On Tuesday, February 16 we visited Amatlán de Quetzalcoatl. This is the village where the half-human, half-god Toltec Emperor Quetzalcoatl was born. Arriving there we met with a shaman, an indigenous spiritual leader. He is also a member of the Community Land Council. We began our day with a talk explaining the town of Amatlán. History of the town dates back between 4,000 and 7,000 years based on archeological findings in the mountains.
Where the Ancient Drawings Are
It is a small community with about one thousand inhabitants. The people are at risk, states the indigenous leader, of losing their Nahua language due to outside influences. The community is about fifteen minutes from Tepoztlan, a tourist area. This is just one of the issues the talk brought about. Other issues included land and healthcare.
As a veterinarian the indigenous leader is educated in the area of health. He says through traditions health is a gift, but now healthcare is business. It puts a price on a person’s health. Along with health their land has a price. The idea of communal land is something that needs to be recognized. The indigenous spiritual leader made an excellent point by stating that a person can put a few stones in their pocket but can never pick up and move the land. There is the belief that land is not meant to be bought and sold.
As for outside influences coming and moving into the community, that is another issue. They are not against investment, but they are against exploitation. He mentioned of two instances where people have come to live in the community of Amatlan. One was a hotel that had lied of their intentions. They did not involve the people of the community, and were dishonest about the use they would make of the land. The other instance was of a doctor that came to meetings, contributed to the community, and had many community members working in the hospital.
There is a difference between joining a community and contributing to it and “joining” a community and using it for your own greedy purposes.
What was evident of our day with this indigenous leader was his passion. The quote from that day that spoke the most to me was when he was speaking of the Spanish during their conquest of Mexico. Paraphrasing, this is what he said, “When torturing an emperor to discover where the treasure was, the emperor said (before he died) that the greatest treasure was in the heads and hearts of the people.”
From the little time we were able to spend in Amatlán we could feel a sense of community and passion of the people. We were fortunate enough to eat comida (lunch), which consisted of sopes (tortillas with beans, cheese, onions and salsa on top) and then hike to a sacred ground with the indigenous leader as our guide. We were able to experience a partial indigenous spiritual ceremony. We learned of many things during our time in Amatlán, and from listening to a wise passionate man.