Love and Community
Wills Guggenheim ‘18
It was in the sweltering, jam-packed conference room of the caracol in Garrucha, meeting with the Council of Good Government, that the true nature of Zapitismo dawned on me. Before me sat farmers with tan skin and lines beneath their eyes. They worked this land and therefore had the privilege – the duty, as they saw it — to govern it. To my left, a mother nursed her infant child. By her side, a middle-aged man in working clothes answered our questions earnestly and without individual bias. There was no pomp or frill, just people doing the best for their community. Despite the pervading heat and exhaustion, each council member spoke extensively, finishing each statement with: “Is this clear? Do you have any questions?” Never before had I encountered people who treated their work with such gravity and attention to detail. This wasn’t just their job. This was their life.
During our final night in Chiapas, back in the city of San Cristobal, I hugged each woman goodbye. My eyes welled up with tears as Maria kissed my cheek and whispered words of kindness to me. I was reluctant to leave. Here, people lived with open hearts and minds. Love was not reserved for relatives and close friends. It was used as a seed to strengthen this tightly knit community within the arduous struggles which they are forced to engage in daily. To not only survive, but thrive in the face of such adversity is a remarkable thing, but I can begin to understand it after having met these women.
They welcomed us into their homes and fed us. Their benevolence astounded me, but to them this was simply how you treat the members of your community. If I had to define “tribe,” I would describe it as the people that you feel compelled to share your food with, no matter how little there may be. The Zapitistas considered us part of their tribe. This profound feeling of community is sorely undervalued in our society, which I believe is due to the alienating effects of wealth and modernity.
Now that I am home, I feel emotionally raw and somewhat empty. I want to return to that place where my heart opened. I may be romanticizing their culture. The indigenous communities of Chiapas deal with hardships which are impossible to fully comprehend during a week’s visit. But there is something undeniably good and true there, something that has stayed in my heart even now that I am thousands of miles away. Thank you, Women of Corn in Resistance, for showing me love, for treating me as one of your tribe, and for teaching me what it means to be autonomous and strong. You have changed the way I see the world, and for that I am grateful.