Columbus Day is not a day that I celebrate. Although at my university in the states, we get the day off and usually it comes as a welcome break in the routine, or in the semester, I do not find it a cause for celebration. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was deeply involved in what we came to called the "counter-quincentennial movement" -- a loose alliance of people and organizations who were uneasy about the lavish celebrations being planned for the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyages to the "new world". That work, in a roundabout way, is responsible for my being in Guatemala now... it led to my helping found a radical artists' collective called REPOhistory, which led to my going to graduate school (again, in a roundabout way), which led to my getting a job in Southeastern Massachusetts, which led to my discovering the New Bedford Maya community, which led me to come to Guatemala. It also was the cause of my starting to work in radio, as one of the ways we tried to offer alternatives to mainstream history was through monthly and then weekly radio programs on WBAI. So that, too, is part of the labyrinth of paths that have led me to where I am now. Something sort of like that.
A few days ago I received an email about a press conference being called by CONIC (the National Coordination of Indigenous People and Peasants) to announce a march on October 12, the day that is celebrated as the "día de la raza" (day of the race -- which is usually in the context of multiculturalist discourse to mean the blended race that encompasses everyone), or the "día de la hispanidad" (day of Spanishness). I do not know what the official celebrations are like here in Guatemala, but I am glad that there is alternative being planned at a national level. The flyer titles the event, "The resistance of for the dignity and rights of indigenous people." The plan is to have three assembly points and march on to the Supreme Court of Justice, the Congress and the Presidential Palace. The demands are both broad and very specific; there are series of laws that have been proposed over the last several years but never approved, and the flyer details them. It ends with the following declaration, which is worth translating:
"We demand the construction of a pluralistic government, based in inclusive and participatory democracy, that prioritizes consensus and national dialogue, that permits a reformulation of a state that reflects the plurality and multiculturality of the nation. For all fo these reasons, we demand of the future government of Guatemala, the convocation of a popular consultation in order to create a national constitutive assembly, that will permit the definition of new constitutional framework in accordance with the realities of the 21st century. The struggle for peace continues, we can't return to a past full of repression and death, and destruction of our communities. No more massacres, and no more genocide of indigenous peoples."
It closes with a rendition of a well-known and much-used phrase from the Pop Wuj, the Maya sacred book, "That all rise up, and that one or two groups do not stay behind the rest." (their Spanish version is a little different than the way it is usually phrased, but I am translating their version from the flyer: the way I've usually heard it would translate more like, "That everyone should advance together, and no one stay behind.").
Unfortunately I have to give a presentation at a conference on Wednesday at 10 a.m. (the assembly for the march starts at 8 a.m.), so my plan is to go a bit before 8, find the people from the community radio movement, hang for a little while, then go to the conference, and then hope I can catch the end of the march at the presidential palace.