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Mexico - Communality as a way of life and resistance

Mexico - Communality as a way of life and resistance

Posted by PanamericanWorld on March 08, 2014

In Sierra Juárez, state of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, people live the experience of communality. “We are communality, the opposite of individuality, we are communal territory, not private property; we are cooperating, not competing; we are polytheism, not monotheism. We are exchange, not business; diversity, not equality, although in the name of equality we are oppressed. We are interdependent, not free. We have authorities, not monarchs. Just as imperial powers have been based on the law and violence to subjugate us, in law and harmony we are based to replicate, to announce what we want and what we wish to be”, explains Zapotec indigenous thinker Jaime Martínez Luna. Territory is the physical space where the community stands. The relationship with nature is special, magical, spiritual, for it is known that life depends on that harmony between human beings and nature. It is made up of natural goods and sacred goods; it is the basis of physical and social reproduction; it is the principal site for the proper development of the communal culture.

The social and political organization has been established in such a way that it involves the participation of all members of the community in decision-making. They gather in the General Citizens Assembly - considered to be the space that represents maximum authority within the community - where men and women freely express their opinions to reach consensus for the benefit of the community. The council of elders or select body (a group designated by the General Assembly that is made up of citizens who were outstanding in carrying out the duties of various positions within the community) becomes a space of consultation and opinion, where experience and knowledge guide and orient the path to follow. The positions of the community are decided and assigned in the general assembly; this way, communal authorities, commissions, and committees made up of inhabitants of the community are designated. The election of authorities is based on prestige and, consequently, on the work done. Exercising public offices does not entail an economic reward, but brings prestige and trust that increases in accordance with the hierarchy of the position.

The resistance of the indigenous peoples of the Sierra Juárez has allowed for the conservation of values and principles of complementarity and reciprocity within a harmonious environment that have been undermined and destroyed by capitalist practices characterized by the control and depredation of natural resources, as well as violence towards the communities of the region. Said resistance, motivated by the history of each community, has led these peoples to have more possibilities to reach and/or maintain their wellbeing, happiness, and that which they call communality (or communal life) which coincides with the idea of Good Living stemming from Andean thought.

Identifying with Mother Earth

Santa Catarina Lachatao, a Zapatec community located in the Sierra Juárez, represents a clear example of the reunion between human beings and nature. In past times, its people decided to exploit its natural resources. Tree logging came to be one of the main economic activities in mex3the region. Today, however, they thread a different path. Juan Santiago Hernández, former municipal president and now the communal representative, said  that the relationship that exists with nature is now a harmonious one. To him, Mother Earth is part of his identity. “If we have land and we take care of it, we will continue to exist”, he says. “A harmony with the soil, the water, the air is all. Nature is the most important thing for us; it is life”.

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