Much of Mexico has been transformed by kidnappings, be-headings and violence of the drug war, but not the country's poorest state of Chiapas, where the Mayan Indians had their own uprising for independence nearly two decades ago.
In fact, not much has changed for centuries for the Mayan Indians, a fiercely independent people seeking autonomy from the Mexican government, according to filmmaker Saul Landau.
"They (the Mayan Indians) have a lot to teach us. My experience down there filming was a very humbling experience for me," Landau said. "There is no electricity. You are totally deprived of your biological comforts."
Landau, who along with his crew captured a rare glimpse of the Jan. 1, 1994 uprising of the Mayans in Chiapas, will talk about “The Sixth Sun: Mayan Uprising in Chiapas" following its screening on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 2 p.m. in the Oliphant Auditorium at Cal State San Bernardino’s Palm Desert Campus.
The Mayans, many of whom only speak a Mayan dialect and little Spanish, have survived in a remote jungle area of Chiapas after being pushed off their land by cattle barons and farmers.
"These people are standing up for themselves and this is their story," Landau said.
Capturing the trust of a chief who had seen one of his films, Landau and his crew captured rare footage and never-seen before Mayan rituals.
Landau said he strives to remain objective in his storytelling of the uprising, in which the Mayans demanded land, public services and Indian autonomy -- the right to communally own and farm land. They called themselves the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).
The main thrust of the documentary hinges on questions around the rush to global economic integration and whether the destruction of entire peoples and cultures that have survived over centuries is simply to be accepted as the price of “progress.”
Landau said he has been back to the Chiapas region since making the film several times, and the situation has not changed much. With the drug war consuming Mexico, he said he is not sure when and how the Mayans will effect change.
"I don’t know what’s going to happen. These Indians don’t want anything more than autonomy," said Landau, who is professor emeritus at Cal Poly-Pomona and a senior fellow and vice chair of the Institute for Policy Studies.
In 2008, the Chilean government presented Landau with the Bernardo O'Higgins Award for his human rights work. Landau has written 14 books, including a book of poetry, "My Dad Was Not Hamlet." He received an Edgar Allen Poe Award for “Assassination on Embassy Row,” a report on the 1976 murders of Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier and his colleague, Ronni Moffitt.
Admission is $5 and includes parking.
For more information on “The Sixth Sun: Mayan Uprising in Chiapas,” visit Landau’s website at www.saullandau.com.
For information about the CSUSB Palm Desert Campus, contact Mike Singer in the campus’s Office of Public Affairs at (760) 341-2883, ext. 78107 or email@example.com or visit the CSUSB Palm Desert Campus website at http://pdc.csusb.edu.