photo of Mexican man the sierra norte
Mexico glossary








representante communal (official responsible for community property)


Yavesía, Oaxaca


September 1999



Section 1
Could you tell us your name and age.
Mauro Cruz. My age; 28 years old, 28 years...

Single or married?

How many children?
Two small girls, two years old and the other is one.

How far did you get in school?
Ah! I finished secondary school.

Did you study in primary school here?
Yes, I studied in primary here in Yavesía.

In what year did you start giving your servicio (cargo service) to the community as a ciudadano (citizen) here in the village?
When I finished primary school. In fact, I went to secondary school for one year, that was in La Trinidad, well, for economic reasons I had to return here, to the village and when I was 14 they gave me the cargo (unpaid community position) of topil (junior cargo position involving running errands and keeping order) in the municipal council.

At 14 years old?
At 14 years old, I registered as a ciudadano, giving my servicio in economic and practical matters.

How many times have you held the cargo of topil until now?
Well I was first a topil, then as municipal secretario (community secretary) I was on assignments for nearly three years. I’ve done nine assignments now, so I’ve just held cargos of secretario. Actually I had another assignment to represent the community in a legal procedure - so those are the cargos I’ve held.

Now as the representante communal (official responsible for community property) of Yavesía and with almost three years in this cargo, how did you get yourself involved in this battle that Yavesía had to defend and conserve its natural resources? How did you get yourself started in this dispute here? Had you taken part in some asambleas (meetings of the community parliament) before? How did it happen?
Right, as a matter of fact I think that it’s something historical at the same time from what they tell me. Well, let’s go back a little shall we? When I arrived here, my mother told me that at the time that I was born my father was in the forest. It was when they cleared the boundary line, when Yavesía was recognised as having 9,000 hectares. So I got to be born here, didn’t I? [He smiles.] Yes. So I liked people to tell me these types of stories, what they suffered, the sacrifices they made. I feel that from there this energy, this spirit in me was born, yes. They said that they were defending what belongs to Yavesía, there are people from other communities that want to take what’s ours, so I feel that it was from there I began to make use of my reason.
At around the age of seven or eight years old I accompanied my father to the asambleas generales. Yes, well in those days I watched how they expressed themselves, people who’ve now passed away, like the late Sotero, Professor Marcos, Antonio Serrano, everybody. So, well I used to dream, didn’t I, that one day it would be like this. I’ve always been [concerned] for the wellbeing of the community. Though in fact, in the administration of 89-90-91, well there were misunderstandings here in the community, people who didn’t want progress – but there was a movement from the people who were fighting, had fought for the recognition and wellbeing of Yavesía.
So, well, looking at things well now, with awareness, we see that things were very bad at that time, there weren’t the defences that our forefathers had made. No, because as father used to tell me, they’ve defended the territory of Yavesía ever since the [time of our] forefathers, since the Revolution (Mexican Revolution of 1910). Well that’s what they did; so, well if a community has defended itself for many years, to let it be put down at this time - just when one has the opportunity to defend it - well, that’s why I put my heart into upholding the situation, right? And I continue with our goal of obtaining official recognition of Yavesía as it is, to have wellbeing in the community. In fact the community has overcome all the problems it has lived through, hasn’t it? We have always analysed and discussed this. It’s that Yavesía is unique in how we live, both the economic and cultural aspects, it’s different from other communities. So, well that is the feeling I’ve got for the village, so, with great honour I fight for the dignity of the community, the way it’s been.
Section 2
So, you are saying that you grew up with this, that your parents taught you to protect, to fight for, to defend what is Yavesía’s?
Yes, actually that’s how it was, yes. Like I told you. Well my grandparents – unfortunately I didn’t get to know the father of my father but he told me, he used to say to me, no well, it’s that these were his beliefs, right? And well, I think you know my father – well, he is a great man who has defended the community. So defending it has come from the heart; well in fact all the family that matter to me have defended the situation even though there are some who don’t want to do so. But as I’ll tell you again, it’s a reserve that our ancestors left for us and to honour them we have to protect it.
Section 3
Now tell us, how did it happen that the village, the asamblea (community parliament), elected you as representante? Tell us about that moment, and how did you feel when you took on this responsibility so young. How old were you?
How can I say it? Well at the age of, what would it have been, 15 years old, well, I realised how the situation was being discussed. Well, when I was municipal secretario (community secretary) it was very slow, that’s where my chance came to get myself more involved in the situation. I was in the municipal secretariat for three years, well during that time I realised the mean way in which the authorities who were representing those opposed to progress in the community, worked. Well as municipal secretario I didn’t have the right of speech at that time but, well I saw all the anomalies that were within the administration. So, I didn’t like the way things were being done. We talked with the then municipal presidente (highest authority in the municipality). Well, we – me, the youngster I was at that time, and a friend called Israel – got talking and saw that the situation in Yavesía was critical. Well, we thought that as we were young we wouldn’t be able to speak in an asamblea. Then on one occasion [the municipal presidente] invited me to go to Oaxaca. He said to me, if you’re really interested in the situation inYavesía let’s go to speak with the people who have lived with the situation; so that’s how it was that we accepted.
So we went to Oaxaca; well, even though I had problems I managed to go, I arrived. So over there they talked to me, they told me about the situation that was being defended and about the bad conduct there was here in the community. Well I agreed with them, that basically that’s how it was, because I’d lived with it within the village administration, so from there an asamblea general happened here. Cunningly the opposing party invited Yavesía to present itself in Oaxaca, to say that there didn’t exist any conflict in Yavesía and that the whole situation of Yavesía was practically fine, and that thanks to these communities Yavesía was overcoming things, right? The thing is, it was a lie. So in the asamblea general we disagreed that Yavesía was a free and sovereign municipality, autonomous in its decisions, and [said] that the two communities, Lachatao and Amatlán, mustn’t interfere. That was the first occasion we had the chance to give our opinions.
Well, thanks to the people, they understood us young people, that the community had to take its own decisions; so that’s how the people that were also against those people [from the Unión Liberal Serrana (Liberal Mountain Union)], came to support us, right? They said to the municipal presidente, who was Señor Timoteo, that the young people were right, that Yavesía had to determine what it would do from that moment on, and that’s how it happened. It wasn’t agreed that the people would go to Oaxaca, because [the people from the Unión Liberal Serrana] told us in Oaxaca that if the people of Yavesía presented themselves here, [we should] be sure that the ecological reserve that our ancestors protected, well they would finish it off. Because you know that [Lachatao and Amatlán’s] goal is to exploit this area. So we were a little afraid when we arrived here in the community and we had to oppose those not attending (ie urge everyone to attend) the meeting with the Governor; at that time the Governor supported these communities - he was Diódoro Carrasco. That’s how, well, we became deeply involved after that, expressing the opinion in the asamblea that what the authority was doing was wrong.
Another administration of another municipal presidente came. Again, we objected because all his administration was bad; far from benefiting the community, it would have put it in a precarious situation. From that it arose that the then representante communal (official responsible for community property)went to prison for defending the community so it was put into effect that the asamblea general should name the new representante communal, because the actual representative was in custody. So the election came and they choose from people who were mature because to have the cargo (unpaid community position) of representante is very difficult because you have to know a lot. So three older men were put forward [as candidates]. Well, the asamblea general denied them because they said that they were “spent cartridges”, as is rudely said. So after that they said that a young person should be chosen, a young person who is capable. Well I didn’t flatter myself but then they nominated me to be the representante communal. Well, people, with the confidence they have had in me up to today, voted in favour of me, [asked] that I would take the cargo [as a result] of the vote. Well the cargo was given to me at almost 24 years old. I accepted the cargo of representante communal even though my parents told me I was doing the wrong thing, that it was beyond my ability, my age, because to be representante one has to have completed all the cargos, but it arrived to me earlier.
So here we are; this has been my way of acting, my way of thinking, and I continue with the idea to continue defending [the community]. Never for one moment do I retract what I am, betray the confidence of the community, because the confidence of the community at the same time makes the man. So it has been with the people; well we’ve had good discussions, we’ve looked out for the interests of the community and that’s why I feel that we had to make an effort, me personally as you well know. The movement was made so that people would understand, were talking; at times we’ve even had people come here to the house and we’ve talked as friends, yes, what problems they’ve been living with, but everything is for the good of the community.
Section 4
What did you feel in that moment when they gave you such a responsibility, and did you understand, let’s say, the weight of the responsibility it meant? What were your feelings at that moment - when an asamblea (community parliament) of that size, which is very serious, put their trust in you? How did you feel in that moment?
In fact when they nominated me, well I felt, as one has to, well, I made it clear that I was very young, very much a youth, 24 years old, well it wasn’t right. Well the people that were there gave me confidence; they said to me that you don’t need to live one hundred years to learn either, with your enthusiasm that shows. Also a person that was against the situation said to me, “Well, it’s that you are like a small chicken that’s just hatched from the eggshell, well you have to peck about everywhere and there you will find, the road is there.” In fact when I left with the majority of votes I was very proud to say well goodness! I have accomplished my dream. I had had it as a feeling but I had never said in words that I wanted to be somebody, no. So when I made the pledge in front of the forum, in front of the whole asamblea, I felt very proud.
In fact for the family, my parents, it was a nightmare, yes, because when someone leaves for Oaxaca or Mexico City, well they don’t know if the person will return, because, well, there are a lot of risks, yes. But I am proud because the man who started [tackling] the problem was the late Mauro - may he rest in peace - and I believe that I’ll continue and I am confident that this time we will finish it.
Section 5
Now you told me - and, well yes, it is well known - that at that time the compañero (comrade) Antonio was in prison for the same thing - for defending the cause of the village - and you took on the responsibility. How were things for Yavesía at that time and what achievements have you had up till now, because hasn’t the asamblea ratified you for those various times?
Yes, that’s it, as I was saying; in fact a thing that we’ve talked about in the asambleas is to say that what’s being done is bad, it’s not good, you’re doing wrong. That was one thing. The most difficult thing that I came across was, do you know what? A legal procedure, that one doesn’t yet have the experience of. Well when I took on the problem, they said no; well it’s that I took on the issue of Yavesía without thoroughly understanding what it involved. So I talked, I visited the man, Señor Serrano, in prison. Well he told me what the problem was, how it was; but they said it wasn’t valid. However, in the course of a year and a half or a - yes - a year and a half, well thanks to the licenciado (university graduate) Hugo Aguilar, I was given legal advice, he told me what the situation was; so I was waking up and seeing the stages of the case. Actually we received some bad news from Mexico City: that the progress that Yavesía had [made had] been lost. The only path we had left was to talk and arrive at a good arrangement, but personally, I felt this type of action wasn’t acceptable. So I had to get into it deeper, looking at the situation of the legal procedures before the court and everything.
Well it took a long time, as I told you, a year and a half for me to really understand the situation; so now I understand it perfectly. I have been clear to the people, they know [everything]. When I took on the problem the village was at rock bottom. People didn’t know who to trust: the people who were involved in that, who had the power from ’90 to ’93, or [whether] to have confidence in me who took on the problem in ’95-96. So in fact the people had reason to be confused. “Who was right?” they asked, “The people that follow the sector caracterizado (senior group within the asamblea) or the young people that had just got to grips with the problem?” Well, thank God the people had understood; the people from Oaxaca were invited, the situation was open for everyone and they were understanding, yes. They were being informed on the situation in depth, because there was confusion, a lot of confusion; but as I said when I took on the problem it was difficult, very difficult.

What do you think, after having lived though so many internal problems from both sides? What do you think about the last four or five years in which the people… the village has once again taken the flag of the fight to continue ahead… in which the majority has been united in the fight for their land, for their resources? What do you think about these achievements after having lived through difficult moments in ‘91 and at the end of the ‘80s? What do you think?
Yes, well as I said to you, well I’m proud to have become the person that represents this community. Well for me it has been very satisfactory that we have managed to get people to understand, including me. In the last asamblea (community parliament) I declared that I had to retire, “I don’t want to sound like a scratched record, always the same.” I said. Well the people said to me “No, No.” If I retire one day it will be because there is nothing left to do. If you are in front, well, the village places its trust in you; you have to go on, because if you flag for a moment it’s as if we aren’t continuing the struggle any more either, no! So if the confidence of the village is with me and I have confidence in the village too, well then like this both sides have confidence in each other.
Section 6
Is it difficult to be, I mean, not wanting to call you a leader, but is it difficult having people’s trust, to be an important person in this type of thing, dealing with territory, the resources, is it difficult?
Yes, yes, it’s difficult because there are problems, including here in the family, because at times one prefers the [community] problem to being at the home. We’ve had little problems like any couple. Well, they say to me that either you prefer your home or you prefer your work. Sometimes I say to my parents that in fact the work is very important too; it’s territory that’s being fought over. Well, that’s what I sometimes say to them. I mean, the thing to be proud of is not that they will say that Abel’s son did this but rather that they’re going to say that those from Yavesía managed to overcome things. But yes it’s difficult, it’s difficult to remain firm, more than anything; to be firm, not accept any anomalies there may be, that more than anything.

Now you’ve taken part in various events here within the village to protect the resources, using the watchdog group, going to arrest people. Tell us an anecdote about this, something that you have participated in up there in the forest, surveying, arresting, a moment that you have and remember well.
Yes, actually as I was telling you, as a child it was born (bred) in me, that I was about eight years old when they were exploiting in the area that’s called Guacamayas. Well, in those days I was going with my father [smiles], the son of Señor Alejandro Pérez. We were the only two boys that went there to see what was happening. Well, something I’ll never forget was when there was the gunfight by the sawmill. Well, we were children, I went with my father; my father came, taking care of me. We were only about three people: the late Sotero, who was municipal presidente (highest authority in the municipality) – may he rest in peace - my father and Señor Isaías, who brought the presidente’s seal. Well, there were some other young people of about 20, 20 odd years old and they said: “Over there, the ranchers are coming, they’re going to attack us.” But we didn’t believe it; we [only] realised when we were already surrounded by these people. So seeing ourselves surrounded, the last thing that was shouted was “Get out your shotguns”. [laughing]
So that was a very major experience for me, to see how the community defended itself. The community has defended itself since it has always been very brave. The people are peaceful, the things are done properly, but with things that are done with bad intention, well, the village has its ways of acting. So that has been my experience of going to the forest. There were even times when there were people, now deceased, may they rest in peace, who came to blows in the forest - that shows with what courage they defended things. So from that there was almost a rage born in me. “Sooner or later”, I said, “this has to finish.” And I watched it from the asamblea (community parliament); I couldn’t accept seeing that type of thing there. So that is, I think, also the anger I carry. Decisions are taken out of anger more than anything and one manages to advance by taking them firmly.
So these are my experiences that stayed with me. There was the occasion of the gunfight that happened over there. The next day the judicial police, the army arrived because there had been notifications of deaths, yes! The same thing, I was in the village office with my father when the army arrived and well, there was an uproar. So then it was discussed that it was a problem of life in the forest. Another experience, well I had the cargo (unpaid community position) of municipal secretario (community secretary), when a strong movement was initiated by the Governor, supposedly to protect the community against an invasion of people from Veracruz. But it still, well it wasn’t how they had talked about it, how the Governor had talked about it. The mistake was [on the part] of some people here in the community; if we had understood the movement that was coming, well we would have come out ahead of the problem. But far from understanding it, well the situation got more complicated. There was also that terrible gunfight at that time; the same thing, the judicial police arrived.
It’s that at times I remember a lot. So, as I told you, there has been a lot of suffering, I’ve involved myself in the problem from a very young age, including when there were fires. My father took me. I went to carry water but, well, we were there [laughing] - and how much good was that, right? As I told you there was a fire during the administration of ’91-‘92-‘93. Well the village hadn’t paid attention to the then President, no. Well when they suffered the disastrous fire here in ’96, ’98, the people acted immediately. This shows that the people had learnt that we have to protect what’s ours, so that’s something to be proud of - a satisfaction that stays with us, that we achieved what we were trying to do.
Section 7
Also, everything that you’ve said, what do you think of the idea that the village has finally had in the last few months: to finally care for and leave this area as an ecological reserve, as you call it, as an area of conservation and protection for the future generations, as the people say? After so many problems how do you feel that they arrived at an agreement like this, saying that it’ll remain in this way, we won’t live from the forest but will have other ways to live? How do you see all these achievements that the village has had in this respect?
Yes, this, look, as I said, Yavesía in fact is different from other communities that dedicate themselves to the exploitation of the forest. Yavesía has its own means of living, including many people migrating to the USA. Since before we can remember what was discussed, the village has never looked to exploitation of the forest because nature gave it for us to live in, not to destroy [laughing]. So, well as I said to you a minute ago, the ideas we had, well thank God, they are strengthening all the time. In fact, if the deceased defended it so that it wouldn’t be touched, so that it would be an ecological reserve, well, we live with the same ideas that we’ll never change. We’ll never betray the ideas of our ancestors, because, well, they protected it; it’s not fair that at this stage, this generation, the reserve is destroyed. Because in this reserve that we have, well more than anything there are the aquifers that supply the community and well, recently the fish farm, the vegetable gardens put their reservoirs there. The village has lived from fruit cultivation more than anything, the production has been a big success because, taking everything into account the decisions are being taken well, the ideas come together, that everything has to be like this. Because at times many people only live in the present, wanting [money and saying] “today I’ll become rich and I have to be rich”, without thinking about what will happen in the future. I’ve seen that there have been disasters in other areas for the same reason - they haven’t protected; [the people] never looked after nature so they’ve damaged their own land - so, well, they are the ideas that we have here.
Section 8
Now, a question. You grew up, you were taught about the forest, you went there from a young age: did your father tell you ideas, legends about the “owner of the mountain” (Zapotec deity), the animals? Did you hear some ideas of this kind from your grandfather, that for example the mountains have an owner, did they talk to you about things like this?
Yes, in fact the father of my mother, he was a person who lived in the forest really, his life was there, yes. He said that the deer [laughing] have an owner that is this, that they call the owner of the mountain (Zapotec deity). That’s why he used to say that anyone who kills a deer must go to the owner of the deer. He said that. Well, he lived where it’s called La Peña of Xia caba and he said that on one December 31st he heard music, there was music. There was music and my late grandfather told me a squirrel climbed on to his dog. This is what he said: “I was listening to it, what beautiful music there was, there was thunder and a tremendous noise,” but he said, “Where’s it coming from?” I don’t think it was from Laxopa or Yatuni, no, well in those days the communities didn’t have dances like they do now. And he said “I continued listening and then, well I got tired of listening to music and there was the squirrel right there, but when I let off a shot,” he said, “everything became silent.”
My late grandmother, may she rest in peace, said the same thing to me: that on one occasion over there in the land of the Llanos de Chicle she said, “Be careful, no way should you go on that land.” I think that a man called Andrés died over there. She said that La Peña put a spell on him and there he stayed, because he had killed so many deer. And she said that at exactly noon the rooster crowed in La Peña; she heard it. Well they couldn’t be lying: they were grandparents that you had to listen to out of respect. She said that the rooster sang over there in La Peña and so I believe it, that they exist, something supernatural exists, yes.

Are there any more legends of this type that you’ve heard, that you can remember, like those you mentioned?
Yes, there are people who are alive now who say that in an area that in Zapoteco is called Cua jie (“the rocks are here”), that they have often seen a snake there, a snake. Well, there are people who’ve seen it and they say that it’s a very big animal. They say it even carries the head of a calf, and well, to be frank [laughing] at times we’ve been afraid because they say it scares the animals. It’s a big animal but it doesn’t bite because it’s the “owner of the mountain” (Zapotec deity). Well I told you about the problem of ’90-91. Señor León Martínez, well, he said that he came from Ixtlán, because he was made to leave there, and he said that when he arrived at Las Salinas there was a snake that had been shot. But incredibly, he said that its head was there in the river and its tail was never-ending, from La Peña all the way down. And speaking to a man called Otilio who lived down there, in Lachatao, well he said that this animal lives in Las Salinas. It went through Pueblo Viejo, from Pueblo Viejo it went to La Cruz, and from La Cruz it went as far as Cua jie where it arrived.
The late Eustorgio said the same thing. Well he liked hunting deer a lot and he said that on one occasion he went with his dogs there below Xie tutsi and he stayed waiting there. He then saw the deer coming and fired everything from the 22 (gun), but nothing! The deer went straight to the river. He said that when he arrived at the river his dogs were already there. Well he arrived where the deer was, what deer? It was a snake that was in there, so it’s a, it’s something that is seen nowadays. Well Señor Crisantos says he’s seen it and Señora Reina has seen it too, so it does exist. So well, at the same time that it causes panic if someone comes across it, more than anything it takes care of you, sometimes small snakes manage to surprise you, right? [laughing] So yes, in fact yes.
Section 9
Yes, for example … Well, I myself can remember that my grandfather said those sort of things, so that one would also respect nature and the animals and not, not, let’s say, kill whatever one wants but just what is needed to eat, right? Do you think that your grandfathers also said these things with this idea?
Yes, in fact, as you said. Yes, sometimes I think about a tree, for example. Why does one need to cut it down? The cost of cutting down a tree is, well, I think that it’s a crime to do it. The same with killing some animal, yes, they have the right to live so it’s not fair that someone kills them. In fact, well, yes, every animal has its owner, from what my grandfather said, because he was also one of those that went hunting now and again. He said that the coyote is the devil’s dog [laughing], it’s his dog; the [devil’s] cat is the squirrel. He said also about the deer, he said that the biggest deer is the “real boss’s” horse.
They say that there are catrines (“dandies”; used here to mean apparitions of the devil dressed in elegant clothes). Well, here’s the catrin like someone said he saw. So I think that, well, many people haven’t dedicated themselves to that because there’s respect for the fact that they do exist, isn’t there? There’s fear of what’s been said, what the deer hunters have said, they say that a person who kills a lot of deer will go to the “owner of the mountain” (Zapotec deity).
Señor Filadelfo talked about this once; he said that he used to go to La Peña – because he hunted deer, like you were talking about. Well, if by luck I come across one I’ll kill it, right, because I know that I need it, but there are people who sometimes take it (kill it), they take it for no reason at all, so I imagine that’s why [the owner of the mountain] appeared like that [to a hunter], [it was] an effect of his conscience. But yes, yes, it does exist for some people, how can I say it, nature. If one finishes it off, well, the punishment will come from God, because he gave nature. Everything came from him and if one acts badly towards it, well, the punishments have been seen and exist. So that’s what I’ve personally understood, that that’s how it is in fact. That’s how it is.

Now, returning to the subject of the village, of the struggle. You think about the young people now, there are young people who are basically good, they go to the asambleas (community parliaments) and they’ve reaffirmed your idea of struggling. As a young person yourself, have you seen that the young are also, let’s say, ready to continue with the same ideas of their parents?
Yes, as I told you, when I was starting it was in fact a joke for the young people. I mean they laughed at me. There were, there still are, people who were annoyed, well that’s how I took it. I ignored them at times because, well, I imagine that their capabilities didn’t go any further. When I first got in, the insults were strong. They said, “That kid, what can he know if [his] betters have passed [before him] and haven’t managed to solve [the community problem]? Is he going to solve it? Who knows what that poor boy over there says.” They ignored me, they told me I was ignorant and I, well I thought about it, that the young people stopped themselves there, they told me this strongly, “You accept that the people criticise you – leave this situation, why do you accept it? Well, if I were you I’d live in peace because I wouldn’t accept the kind of insults they give you.” Well, I said to them, I said “No! One day you will realise what’s being done.” And the young people, of my age and younger, gave up.
I was proud about [19]97 – no, the end of ’98 – when we were notified that there would be a remarking of the boundary line, of the boundary line here in Pueblo Viejo. That is our border, it’s up to us to do it. Well, the notification arrived at 10 in the night, well, what does one do? Señor Aristeo who was president announced that everyone must present themselves because the people of Lachatao and Amatlán were invading what was Yavesía’s territory. So we prepared ourselves immediately that night, including Honorio who is a little bit older than me but is also young. He has been one of the people that has at times made me think he could be more capable than I, that’s how I consider him. He’s a person that has understood and that lived the [community] situation too. He was one of the people opposed to the situation, the progress, but afterwards he reacted to the fact that everything was bad. Someone said it in Mexico City, he said there’s “one in a thousand”, and that one is Honorio [laughing]; he watches over the community’s interests. So we came to an agreement that night, he said to me, “I’m going with the group of our bravest to the territory limits to keep surveillance (watch). Yes, over there – because it’s most likely that they’ll arrive there. Everybody from those [villages] is going to arrive. Well, just the 10 of us are going, yes. I think that you know them, Señor Timoteo, Arón and the rest and you and the president, you’ll go down there with a group that’s going.” Well, we arrived there at six in the morning, at Las Salinas (the boundary of the community’s territory).
And there we were; the trucks started to arrive at about seven in the morning. Well, the quantity of these famous farmers. Well, the only ones who spoke were the President, Don Aristeo and I, seeing what was what, then the comisariado (community official) arrived. We went up to them and asked what was happening; they said “We’re here to remark the boundary.” Really! So we asked “Under what order? Show us your assignment order.” “No, it’s that we’ve come here...” “No!” we said with force. “You won’t go past here, this is Yavesía territory and we have to look after it, and you know what will happen to you if you pass.” Because that was the way that they lived, in the way they were acting now. They said “No, this is the order we have.” “You aren’t going to enter,” I said. “You don’t understand, I’m telling you clearly not to enter, we are the owners and we decide the moment in which we do it. You’re not going to make the order for it to be done.” That’s what I told them. The municipal presidente (highest authority in the municipality) also said the same: that they knew what would happen if they entered. Even though we were 15-20, the people had to act in that moment there. Well, we both remained talking and as I said I was very proud to see the young people that were there, they put up a resistance, didn’t they? Well, there were around 15 there and everyone around the comisariado. Well, with elevated words he said that if they didn’t understand they would be finished off once and for all [laughing].
Well, one of those “friends” from over there, opposing, said that Yavesía had 24 hours to leave, to abandon this village, because we are not the owners. Well, another youngster answered “You’re wrong, don’t think you’re going to fight with just anybody. You’re going to fight with a village of quality. You think that you are many – well, you have quantity but not quality like Yavesía. You’re going to fight with a powerful village, you’re not going...” Well, I was surprised to see how the young people reacted. “Very good,” I said, “Yes.” Even though they hadn’t let their point of view be known in the meetings, they did [do it] where things happened, in the forest.
The same happened one time when we went in to the forest. We went to look at the situation, to see what was going on; we went to check, not to boast. My brother and two other youngsters – Tomas, the son of Señor Justo, and his brother, Señor Justo’s [other] son – those three. The same thing happened as before; they said they were going on ahead and I told them to be careful. Then arriving at a place outside our territory, well, they didn’t raise a finger as we were outside our jurisdiction. “It’s all right,” they said to me, “but we’ve come to defend ourselves.” All right then, and they went ahead, they went ahead. Then we arrived at the boundary line, we looked at our boundary line. We talked with the men, well, I was talking with them over there. Well, as I told you I wasn’t afraid of them. I don’t have anything to deny them nor they me. We were talking there when they called me. “Come quickly because we’ve stopped a truck” [laughing], so as I said before, the young people had acted. My brother said to me, no, well it was Tomás who was stood in front of the truck, he said “Don’t you know? Well, you don’t pass here. Wait because our representante is coming and he’s going to speak with you.” So when I arrived, he who now is comandante (chief of community police) was there, and my brother, the three were stood in front of the truck. Well there were about six of these “friends” (the opposition), they had come on top of their truck, and [the three from Yavesía] wouldn’t let it pass. He said “You’ll pass here over my dead body and you won’t leave here.” I tell you, you can see the decision of the young people there and well, and it’s nice, isn’t it? It’s good that they are joining in more, as I told you, I never denied them anything, we’ve talked in depth. I’m a friend of everybody.
Afterwards I talked or we talked with the watchdog group who had no right to enter the area of Yavesía because a legal procedure was in the process of being carried out. There must be legal recognition of what the municipality wants; this was the Supreme Court’s decision and this must be enforced by law. I explained things clearly but they said “No! It’s you young people from Yavesía, I understand that you are young, tell the young people that we’re going to talk, we’re going to get together.” But they [from Yavesía] said, “No, no, no, we want to get together but we’ll get together with our own people from the village, you’re not going to say that we’ll get together with you because we don’t want to. No.” How can I explain it to you? Yavesía is very proud. Don’t underestimate us because for us Yavesía is unique and well, I see that the young people won’t surrender, they are becoming stronger.
After that, we went down to our place which is there in the boundary line and we stood talking. Well, they seriously called for the President’s attention over there, they said to him: “And those that aren’t taking part here, what are you going to do? Because we’re defending what’s ours but the rest - how privileged - want to enjoy themselves. What obligations are there?” And as I said, well, I didn’t speak so as not to surprise them or be an obstacle to them. At times they said to me, “It’s that you know more.” I said “No, no, no, I don’t know anything, you got into this too and we talked. I mean, don’t be embarrassed because I’m talking, and for example, sometimes now, well you know it, when the síndico (senior officials, next in authority to the agente), the President speaks, it embarrasses us to talk. Let’s go to Oaxaca.” [They said] “It’s that you and Fernando know more, you’re the ones who know more. You’re more deeply involved in the [community] problem and, well, it’s you who’s going to take the decisions.” I said “No, no, you are also, I mean, you’re realising what’s what.”
Well, we’ve talked about how the situation is and as I’ve told you, the young people have understood because we’ve been ready for the movements. Because also, if one shuts oneself off, well, the people will ignore us because we don’t give them information. So, well, the information that is given, it’s given in detail so that it’s taken in too. It has already been seen, that there’s more understanding among the youth because the hope is in them.
Section 12
How much have you learnt during all these years?

Have you learnt anything?
Well, yes, some things. Changing to another subject now, involving a family problem, well, my father has gone to rest in the prison two or three times because of the simple fact that we had a problem with land boundaries. My father cut down a...well, when one is a child you spend your time eating fruit, and at my brother’s house there was a pear tree exactly where the boundary is. Well, there were problems with the neighbour so what my father did was cut down the pear tree. Shortly after the topiles (junior cargo position involving running errands and keeping order) arrived and took my father to the community prison. I said to my father that if I had been there at that time and had known what I do now, well, it was wrong to take him to prison because my father was within his rights cutting it down, [in order] to not have problems for once and for all. Well, it ended up [laughing] getting him into trouble with the law.
There have been some little problems and I’ve got myself involved in some of them, to help the people more than anything. Maybe I’m not trained for more than that but I have the ability to understand and see things are done as they are, that they are done within the law. Well, this I’ve learnt, thanks to God. As I said to the licenciado (university graduate) Hugo Aguilar from the [organisation] Services for the Mixe community (from the Mixe region in the Sierra Norte), you also instilled this in me too, because everything stems from there, to see about the future of the problem comes more than anything from the youth. So, but yes I’ve learnt something, I’ve brought some progress to the family as much as I have in general. Not to boast, but when things here get heavy, well, then I speak and I tell people that the things are of such a magnitude and for that reason we mustn’t fight ourselves but fight away from here, where it matters, right? Instead of becoming weak within the community, we will go to discuss it in a government institution where it belongs and where the situation goes; don’t fight here. The people are immediately surprised and it stops there because it’s correct. Not confusing personal problems or something, because you know what you want to happen. We’ve been waiting for this not to happen and everything is peaceful because we have to take care of the situation.
Section 13
A little while ago that Román asked me “What do you think of the people who don’t love their village?” Well I couldn’t answer. Who knows? I couldn’t say what these people who’ve been opposing think - luckily they are few now. But I ask you the same question, what do you think of the people who’ve been opposing – who are now fortunately only two, three - that don’t love their village, that speak badly? What do you think about them?
Well how can I tell you, thinking about them, well, I imagine that there are other commitments on the opposing side, such as economic commitments. To put it more clearly, Señor Donaciano – who is a relation of my father – well, before he was alcalde (high-ranking cargo official, an unpaid community position), before that, as I said, he was municipal secretario (community secretary), the role that I also had for three years [laughing], and after that he went to Mexico City. He returned when there was the internal conflict here, so, my uncle used to say to me “Do you know what Mauro? What Jacobo is doing is wrong, what Eutiquio is doing is wrong, what Lupe Pérez is doing is wrong. That’s not the way, we’re never going to hand over anything. We’re not going to do that now that we have the situation under control, we would be throwing it away just as we’ve started with firm steps.” And well, yes, I...I admired him, he was my uncle, he was completely right, but then it happened when he became comisariado [de buenos comunales] (official responsible for community property). Things made him change and well, then we had a little decision [laughing], he as uncle and I and this thing, well he gave up his cargo, and got an amparo (a ruling that gives a person temporary immunity from prosecution) for three years.
Well, as I told you, I didn’t understand. It’ll soon be two years since I understood everything. Talking to him last year he said “How do you see the problem, Mauro?” “No, well everything’s fine.” “They say, umm, well, they blame me, don’t they?” “Yes,” I said. “Actually you are guilty because as comisariado it was in your hands to say that Yavesía was in the right, you were going to act for Yavesía in the court, not against it. In that moment if you had said Yavesía is within the law, it has recognition; the situation would have been different.” Then he said to me “Do you know what Mauro? I don’t have any arrangement, if the village says that I’m involved with the pueblos mancomunados (joint communities sharing land, in this case Lachatao and Amatlán, both of which are joined with Yavesía), it’s a lie, but I do know five people that are involved with them and those beggars do take money.” I mean that’s how he speaks, “those beggars”, yes, but I don’t. “The day they attacked me I had to take out the claws because I’m clean.”
There was a tequio down there recently, 20 days [long? ago?], my father told me that Donaciano wanted to speak to me and I said to go ahead, right, because my brother had already told me “Do you know what uncle Donaciano is saying about you?” “No” I said. “Well, one day over in Aaron’s house he said ‘Well, the bloody kid.’ He said that when you were municipal secretario you didn’t know anything and he did your paper work.” “Yes, he’s right,” I said. “He did my papers, he showed me how to do my written papers, he told me how to write official documents, how one writes something. I’m not hiding it, I’m not denying it.” And then he said “Well, I don’t know how he managed to learn it. But he learnt.” I said [laughing], I told him that yes, I’d learnt because of what he had told me: “We’re going to defend this.” And that’s what I’m doing. But I’ll tell you again, I think that agreements do exist too, because he doesn’t have family here in the village anymore more than anything. As Señor Timoteo used to say: “They like what shines and don’t like to see that Yavesía has a reserve or that it continues protecting it, or more to the point they are frightened to defend it, which I also think is the most correct.”
But as I said that’s how things are and what I...well, a part of what happened to me, well, when I was representante communal, Señor Lupe Pérez was municipal presidente (highest authority in the municipality), well, I never had his support, then he wanted to attack me in the meetings, in the asamblea (community parliament). I also had a problem with his father. But Señor Damiám, who is also my uncle and very nice as well [laughing], it has to be known now, he supported me without those friends realising. “I’m going to support you. Lupe Pérez came here to ask me for advice to be President, but I’m not going to support him. I’m going to support you because you are my cousin’s son.” And that’s what he’s done, he’s come to speak with me, we’ve had good talks and I also feel that we’ve advanced a lot because of that. Because they are the most powerful people to overcome, and thanks to God they came out in our favour. I don’t believe the other five people are an obstacle. If they say that, they’re exaggerating. So that’s how it’s been.
Section 14
Do you think that we’ve now arrived at, let’s say, a key point in the case of the village dispute? Is that what you think?
As I said, it’s the confidence that exists now, it’s the confidence. Even though, as I told you once, those six people got angry in the meeting and they even went as far as to insult Honorio – because he was one of them. Honorio said “I’ve looked at the problem, I have lived and I’m not going to like you humiliating my own village, because to humiliate my village is to humiliate me, no I...” Well, then they shouted at him! Honorio answered them quickly. He said “What you want, ‘friends’, is [to make] firewood of a fallen tree (to take advantage of the situation in a bad way).” But it’ll be impossible for them. Well, we’ve now arrived, or are arriving at an understanding to progress.
Well, let’s hope it doesn’t take any longer, that it’s resolved right now, the majority are in favour, here internally as much as in Oaxaca, Mexico. The people are ready to give their moral, physical and economic support, right? The people have picked up the momentum of the situation again. There’s a line of communication that exists between us, them, as much as the authority. It’s good that the authorities are beginning to take notice of us because for a while the people of Yavesía were forgotten in Oacaxa, in Mexico, and that’s the worst that can happen: to forget one’s fellow ciudadanos (citizens). So at least I, personally, am not inclined to ignore the people. The more we are, the better it is. But yes, we’ve advanced. Yes, we’ve advanced.

What message would you like to give to the people? I mean as representante, as a ciudadano. What message would you like to give to the children, to those that are just arriving, about the effort the village has made, what your parents have done? What would you like to say to the young people, the children?
Yes, as a matter of fact, talking to Professor Ligorio at times, we’ve been discussing things, we’ve had chats with him. He says to me: “Why don’t you go to the school and talk with the children? I do it as a teacher.” He says to me, “I’m impressing on them that we have to protect the green area that is Yavesía’s source of life.” And he says “Why don’t we make an agreement that you’ll go to talk to the children?” And I told him that I would be delighted to do it, yes, in asambleas (community parliaments) or like this, chatting, because in fact I’m very sociable. I’ve talked to everybody, I’ve told them what my feelings have been and I’ve explained how I began and they tell me the same, that they have a keen interest in continuing defending, continuing protecting. As I said, we are very proud to be from Yavesía and that’s what everyone has shown, even though, for example, there are those people who reject the improvement of the village. Well, their grandchildren, even a niece of mine, she said to me “It’s that this boy in secondary school says that you’re crazy, what you’re doing, that who knows if you’re taking us as crazy.” Well, I said “Don’t answer them, you know that what’s happening is fair, that we’re fighting for the interests of the village.” Because thanks to licenciado (university graduate) Hugo, as a child, we got the secondary school children together and the licenciado made them see the effort that Yavesía is making, has made, well, it still carries on what...we are carrying on with what we are doing.
For example the ancestors that defended here, well I believe that they went to rest in the other world with the hope that we would continue with their idea. So, well, one doesn’t know when it’ll be your turn either [laughing]. I hope that, in this way, it (the feeling to defend the village’s interests) has also appeared in the children, that they continue with this business, right? That they don’t weaken at the moment that something happens, because it happens that they have received threats, or because one can drop dead because of being involved in the community problem, and I think that weakens the children. So, but the responsibility lies with the municipal authority to promote this for the children, so that they continue with these ideas more than anything and I think that they will continue because, well, they have seen the struggle. As I told you, when we were children we saw the problems that occurred in ‘80-‘85. Well, we used to run behind the cars, running from there to here to see what was happening [laughing]. So I
think that’s it, more than anything, yes, give them the message that one has to defend the honour of our village and ourselves, that everybody fights for one’s honour more than anything, for one’s dignity, right? Then I think that they will be like that.
Section 15
Lastly now. What do you think of the institutions that have known about this case, that up to now haven’t given a single response to the fair demand that Yavesía is making? What do you think, let’s say, of the Government institutions? As you’ve gone, you’ve lived close to this type of thing, what do you think: that they are able to help but don’t want to or they want to help but can’t?
Well, yes, as you said, we’ve gone to Oaxaca and Mexico City, mainly to the government institutions PROFEPA (Environmental Protection Agency, part of SEMARNAP), SEMARNAP (Department of the Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries), insisting that the area of Yavesía isn’t exploited. It’s a reserve that exists, but there isn’t any law that enforces this, it’s exploited, so, well, the authorities in these institutions, well, they’ve neglected the situation. I think that they are able to resolve it, what’s happening is that they don’t have the determination or the courage to confront the reality. Many answer pueblos mancomunados (joint communities sharing land) in fear, in fear of them, but as authorities they should act. They mustn’t be afraid of those who will put pressure on them if what they are fighting for is within the law, well, they must act like a government institution.
But I think that they don’t want to get involved with problems or that they aren’t capable. They haven’t been very clear sometimes; they haven’t been very exact in giving their point of view. When one is with them, they say that “You are right, we’ll act in favour of ecology, and they will have the answer we’re going to give them, that this area will be declared an ecological reserve.” Well, they’ve just been words because there’s never action and well, you don’t know how annoying it gets. I don’t know if they take the complaints that the community makes as a joke, because the village is making a complaint which is fair. It was unheard of, that an area was exploited before, trees were brought down and now, you can see, well, they take it very seriously now. So now it’s been appealed to these Government institutions with the hope that they will give a solution, but well, they’ve never given one. Well, the [office of] the comisariado (official responsible for community property) and their advisor have some very personal agreements.
Frankly, we haven’t been able to discover what the problem is, because what we ask for is fair. Stopping the exploitation of the forest is within the law, well, if they’re not going to do anything in this legal, governmental manner, well, the village will have to stop it in its own way. So that’s the problem, well, I hadn’t told you, I’m emphasising it to you again: the village will make its decisions, has already made them, no, it’s been decided. An agreement has recently been made and the surveillance continues up to today, and it continues. Well, this exploitation won’t be accepted anymore and the village will defend what belongs to it. We can’t wait for those government institutions anymore because they don’t have the determination to solve the problem, more than anything.
Section 16
Someone said that, well, there are two distinct points of view at heart here: them, Lachatao and Amatlán with their agencias (elected community heads), that see that the forest has value and see the peso (money) signs, and live for that; and Yavesía, that doesn’t live for this. They are two distinct ways of living; they’re two distinct ways of looking at nature. They say, as they always have said, that we should finish [the forest] off. “Yes of course,” a person interviewed answered, “That’s what it was put here for.” And Yavesía says no, we must take care of it. What do you think about these two distinct points of view, the one the village has and the one pueblos mancomunados (joint communities sharing land) has?
Yes, in fact our goal, I repeat, Yavesía’s goal is the protection because this is our way of living, it’s been very different. In the meeting that we had with the opposing party, pueblos mancomunados, we made them see that they have no right to touch these areas of Yavesía, that we will defend them to the last. I don’t know if they were just unable to understand, because then someone came out and said “Give us a chance to finish off all the ecological reserve and we’ll give you the land afterwards.” Eh, well, someone answered him “We aren’t fighting for the land; we’re fighting for it to be protected. Why would we want you to give it to us afterwards when there aren’t any more trees because that would be a loss for the community?”
So we’ve talked about it at times, these people have their goal of finishing the ecological reserve, the ecology, because they’ve done it to their land, and ours has been protected. Well, yes, now they say that they are telling us what the mancomunados said, but the mancomunados doesn’t have any legal right, it’s like a civil association, it says we’re going to share, right? Well, what do they mean we’re going to share? First they finished what they had, they lived off that - Yavesía didn’t participate in that and now they say we’ll share what exists here, but that’s not fair.
So this has been offensive to the community and it has been made known to the government institutes, in Oaxaca as much as in Mexico City. We, Yavesía, our source of life is different, theirs is different, there’s almost a score that exists there because that’s how we know them, where they see the fruit – as Arón used to say – the apple of discord. And so that’s how they’re going about it, as if they are going to take what’s ours, that’s our cake. Well, we’re going to take care of it because, well, we’re lucky to have it. But yes, their ambition is to finish off nature, yes, even though they’ve ruined their forests, well, they’re worse than us, they don’t see how their community is developing. However, we have improved a lot, without a doubt. We’ve advanced the progress of the community without destroying our forests, it’s a model that will be given to the government, that has been given to the government – exploitation isn’t necessary to be able to have things, we are an example of that. Moreover if they have exploited, have lived off the forest, well what progress do they have? They’re worse than us, well, that’s how it’s been.
Section 17
Now a last question about this. Well, they have finished off what’s theirs and now, well, with this crisis that’s happening in the world, that now they want to protect nature, it doesn’t rain like before anymore, there are droughts now, many problems. What do you think of the way, I mean, with these problems that there are in the world and what the village has seen and wanted to continue living. What do you think about these things that are happening in the world now and the way in which the village sees these things?
Yes, in fact we’ve almost had two years of most tremendous heat that’s been experienced here in the community, and I think that the people have been thinking about things because of that, and well, because of television, the radio. They’ve heard about the disasters that have happened recently, what happened in the earthquake [a major earthquake in Oaxaca in September 1999, which caused widespread damage, especially in remote areas where heavy rain cut off access] so as I said, maybe these have been a punishment from God for destroying nature, so there is a panic because now nature is punishing us too. The community here has felt the effect of the heat a lot because such a thing had never been experienced before. Sometimes the people worry about the river. One of our friends said: “Well, there was a time when our river was big and now an ant can cross it easily.” [laughing]. And he’s right, because they’ve exploited this area and the flow of the river has decreased, so now the people are afraid that this will happen, they don’t want to have the crisis that is happening in most parts, me included.
In a conference there was in Oaxaca, well, it was said that Oaxaca was also part of the ecological reserve, well, it was because of the Sierra Juárez more than anything, because of Yavesía more than anything, Yavesía is the ecological reserve. Well, there’s been an effort to stop it – the exploitation of the forest - and it will be an effort to continue protecting it so as not to live in a crisis or in something that we come to regret afterwards because we didn’t protect it, because we didn’t take care of it. Because as I told you, the people are regretting it, they are feeling the effect. They say, “Why are we receiving this punishment of so much sun, why is this happening?” But I think it’s been the same people, as the saying goes: man provokes his own destruction, and that’s what’s happening, so we’re not going to grasp what’s happening.
Section 18
Lastly is there any message you’d like to give, let’s say, a thought, something you’d like to say about everything that we’ve talked about?
Yes, as I was saying... talking to the presidente (highest authority in the municipality) a while ago, sometimes he says to me, well the situation that I brought, he said, “Do you know what? Deal with the paperwork.” And in a paper I did for PROFEPA (Environmental Protection Agency), well, I stated my own feelings that they, PROFEPA, gave a report that everything that’s being done in the Yavesía area is okay, that the technical forestry operations are under strict control, the one that they manage. So the message that I sent to them says that no, no, our forefathers’ ideas were to protect the forest and we’ll continue with these same ideas. We won’t have other people from the government institutions, telling us that everything is okay, that everything is under control, that things are well done. We don’t want to work in the forest, we want it to remain intact, that, well, that was my feeling that I stipulated in the document. One had already done one before and licenciado (university graduate) Matus had looked at it and he said that everything was well done because, well, I expressed my own feelings in these documents.
Well, they had concluded that it was fine, but I made it clear that they (PROFEPA) weren’t going to oblige us, and they as a government institution weren’t going to tell us that everything is good because it’s bad. Well, the village considers that it’s bad because the village worries about the future generations, they don’t want to give a new generation a forest that is already destroyed. So, well this is a message that we’ve given in the asambleas (community parliaments) at times; Señor Aristeo sometimes shouted it out with sound equipment. He was a very happy person, he said: “We have to protect the environment, the source of the life of the community is there, and of the living beings from the same area. It’s where the deer and other animals go for protection, it’s their world.” That was the messages he gave, yes. And well, he was right, and we got together with these ideas of his: that this reserve is a world for the animals that live there, that are there. So that was the message that I sent to PROFEPA: that they mustn’t tell us that everything is good, that we decisively don’t want to work in the forest because we don’t live off the exploitation of the forest. It’s worth more to us this, as a reserve.
We’d like them to understand us in this way, that they had the same feelings, that they shared our feelings and understood what we feel, we don’t want them to touch it because it’s ours, we don’t want it to be destroyed. So that’s a message that I would like everybody to understand, that the people of the government should understand what we feel, what the village feels, because as representante communal I manage the wishes of the village, because the asamblea has also said this. So a representante manages the feelings of the village, so what I stipulated in the document is also the feelings of the village, its inspiration...what the community feels. That’s what I’ve picked up, what I’ve lived, the thoughts, well, that’s also what I transcribed, that’s how it is.

Well, this has been good. I hope that what Ligorio said can be done. Probably if we have a suggestion like for the school, like you have worked together, the authority and everyone, well, it’s probably worthwhile taking up the suggestion to instil in the children the courage that is present in the village today. I think that this idea that is felt, that beats through the people of the village, could be possible and coming from a Professor – well, now they have much more courage.
Exactly, yes, how can I say it, having the opportunity, coming to an agreement, well, if one can manage it, it has become a reality, talking because children can understand and well these are teacher Ligorio’s ideas. He spoke to me, he said, “I’ll instil it in them, I will, I’ll tell them that we have to protect nature. I’ll tell them, the fires, we shouldn’t commit offences against nature, I’ll make them see. What would you think if I set your clothes on fire, isn’t it true that you would scream? I mean, the poor animals can’t scream, but they’re being killed, and the children in fifth and sixth grade, they understand me.” [laughing] And, well, yes, he’s right. It’s the truth, it’s the truth. He says that “To cut a tree is to cut the life of somebody. What do we feel when one of us dies? Well, sorrow, one is hurt, pain, well, that’s how it is in the forest too, it hurts.” He said to me “I’ll talk to them about this,” he said. “You’ll do good speaking to them,” I told him. Because in ‘93, well you know already don’t you? Some problems were fabricated against Professor Ligorio, what happened with you. The authority didn’t want us to interfere. Well, Professor Ligorio said “Well, they invented trouble for me so that I would leave the community, they fabricated many problems for me, but I’m still continuing in the same way.” Well, I was born here and they’re the feelings that I have for the village too, so I hope that we achieve it together, it would be excellent, wouldn’t it?