The Zoque diaspora and Covid-19

Screenshot of the area of Chiapas (roughly with the layers of traditional indigenous territories by Native-Land.ca

By Fortino Dominguez Rueda*

The recent history of the indigenous peoples in Mexico is characterized by territorial dispossession and the fragmentation of their family units. Today indigenous diasporas are a reality. In the case of the Zoques in the north of Chiapas, the scattering is one of the many threads that make up the context in which the Covid-19 pandemic is developing, and explains its current impact.

If we focus on the municipalities of Chapultenango and Francisco León, we can observe how the national migratory flows appeared since the 40’s and which continue to the current day, creating settlements in Guadalajara and Mexico City.

For its part, the eruptions of the Chichón volcano in 1982 did not only generate a significant demographic decline, it also was the event that triggered the implementation of a policy of population re-arrangement that created the founding of new ejidos where the affected Zoques were relocated.

For its part, the eruptions of the Chichón volcano in 1982 did not only generate a significant demographic decline, it also was the event that triggered the implementation of a policy of population re-arrangement that created the founding of new ejidos where the affected Zoques were relocated.

One example is the founding of the ejido Nuevo Francisco León, in the municipality of Ocosingo, in the Lacandón jungle. There the relocated families colonized the jungle and brought forth a new generation of Zoques that, like their fellow that managed to return to and stay in the lands of the volcano, around the 90’s began the migration to the maquiladoras in the north of México, as well as to tourist sites like Cancún. En Chapultenango international migration came along in the 90’s and had as its destination city Boston, Massachusetts in the United States. 

In the times of the contingency, where the priority is to stay at home, the reality of many Zoque families is worrisome. In the ejido Nuevo Francisco León, Ocosingo, sadly, cases have already been registered in which Zoques have tested positive for Covid-19, and a suicide was recorded. The arrival of the virus to the locality is attributed to the return of the migrant Zoques. Many of them came from Monterrey, Cancún, and Playa del Carmen. In those places the Zoques were fired from their jobs and opted to return to their homes. Where else would they go? Never was there a mechanism deployed to place the returning migrants in quarantine.

The Zoques that work in garbage collection in the city of Boston have not stopped working. Every day at 6 in the morning they begin walking the streets of the great city; the fear of contracting the virus is real. At the same time, in Guadalajara, Jalisco things don’t look any better. Every day the Zoque families confront the challenge of going to work or being without a job; very few have been able to stay at home, besides the prices of things are beginning to increase.

Every day, the national and international press reports on the reality in which the indigenous of the mountains of Guerrero who moved to New York live. The health crisis would lead one to believe that the Western civilization project created a system of health based on the horizon of profit. Today modern reason can build missiles at an elevated cost, but at the same time cannot make health equipment (PPE) which is universally accessible. For now, the reality is that the capitalist system and its institutions –health, education, justice and work, to mention a few examples — are enveloped in a much bigger daze, which is represented by the crisis of civilization.

For the Zoque people, it is time to look inside and articulate the diverse settlements that make up their diaspora, not to remain immobilized, since it is necessary to build –together with the people of the country and the city— an autonomous and intercultural health that is founded in life and in the exchange of knowledges from the different epistemologies that attend to health. The task is not easy. To do it you have to assume the bill. As sup Galeano said so well. in August of 2019. Nature is a rubber wall that multiplies the velocity of the rocks that we throw at it. Death will not return in the same proporcion, but more powerfully. There is a war between the system and nature. This conflict admits neither nuance nor cowardice. You are either with the system or with nature. With death, or with life. https://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/ 2019/08/15/sonata-para-violin-en -sol-menor-dinero/

* Zoque from Chapultenango, Chiapas. Historian, anthropologist, and member of the Zoque Language and Culture Center.

This piece was originally published in Spanish in La Jornada on November 14th, 2020. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2020/11/14/opinion/018a1pol This English interpretation has been published by Schools for Chiapas.