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Mexican protestors demand an end to the murder of journalists in Veracruz

IN THE NEWS: (ritual) decapitation - the sacrifice of truth itself

HUMAN SACRIFICE ON A GRAND SCALE: on World Press Freedom Day (May 3rd. 2012), floating in the ocean of news of the day two items from Mexico made it to our shores: FIRST, two (more) innocent Mexican journalists were murdered in Veracruz, just doing their job. In ‘the most dangerous country in the world to be a journalist’, the current tally of 57 (some say 74) journalists butchered since 2000 is of course a drop in the ocean amongst the tens of thousands of Mexicans that have been killed, many in truly brutal fashion, since the ‘war on organised crime’ was launched by President Felipe Calderón in 2006. SECOND, researchers at INAH (Mexico’s National Institute for Anthropology and History) reported completion of a 20-year study showing that blood cells and muscle, tendons, skin and hair found on 2000 year old obsidian knives at Cantona, Puebla, were used for sacrificial purposes... (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: Decapitation associated with the ancient ritual ballgame: part of a frieze from the ballcourt at Chichén Itzá
Pic 1: Decapitation associated with the ancient ritual ballgame: part of a frieze from the ballcourt at Chichén Itzá (Click on image to enlarge)

Here at Mexicolore we refuse to stand by and watch without drawing attention both to the horror of the worsening news itself in Mexico and to the irony of the morbid obsession the world has with recounting the ‘brutality of Aztec human sacrifice’ whilst ignoring, to all intents and purposes, the scale of the sacrifice that ordinary Mexicans are making every day, along with truth and justice - victims of the power struggles, corruption, greed and general nastiness that infests so much of the Mexican state, Mexican authorities and that obnoxious ‘state-within-a-state’, the world of the narcos. What’s the difference, you may ask, between the decapitation of players in (some versions of) the ancient ritual Mesoamerican ballgame and the almost daily decapitation of innocent Mexicans caught up in drug cartel turf wars?

Pic 2: The great ballcourt at Chichén Itzá, Yucatán
Pic 2: The great ballcourt at Chichén Itzá, Yucatán (Click on image to enlarge)

A hell of a lot, we would say. Decapitation in the ballgame, as Professor Eric Taladoire writes in a forthcoming article for Mexicolore (summer 2012) was linked to rites of fertility and of the rebirth of vegetation and staple food: the scene in Picture 1 shows blood flowing from the neck of a headless ballgame player at Aparicio, Chichén Itzá, changing into flowers, vegetal growth, and maize. Ballcourts represented doorways to the underworld, ‘the world of death, darkness and rebirth’, and it was the sacred duty of the emperor or king to confront the forces of the underworld to obtain and secure a fresh supply of life-giving food for his people.
A world away from the mindless, vindictive, cruel, vicious, gratuitous, sadistic and barbaric murders of Mexican citizens today who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Pic 3: Mexica news reporters: emissaries of Moctezuma II bring the news of the imminent arrival of the Spanish...; modern-day ‘Aztec’ torchbearer; Tarahumara runner
Pic 3: Mexica news reporters: emissaries of Moctezuma II bring the news of the imminent arrival of the Spanish...; modern-day ‘Aztec’ torchbearer; Tarahumara runner (Click on image to enlarge)

Can we imagine Aztec news-bearers being subjected to the sort of torture, harassment, and intimidatory killings inflicted on brave Mexican journalists day after day? Frankly, no. In pre-Hispanic times, relay-running news couriers played a vital part in keeping the four corners of the empire in touch with each other (or, more importantly, with the imperial centre) and were respected accordingly. Today the proud Tarahumara people of northwestern Mexico, who have maintained their world-class and formidable long-distance running tradition alive to this day are suffering terribly from the violence of drug cartels that force them to grow drugs, and from the violence of drought and deforestation that is sweeping their ancient mountain homelands.

Pic 4: Truth and justice in Mexico - downtrodden and ‘pisoteado’ like the Tarahumara people
Pic 4: Truth and justice in Mexico - downtrodden and ‘pisoteado’ like the Tarahumara people (Click on image to enlarge)

As commentators have said, one of the most insidious aspects of the worsening situation unfolding today in Mexico is the utter impunity with which the repression, intimidation and violence is meted out. ‘Troublesome’ individuals are killed at will, and no-one is held to account. The narcos are blamed, of course, as if all the country’s woes were of their making - yet human rights in Mexico have been trampled on - and journalists and media workers have been quietly and conveniently eliminated - for decades. Who are the real criminals? Who are the real barbarians?

The tragedy and hypocrisy lie in the awful reality that we are all caught up in this: victims of a world we’ve created in which our rapacious demand for drugs fuels an equally rapacious fight to satisfy and control the supply from countries like Mexico. This is all a world away from that of the Aztecs: indeed by some statistical measures at least (numbers of ‘unlawful killings’, for a start!) their society rates - let’s play devil’s advocate here - perhaps as more humane and civilised than ours...

Pic 5: Clip from viral video ‘Nuestro México del Futuro’
Pic 5: Clip from viral video ‘Nuestro México del Futuro’ (Click on image to enlarge)

Will things ever get better? Only if we use mass people-power to say ‘Enough is enough!’, to raise awareness of this desperate situation, and to demand a better world. Mexican children are doing this today - by a viral video (see link below) in which they ask this year’s presidential candidates for real change. How ironic that our very own MexicoloreKids mascot should be an animated obsidian blade...

Picture sources:-
• Main photo: from Reporte Indigo (link below)
• Pic 1: courtesy Eric Taladoire
• Pic 2: photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore
• Pic 3: (L) image from the Florentine Codex Book XII scanned from our own copy of the Club Internacional del Libro facsimile edition, Madrid, 1994; (C) photo from; (R) photo courtesy of Richard Fisher & Kitty Williams
• Pic 4: photo by Sean Sprague/Mexicolore
• Pic 5: clip from Youtube video Nuestro México del Futuro

“There is no such thing as ‘Human Sacrifice’”

‘Long-distance running has a venerable history in Mexico’

BBC report on the deaths of journalists in Veracruz
Reporte Indigo’s coverage of the Veracruz journalists’ deaths (in Spanish)
The Silenced: Fighting for Press Freedom in Mexico exhibition
‘Drought, deforestation and drug violence threaten the existence of Mexico’s Tarahumara tribes’
Truth-Out: Who Is Killing the Journalists in Mexico?
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