Pedro Uc: Poetry Against the Plunder

By Raúl Romero *

Pedro Uc Be is a Mayan poet, a popular educator, social organizer, theologian, translator, compañero, and much more. Pedro has become a required reference for speaking about the resistances of the indigenous communities of Mexico, in particular, of the struggles  of the Mayan communities. Pedro just published a notebook entitled, Resistance of the Mayan Territory in the Face of Plunder, which can be freely downloaded on the page of the Center of Studies for Change in the Mexican Countryside. (http://www.ceccam.org/).

The text of Pedro is at once a poem and an essay written with words of corn and filled with philosophical approaches for worlds of life that flourished and still survive outside individualism, selfishness and supremacy. 

Uc Be analyzes the different dispossessions against the Mayan community and puts into first place the plunder of language, that vehicle of figures, images, symbols, glimpses, colors, values, and of each’s own memories that allows the Mayan spirit to see, a cultural expression that has inhabited the world for many calendars. “The letters –writes Pedro— are representatives of the thinking and the heart, they are figures that communicate our identity.”

Pedro also illustrates the dispossession in the cooking, in the rites, the myths, in the health, in the sleep, in the territory. He narrates, like this, how the dispossessions really must be stated in plural, dispossessions, those which are operated from different fronts. The “whitening” of the mind of girls and boys by televised school is one of these fronts, as is the “spaguettitization” of Mayan food, or the imposition of a model of development completely foreign to local communities. These strategies, in the recent period, are part of a new colonial era called globalization which seeks to standardize, make the planet into a single piece, a single color, a single sound, a single value.

For Pedro Uc, party politics are an efficient weapon in the workings of these dispossessions: they contribute to the toppling of community life in the sowing of dependency, corporatism, clientelism, lies, colonization, corruption, dogmas and also in using the people as political capital. The people, writes the poet, abandon the milpa, their mayan medicine, their mayan language, the memory of their grandparents, the celebration of the first fruits of the milpa, the tortillas made by hand, the cooking fire of their grandmothers, and most of all the love of the land that stopped being a mother to them only to become an economic resource to be ceded for a few centavos to the developmentalist companies that have managed to integrate the Indian into the civilization of conspicuous consumption, political clientelism, cheap manual labor in the restaurants and hotels built around the archeological zones, cenotes, and lagunas that at one time were communal property of grandparents that today are offered up on the altar of Coca-Cola and pizza on the Day of the Dead.

Faced with these dispossessions, in January of 2018, the Múuch Xíinbal Assembly of Defenders of Mayan Territory emerged with two slogans: the land is not for sale nor for rent!; and no to political parties! In the assembly, Mayan and non-Mayan women and men, girls and boys, grandmothers and grandfathers, campesinas and campesinos, ejido members and non-ejido members, students, teachers, workers and unemployed people are connected. The Múuch’ Xíinbal Assembly has also become a space for dissemination, organization, mobilization and political education. Of course Pedro is a key part of the Assembly.

The activism of Pedro and his outspoken opposition to the Tren Malla — as he has named it— to the pork farms, the wind farms, and to other megaprojects, has made the lords of money and war uncomfortable. In December of 2019, Uc and his son received death threats. We are fed up with you…go to h…in 48 hours or we will kill you and your wife, along with the pigs you call your children, they wrote in a message. Pedro did not cave to the pressure and has continued with his denunciation, with his organizational work, in the battle of ideas, building community. 

They dried up the sacred cenotes// turned my squash vine into coca-cola // intoxicated your nipple with potion // petrolized my jícara of pozole // and your lips turned it into a stuffed fish — writes the poet in Tikintak.

(They have dried up)

Pedro Uc

Pedro Uc Be reminds us of those poets that in wars past took the side of the most just, the most humane causes. In this war for territory and for life, the poetry of Pedro is a poetry that lives and gives life, and positions itself against the plunder.

*Sociologist

This article was published in La Jornada on April 24th, 2021. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2021/04/24/opinion/017a2pol This English interpretation has been re-published by Schools for Chiapas.