September 07, 2005

Monte Alban

Follow-up to Mexico from The Midnight Heart

An interesting incident today. An elderly gentleman, Victor, was showing us around Monte Alban, some ruins on top of a mountain near Oaxaca. There were some strange exchanges. He told us that the indigenous tribes had not used pottery initially at Monte Alban and he asked if we could guess how they made soup. We didn't know and he said, 'Everyone thinks that the Indian cannot think and the Indian has a small brain, but he can think.' I was a little taken aback. I think that perhaps Victor was used to people having a low opinion of teh indigenous peoples of Mexico and he certainly did not look as if he believed what he said. Anyway, he explained that the indigenous peoples used gourds and hot stones to make soup.

I asked what he thought about why people were so unfair to the indigenous people and he turned to me at last and said, 'The white man always thinks that he is better than other races. Don't you think? He always thinks he is better.' I found this incident very distressing and I felt a powerful guilt over the terrible legacy of white Europeans.


- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Jude

    I can see why you were disconcerted by his words and perhaps they are based on his experiences and a legacy of history but it is a generalisation. Don't carry guilt for the past which you cannot change:those are stones you need to put down. Instead, be honest and clear and open-minded in the present and future. A hand with no cut can carry poison and deal with it.

    09 Sep 2005, 11:59

  2. Thanks for this. Victor treated us with kindness and patience with our Spanish. I don't think that he meant what he said in a malicious way. He was simply stating a fact. It reminds me of Judith Butler's book, Precarious Mourning I think is the title, in which she writes about how some lives are worth more than others. In the case of Butler, she compares the lives of US citizens to those of people in Afghanistan and elsewhere. There is clear disparity.

    09 Sep 2005, 19:30


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