San Francisco Cajonos
At the top of the Oaxaca mountains, in one of the most important festivals of our culture, in the early evening, with a clean and clear sky, with a beautiful Moon big and generous, in the center of a pantheon, I had the opportunity to speak, perhaps the most moving talk about our old grandparents, that I have been able to pronounce in my life.
Thanks to the generous invitation of a group of young people born in San Francisco Cajonos, in the Sierra Norte, that are deeply concerned about enhancing, promoting and disseminating their own culture, I could participate in this wonderful event, that has been permanently imprinted in my spirit.
Indeed, the past November 2nd, had the opportunity of exposing the theme of, Death in the Ancient Mexico, to the inhabitants of San Francisco, as they gathered with their dead to listen a concert of funeral marches executed by the splendid band of music, integrated mostly by young of the village.
The Pantheon is nestled in a small promontory has at its feet an impressive view of the Sierra Norte mountains and very especially, to the sacred hill called La Mesa, that unquestionably is a place of power, that the old grandparents used to communicate with the immeasurable. The small Pantheon has a very modest Chapel and is fenced off with an old wall made of adobe. Very simple and ancient tombs but all filled with colorful sierra flowers and the inevitable candles. When night entered the site was bewitched with magic and the people came with the music.
In the midst of the Pantheon musicians made a circle and gave their dead those musical notes that went to the domains of the Lord and the Lady of death. Despite the cold, people sat on the tombs and shared with their deceased the language of the spirit and the soul voice. The sounds of the music band were heard clear and tuned, among playful children, companion dogs and people of all the ages, the music joined them with their dead. The curios Moon approached the Pantheon and generously illuminated the scene that seemed taken from a Kurosawa film.
Without preambles, I started my talk with a voice foreign to me, I started talking with a strange inner strength, about what death meant for ancient Mexicans from the philosophical point of view. The people listened carefully, with genuine interest and respectfully. Without extending much here, I concluded that as long as Mexicans continue celebrating our dead, we would be sure of staying alive. Then,... long live the dead!, and the band continued with their night concert, to exit the Pantheon and go to the square in front of the village site Museum, to dance some sones and danzones.
On Thursday we left very early and headed to Tlacolula and then to Diaz Ordaz, hence we climb along a steep paved road that ascends to Cuajimoloyas, where cold winds always cut the face. Through a winding road entered a dirt road and left behind the valleys. The majestic forests, almost always soaked by the mist, that mellow pampers and caresses them almost all year and occasionally surprises us with their noisy and playful waterfalls and streams. Llano Grande was left behind and we start the descent on the other side of the mountains. That going up and down took us first to San Miguel, then to san Pedro and finally to San Francisco, all these towns of the Cajonos region.
The villages are small and are located on the slopes of the mountains, as if perched onto these immense masses of life than patiently and lovingly, resist the millennial existence of human beings. The temples and the municipal presidencies are together with schools and health centers, the architectural jewels of the towns. And it is that it cannot be otherwise, it is the valuable heritage of our old grandparents, who taught their children to live in austerity and sobriety as a way of understanding life and the world. The important buildings are and have been, since before the spaniards, buildings for community use. The institutions and authority have in the communities a true meaning of respect, not emerging from threats or repression, but out of the purest respect by a necessary principle of authority in the communities. Mexicans, have easily lived for more than three thousand years in complex communities and have a great experience in community organization.
I think that some of the human, family and social values that still persist in these remote communities, are by somehow saying it, the spiritual reserve of Mexico. These values, obstinate and stubbornly kept. These principles defended with dignity, surely will be required to build that fairer and more democratic Mexico than all we want.
After spending some days in the village and share the tortillas, tamales, mole, beans, delicious bread, chocolate, coffee and atole. The long talks beside the kitchen firewood and listening to the bouncy talks in Zapotec between the people of the village, I gradually began to understand that, to better think about the flirtatious idea of going to live in the Sierra, first I had to change my way of thinking.
Indeed, in a simple manner these people made me realize, that to live in these communities in postmodern times, a city man needs to tune, fine-tuned would say Esteban (clarinetist in the town band), to the melody singing by trees and wind, the rhythm in which fog advances, the flight of the vultures and crows and even, the invisible deer presence. In other words, the good living, to the simple living, the human living.
And it is not easy and much less for them, who are suffering of migration bleeding and the ravages of higher education, which involves the loss of their best sons. It is easier to survive in the misery belts of large cities than to live attached to their ancient culture in distant places of the mountains, forests or deserts.
Whenever I spend time in these communities, I learn more about what are certain values and principles, that live half dormant in my busy city life, but that something very inside of me, gives me the certainty that they are the best that we Mexicans have.