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“Information and collective action is the formula. The opposite will lead to defeat and deepen colonial rule over them.“.
In April 1520, exactly five centuries ago, a smallpox pandemic broke out in Anahuac that seriously affected the original peoples of the region and marked their immediate and immediate future.
According to the testimonies of the time, the pandemic appeared a year earlier on the island of Santo Domingo, from there it passed to that of Cuba, from where it spread to the Yucatán peninsula and Cozumel, transported by the indigenous people that Pánfilo Narváez took. to those lands with the intention of arresting Hernán Cortés, on the orders of Diego Velásquez. From Cozumel the Spaniards advanced to Cempoala, where they arrived in March 1520 and the pandemic began to spread among its inhabitants; To this was added that Hernán Cortés went to meet his persecutor, took him prisoner along with his people, and transferred him to Tenochtitlan. From there it spread among the villages of the valley and by September of that year it was already whipping its inhabitants.
The pandemic affected indigenous people more than Spaniards because for the former, it was a new and unknown disease, while the latter had enough information about smallpox.
While the Spanish took their precautions to avoid spreading among themselves, the indigenous people were left disoriented by the virus, allowing it to move freely. Along with these effects there were others, such as that while the natives considered it to be a punishment from their gods, the Spaniards took advantage of their confusion to strengthen themselves as an occupation army and subdue them. The smallpox pandemic, without having these effects, was used as an instrument of conquest by the Spanish and in the end marked the destiny of the invaded peoples.
The conclusions of the pandemic that hit Anahuac 500 years ago, which should be taken into account now that the Covid-19 pandemic is hitting our country, are various. One is that it must be taken seriously, that it cannot be played around with; that true and accessible information is required to systematize our behavior before it, in such a way that it neither paralyzes nor causes inappropriate behaviors to be assumed that allow its spread.
It is also important to avoid interest groups manipulating the social needs that the situation imposes to achieve their own ends. That the pandemic is not used by dominant groups to perfect their control mechanisms and deepen its effects among the most vulnerable population.
Unfortunately, among indigenous peoples there are actions and attitudes far removed from these needs. Infused by the lack or excess of information, or by false information disseminated on the networks, in some indigenous communities it is still believed that the pandemic is a political invention with undeclared political ends; official speeches, addressed to a more urban-mestizo audience than to a rural-indigenous one, are not fully understood.
Indigenous linguists and communicators have done important work generating information in accordance with the culture of their peoples, but they are still insufficient. This activity needs to be strengthened so that people become aware of the seriousness of the problem. The lack of permanent economic income to meet the needs of families and the absence of a government program to cover them if they stop working is a factor that prevents people from staying at home, as is the official recommendation. People move between eating or protecting themselves and prefer the former.
Official measures are urgent in accordance with the economic, social and cultural situation of indigenous peoples. But while they arrive, if they arrive, the peoples cannot be paralyzed, as happened 500 years ago, because if they did, they would be defeated by the pandemic.
It is important that your authorities, the organizations to which they belong and their advisers turn to look for solutions to face the pandemic on their own resources. Family solidarity and collective work for the common good must come to the fore. Indigenous professionals must support with our scientific knowledge acquired in universities, but without assuming that they are the only or the most important to make decisions in the fight against the pandemic, but combining them with that of the peoples themselves, which are very important.
Information and collective action is the formula. The opposite will lead to defeat and deepen colonial rule over them.