Fanons Three Stages Related To The Indigenous People Of Chiapas


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Fanon's Three Stages Related to the Indigenous People of Chiapas


     The passage Shadows of Tender Fury by Subcommander Marcos of the
Zapatista Army explains that the people of Chiapas are currently facing a period
of revolution. The Zapatista army (consisting of Chiapian campesinos) has risen
to combat the intolerant system of oppression by the Mexican government and has
attempted to create a better lifestyle for the campesinos of Chiapas. Frantz
Fanon's three stages to national culture; assimilation, self discovery, and
revolution, relate to the struggle of the campesinos of Chiapas. In the last
500 years, the indigenous people of Chiapas have faced all three of Fanan's
stages during their struggle for the development of a national culture.
     Five-hundred years ago when the first Europeans came in contact with the
Mayan Indians, the first stage of Fanon's theory, assimilation, began
formalizing. Throughout history the colonizers of Mexico were more
technologically advanced than the natives. The Europeans had guns, cannons and
massive ships. Not only did these possessions enable them to have greater brute
force, but it took the white man to the level of the gods in the eyes of the
natives. The colonizers could easily take advantage of this reverence. Fanon
states "The effect consciously sought by colonialism was to drive into the
natives' heads the idea that if the settlers were to leave, they would at once
fall back into barbarism, degradation, and bestiality."(Fanon 211) The
colonizers, believing the natives were savages that needed enlightenment, forced
European culture upon them. The Europeans believed that to assimilate the
natives to European culture was to help them progress. Therefore, to return to
the old ways would have been regressing. When the natives objected to the
forced assimilation, the colonizers smothered the rebellious efforts with
stronger, more lethal weapons. Fanon compares the colonizer to a mother who
restrains her "perverse" child so that he will not commit suicide.(Fanon 211)
The analogy implies that the colonized must be protected (by the colonizer) from
self-destruction. In the minds of the European colonizers, this idea of
protection justified forcing assimulation onto the natives.
Although the native campesinos (the poor people of Chiapas) haven't
fully assimulated, they have adopted particular aspects of European and present
day Mexican culture. The campesinos have learned the Spanish language and
joined the catholic religion. An example of Fanon's first phase is when the
colonizer tries to calm the angry, poor and exploited colonized people by
promising social reform.(Fanon 207) These reforms promise things such as
employment, welfare and education. According to Fanon, the government rarely
follows through with pledged social reform. They find it easier to simply

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increase the number of army troops, police officers and jail cells. The
oppressors intention is to stop present campeseno rebellions by putting the
rebels behind bars and instilling fear in the rest of the community. Instead of
attempting to help the poverty stricken people of Chiapas, the authorities are
pushing the problem into the background, hiding it and hoping it will go away on
its own.
In the diocese of Cristobal de las Casas, a Priest argues that the
campesinos should have the same rights to freedom and justice as other Mexicans.
The white ranch owners and important business men of the region fear rebellion.
They call for the "white guards", their security system, to crush any possible
uprisings and put the most threatening rebels in jail.(Marcos 42 One half of
the Mexican army is stationed in Chiapas, reminding the campesinos daily of the
futility of their situation.
In Fanon's second stage, the colonized person explores history in an
attempt to learn about his culture. Fanon explains "Perhaps this passionate
research and this anger are directed by the secret hope of discovering beyond
the misery of today."(Fanon 210) The native is frustrated and angry with life.
He immerses himself in his culture in an effort to solve the problems of present
day. The native learns about what his people have done in the past, and as a
result, he starts to look toward the future with new guidance. It is during
this second stage when the colonized people decide a revolution is the only way
to regain land and freedom. In Chiapas, the elders remember Zapata, the
revolutionary hero of the Mayans. He rose up for his people shouting, "land and
freedom." In the following excerpt, the old people find a calling to revolution
from the very land the revolution is fought for.
The oldest of the old say that the wind and the rain and the sun tell
the campesinos when they should prepare the soil, when they should plant, and
when they should harvest. They say that hope also must be planted and harvested.
And the old people say that now the wind, the rain , and the sun are talking to
the earth in a new way, and that the poor should not continue to harvest death,
now it is time to harvest rebellion.(Marcos 46)
As the second stage ages, it becomes more like the third, and soon the
idea of rebellion becomes the reality of a revolution.
Now that the need for revolution has been established, the next step is
to organize and army and wait for the suitable time to revolt. This relates to
Fanon's third stage which is rebellion. Despite the fact that the colonized
person had previously been trying to escape the problems of the present, after
learning about his culture he organizes the people to help solve the problems of
the present. He thus becomes a leader. Presently the campesinos of Chiapas are
revolting. During a peaceful demonstration, hundreds of indigenous chiapian
people walked 1,106 kilometers to the capital of Mexico to get an interview
with the viceroy.(Marcos 48) On another peaceful march to the capital the
colonized people renounced the changes relating to NAFTA. They recited poems,
spoke on the issues and sung songs.(Marcos 49) In less peaceful acts of
revolution three state troopers were kidnapped and the Pan-American Highway was
taken over. This was all in retaliation for being detained and fined for
cutting
wood to use in campesino houses. Fanon's third stage of revolution was
relevant seventy years ago with Zapata. From the very beginning of
colonialization, the area of Chiapas has had periods of revolution.(Marcos 46)
Fanon's stages describe a cycle that has continued throughout the history of
the oppressed campesinos. The day the cycle stops is the day the third stage
succeeds in converting dignity and rebellion into dignity and freedom.(Marcos
47) The campesinos will have ended this five-hundred year struggle for a
national culture.
During the past five centuries, Fanon's three stages; assimilation,
discovery of ones history and revolution, have been repeated through many people
and many communities. It is not predictable when the campesinos of Chiapas will
regain the land and freedom that they claim is rightfully theirs. The
Zapatistas and campesinos of Chiapas hope that this period of revolution will
be the final stage, and the people will have "dignity and freedom".


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