In October 2010, I suffered what I considered to be a “catastrophe.” I had spent the previous three months designing and crafting lamps and other objects of art, with the goal of setting up a gallery and thus, making a living. Just a few days before I could accomplish this, the part of San Cristobal where I live got flooded. I lost most of my working materials and finished work.
It was time to pray: “Please, help me to help myself so I can help others.”
My answer came through a friend of mine, Michel, who introduced me to Mercedes. The two took me to a “campesino” community, two hours away from San Cristobal. A fork on my life’s path. I took it.
The López-Hernández community is home to 95 families, living in V. Carranza county in Chiapas, Mexico. An impoverished community, its people lack education (95% of adults can neither read nor write). The approximately 40 children attend “school” in what used to be a barn. There are no toilets. You can imagine the rest. Unfortunately, this picture is way too common in rural Mexico: there must be thousands of communities under these conditions. After all, of 111 million people, 40 to 50 million live in poverty, and of these, 75% are “indigenous people” (whatever that means).
For nine years, these people fought the landowner’s gunmen, government corruption, and official persecution, imprisonement, and other hardships. There is a information available on the internet on this subject OCEZ Chema
Last December, they harvested their own crop. It was the first time in generations that they were the owners of their own labor.
After living and working in the community for a few months, I have rid myself of a “romantic” perspective on poor farmers (i.e., that they are the victims of the system). I cannot pass judgment on them, but there are many cultural, educational, and traditions that do not favor their development. It is all very complex and beyond my understanding.
The López-Hernández name is a tribute to two community members who died as a result of a criminal government action in 2009.