetanus, infant diarrhea, malaria, and
other preventable causes dropped to almost zero. The clinic we
established has been replaced by a full, modern hospital. The first
statewide movement carrying the label "Zapatista" began in 1974 in
Venustiano Carranza, and the founders were people who had been using
me as a source of information about possible courses of action at
Just to be clear: What has improved where I worked was the work of
the people of the community. I didn't do it; my compadre the doctor
didn't do it; God knows the government didn't do it. The people did
it. But I didn't get in the way, and I responded when they asked
for what I could do.
I talk about my community--the place where my heart is--simply
because I know it better than others. I also know that my colleagues
working in other towns have had better effects, have done more for
their friends, than I have.
Indians figured that out long ago. As the first statewide Indian
movements began in the 70's, leaders of unstudied community after
unstudied community asked me and any other anthropologist they could
how to get anthros to work in their communities. They saw us as a
resource to be exploited for their good. They were right.
If it weren't for anthropologists like, e.g., George Collier, among
many others, the world would not know what is being done to the
people of Chiapas by an undemocratic and oppressive government.
It is idiotic to call for anthropologists to get out of Chiapas or
for archaeologists to stop digging in Mexico. Our presence there,
our knowledge of what's being done, provides one of the few
restraints there are on a total bloodbath by a power structure that
is otherwise in control of the sources of information.
ROBERT THE GOOD? Hah. He doesn't know thing one about Chiapas that
isn't based on the work of the anthropologists he would have kept
from going there in the first place.
-- mike salovesh <email@example.com>