As runners from throughout the Americas entered the holy city of Teotihuacan Mexico, we stood at the base of the Pyramid of the Sun and exchanged rings. And for a moment, our world stood still.
We were there on Oct. 11, 1992 to celebrate both our own union as a couple and the 500th anniversary of the last day before Europeans arrived in the Americas. The runners, some of whom had begun the "Peace and Dignity" spiritual journey from South America, and others in Alaska, had finally arrived. Indian prophecy had been fulfilled:
"When the eagle of the North and the Condor of the South fly together, the Earth will awaken. The eagles of the North cannot be free without the condors of the South. Now it is happening. Now is the time."
The eagle and the condor, the symbol of North and South America, have united in the ancient MesoAmerican city.
The prayer run throughout the Americas was spiritual, yet it was also political. The very presence of hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples from throughout the Americas, including hundreds of Chicanos, made the event political. People did not come to speak of the past; they came to speak of now. The gathering was not about Columbus, but about seeking peace and dignity in lands that gave us neither. They came to honor the elders, the medicine people, the children and the future generations and to share the spiritual ceremonies of the different peoples.
Together we shared an indigenous consciousness that had been discouraged ever since the building of the first missions, ever since the first boarding schools, where Indian children were sent to be "Christianized" and "Americanized."
"In 1992, we made a commitment to make the run to Teotihuacan every four years," says Gustavo Gutierrez, an elder from Mesa, Ariz., and coordinator of the Peace and Dignity event. The purpose was to help heal the world, and the world is still in need of healing, he says. Thus, the run will be repeated this year.
As before, its goal is to bring to light the current political plight of the original peoples of the Americas. Since 1992, in addition to the Chiapas rebellion, there have been intense struggles regarding Indian rights and sovereignty throughout the hemisphere, particularly in southern Mexico, Canada, Guatemala and Ecuador.
In 1992, the runners collected the ceremonial wooden staffs of 43 Indian nations, sacred feathered walking sticks that represent authority and symbolically contain the prayers of many peoples. Alfonso Perez carried one of the principal staffs. He took part in the run through North America across the desert, sometimes covering 50 miles a day. There, the runners traversed sacred places of resistance, such as Wounded Knee, South Dakota. In Minnesota, a child runner was hit by a car; miraculously unscratched, he later continued.
In small Mexican villages, the participants were greeted by hundreds of children and blessed by elders. In some places they saw how the land has been desecrated; they saw poisoned, and in some cases, dry rivers. They noticed that the deer that had once roamed in large numbers were now scarce.
A year later, on the eve of the Chiapas insurrection, we found ourselves in Temoaya, Mexico, at an intercontinental indigenous spiritual gathering, in a circle in front of a great sacred fire. There, we saw many of the same runners, including Perez, who had been chosen as a caretaker of the staffs.
Then, two months later, he was arrested in Michoacan, Mexico, for the possession of peyote, which he was taking to ceremonies with the Huichol Indians. Perez, who practices the Lakota spiritual tradition, was accused of possessing and trafficking in drugs that are only authorized for indigenous religious ceremonies.
The Mexican government ruled that the Mexican-born Perez, who was a resident of Laredo, Texas, was not Indian. So, despite his racial background and spiritual beliefs, the government did not consider him indigenous and thus, not allowed to possess peyote. Eventually, the government reversed its decision. However, it did not release Perez until last month, after he had spent two years behind bars. "A lot of things contributed to his release, says Gutierrez, "but it was mainly faith."
The irony of his imprisonment is that the very thing he was arrested for, he was allowed to do in prison--perform spiritual healing ceremonies.
Dorinda Moreno, an elder from northern California, who was at Teotihucan in 1992 and who worked diligently for Perez's release, says that the government's reversal of its decision on his identity reaffirms the belief of most indigenous people that it is people themselves who determine their own identity, not governments.
Today, Perez remains in Mexico, organizing tributary Peace and Dignity runs that will enter Teotihuacan on Oct. 12 this year. His victory in court has given him high visibility at a time when it is courageous to be highly visible in Mexico. "He will put the run on the front pages," says Moreno.
When runners arrive in Teotihucan, their prayers will be for the future generations and for the healing of the earth's four sacred colors--red, black, yellow and white--which represent all the peoples of the world. "So that we all live in harmony," says Gutierrez. "That's the commitment."
The runners for the 1998 THE JOURNEYS OF PEACE AND DIGNITY: May- October, 1998 just passed through Watsonville, in Central California, on their way to Teotihuacan, Mexico City, for a ceremony on October 12, 1998. They spent the night in Indian Canyon, near Hollister Californina, one of the few places in the United States where indigenous peoples have lived unmolested for many, many centuries.
A ceremony with local indigenous dancers was attended by supporters in the Watsonville Plaza. The staffs carried by runners were shared with all of us attending the ceremony and as I touched a beautiful carved staff laden with eaagle feathers and other spiritual markers, I knew that the growing unity of peoples from all indigenous nations is a force that will change the tide of misuse of our selves, lands, and seas.
To make a reality of the saying, Un continente--una cultura, people are running from Alaska and from Argentina to Mexico City. Non-indigenous people are welcome to participate as runners, trainers, or support staff.
For more information call:
(602) 966-0944, (602) 966-7724, (602) 254-5230.
Or you may write to:
Peace and Dignity Journeys 1998
P.O. Box 1865
Tempe AZ 85280
Seaseal is Cecile Mills at:
Contradiction is the Telas critereon of reality.
P.O. Box 253
Watsonville, CA 95077-0253
It was right out of a 1950s horror movie: in between bags of pretzels and pork rinds at a local convenience store stood a giant rat, with large whiskers and a huge tail. On closer inspection, it wasn't menacing. In fact, it was smiling, wearing a white peasant shirt and pants and a large yellow sombrero.
Frito-Lay, who a generation ago created the "Frito Bandido," has now put a rat on the cover of its Lay's New Salsa & Cheese Potato Chips. Not only is there a rat, but the company says that the chips are "endorsed by none other than Speedy Gonzales." In fact, that rat is Gonzales (no relation) on the cover.
After protests in 1970 by Mexican Americans, Frito-Lay dumped the Bandido--a Mexican bandit who ran around stealing Frito's corn chips.
So now we've trapped a rat. Of course, it's just a Warner Bros. Looney Tune cartoon character, but somehow, we get the feeling that for Frito-Lay, it's payback time: If they can't have their thieving bandido, then a Mexican rat endorsing salsa & cheese potato chips will do.
The sighting of this rat occurred about the same time we noticed a sleepy Mexican on several restaurant marquees on a a recent trip through the Southwest and Midwest. We had thought those images had been put to rest in the 1960s. It brought to mind the sleeping Mexican that Taco Bell used to display under its bell and other images of Mexicans lazing against cacti.
"They are 19th century images going into the 21st century," says Juan Marinez, a researcher at the Julian Samora Research Institute--an institute dedicated to the study of Latinos in the Midwest--at Michigan State University.
The images are akin to "Black Sambo" eating a watermelon or other historically odious marketing images that have been discarded for their obviously insulting message.
Marinez says that ironically, now it's Mexicans or Latinos themselves who promote images of sleeping Mexicans or Mexican thieves in restaurant logos o on business cards. If a major national company were to employ those images, there would be an instant national boycott, he says.
We recently had a conversation with Domingo Reyes, who in the early 1970s, headed the National Mexican American Anti-Defamation Committee, the group that led the boycott against the Frito Bandido and who first spotted the rat We all agreed that one day, Mexicans and Latinos will be associated for something other than taking a siesta or stealing--such as being in front of computer.
About 10 years ago, a similar discussion took place regarding Tecate Beer's advertising campaign which featured a lime, a salt shaker, a can of beer and a slogan that read: "El Orgullo de Mexico"--The Pride of Mexico.
After one of us wrote a column about how demeaning the message was, the advertising firm apologized. One of its executives said they weren't aware that touting beer as the pride of Mexico could somehow be construed as insulting--and promptly canceled their promotional campaign.
That was easy enough. Common sense triumphed over confrontation.
That's what should happen with the potato chip company and the rat.
A bigger problem is that there is an abundance of similar messages that go unreported, or else people have simply given up complaining and have accepte those images.
As a personal campaign, we think it's time to put an end to derogatory image of Mexicans and other Latinos. In fact, it's time to rid ourselves of any image that insults any group.
Up until the 1950s, it was socially acceptable or politically correct to insult different groups. As a result, there are many leftover images from that era. And of course, we're not talking about outdated Americana found in antique stores but what is still in use today.
Let us know if there is an image out there that should be removed, especially if it is used by a national chain. We also suggest asking the place of business why it still clings to those images. Better yet, if you know of companies that have dropped insulting logos and replaced them with positive ones, pass that good news on to us.
From 1998 to 1998 marks the 150th anniversary of the Mexican-American War. The most important individual anniversary will be the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which took place on Feb. 2, 1848, and which formally ended the two-year conflict between the United States and Mexico.
While some people (and many U.S. courts) see the treaty as dead, others see it as the basic document that governs relations between both countries. Still others see it as a living human rights document that pertains to people of Mexican origin residing in the United States.
Many of us were raised with the idea that the war against Mexico was simply pretext for stealing its territory, and the treaty, negotiated under militar duress and signed by a corrupt dictator, simply formalized the theft of half of Mexico's territory--a violation of international law. (As a result of th war, Mexico lost land that now makes up the Southwestern United States).
While many Mexican Americans view the treaty in this context, it did guarantee Mexicans and their descendants who remained in the ceded territories certain political rights, including land rights. But by the end of the century, most Mexicans had lost their land, either through force or fraud.
During the early Chicano movement in the 1960s, New Mexico land rights crusader Reies Lopez Tijerina and his Alianza movement invoked the Treaty of Guadalupe in their struggle. In 1972, the Brown Berets youth organization also invoked it in their symbolic takeover of Catalina Island, off the Southern California coast.
For more than 15 years, many Chicano indigenous groups have cited the treaty in their struggle for the human rights of Chicanos in international forums, such as the U.N. They maintain, however, that the Mexican and indigenous peoples living in what is today the Southwest U.S. were not signatories. Native American peoples have also referred to it in their legal disputes.
Despite the fact that "It's not our treaty," says Rocky Rodriguez, national director of the Denver-based National Chicano Human Rights Council, Chicanos in the United States today are also covered by it.
When it comes to fighting for human rights cases, especially those of land theft and law enforcement abuse, seeking relief through U.S. courts is basically of no use to Chicanos, says Rodriguez. People of Chicano/Mexican origin rarely win when they use or encounter the judicial system, she says.
Richard Griswold del Castillo, a San Diego State University history professor, considers the treaty a living document, and studies the subject i his recent book, "The Treaty of Guadalupe: A Legacy of Conflict." Upon examining the document and its 23 articles negotiated by both countries, the most startling thing that stands out is that article 10 is missing. That article, which was deleted by the U.S. Senate upon ratification, explicitly protected the land rights of Mexicans. Additionally, article 9, which deals with citizenship rights, was weakened.
The key to understanding the treaty, however, is not so much what's in it, but rather, what isn't in it.
According to precedents set by U.S./Indian treaties, people do not automatically lose their rights when they lose a war. People possess inherent and universal human rights and when treaties are negotiated, the people involved can lose only the rights specifically agreed upon.
In "American Indians, American Justice," by Vine Deloria and Clifford M. Lytle, the authors state that courts, in recognizing the past exploitation and the use of force against American Indians, developed a set of judicial rules in dealing with disputes. In effect, they are guiding principles when dealing with U.S./Indian treaties. According to the authors, one of the rules states: "Treaties reserve to Indians all rights that have not been granted away." This is known as the "reserved rights doctrine."
It thus follows that Mexicans in the U.S. did not lose their rights, unless that was stipulated in the treaty. And of course, no such stipulation was made. Also, these same rules call on judges to interpret treaties in the manner that reasonable people would interpret them. And it can be assumed that reasonable people don't "give away" their lands or rights in treaties.
Armando Rendon, author of "Chicano Manifesto," a 1971 book that's also about the treaty and which is being republished, is a strong believer in the work of the council. He believes a test case is on the horizon, seeking redress on behalf of Chicanos, based on Guadalupe Hidalgo.
We too predict that a test case--with legal merit--will soon arise on the issue of either language rights or land grants, based on the treaty and predicated on the fact that Mexicans (or their descendants) living in the ceded territories did not lose their universal rights as a result of the war
Reflecting over the United State's history of violated treaties, Rodriguez says, "Indian prophecies predicted trickery in the north [America] and brut force in the south. Here [in the Southwest U.S.], both have been used."
These Articles are Reproduced with Permission from the Authors.