The words we love so much

Morales Bermúdez, Jesús
Revista Literatures Núm. 1 i 2 1998

It is some thirty years ago now that, under the guidance of the great poet Agustí Bartra, a free-movement in poetry appeared, participating in which were a poet from Sinaloa, one from Mexico City and three poets from Chiapas.
From the earliest collections of indigenous literature, and even today, almost all the work is concerned with myths and ancient realities in all their variations and their particular inexhaustible forms. It is not until very recently, and in great measure thanks to promotion by the State and civil and religious organisations, that we have been able to discover writings which reflect upon village traditions or which are trying to aim towards the total domain of imagination or fiction, maintaining or reformulating traditional forms of structure or expression.
Beyond individual or collective experiences over time there lies an aesthetic and symbolic horizon of continuity. This aesthetic horizon has endured throughout the colonial period and at least until the Mexican revolution.
The oral tradition at its peak assumed faithful depositories which guaranteed a similar fidelity in transmission. The transmitters were generally elders who stored and transmitted their heritage to the extent that they considered that its elements "worked" in a particular context, and that "modernity" permitted. It is always an elder who turns to a story to give advice or to make an example of behaviour to be emulated by the younger members of the community or of his family. The literary and oral universe of the Indian peoples is closely bound to a sense of the reproduction of the culture and thus identity. In this sense, there is no reflection about language itself which might propose a construction of self or imaginary perceptions that would contribute to ethnic affirmation, as has happened amongst some peoples. Stories are elaborated with a symbolic rather than a metaphorical dimension and with concerns that are more didactic than recreational.
Language would constitute a window onto the cultural universe. The speaker, in being able to reflect about his or her own language would have the chance to reinforce the culture and, in particular, value it positively and discover therein logical and perfectly elaborated mechanisms of which he or she had been ignorant. Writing would provide an indispensable support in stimulating and at once permitting this discovery. One fundamental consideration is that while written creations are preserved in books and libraries, the continuity of the oral tradition depends on the memory one or more men and their chances of communicating it.
Almost all of this work is concerned with myths or old stories and it leaves aside recent history and reflection about it. In time, this will become a graphic assimilation and a conception of history, of its temporality and of its progression. The formulations of anthropologists put the emphasis on registering the microcosm of the community. New writers take up problems of their own times and its literary reality, have begun to translate Mexican works and universal literature and are also beginning to participate in regional and national literary institutions.
What the Centro de Lenguas y Literatura (Language and Literature Centre) and the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista Army of National Liberation), in their vindication of indigenous writing and languages seem to manifest, is overcoming the resistance to writing which has resulted from its long use as an instrument of domination by western civilisations. The Indian peoples of Mexico and their literature are again raising the prospect of diversity with equality of opportunity of possibilities and rights. This is their firm contribution in the face of an end-of-century prospect of a project of homogenisation of cultures and economy.