Mexico is celebrating the 116th anniversary of the battle that ended the last indigenous rebellion in North America, issuing an apology for centuries of brutal exploitation and discrimination
MEXICO CITY – Mexico on Monday marked the anniversary of a 1901 battle that ended one of the last indigenous rebellions in North America, issuing an apology for centuries of brutal exploitation and discrimination.
Monday’s ceremony was held in the village of Tihosuco, in the Mayan municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, home of the rebellion. It takes place amid broader celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Mexico in 1519-1521 and the 200 years of Mexico’s independence in 1821 from Spain.
“For centuries, these people have suffered exploitation and abuse,” said Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero. “Today we recognize something that we have long denied, the mistakes and injustices committed against the Mayan people.”
“Today, we ask for forgiveness on behalf of the Mexican government for the injustices committed against you throughout our history and for the discrimination that you have suffered so far,” she said.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was accompanied by President Alejandro Giammattei of Guatemala, a neighboring country with a Mayan majority.
The Mayans of Quintana Roo – who fought in the 1847-1901 rebellion against Mexican settlers and the government known as “the Breed War” – still live on the Caribbean coast. The rebellion finally ended when Mexican troops captured Felipe Carrillo Puerto between May 4 and 5, 1901.
Although the Mayans of Mexico survived, they were virtually excluded from the rich tourism industry that has emerged in coastal resorts like Cancún and Playa del Carmen since 1974. Most make a living as small farmers or fruit growers, or as construction or cleaning workers in resorts.
“We realized that we have a great history, that we are considered an example and that people earn a lot of money with our name, but that money never appears in our communities,” said Mayan activist Alfaro Yam Canul.
Although the coast south of Cancún is known as the “Riviera Maya” and water parks often have “Mayan” attractions, the vast majority of Mayans live in poverty in the underdeveloped part of the southern state of Quintana Roo, south of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, near the border with Belize.
Yam Canul asked López Obrador to give the Maya the right to promote tourism on a long stretch of coast dotted with mangroves that was considered a nature reserve.
Yam Canul said that the Sian Ka’an nature reserve – which occupies 75 miles (120 kilometers) of coastline and 1.3 million acres (530,000 hectares) of mangroves, swamps and shallow bays and lagoons – has been “taken, stolen from us in a way, without our knowledge or consulting us. ”
The reserve currently offers short day trips to visitors, but there are no hotels. Experts say the lagoon and mangrove ecosystem is extremely delicate and that any significant fishing or tourism activity would threaten them.
Yam Canul asked the president to revise the rules of the nature reserve “so that we Mayans, followers of the cross, can enter and develop community ecological tourism, in which we do not want really big buildings”. Said “all the tourist and hotel infrastructure should be in the Mayan capital” by Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
Felipe Carrillo Puerto, formerly known as Chan Santa Cruz, is considered the Mayan capital because it was the center of the rebellion. It contained the “Talking Cross” temple, an apparent ventriloquist trick that advised the Maya to rebel against their oppressors.
During the 19th century, the Maya were forced to work in conditions similar to those of serfs in the sisal plantations. Sisal and henequen were fibers used in the manufacture of ropes. Some were even virtually taken into slavery in the sugar cane fields in Cuba.