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Indigenous Resistance

Melissa Bardfield


The spirit of resistance is a powerful force in reggae music. In this essay I will explore the ways that resistance is manifested in reggae music and describe examples of indigenous resistance in Jamaica and Mexico. A strong example of indigenous resistance can be found in the Maroon communities of Jamaica. The Maroons were a thorn in the sides of white plantation owners and an inspiration and expression of freedom and autonomy to the Africans. The history of the Maroons describes a group of diverse people who bonded together beyond the fringes of the colonial system to form their own autonomous nation. Throughout the world indigenous peoples have been resisting and rebelling against the colonial system, also known as the 'Babylon' system to Rastafarians, modern-day descendants of the Maroons. The origins of the concept of 'Babylon' in relation to rastafarianism and indigenous resistance will be discussed in greater detail. The following essay is an exploration of indigenous resistance in Jamaica and throughout the world. Reggae music has evolved as a form of social commentary and because of its international popularity the message is spread around the world.

Reggae music is a meaningful channel for social change. Reggae music portrays resistance to oppression, it is a symbolic action, part of a nonviolent revolution. It is a type of rhetoric; a method of communication designed to influence and persuade. It is a message with a purpose, it represents a crystallization of fundamental issues. Reggae music asks the listener to reconsider our daily lives and to hear the cry of the sufferer, because so many people are suffering. The lyrics and music of Robert Nesta Marley gave reggae music international recognition. Bob was a charismatic performer who truly stands out as a prophet. There is clearly a prophetic overtone to his lyrics yet he was only given the prophetic status after he died. His lyrics operate on a deep level, yet they typically relate to everyday occurrences. Bob's music was and is a powerful force to ease the pain of life in the ghetto. He embodied a feeling of empowerment, and encourages all listeners to 'chant down Babylon'.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey was a philosopher who inspired Rastafarians to resist against the colonial system. He likened the Africans in the Caribbean and Americas to the Jews in the biblical city of Babylon. There are many deep connections between Rastafarianism and Judiasm, and this topic could no doubt warrent much more discussion. The ancient Mesopotamian city of Babylon was the destination of Jews taken into captivity by the conquering King Nebuchadnezzar when he destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 B.C.E. "By the waters of Babylon", psalm 137, describes how the captives were ordered to sing for their captors and how they lay down their instruments because they were too sad to sing "how can we sing in a foreign land?" This psalm is still sung by observant Jews to this day after every weekday meal before birkat hamazon, grace after meals. This same psalm was revisited when it was made into a reggae song, because the concept of Jews being taken into captivity into a foreign land, Babylon, was popularised by Marcus Garvey to describe the

situation of the slaves from Africa taken to the Caribbean, their

equivalent of Babylon.

As far as we know from biblical descriptions, the situation of the captive Jews in Babylon was a spiritual exile, not hard labor and brutal treatment. There is an account of the punishment of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego for not worshipping a golden idol (Daniel 3:10-27). They were cast into a fiery furnace but miraculously survived. Later, in the reign of Darius the Mede, Daniel survived being put into a lion's den, his punishment for being seen praying three times a day and bowing down towards the direction of Jerusalem. (Daniel 6:8-24). Even the name "Rastafarian" has biblical roots: the concept of a savior coming to the rescue of those in distress is naturally one to be accepted by a suffering people. There is a line in psalm 69 saying "A prince shall come from Kush (Ethiopia)". When Heile Salassi became King of Ethiopia, this line was interpreted to mean that Haile Selassie would be their savior, since "Ras Tafari" (Crown Prince) and "Lion of Judah" were among his titles. The fact that he was a Coptic Christian did not deter them. Even when he died without saving them, this did not affect the Rastafarian movement. Rastafarians belive that "Jah no dead!" (Joeseph Hill, aka Burning Spear).

The Maroons of Jamaica are descendants of Indians and freed or run-away African slaves. The term comes from the Spanish term 'cimarrón'. This term has roots in the Arawak-First nation of Hispaniola, which was the first Caribbean island to be occupied by Spain. Originally the term referred to runaway farm animals, mainly cattle. The term spread to include the enslaved Arawaks and Africans who successfully escaped the plantations of the whites. (Zips, 7) The origins of the term Maroon shed light on the historical perceptions the Europeans had about slavery- that slaves were not people, they were more like natural objects. The presence of Maroon societies was probably an inspiration to the Africans who were enslaved. Despite the horrible torture and often fatal punishments inflicted on run-aways, the numbers of the Maroons were augmented by run-aways. The Maroons also had an important impact on the plantations. They instilled intense (and justified) fear in the hearts of the whites and also made an important economic impact on the plantation system.

The meaning of the term Maroon evolved alongside elaborate strategies of resistance. Runaways did not merely flee the plantations, they bonded together in small groups that gradually expanded in size to form military organizations. They began to construct new social units based on African traditions. Africa is a diverse continent with many different cultures and languages. This posed many obstacles to developing solidarity. The term Maroon has come to represent freedom fighters, a respectful connotation that reflects a spirit of resistance, rebellion, freedom and wildness.

The very existence of the Maroons posed a permanent threat to the plantations and white claim on the land. The entire plantation economy was based on slavery. Thus the Maroons developed guerrilla warfare tactics to protect and sustain themselves. They drew on African traditions and indigenous ecological knowledge. The Maroons had extensive knowledge about the land they lived on. They were also very skilled at the art of camouflage. Maroon leaders were thought by many to be imbued with knowledge about supernatural forces. Their military prowess can be connected to their transcendental knowledge among other things. (Campbell, 4)

When the Africans were abducted from their homelands, their traditional ways of governance, societal ties and kinship were no longer recognized. Kings and queens, priests and priestesses were forced into slavery. The Africans reverted to spiriual aggression against the slave system. The beliefs and practice of sorcery was passed down through generations. Today in Jamaica, this sorcery is called 'Obeah'. The name originates from the Ashanti word 'oba' for child and 'eah', to take. (The name originates from the final test of the 'Obeah-man', to 'take' a child's spirit.) (Snider, A.) The Obeah-man is a scary and powerful warrior, not to be messed with. Spiritual warfare was used by the Obeah-men (and women) against their white oppressors. The Obeah-man may have been the first 'boogie-man'.

Nearby to Jamaica, in the Dominican Republic, there is a similar term used to describe a person who deals with ghosts and the spirit world. (In Jamaica ghosts are known as 'duppies'). The term used is 'chupa-cabre'. In spanish this means 'goat-sucker', a sorcerer who has the ability to suck the life from a goat. Sucking the life of a goat is not quite as disturbing as taking the life of a child, but it seems to be a similar type of sorcery. (In the Caribbean, one might say "chupa-cabre!" when startled.)

The Maroons have a long history of deception and disappointment on part of a "Peace Treaty" signed with England in 1738. Many critics consider this treaty a major sell-out on behalf of the Maroons. The basis of the treaty was that England would stop attacks on the Maroons if the Maroons would agree to help the English catch run-away enslaved Africans. I do not refer to the Africans as slaves, because it connotes an acceptance of the term. The African people who were brought here in chains were kept as physical slaves but the mind and spirit can never be captured.

Antislavery activities were prolific throughout Jamaica's history. There were many full-scale revolts and battles. Some were concerted, well-organized uprisings, involving thousands of individuals. The revolts are usually recognized by the principal leader. For example: Tackey's revolt in 1760, Cuffee's in Demerara in 1763, and in also in Barbados, Bussa's revolt in 1816. Among other important uprisings are the Demerara Rebellion of 1823 and the Baptist War or Christmas Uprising in 1831-32. The Saint Domingue Rebellion of 1791-94 was followed by the War of Independence (1801-4). The War of Independence was waged by self-liberated Africans against France when Napoleon sought to reimpose slavery by force. (Burton, 47)

Rebellions against slavery were more numerous in Jamaica than elsewhere in the Caribbean and on a considerably larger scale than in the United States. The largest outbreak in the United States consisted of only seventy enslaved Africans. Many rebellions in Jamaica, on the other hand, involved hundreds of enslaved people. (Hueman, 33) There have been a number of different explanations for the high number of revolts in Jamaica. These explanations include the high percentage of Africans to whites. There was also a greater number of Africans than Creoles. Creoles were those born in the colony, they had more at stake in the system than the Africans who were only recently uprooted from the their original communities and lives. The newly arrived Africans may have felt they had nothing to lose (as they already lost so much) and were more eager to rebel. Another factor that is important in explaining the rebellions in Jamaica is the marked degree of absentee ownership (as opposed to resident ownership). The geography of Jamaica also contributed to the success of the Maroons. Jamaica's interior is mountainous and often inaccessible, providing excellent hiding places for rebels.

Recent refinements to studies of Jamaica's rebellions suggest that they were more likely to occur when the forces of control were weakened or distracted and also when expectations were frustrated. (Hueman, 34) This is the case particularly when the enslaved believed that they were supposed to be freed, but the plantation owners and local authorities were withholding their freedom.

The first serious rebellion against slavery and the British occurred in 1673, less than twenty years since the arrival of the British. This uprising involved approximately 300 Africans, mostly from the Gold Coast (Ghana). They were enslaved on a large plantation in the parish of St. Ann. They murdered the 'master' and fled to the interior of the island. They resisted attacks and formed the basis of one of two Maroon communities on the island. (Hueman, 34) This was not an isolated outbreak! "The last quarter of the seventeenth century witnessed several more rebellions, the largest of which occurred in 1690. In that year more than 500 slaves, almost all from the Gold Coast and belonging to an estate in the parish of Clarendon, broke out in rebellion. Although many of them were captured or killed, others appear to have joined the existing band of Maroons." (Hueman, 34)

The British tried in vain to protect their economic interests in Jamaica. Between 1730 and 1734, the whites spent 100,000 pounds in a vain effort to destroy the Maroons. The Peace Treaty of 1739 stipulated that the Maroons should return runaway slaves, yet rebellions and riots continued. (Hueman, 35)

Physical or 'violent' resistance also includes the two Maroon Wars in 1729-39 and 1795-96. These two wars were not so much wars against slavery as they were struggles by the Maroons to protect and preserve their autonomy. To dwell only on battles and extreme confrontations is to lose sight of the continual skirmishes involving smaller numbers, and even individuals acting alone.

Active opposition and resistance against slavery were most intense at the beginning of the period when the system was not yet fully implanted, and at the end when many knew that pressure for the abolition of slavery was building up in Britain. During the slave system's 'zenith', however, from 1740-1810, concerted armed opposition was much less frequent and less effective. However, an absence of armed uprisings does not signify an acceptance of slavery. A different type of resistance was at play- psychological, nonviolent, inward or cultural resistance. This is a broad category which includes the music that we know and feel- reggae music. Other activities that can be included in the category of nonviolent resistance are lying to or making fun of the masters, stealing, feigning illness and working slow, breaking tools, interfering with plantation machinery, sometimes even setting fire to cane fields. There were also acts where the hostility to oppression was turned to the victim's own person, this was especially true for women. 'Gynecological resistance' was expressed through infanticide and abortion. One could conclude that the whole point of psychological resistance was to both mask and to show non acceptance of the system and above all not to be caught in the act. 'H'ideology was the great principle in nonviolent resistance. (Burton, 47-49)

The outer appearances of the enslaved Africans camouflaged the inner strengths and freedom they possessed. The plantation owners were ignorant to the nighttime and weekend lives of the Africans in Jamaica. "The 'visual politics' of the plantation were in reality the very opposite of what they appeared on the surface." (Burton, 50)

The most serious rebellion in Jamaica was in 1760, it is known as Tacky's rebellion, after the name of the African chief and rebel leader. Tacky's revolt occurred during the time that the British were preoccupied with the Seven Years' War against Spain and France. The imperial forces were more concerned with external attacks than internal rebellions at that time. This rebellion was one of the most violent in all of Jamaica's history. It lasted for over six months and resulted in the deaths of over sixty whites and over 1,000 Africans. "The Akan-speaking Coromantee slaves from the Gold Coast who were at the heart of the outbreak aimed at 'the entire extirpation of the white inhabitants... and the partition of the island into small principalities in the African mode'...". (Hueman, 35)

Following Tacky's revolt a few decades later was the Christmas rebellion of 1831 (also known as the 'Baptist War'). This was a crucial event in the abolition of slavery in Jamaica and in a way it foreshadowed the Morant Bay rebellion. The Christmas rebellion coincided with a time of economic and political stress in Jamaica. A severe drought was effecting the island and provisions were scarce and expensive. When heavy rains hit the island, hunger was followed by epidemics of smallpox and dysentery. (Turner, 149)

The Christmas rebellion was lead by the charismatic and educated leader Sam Sharpe. He was very articulate and also became the leader in the Baptist Church and Native Baptist Church. (Hueman, 36) Sharpe used the organization of the church to organize the rebellion. Sharpe planned a campaign of passive resistance for the period just after Christmas, 1831: the slaves would simply cease work until their owners paid their wages and thereby conceded that the slaves were free. However, Sharpe also developed an alternate strategy of armed rebellion in the case passive resistance failed. (Turner, 153)

Some of Sharpe's methods included the use of oaths to profess loyalty and solidarity. The oaths represent fusion of religion and politics, but one in which political goals were dominant. (Hueman, 37) Many rebellions were based around religious meetings and partly inspired by Baptist and Native Baptist traditions.

A distinction between resistance and opposition can be drawn. Opposition characteristically involves turning the system against itself by deceit and dexterity, by using the means and materials of the system to beat it. Within the concept of resistance, there must be some chance of escaping entirely from the system. (Burton, 51) Opposition takes place when the strong are strong and the weak know it. Resistance is possible when the weak sense both their own strength and the weakness of the oppressor. Opposition belongs to the periods of pessimism when all outlets seem blocked, like in the ghettos such as Kingston, Jamaica. (As immortalized by the one Robert Nesta Marley in his tribute to Trenchtown.)

It was in the spirit of resistance against the colonial order which gave birth to reggae music in the Caribbean island of Jamaica. Reggae music calls into opposition the colonial order. It is a form of protest. Throughout the world music is a form of release, of venting frustrations. The historical origins of Jamaican music describe the foundation of this popular and powerful voice of the Jamaican people. In Jamaica, music had interesting beginnings. In the days of slavery, the slave-owners would force the enslaved Africans to provide them with entertainment. The enslaved peoples would dance and sing songs that reflected their brutal social situation. Many songs made fun of the white slave-owners. The whites had no idea about the meanings behind the songs, they did not choose to listen to the messages. A modern day scene in the movie 'Rockers' comes to mind: Jacob Miller and his band are playing at the country club singing about the tenement yard and the guests are bopping around dancing, paying little or no attention to the powerful message in his lyrics. One couple even says, 'oh, this must be calypso...'. Those who reason upon the meaning and message of reggae music will find that it goes far beyond the instruments and reflects a powerful voice of the sufferer. The beautiful thing about music is that everyone hears something different in the same music. Many people can listen to reggae music and never hear the cry for justice, yet to others the voice is loud and clear. Reggae has been dubbed the music of the sufferer because it speaks about the trials and tribulations of being a black rasta in the oppressive colonial system.

The voice of Peter Tosh is an example of the force of resistance in reggae music. Peter Tosh was like a spokesperson of the Jamaican people. His lyrics were testament to the living conditions of the ghetto and a protest to the Babylon system. He was a powerful and charismatic leader. He was also known as the Warrior or the Militant. His style and philosophies were much like that of Malcom X.

Peter Tosh was the toughest. Of all reggae musicians throughout history, Tosh was the most militant in his political philosophies. His views manifest in every aspect of his being. His choice of words reflect his position within the Babylon system or 'shit-tem' as he would say. He would rephrase words in the typical style of Rastafari, and because of his high-visibility and popularity, this technique of changing the sounds of words to reflect the true meaning was spread to the greater public through his lyrics and public appearances. A few examples are 'down-pressor' instead of oppressor, because there is nothing 'up' about being down-pressed. Tosh was not a big fan of the educational structure, he believed that all people are born with knowledge. The educational system is corrupt and therefore graduates are dubbed 'gradu-hates' by Peter Tosh.

Peter Tosh believed in a spiritual repatriation of black people. I believe he realized that physical repatriation was not realistic. The colonial system is present in Africa just as it is in Jamaica. What Peter Tosh did believe in was a spiritual repatriation, he believed that black people should strive to create self-sufficiency in their own communities. Self-sufficiency is an important step to autonomy.

Likewise, many of the indigenous peoples of Mexico are building their own autonomy and self-sufficiency. In the next few pages I will explore indigenous resistance in Mexico because the indigenous peoples of Mexico have also endured centuries of colonization and marginalization. Despite the oppressive weight of colonization the indigenous peoples have resisted in many ways. In the following pages I will review some of the basic mechanisms of resistance that have made possible the survival of Mesoamerican Civilization. (I will also draw upon some of the numerous examples of Indian resistance by focusing on the communities I visited during an uplifting UVM travel-study course entitled: "¡Ya Basta! Alternatives to Education and Development in Oaxaca, Mexico".) 'Ya basta', a popular slogan of the Zapatistas, means 'enough already', it represents the core feeling behind the movement. The Zapatistas do not represent a political group trying to take over or impose their views on any one else. They are simply demanding their own land and liberty.

The very existence of Indian society is largely ignored by Mexico as a whole. To gain a better understanding of contemporary Mexican culture it is important to see that today's society is a blend of two civilizations- Mesoamerican and Western, or as Batalla describes 'Mexico profundo' and 'Mexico imaginario'. Mexico profundo represents the indigenous way of life that is largely negated by Westernized contemporary Mexico. Mexico imaginario represents the dominant image imposed by the West. It is called imaginary not because it does not exist, but because it denies the cultural reality lived by most Mexicans in their daily lives. According to Batalla, Mexican civilization is not mestizo as it supposes to be. "Rather, it is a country whose majority population continues to be rooted in Mesoamerican civilization and whose way of life reflects cultural patterns and values with thousands of years of history." (Batalla, xvi) The majority population, (Mexico profundo) is made up of Indians, the "de-indianized" rural communities and the urban poor, many of them recent immigrants to the cities. "The bearers of this civilization have been in continual confrontation with peoples of European background, who arrived convinced that the existing civilization had to be uprooted and something different imposed in its place." (Batalla, xvi) The struggle to survive has given the Mexican Indian an incredibly tenacious character of resistance and rebellion.

The three primary mechanisms of survival for Indian cultures in Mexico are "resistance, innovation and appropriation". (Batalla, 132) The very process of resistance is focused around the preservation of cultural spaces. Before the conquest cultural space was manifested in all realms of life. Since colonization, indigenous decision making has been usurped by colonial powers. Autonomy was restricted and reduced. "The area of relative autonomy within which the group could exercise its own culture was constricted and limited to a smaller number of actions, since colonizers made the decisions in all the rest. In spite of this reduction, the group's own culture sustained its identity and was the indispensable basis for its continuity. For this reason, preserving the spaces of autonomy was seen as necessary at any cost, and the mechanisms of resistance were crucially important." (Batalla, 132) The Triqui people of San Andrés Chicahuaxtla, in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico, are preserving their spaces of autonomy as Batalla describes.

Many examples of indigenous resistance can be found in the South Western State of Oaxaca. Oaxaca has a large percentage of Indigenous inhabitants. There are over 16 different Indian groups each with their own language, social structure and customs. The Triquis of Chicahuaxtla are asserting their culture by teaching the native language in the public schools. Indigenous groups throughout Oaxaca rely on communal living. Through their own unique lifestyles they remain largely separate from the outside world. Preserving indigenous culture in the face of globalization and development is becoming increasingly difficult. Self-sufficiency is key. The less a community needs to depend on outside forces, the better off it will be.

Just as indigenous communities in Oaxaca are preserving their cultures by resisting globalization through self-sufficiency, so are many Rastafarian communities in the Caribbean. On the island of St. Maarten, the Rastafarian community cultivates a communal garden in order to rely less on the outside commercial food markets. They recognize the power in solidarity and self-sufficiency. In fact, the bi-weekly meetings are called 'Solidarity' and 'Congregation' on Wednesdays and Saturdays respectively.

The sense of community in the Oaxacan village of San Andrés Chicahuaxtla is very impressive. The community works together in many different ways. A system of called 'tequio' functions as a organizing body. All families in the village have a duty to help work or if they cannot work give a payment to the tequio. The tequio meets once a month to do specified projects that benefit the community or a community member. It reinforces solidarity and is a function of community authority. Through relying on each other, the community of Chicahuaxtla remains strong. Another activity that strengthens the community takes place every year- the entire village makes a walk around the boundaries of the community. This helps to avoid conflicts with surrounding communities and by initiating peaceful relations.

The Tequio system, annual fiestas and collective rituals and dances all contribute to and renew the identity of the community, just as 'Solidarity' meetings do for Rastas in St. Maarten. Many members of the community may not be aware of the significance of their daily actions within the preservation of the culture. Actions are merely seen as fulfilling a promise or entertainment. The underlying meaning behind community actions is varied. "They also have to do with the form that responses to domination have taken, since each case has generated its own processes of resistance, innovation, and appropriation." (Batalla, 134)

Resistance sometimes takes the form of rejection of outside innovation. In the village of Chicahuaxtla, the mother of Faustus and Marcos Sandoval rejected a new and modern kitchen. Her sons, one, a doctor, the other a community leader, offered to buy her a modern stove. She refused. In the traditional kitchen, the stove consists of a fire with three sacred stones. It is placed in the center of the room. Cooking in this fashion gives a feeling of importance and centrality. One also cooks seated, which is better for the back. A new modern stove would transform Señora Sandoval from the center of her household into a cook, and she did not want that. Thus, she resisted change by saying "no" to outside innovation. Devout rastafarians also resist the outside world. This is exemplified in the lyrics of Luciano's song 'Babylon Cake': "Babylon bake a cake, and rasta don't want a taste..." The Rastafarians of the Caribbean and the Campesinos of Mexico do not share a destructive and consumptive lifestyle with the industrialized 'First' World.

It is a false yet common idea that Indian cultures are frozen in time and resist change. Within the context of colonial domination many Indian groups have had to fiercely refuse and reject outside culture in order to preserve their own. The lens through which Indian cultures are perceived is important to consider. If one views technological progress and the global market as good, then a self sufficient indigenous community would be seen as 'backwards'. If one views self-sufficiency and living in harmony with the land as important goals then the same indigenous community would be viewed as utopic.

We are given many examples of rejection of outside innovation in Chicahuaxtla. In this case it is initiated by the village children. A video game machine was brought into the village. At first the children loved it, but eventually they decided it was not good because it disrupted their lives. The children themselves asked for its removal.

The acceptance of external products implies a greater dependence on the exterior. Communities may be conscious of "the dangers of changes promoted from the outside, dominant, foreign worlds; such changes have systematically provoked effects contrary to community interests. The outsider, the colonizer, is thus a generic danger and what he proposes or intends to do should be evaluated, on principle, with radical suspiciousness. There is always a hidden agenda." (Batalla, 135) This is not always the case though, many Indians want the luxuries of the Modern world.

As some foreign objects are rejected, some are assimilated or appropriated. There is a history or tradition of changing the tradition throughout time. For example, the wooden plow was introduced to Mexico by the invaders. Today it is considered an "authentic" part of Mesoamerican culture. "Thus, for this purpose, the origin of the element ceases to be important." (Batalla, 138) (The plow actually originated in Egypt, not Spain.) Appropriation is another aspect of cultural resistance. Appropriation occurs when the group takes control over outside foreign elements and puts them at the service of the group. One example of this can be seen in religion. Most Mexicans are considered Catholic, but Catholicism in Mexico takes on a different form than the rest of the Catholic world. Catholicism in Mexico integrates diverse Mesoamerican elements. "Diverse Indian Societies have taken the signs, symbols, and practices of the imposed religion and made them their own by reorganizing and reinterpreting them within the core of their own religious beliefs. Thus, although the colonial situation required the acceptance of these ideas, they have been subordinated within a framework that is not Christian and that has its origins in Mesoamerican religion." (Batalla, 136) This is also known by the term syncretism. Another example of appropriation is with the celebration of Los Dias de Los Muertos. Many Halloween images are being incorporated into traditional altars and graveyard decorations. Halloween is not replacing the festival (for the Indians at least), the participants are merely taking advantage of the presence of the Halloween decorations. It is important to understand that the presence of foreign cultural elements does not in itself indicate weakness or loss of authenticity within Indian culture. It is a matter of who is exercising control- the colonizers or the Indians.

Linguistic diversity is an interesting global issue. Linguistic diversity has been attacked by globalization. Right now, the Triqui language is kept alive by the women of village. Because of traditional gender roles, most women spend most of their time in the home and village. It is the men who primarily travel outside the village. Therefore the men are spending less time speaking Triqui. The primary force that brings the men out of the village is to earn money. It can be noted that the most 'advanced' countries in the world have the least linguistic diversity, e.g. USA. In the USA, virtually all indigenous languages were wiped out by the colonizers. Language carries so much of one's culture, the loss of indigenous languages is a major loss to humanity as a whole.

The regeneration of cultural space is an important aspect of keeping Indigenous culture strong. This idea was supported by Peter Tosh who called on black people around the world to embrace the concept of Zion and create cultural space within their own communities. In the Oaxacan town of Nopala, stelas that were found at local archaeological sites (deemed "unimportant" sites to archeologists and thus never professionally excavated) are integrated into the municipal building. This is an example of reclaiming indigenous heritage. Keeping traditional social organization strong is an example of the preservation or regeneration of cultural space. The regeneration of cultural space is something that occurred naturally for those who managed to survive colonization or development. Indigenous traditions "prevented them from falling under the industrial ethos, with its arrogant presence of controlling the future." (Esteva, Escaping Education, 133)

The Maroon communities of Jamaica isolated themselves to create and preserve their own hegemony. Despite the fact that there were many different ethnic groups represented, they were still united. "There appears to have existed a kind of 'Africanness' that transcended regionalism, ethnic or linguistic affinities, on which the Maroons based their existence... The commonalties, for the most part, are reflected in sex roles, attitude to warfare, familial arrangements, attitude to hierarchy, but above all in religion, which was pivotal to all resistance in that area. More than any other factor, African religious beliefs gave unifying force, the conspiratorial locus, the rallying point to mobilize, to motivate, to inspire, and to design strategies: it gave ideology, the mystique, and the pertinacious courage and leadership to Maroon societies to confront the mercantilist society with its awesome power." (Campbell, 4)

The resurgence of traditional healing is becoming more apparent throughout the world and Oaxaca is no exception. While in Oaxaca, I visited the Centro de Desarollo de la Medicina Tradicional. This healing center is located in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca, in the town of Tlaxciaco. There are a number of different of healers who work together. The goal of this center is to treat people and also strengthen knowledge and learn from each other. We spoke with a healer who works at the center. He learned about plants and healing from his grandmother. He noted that some people are born as healers, it is like a gift or an inheritance. Traditional healing in the Mixteca region focuses on the inner self and connections with nature. It evokes the spiritual energies of plants and animales to cure patients. Plants and herbs are used to heal patients as well as massage, energy treatments and purifying rituals. The presence of this healing center and ones like it help to validate indigenous medical knowledge. When asked what the traditional healing response to modern ailments such as AIDS, the medicine man was very confident and accurate in this explanation. AIDS is related to vital energy, he would approach it through nutrition. He would prescribe a diet without chemicals since there are many chemicals in the commercialized food available today. There are many forms of illnesses that the center treats that are not recognized by Western medicine. These afflictions include 'susto' or fright, and the evil eye. In Jamaica, traditional healers are known as 'myal-men' and 'myal-women'.

Rastafarians in Jamaica who live in the country, in places such as Cocpit Country, the territories occupied the Maroons also have a high degree of ecological knowledge. Cocpit Country is also called the 'Land of Look Behind' and 'Me-no-call-you-no-send'. It is considered something that of a 'no-mans'-land' to the middle and upper classes of Jamaica, just as Indigenous mountain villages are considered to many Mexicans. The Rasatafarians living in the remote areas of Jamaica today and the Maroons of yesterday have learned about the environment in order to survive. The major advantage of the Maroons over the English was their ecological knowledge. The Maroons were very skilled at the art of camouflage, and could ambush their enemies employing this skill. They also employed as system of communication to maintain contact with one another and with spies that had been sent out. The Maroons reintroduced a treasure chest of African techniques to transmit messages covertly. They used animal voices and horns for this purpose. The use of animal voices required extensive knowledge and technique. For longer distances, the Abeng horn was used and drums were also used. Other aspects of ecological defense worth mentioning are the art of making fire without being detected. This is in contrast to the English, whose unintended smoke signals revealed their whereabouts. "Chosing the right wood that did not make much smoke and making a particular type of fire were the secret to their success. They ignited the end of the wood, which was split lengthwise like our logs, and layered it so tightly that no flame was visible, but warmth could always be felt." (Drake quoted from Zips, 83) The Maroons also made use of natural hiding places such as caves. The best caves were those whose entrance was obscurred by waterfalls. These caves are called "back-o-water" in Jamaica. (Zips, 82-83) The ecological techniques of the Maroons could warrant an entire book. The Maroons had a close relationship with the natural environment. They made use of their environment: "They were too many for us, so we turned the forest trees into soldiers. We armed and drilled the rocks and gullies and waterfalls and made them fight for us. We taught ourselves the ambush." (Reid, quoted in Zips, 84)

Much of the separation of indigenous people and the modern world is due to outside forces. The global market and modern industrial countries have surpassed the Mexican rural farmer and the Jamaican Rasta. Some Indigenous people are not resisting, they are rebelling. The Ejercito Zapatista Liberacion Nacional (EZLN) gained international attention on January 1, 1994 in the town of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas. The day that the Zapatistas launched their attack was the same day that NAFTA was passed, and this was not coincidental. The Zapatistas had been living, meeting and discussing the situation of the Indians for many years in the Lacondian jungle. On New Years morning as the town was slowly awakening from a drunken stupor, the Zapatistas took over and occupied a municipal building. This act alerted the Mexican Government and the world of their presence and their demands. The Zapatistas of Chiapas have arisen not because they feel overwhelmed by progress but because they felt it passed them by. A list of demands they submitted to the government in February of 1995 included land and also "tractors, fertilizers, insecticides, credit, technical advice, improved seeds, cattle, and fair prices for our products." They also wanted houses with "televisions, stoves, refrigerators, washing machines, etc." (Simon, 93)

The Zapatista's rebellion represents a complex conflict of conservation and development. The Indians of Chiapas have been displaced from the fertile valleys and pushed into the steeper mountain regions since the time of the conquest. Farming and ranching problems have proved very destructive to the dense jungle. While saving the rain forest is a goal of environmentalists, the Zapatistas are not fighting to save the forests. They want to develop the forests. Since the time of the conquest the Indians have been run off their lands by the Spaniards and enslaved by the plantation owners. These wrongs have never been addressed. The famous war cry of the Zapatistas is "¡Ya Basta!" or Enough already!. The Zapatistas are saying ya basta to the centuries of brutality, oppression and marginalization.

The Zapatistas have gained international popularity because they represent something that all marginalized people can relate to. The Zapatistas speak:

"To all those who fight for the human values of democracy, freedom and hope. To all those who make the effort to resist the world crime called "Neoliberalism" and whose aspiration is that humanity and the hope to be better become synonymous in the future.

To all the individuals, groups, collectives, movements, social organizations, citizen and political organizations, to the unions, neighborhood associations, cooperatives, all the lefts that have been and are to be, non-governmental organizations, solidarity groups with the struggle of the peoples of the world, gangs, tribes, intellectuals, indigenous people, students, musicians, workers, artists, teachers, campesinos, cultural groups, youth movements, alternative means of communication, ecologists, settlers, lesbians, gay men, feminists, pacifists.

To all human beings without a house, without land, without work, without food, without health, without education, without liberty, without justice, without independence, without democracy, without peace, without a country, without a tomorrow.

To all those who, without regard to colors, races or borders, turn their hope into a weapon and a shield." (La Jornada, January 30, 1996)

The Zapatistas are an inspiration to many diverse groups around the world. They have inspired many musicians, artists, poets, etc. An album cover of a reggae band from Jamaica called 'The Revolutionaries' comes to mind- a depiction of Che Guevara adorns the album cover. The entire album is instrumental, but the songs include, 'Leftist' and 'Angola'. This is another example of the connection between reggae music and resistance and rebellion. Reggae music has been dubbed 'music of the sufferer'. Reggae music speaks to oppressed people and gives hope, resistance and self-empowerment. Music is a powerful force of inspiration and hope for the people. It is also an instrument of social consciousness raising.

Rastas sing and play music to 'chant down Babylon'. Babylon, the unjust and oppressive colonial system. The Babylon system is global, it is an evil that permeates in all facets of society and every country. The Indians were put into slavery just as the Africans and continue to face oppression. The Jamaican peoples' voice of rebellion is heard through reggae music. Just like the Mexican Indians, the Jamaicans have had a long history of exploitation, racism, promises, expectations and disappointments. There is a strong connection between the Maroons of Jamaica and the Zapatistas. Both are freedom fighters, both rely on guerrilla warfare, and an intimate knowledge of the land. The Maroons caused an important economic impact on the plantation system. Like the Zapatistas, the Maroons engaged in 'guerrilla warfare'. Guerrilla warfare is the choice of the weak against the strong - at least in material terms. The Maroons may have been the first in the hemisphere to strike a blow for freedom. Not surprisingly, 'marronage' is the process of flight by slaves from servitude to establish their own hegemonies in the mountainous forests. By separating themselves, they recreated their collective autonomy.

Like Jamaica, the history of Mexico is loaded with Indian rebellions. As violence is and was a tool of the colonizers, violence is also used by the Indians to reject subjugation. "History registers an unbroken chain of wars of defense against invasion and of uprisings against colonial oppression. These wars and uprisings tell the story of the failure of conquest, of rebellion, and of historical affirmation of Indian peoples and their will to survive." (Batalla, 129) Many Indian groups were ready to die fighting rather than submit to the colonizers. The Spanish also have a saying 'mas vale morir sin honra que vivir sin ella', (it is better to die with honor than live without her'). Being that modern day Mexicans are a combination of Mesoamerican and Spanish culture, this characteristic is even stronger.

The existing Indian cultures in Chicahuaxtla, Nopala, Chiapas and the Rastas in Jamaica and throughout the world survive because of the tenacious resistance of their members. This resistance is based on their will to survive. Resistance involves preserving decision-making capacity and cultural patrimony. It can be expressed in a "constant and selective appropriation of foreign cultural elements." (Batalla, 139) It is also expressed in creativity. This creativity "allows the forging of new cultural elements and the modification of older ones. These innovations allow subtle cultural adjustments to changes in the framework of oppression and aggression within which Mesoamerican peoples exist." (Batalla, 139) Indian cultures are dynamic and must remain so in the face of the ever-changing world.

In a conversation I had with Hector Sandoval, a resident of Chicahuaxtla and member of the Triqui tribe, I noted how impressive it is for an Indian group to have endured centuries of colonization. He replied "resistimos...", "we resist...". In Mexico, many indigenous groups have resisted and endured. The future is uncertain but one thing is true, since the time of the Spanish conquest, the indigenous peoples of Mexico have suffered greatly. Through regeneration of identity and spaces, the indigenous people of Oaxaca are standing strong against the forces of globalization and capitalistic changes.

The daily resistance described in Chicahuaxtla, the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, the armed uprisings of the Maroons, and the rhetoric of reggae music are reactions to colonial domination. "They are not disconnected phenomena, but tactics that form part of a single survival strategy. Armed rebellion can be understood only within the historical context of permanent resistance, a resistance that takes on distinct modalities with changing circumstances of colonial domination." (Batalla, 139) The most powerful weapon of Indigenous people around the world is hope.

Today African symbols are ever-present in the Caribbean and the Americas. Young African Americans and Afro-Jamaicans use the concept of Africa to express their critical distance from the white colonial society. Reggae music has evolved as an expression as resistance and non-acceptance of the injustices of society. Powerful messages like "As long as you're a black-man, you're an African" by Peter Tosh continue to be an inspiration and a calling to solidarity. Reggae music reaches a wide audience and gives conscious perfomers a wide-reaching medium to convey the powerful messages and philosophy of Rastafari. Reggae music has been built on the social, political and spiritual values of the Rastafarians, descendents of the original Maroon Communities of Jamaica. The Maroons represent resistance and black nationalism. The Maroons deserve recognition for their accomplishments during the colonial period. Just like the Zapatistas, the Maroons also deserve respect for their freedom fighting and tenacious spirit of resistance.

"¡hasta la victoria siempre!"



Batalla, Guillermo Bonfil. Mexico Profundo. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1996.

Burton, Richard D.E. Afro-Creole. Power, Opposition and Play in the Caribbean. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1997.

Campbell, Mavis C. The Maroons of Jamaica 1655-1796. A History of Resistance, Collaboration & Betrayal. Amherst: Bergin and Garvey Publishers, Inc., 1988.

Esteva, Gustavo and Prakash, Madhu Suri. Escaping Education. New York, USA: Peter Lang Publishing, 1998.

Esteva, Gustavo and Prakash, Madhu Suri. Grassroots Post-Modernism. London, UK: Zed Books Ltd., 1988.

Heuman, Gad. The Killing Time'. The Morrant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994.

Simon, Joel. Endangered Mexico. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books, 1997.

Turner, Mary. Slaves and Missionaries: The Distintegration of Jamaican Slave Society, 1787-1834. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982.

Zips, Werner. Black Rebels. Princeton, N.J.: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1999.

This essay was also influenced by lectures with Gustavo Esteva, Marcos Sandoval, Faustus Sandoval, Zackarias Sandoval, Juan Jose Consejo and Prof. Alfred 'Tuna' Snider.