Central America by Jan L. Flora, Professor Edelberto Torres-Rivas (eds.)

By Jan L. Flora, Professor Edelberto Torres-Rivas (eds.)

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4 They took only what they needed, and often performed rituals requesting the earth's permission to do so. If the earth's equilibrium was put out of kilter by human error, it could be brought back through ritual, ceremony, accommodation and (in a few Jan L. Flora, Douglas K. Benson, and Cornelia B. Flora 19 societies only) sacrifice. Only the priests could read the signs and interpret the will of the gods for the good of the community, but all had to work together to ensure that no calamity would befall the community because of the consequences of an individual act.

There are no accidents, only consequences. The indigenous relationship to nature can thus be described as one emphasizing sustainability and mutual interdependence, while the Spanish/European relationship was one of domination, exploitation and extraction. Even today, for many indigenous groups, land is seen as a sacred trust. To be without land is to be torn from one's connection to nature. To work on the land for another who "owns" it is a repulsive, and perhaps sacrilegious, act. Most Indian uprisings in the Americas have been over the appropriation of their lands; the 1932 machetazo and consequent matanza in El Salvador is but one example.

16. Woodward, Central America, p. 44. 17. See Handy, this volume, for a description of the Rios Montt and subsequent policies toward indigenous people in Guatemala. 18. Willems, Latin American Culture, pp. 41-2. 19. Ibid, pp. 55-6. Quotation is directly from Las Siete Partidas (our italics). 20. Ibid, pp. 91-3. 21. Ibid, pp. 5tHJ2. 22. Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude: Idea and Thought in Mexico (New York: Grove Press, 1961) p. 36. 23. Evelyn P. ) Female and Male in Latin America: Essays (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1973) pp.

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