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By Leonor Hurtado Paz y Paz and Cristóbal Cojtí García
Mayan spirituality lives in agriculture, but is under attack. Faced with the cultural and ecological disaster — and there is a new political space achieved through the Peace Accords in Guatemala — many Mayan peasants are returning to sustainable agricultural production, knowing that it is their only alternative to survive.
“Ixmukane, our grandmother of creation, ground the white and yellow ears of corn, from the dough she formed the four bodies of our grandparents: Balam Kitzen, Balam Aq'ab ', Majukutaj and Iq' B'alam and made nine drinks so that they were the blood of our first grandparents and parents. " Pop Wuh.
The Mayan civilization is the unit of spirituality, science and agriculture, being agriculture in harmony with nature a manifestation and basis of existence of the person and society as part of the cosmic fabric. This vocation of life and agriculture, which honors existing resources, biodiversity and preserves them for future generations, is fully oriented by the sacred calendar, Chol q'ij or the Lunar calendar of 260 days, 9 lunations, gestation time of the human life, in union with the solar calendar Ab ', agricultural calendar of 365 days. Knowing the time is very important because apart from governing agricultural work, each day gives his advice, since each day has its own energy, numerical figure; each day has its own charm and secret, its name, its nawal, a living being that encourages it; each day is inspired by a cardinal direction, which provides the strength of one of the essential elements: fire, air, water and earth. This makes each day have its own particular vitality, a day with the same vitality is repeated every 52 years, when Chol q'ij and Ab 'meet again. This wealth of ideas and spiritual and material facts is what guides the person and the community in their actions, being a unit with agriculture (Cojtí 2012, Hurtado 2010).
Agriculture promoted perfecting the account of time, it has a spiritual, social and scientific function, when agriculture did not differ from being, from society, or from the cosmos. In this integrity, the union between the cosmos, nature, people and all living beings is valued and respected, recognizing interdependence and complementarity, because the person like all beings are part of the cosmic fabric. The earth is valued as Mother Earth, who provides everything to make life possible, produces trees and all plants, provides water and calls rain, houses and feeds animals who create music and dance, and allows to produce the food of the community. For this reason the person belongs to Mother Earth, the land is not a property, it is not sold or bought. The person asks permission and hurts Mother Earth to plant and produce. The product of agriculture granted with the love of Mother Earth, Father Sky, Sister Water and Brother Sun is to feed the social ideal: to live well, which consists of the whole community having enough to live and share in harmony . The "good living" does not accept that some people have more than is necessary at the same time that others do not have enough and suffer, because it responds to the most primary value: "you are my other self." The Heart of Heaven and the Heart of Earth shape the person by giving them heart, mind and body, an integral capacity that allows them to live with dignity, loving and respecting everything that allows them to exist (Cojtí 2012, Hurtado 2010).
The Maya People are an agricultural civilization. Over thousands of years he developed a broad and deep agricultural knowledge and practice that provided well-being and allowed for complex economic, political, social and cultural development (Coe 1999). The life of the Mayan People and agriculture, an essential part, are directed by a holistic vision of physical and spiritual interdependence, and by a worldview based on spirituality. These characteristics are vital and persist as inspiration and guide to develop integrally in a complementary way in harmony and balance with nature, family and communities (Saqb´ichil 2000). The Mayan culture values that all beings have their light side and their dark side, hot and cold, masculine and feminine; These opposing assumptions are not contradictory or in competition, but rather complement each other and are needed in order to exist in a permanent development cycle. Diversity is then recognized as an essential characteristic of life, what is different is not opposite but is complementary, therefore diversity is maintained in agriculture (Hurtado 2010).
The Spanish invasion in 1524 and the conquest destroyed the economic, political and social structure of the Mayan people, and deeply attacked their spirituality. During the colonial period and later to date, the Maya people are dispossessed and evicted from their lands, discriminated against, segregated, overexploited and murdered. Spirituality and its manifestations are condemned and attacked (Martínez Peláez 1998). The imposed Catholic religion is an ideological instrument of domination (Guzmán 1970). Valuing the ideology of the Mayan people, the attacks against their agricultural economy and their spirituality are the same fact. The dispossession, discrimination and overexploitation that occur historically are the main aggressions against Mayan spirituality, because without land and without dignity the communion that feeds spirituality cannot exist (Chaicoj 2012).
Originally, the Maya people occupied highly productive territories and developed a technology that could currently be identified as agroecological, because it is based on the application of ecological concepts and principles in the design, development and management of sustainable agricultural systems (Altieri 1997). Pre-Columbian agriculture was an agriculture that imitated the natural life of plants and animals in a harmonious interdependence. A multiple production was organized, sowing corn, beans and various types of squash in the same space. Corn is the main sustenance, beans complement the diet and fertilize the land, pumpkins complement the diet and protect the soil's moisture. In this way, the population had a rich and balanced diet, and sustainable agriculture preserved the fertility of the soil. It was produced in abundance to live well, without overexploiting the land, the surplus was exchanged. The engine of agricultural production was community life, not generating goods. Producing the sustenance of life was and remains linked to spirituality, which implies asking permission and forgiveness for using the land, blessing the seed, water, sun, air and work, thanking, offering and sharing the fruit ( Saqb'ichil 2000).
During the colony the Mayan people were subjected and condemned to live in the mountains on broken and fragile soils, being forced to cut down forests and jungles to survive. The colonizers appropriated the highly productive lowlands, in 1525 the Pope legitimized the act of expropriation, thus creating the lati-minifundista system in Guatemala that constitutes the axis of agricultural production (Guzmán 1970). The practice of expropriation, marginalization, overexploitation, discrimination and murder of the indigenous population continues until the 21st century. In 2011, the case of eviction and destruction of houses and crops, more violent, including the murder of peasants, occurred against fourteen communities in the Polochic Valley (CDH 2011).
In this process of invasion, domination and colonization, the indigenous population is identified and treated as a race inferior to the Europeans, considered subhuman. The concept of race is a political system defined by inheritance and social categorization that is symbolically constructed from color. The categorization of race is invented by Europeans to justify the attack and usurpation of the land and labor power of indigenous peoples and African slaves. In this way they removed the criminal, illegal and terrorist character from their invasion, domination and conquest action. The “race” criminalizes the non-white and decriminalizes the white, thus history is constructed, making racism possible and permitted (Martinot 2010). The racist structure of the imposed system destroys much of the sustainable agriculture and spirituality of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas.
In 1871, with the liberal reform, a new system of land and labor exploitation was established, the dominant creoles protected by the law expropriated communal lands and imposed forced labor on the indigenous people for export production (Martínez Peláez 1998). They achieve their objectives by subjugating the poor indigenous and ladino population, forcing them to sell their labor power very cheaply and to subsist on what they produce in the minifundios. This phenomenon reinforces the accumulation and impoverishment maintained historically (Guzmán 1970). With the 1944 revolution there are significant changes, however forced labor, prohibited, continued and persists to the present in attenuated or disguised forms (Rojas Lima 1992). In these conditions of exploitation and domination, the Mayan People express religious syncretism of the Catholicism tax and their own spirituality, a practice that continues to this day. Different chroniclers and historians explain this fact by attributing it to the "devil" or to limitations of understanding; without recognizing that there is a margin of unsupported indigenous consciousness and an expression of rebellion (Martínez Peláez 1998). The Mayan people maintain their own forms of expression and spirituality, a reflection of their own firm mental structure (Guzmán 1970).
After World War II to export the industrial model of production and to counteract the peasant movements that demand agrarian reform, the United States of America, the United States through USAID and international institutions such as FAO and the CGIAR (Advisory Group for Agricultural Research International) promote the so-called Green Revolution. Which consists of increasing the production of basic grains with high-yield varieties and improved hybrid seeds. Chemical external inputs produced with oil are incorporated: fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, irrigation and agricultural machinery. Its promoters publicly boast of their achievements, pointing out that the changes financed by them allowed an increase in agricultural production, possible only thanks to external assistance (Gaud 1968). They do not point out that the so-called “assistance” was executed through loans and that it required expanding production areas by destroying forest and jungle.
In Latin America the green revolution was promoted during 1960 to 80 or even 90s (Pérez 2000). Initially, with the green revolution, the state had to invest more in agriculture, provide subsidies, price incentives, infrastructure and research. These reforms were established as conditions for agricultural development loan programs (Gaud 1968). These practices were quickly affected by corruption, racism, and structural inequalities in Guatemala (Hale 2000). The green revolution has changed the way of production and sale of agricultural products, decreasing the access of the poor population to land and basic food (Pérez 2000). We observe that in addition to the harmful characteristics and conditions caused by the green revolution, in Guatemala discrimination and oppression against Indigenous Peoples is added, which further deteriorates their living conditions (Gómez 2004). During this period missionary action continues to be a useful instrument to alienate consciousness, despite modern mass communication techniques. Since the United States has strengthened in Guatemala, missionaries, pastors and investments from Christian sects have come massively, promoting their own concept of development and organization, dividing the communities (Guzmán 1970).
During the internal armed conflict from 1960 to 1996, the control, discrimination, segregation and murder of the Maya people increased. During the 1980s and 1990s model villages, development poles, and civil self-defense patrols were forms of army-controlled segregation. The permanent presence of the army recreated the colonial imaginary and maintained a regime of terror (Gómez 2004). The catechists, leaders and spiritual leaders, were directly repressed and assassinated, and the sacred sites were destroyed or used by the army in the execution of massacres (CEH 1999). The kidnappings, torture and murder sought not only to obtain information but also to terrorize the people. The counterinsurgencies developed in phases: 1) violent eradication of the guerrilla outbreak; 2) civic action; 3) scorched earth; 4) hunting of the fleeing population; 5) civil patrols. In the resistance, life begins to defeat death as the population escapes from the hands of the army. The love of relatives and neighbors is a spark of life that brings together the scattered and lost, starting a new type of organization. A flexible and humane collectivism arises that maintains the feeling of a family home, respecting personal and cultural needs. Testimonies of good news are heard because they affirm that the poor and weak can overcome the strategy of violence and can resist the techniques that divide the most intimate part of the person, which is their identity and loyalty (Falla 1992).
The green revolution was a counterinsurgency measure that worsened and radicalized the position of the peasantry. The green revolution destroyed peasant agriculture and attacked Mayan spirituality. Own agriculture is destroyed because the green revolution: 1) Increases yield only during the first harvests; 2) It imposes monoculture; 3) It destroys the organic matter of the earth and causes low yield; 4) It forces debt and destroys well-being; 5) Much of the peasantry goes bankrupt and has to migrate to the agricultural frontier, cities and the US (Holt 2006). The green revolution divorces the peasantry from their spiritual practice carried out throughout the entire production process, from preparing the field for sowing and blessing the seed to thanking, sharing and celebrating the harvest (Cojtí 2012).
Despite the supposed triumphs and productive miracles of the green revolution declared internationally (Barta 2007), it was strongly criticized from its beginning by activists and scientists, due to the excessive cost of seed and complementary technology, technological dependence, the best climatic adaptation of eliminated traditional crops and the appearance of new pests. All this shows that the green revolution is ecologically, economically, culturally and nutritionally negative for the peoples (Pérez 2000). In Latin America the green revolution mainly favored large and medium-sized producers developing industrial agriculture totally dependent on US inputs. Small producers were persuaded and / or pressured to use improved seeds and chemical inputs, but they were not benefited in the same way as large producers, causing them to become indebted (Bartra 2008).
The attack continues. In 1980 the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the World Bank, WB, imposed the Structural Adjustment Programs, SAP, to reduce the fiscal imbalance of the borrowing countries and encourage their economy to be oriented towards the market, stating that the SAP programs they seek to reduce poverty (Greenberg 1997). The SAPs promote the reduction and privatization of basic services (education, health, electricity, water, etc.) and resources, deregulation and reduction of trade barriers. Another measure imposed is “austerity” or reduction of social programs, direct foreign investment in domestic stock markets, price controls and state subsidies, the right of foreign investors to face national laws and free trade agreements (Greenberg 1997) . Severe international fiscal discipline is applied against countries that do not adopt these programs, which marginalizes them. In short, these measures have undermined the economy and sovereignty of poor countries, turning basic needs into a commodity that the majority of the population does not have access to (Cardoso 1992).
The neoliberal model imposed excludes rural producers from the production of basic foods for the national market, favors financial investment for agricultural production for export in the liberalized global market. In this way, production with low and unstable prices that does not enjoy subsidies, generally leads small producers to bankruptcy and favors the concentration of land (Blanco 2001). Another neoliberal measure has been the imposition of Free Trade Agreements, FTAs, which theoretically seek to expand and diversify the region's trade, eliminate obstacles and facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and services to increase investment opportunities and enforce the intellectual property rights (DR-CAFTA 2003). Before the approval of the FTA in Guatemala, there was massive opposition from peasant, labor, union and student organizations, and letters to the Congress of the Republic from the Higher University Council of USAC and the Episcopal Conference, expressing their repulsion to the signing. of the same and demanding a Popular Consultation before its approval. Ignoring popular repudiation, the FTA was approved by congress (Yagenova 2005). The FTA has caused small farmers to go bankrupt and migrate to cities or abroad, because the national market is saturated with subsidized imported products, which deny market access to domestic products. Likewise, it allows foreign companies to violate labor agreements that have been reached through popular struggles. NAFTA translates the SAPs into international treaties over which national congresses and international parliaments have little or no authority. NAFTA represents the loss of national sovereignty (Cabanas 2005, Holt 2006).
The history of Guatemala is a history of denial of the indigenous, which has led in certain periods to policies of extermination that have materialized in massacres against the indigenous population. The massive eliminations of Indians took place in the 16th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, applying a scorched earth policy and the massive displacement of more than a million indigenous people out of their places of origin (Casaús 1998 ). The acts perpetrated with the intention of totally or partially destroying numerous indigenous groups were not isolated acts or excesses committed by out-of-control troops, nor were they the result of possible improvisation by a middle command of the army. The massacres committed responded to a superior, logical and coherent policy (CEH 1999). The fact that the indigenous people went from being the object to being the subject of their own history and incorporated into political life in a massive way through revolutionary organizations, unleashed the collective unconscious of extermination that would lead to the death of thousands of indigenous people. The fear of the rebellion of the Indian and the sneaky desire to exterminate him came together in a historical political conjuncture that caused a true ethnocide (Casaús 1998). According to the Report prepared by the Commission for Historical Clarification, CEH, Memoria del Silencio, of the 42,275 cases investigated and verified, 83% of the fully identified victims were Mayans (CEH 1999).
Currently the objective of the US government in Guatemala with the Rural Value Chains project, Rural Value Chains, as part of the Alimentar el Futuro, Feed the Future initiative, has the following goals: 1) to develop agriculture directed by the competitive market, 2) prevent and treat malnutrition, 3) improve humanitarian assistance. The investment areas are horticulture and coffee for export. It will be implemented in five departments: Huehuetenango, Quiché, San Marcos, Quetzaltenango and Totonicapán. Area where the highest degree of national poverty and indigenous population is concentrated. It will work with private entities using improved and transgenic seeds, chemical inputs and irrigation. Products and services used must be purchased from US companies. With this objective, 5-year projects will be financed with an amount of US $ 40 million (USAID 2011). This investment aims to stimulate agriculture by inserting the peasantry in the market, without analyzing that it was the market that has caused the current crisis. It also seeks to improve humanitarian assistance, denying the country's right to sovereignty and the capacity for self-sufficiency. This external investment seeks to satisfy its market interests, calls it supporting development and disguises it as humanitarian aid. These are the millionaire investments that annihilate the peasantry and their spirituality, sustainable agriculture and the possibility of the country to build food sovereignty (Holt 2006). Initiatives like this one seek to annihilate the peasantry without considering that they currently produce 50% of food worldwide (FAO 1996). The pattern of the green revolution is repeated using transgenics, this time it is not counterinsurgency because there is no insurgency, it is investment to advance capitalist agriculture. The internationally promoted actions, supposedly to promote development, actually seek to strengthen the capitalist system, regardless of whether they destroy the culture of the original peoples and the environment. It is essential to recognize that the capitalist "development" achieved in the North is unattainable and undesirable. Unattainable, because the South is treated as servant territory. Undesirable, because of its devastating nature and because it offers no solutions to poverty or hunger (Rauber 2010).
In the 1970s, the Mayan People organized themselves valuing their identity, culture and spirituality in order to survive, however strong government repression forced them to hide this practice again. It is not until 1992, when 500 years of the arrival of the Spaniards to America are commemorated, when the rights of indigenous peoples are publicly spoken again and spirituality is manifested in public celebrations. Internationally, Guatemala has ratified conventions and declarations that recognize the collective right of Indigenous Peoples to exercise their own right and condemn all types of racism, discrimination and violence against Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. ILO Convention 169 was ratified by Guatemala in 1996. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was approved in 2007. In Guatemala these collective rights have been recognized in a very limited way, partly due to the truncated constitutional reform of 2001 (Peace 2004). At the national level, the Peace Accords signed in 1996 after 36 years of internal war contain the Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which opened a space for the recovery and revitalization of Mayan spirituality. The Ajq´ijab´, counters of the days, Mayan priests, appear publicly in their communities and at the national level, and manifest their right to difference under equal conditions (Saqb´ichil 2000).
In this space the spirituality linked to the agricultural practice of some Maya Kaqchikel communities, as well as other ethnic groups, begins to strengthen. In this study we worked with Kaqchikel communities, which through agroecological practices, are returning to sustainable agricultural production, knowing that it is their only alternative to survive; reviving their spiritual traditions, the sacredness of agriculture and the primacy of the "milpa" or "the three sisters" the polyculture of: corn, beans and squash. Kaqchikel women in multiple communities organize to reproduce and protect their seeds, to preserve diversity, to share their knowledge, and to be the guardians of fertility, as their grandmothers taught them. Spirituality and sustainable agriculture are perceived as hope, good news about the ability to regain full life (Cojtí 2012).
It is essential that the framework for analyzing the situation of Mayan agriculture and spirituality is political and structural; because only in this way can the seriousness and complexity of the problem be assessed, as well as the urgent need to change the conditions of production and life in Guatemala.
The peasant agriculture of the Maya People has suffered systematic and profound blows: 1) The change in land tenure and use since the colony and the institutionalized discrimination of indigenous peoples; 2) The expropriation of communal lands and the legislated forced labor product of the liberal reform 1871-1944; 3) The imposition of the green revolution that responds to external capitalist interests; 4) The imposition of free trade agreements; 5) The massive investments that the US makes to incorporate peasant agriculture into the global market and maintain dependence. All these attacks on peasant agriculture are also attacks on Mayan spirituality.
Despite multiple frontal attacks and from all sides, peasant agriculture still persists in Guatemala and in the face of cultural and ecological disaster — now that there is a new political space achieved through the Peace Accords — many Mayan peasants are returning to life. sustainable agricultural production, knowing that it is their only alternative to survive. At the same time they revive their spiritual traditions, the sacredness of agriculture and the primacy of the “milpa”, the polyculture of: corn, beans and squash. Mayan spirituality is reaffirmed as a position of life with respect to the Cosmos, Nature and all beings. This position allows not only to maintain himself as a person, but also as a community, a vital link with his people and with all indigenous peoples. The revitalization processes of Mayan spirituality allow the reconstruction of the person damaged by racism, violence and exploitation; they favor the personal capacity of expression and decision with identity and own sense; Likewise, they allow the reconstruction of destroyed social fabrics and reestablish a respectful relationship with Nature. This relationship encourages better production, adaptation and evolution, learning from natural cycles and the interdependence of the elements.
Agroecology is an agricultural-environmental facet of food sovereignty, which is the right of peoples to have democratic control of their food system, the right to consume healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an ecological way and with sustainable methods, and the right to define one's own food and agricultural systems. These concepts respond to the Mayan spirituality that values life as an interdependent whole, producing enough while respecting the environment, distributing equitably so that all people live with dignity. Land, water, air, seeds, the labor power of people and animals are sacred elements, and all should benefit in the production relationship. The spirituality of the Mayan People is being renewed and strengthened as a manifestation of resistance and healing. This strength supports them to assume a political position in defense of their rights and in favor of food sovereignty, because they consider it as important as their identity and language, and irreducible as their spirit. Therefore, spiritual reaffirmation has a political character. It is also recognized that the struggle to achieve food sovereignty is a way of defending Mother Earth, then the integrity of material and spiritual life is observed. This position questions the entire Guatemalan society by stating that you cannot speak of national sovereignty if you do not have food sovereignty.
Spirituality is a vital component of resistance and healing, it is a stimulus and a resource that allows to reinforce the self-image and advance in the construction of well-being. It allows us to survive as a person, family and community, although not as a People. The Maya People need another structure, they need land, access to resources and services, a dignified and just system that allows them to exist and reproduce with self-determination. Spirituality is threatened and damaged not only by exploitation, discrimination and repression, but mainly by the lack of land and structural marginalization. The Mayan People do not have land to produce and subsist, they do not have what is essential to inspire and give life to their social being or their own spirituality.
A structural change is required to develop agroecology and at the same time recover Mayan spirituality. Es indispensable que haya cambios estructurales, que haya una distribución justa de la tierra, que se implementen programas nacionales que favorezcan económica y tecnológicamente la agroecología en el país para alcanzar la soberanía alimentaria. La transformación requiere un cambio estructural que será celebrado y acompañado libremente con una práctica espiritual propia. Esta radical transformación no depende de la práctica individual sino de transformaciones económicas, políticas y sociales a nivel nacional. A pesar del espacio abierto a través de los Acuerdos de Paz, de la reafirmación de la identidad y empoderamiento del Pueblo Maya, el cambio agrícola y la renovación espiritual no son posibles sin un cambio sistémico del país, superando por completo la discriminación que existe contra los pueblos indígenas y afroamericanos. Surgen entonces profundas interrogantes: ¿La espiritualidad Maya podría recontextualizar una estructura Maya moderna? ¿Podría ser un planteamiento de soberanía alimentaria? ¿De autonomía?
El estímulo más reciente es la masiva marcha indígena-campesina con la participación de 1,500 mujeres, hombres y niños, que llegó el 27 de marzo de 2012 a la capital guatemalteca luego de ocho días recorriendo 214 Km., apoyada por sectores populares y académicos que consideran "justos" y "vigentes" sus reclamos. Daniel Pascual, un dirigente del Comité de Unidad Campesina, organizador de la marcha, explicó que las principales demandas consisten en el cese de los desalojos y la persecución penal contra los indígenas que encabezan los movimientos agrarios. También que se condone la deuda agraria por unos US$ 39 millones que afecta a más de 10,000 familias, acceso a la tierra y el fin de la explotación minera en predios de propiedad ancestral indígena. Los representantes se reunieron con los tres poderes del estado: ejecutivo, legislativo y judicial, y firmaron acuerdos que valoran las demandas indígenas-campesinas y establecen compromisos para realizar cambios y reparar los daños. El respeto y acción a favor de estos acuerdos permitirá el avance de la soberanía alimentaria y la espiritualidad Maya.
Autores: Leonor Hurtado Paz y Paz y Cristóbal Cojtí García – Este articulo es un capítulo del libro sobre Religión y Agricultura que escribieron Leonor Hurtado Paz y Paz y Cristóbal Cojtí García y publicará la Universidad de Charleston SC en EUA. La información contenida en este capítulo proviene de la región Kaqchikel de Guatemala. Leonor y Cristóbal son Ajq´ijab, contadores de los días, con una amplia experiencia en esa región trabajando con campesinos y apoyando el Movimiento de Campesino a Campesino.
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