Sept 16th & Other Indigenous Revolts

Every revolt in Mexico's history has been Indigenous and anti-imperialist

By Roberto Rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: September 13, 2006

Sept 16th & Other Indigenous Revolts

Sept 15th-16th special edition: Two-Part Series

For several years, there has been speculation that Mexico is ripe for yet another Revolution. Most analysts have been speculating that this will most likely occur in 2010, coinciding with the 100-year anniversary of the Zapata-Villa-led Revolution and the 200-year anniversary of its Independence from a brutal Spain.

For years, a friend, Don Aurelio of Amatlan, Morelos has also been telling us that a new Quetzalcoatl will arise from among the masses in 2010 - in the same manner as Nahuatl-speaking Emilianio Zapata is viewed as having arisen in 1910 in his native Morelos. (The historic Quetzalcoatl - Ce Acatl Topiltzin -- was purportedly born in Amatlan, some 1200 years ago. The origins of the original or mythic Quetzalcoatl [The Feathered Serpent] is not completely certain, but predates Topiltzin by possibly another several thousand years).

When this new revolt occurs, it will not be a good time to be proclaiming or boasting European or EuroAmerican roots or affiliations.

However, per the recent contested elections in Mexico, it may be that the next Revolution may begin this Sept 16th. It is a revolt that pits Mexico's brown masses vs. the Euro-American oligarchy that continues to ruin the Mexican nation. (Mexico's last disputed [stolen] election in 1988 was not contested. This year, the PRD's Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador - who narrowly lost by several thousand votes -- has vowed not to recognize Felipe Calderon of the ruling PAN).

Both the 1810 and 1910 anniversaries commemorate Indigenous uprisings against Spanish colonization, and tyranny - against all [imposed] things Spanish. Despite this, expect the sanitization and sterilization of these historic rebellions - with attempts [in the United States] to somehow connect them to Hispanic-themed events.

Hispanic heritage - a fancy term for Hispanic cultural imperialism (nowadays funded by the U.S. beer industry and corporate America) -- has generally always been about subsuming the Indigenous roots of the continent and the African heritage of the Americas. More than subsuming, historically, the imposed celebration of Hispanic heritage & culture has generally been anti-Indigenous and anti-African. (Hispanic heritage - like any other heritage - if not imposed, is just fine).

That's precisely why the 1810 & 1910 uprisings manifested what scholar Victor Turner calls a 'primary process.' In effect, both events were volcanic eruptions against 300 years of Spanish exploitation and the suppression of Indigenous culture. The 1810 insurrection, while led by criollos (European descendants), was fought primarily by Indigenous and mestizo/mulatto forces. The objective was not simply to rid themselves of Spanish domination and oppression, but to restore ancient Indigenous Mexico.

As such, all the symbols utilized by the Independence movement alluded to the nationÔÇÖs pre-European past. For example, when Dolores Hidalgo shouted out the Grito de Independencia on the 16th of September, emblazoned on his shirt was the ancient symbol of Mexico City-Tenochtitlan - the eagle perched on the nopal (Upon independence, it became Mexico's flag).

Ironically, when the Spaniards triumphed against the Mexica in the early 1500s, Imperial Spain attempted to impose the image of a lion and a castle as the symbol for Mexico City-Tenochtitlan - yet it was roundly rejected by all as it was seen as foreign to these Indigenous lands. Even the name of the colony was in dispute; New Spain vs. Mexico.

Enrique Florescano, in the book, La Bandera Mexicana, argues that for 300 years, the same battle raged on -- on top of the exploitation, Spaniards continued to brutally impose its culture upon Indigenous America. Thus, when Dolores Hidalgo made his clarion call for Independence, even the image of the Virgen had to be Indigenous. Guadalupe - nowadays the Patroness of the Americas -- served as a rallying image for Mexico's Indigenous peoples. Two other virgins had been considered by the insurgents, but they lost out because they were too closely affiliated with the Spaniards. Guadalupe, on the other hand, had always been identified with Tonantzin (sacred earth mother) of the Mexica/Aztecs. Thus, with the 1810 revolt, it was the image of the eagle/nopal and the dark Virgen that surged forward as part of that primary process.

Interestingly, what 'Americans' refer to as 'instability' - in reference to Mexico & Latin America -- has actually been a non-stop history of revolt & insurrection. Some of the most noteworthy rebellions include ones led by Tenamaxtle in the mid-1500s in Northern Mexico and one in what is today the U.S. Southwest - led by Popay in 1680. Peru, also experienced such a revolt, led by Tupac Amaru in the 1780s. All these uprisings culminated in the 1810 revolt that served as a catalyst for not just Mexico's Independence movement, but eventually all of the Americas.

Fast-forward 100 years to 1910 and the Virgen de Guadalupe once again made a reappearance as she was the image favored by Mexico's revolutionary troops (Her image was also utilized by striking farm workers in California's fields in the 1960s). The 1910 uprising released another primary process as the Revolution was a movement to restore land & liberty to Mexico's brown masses. While the Revolution partially succeeded in the realm of Indigenous cultural expression, land distribution and collective rights, power eventually and once again returned to the oligarchy.

The truth is, virtually every revolt (betrayed or otherwise) in Mexico's history has been Indigenous and anti-imperialist -- against Spaniards, French and Americans. (One can even view the U.S. Chicano revolt of the 1960s and 1970s within the same context). What is unquestionable is that the Zapatista uprising of 1994 marked a new chapter in Mexican history - a history that continues to unfold. It is one that proclaims that Mexico will never again move forward without the participation of Indigenous voices and peoples - and it can't ever again exclude women.

It will be interesting to see where Mexico's Indigenous peoples fit within Obrador's expected and forthcoming uprising of Sept 16th - an uprising that threatens to create a parallel government that derives its inherent power or principio from the people (as spelled out in its Constitution); i.e., its Indigenous and Indigenous-based masses.

Part 2 next week.

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