You, whose voice can be heard in other places

By Tomás Ricardo Rosada Villamar,  Country Programme Manager for Mexico

It was still dark when we left. Without breakfast, without even a sip of coffee. Half asleep, we all piled into the three vehicles that had been assigned to us and began driving up the mountain in a state that is now known for its blistering land and its unsafe territory: a land of death, a land at war.

We were tossed around inside the cabs of our trucks as we rolled over streams and open wounds in the roads, slowly being engulfed by the depths of green vegetation as we penetrated deeper into the forest. Its shades of green were endless, an explosion of hues that were evidence of nature almost completely undisturbed. Adobe houses adorned the hillsides, and every so often we glimpsed a peasant herding goats or a group of women shouldering bundles, slowly but surely making their way.

We finally reached our destination several hours later, with the sun high above us. A group of visitors from distant places, with their lists of questions, and local guides who knew their way around the hills with a guerrilla-like intuition. Of course, we all arrived with the stubborn expectation of finding the survival instincts and organization that supposedly always prevail, even in the harshest of conditions.

We were welcomed by a group of inhabitants of a small settlement that was proudly called a village. We got out and started walking up to one of the villagers’ houses, then to their gardens and orchards, spread out in the surroundings. They showed us their production techniques, talked about their dreams, and asked us what we thought or how this or that was done elsewhere. Then we went back to the first house where a group of women were preparing a meal, an unmistakable sign of poor people's gratitude: sharing their hearth and their table, offering a stranger their best food.

From the back of the house appeared an old woman. Small and discreet, with a calm and profound look. This is Doña Carmela, they told me. She's the oldest person in the village and she's still as lively as ever. She likes doing everything and going everywhere. She'd even climb the trees with us if she could!

She exuded such magnetism that I went over and knelt beside her so that I could talk to her, but above all so I could listen to her. She took my hand and gave me a smile that revealed some missing teeth. She bowed her head discreetly, her way of thanking us for our visit. She grabbed the arm of a girl whom she might have resembled seventy years ago and sat down in a chair to wait; to wait with the patient determination of someone who is certain that they must take the opportunity to send a message with an emissary who is finally within reach.

When the time was right, she spoke in that timeless language of Rulfo and his Comala[i],making reference respectfully and impersonally to forces and attitudes that have ignored them for years on end, even today on the centenary of a Constitution born out of a revolution that over the decades has lost sight of its main goal: satisfying the peasants’ clamour for land and development.

"You, whose voice can be heard in other places, tell them not to forget about us, the poor." I promise to pass on your message, I told her. We shook hands again and said goodbye: she, feeling certain that she had sent her message again, and I, fearing that it would fall, once again, on deaf ears.


[i] Translator’s note: A reference to Mexican writer Juan Rulfo and a town mentioned in his novel Pedro Páramo

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