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1518, the spaniards invaded and took over Guatemala. Took over the country that once belonged to the Maya people, disregarding their own achievements and forcing their beliefs and culture into their lives. We only talk about history from that point forwards, almost never looking back and learning from the mesoamerican civilization. Do we actually learn and study from the natives that were there before the white people?
Perhaps we do not study them because they are uneducated, live isolated from the modern world, and the Maya’s, well they are extinct. What if I told you that none of that was true, that our view of indigenous people is all based on a horribly designed stereotypes? What if I told you they still existed and in numbers, in cities, especially here in Guatemala? Crazy, I know.
So I went to talk to this guy, Don Freddy, for my ISP, in hopes of learning more about their culture. He is an expert in their civilization, from economic aspects to their spirituality and way of life. He started the conversation talking about the role of indigenous people in today’s society. How they are constantly discriminated, sometimes even unintentionally, just for being who they are. He said that life is harder; getting high paying jobs is tougher, being treated with respect is rare and people thinking outside the badly conceived stereotype is almost a miracle. Not only that, but there are actual laws that insinuate unfairness, One of them being the “Ley Agraria”. This refers to the distribution of fertile land. It states that 90% of the land goes to castellanos and only 10% to the indigenous population. You know what makes it even weirder? About 60% of Guatemala’s population is indigenous. Think about that.
But when and why did this prejudice start? Is it something new or has it been around from some time? It began with the arrival of the spaniards. One of their goals was to isolate the native people, and step-by-step take away from them what truly matters; those things included language, customs and beliefs. These changes were enforced by violence and caused drastic alterations in the indigenous civilization.
One of the main problems was the abuse towards women. Castellanos soldiers used to view native women as objects and do to them what they pleased. Their husbands, definitely not satisfied with the situation, would encourage them to stay at home for protection. This led only the man to attempt to find a job, while the woman stayed at home taking care of the kids and working on the house. That was the start of machismo in Guatemala.
In the Maya culture, there was no belief in male superiority. Women were special, and the thing they admire the most is Mother Nature. All genders had similar roles in society, and their work did not depend on what they looked like, but rather on Nawal. Nawal is the energy within each person which guides them to what they are supposedly good at.
The fear of the spaniards imposed a new idea into their heads. Nowadays, traditional Maya people still remain faithful to the idea of no machismo. Although, many have been persuaded into the ways of the European. Husbands go to work, come back late, get drunk while the wife takes care of the children, the house, having no time left to herself. Machismo has gotten so strong in some regions that parents only send their male child to school.
Try and imagine how different our lives would be if we chose the path of the indigenous people in some regards. Listened to what their values and morals were, are. Instead of ´´De tras de un hombre, existe una mujer´´, we might live in a world where ´´A la par de un hombre, existe una mujer´´. Would that not solve so many issues we have?
Yes, I know, the European influence has and is still largely beneficial to our society. Technology, medicinal improvements and in many ways a model for other countries in the world. Yet, I cannot help ignoring the thought that a huge part of why some countries are so antique in their judgement is due to the interference caused in the past.
We consider ourselves as a society to be moving forward in relation to becoming more liberal. Although, maybe the way to do so is not by ourselves. Maybe indigenous people should have a bigger role in our lives, bigger opportunities to share ideas that could incite a revolution. Maybe it is time for us to stop discriminating them, hear what they have to say. But hey, that is just my opinion. This is what I took from my ISP.