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La Educación
Número: (122) III
Año: 1995

Macehual Oral Accounts8

There are striking differences in the ways the textbook and the oral historical accounts describe the narrative themes and the central actions of the stories. The predominant theme in the textbook is the legitimation of power in the Mexican quest to “civilize” the eastern zone. In the nohoch macoob’s oral accounts, on the other hand, a different theme emerges: the need to resist Mexican oppression. Their oral histories are closely related in that they are articulated from the standpoint of their current situation of socio-economic and political marginalization. Thus, they intend to expose Mexican (hereafter Dzul, foreigner) domination of the Macehualoob over time, and to produce an ethnic consciousness of the need to resist it. In presenting the nohoch macoob’s accounts, I intend to emphasize women’s perspectives.

The oral accounts of the nohoch macoob construct change from a rather different perspective of time than the official textbook account. In contrast to the textbook which portrays the flow of historical time as having a beginning, middle and end, the nohoch macoob’s histories do not follow a chronological sequence in the western sense, but make connections with the present and the future. Their oral narratives are inserted in the historical genre of the Chilam Balam.9 The books of the Chilam Balam are documents written by the colonial Mayan elite which were hidden from Spanish view and were copied and recopied with additions and modifications (Farriss 1984). The content of these books has been transmitted orally to this date. It is this influence which gives the nohoch macoob’s histories their distinct quality. The influence of this historical genre is seen in the themes of the nohoch macoob’s narratives as a cycle of rising up from Dzul bondage to emancipation during their past war with the Mexicans, a period of social decline that culminates in the current period of Dzul (Mexican) rule, and a prophesied return to Macehual self-rule. I will discuss how their examination of these themes contrasts with those of the indigenista discourses, as exemplified in the history textbook used in the state of Quintana Roo. In so doing, I focus on the way in which women’s histories take up the theme of resistance through different periods, and thus subvert other discourses that define them as passive or as mere objects of domination.