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Intolerance: usos y costumbres

23 April 2010

Two separate stories from Corresponsales Indíginas on the intractable frictions between communal and individual rights.  Jason at Secret History also wrote on this, a post I hadn’t seen until after this was written Wednesday night for posting today.

In the  Traditionalist Catholic Tzotzil commune of Shulvó, Zinacantán municipio, Chiapas, eight evangelical families were expelled and their children thrown out of the local school.  According to the families, who fled to the state capital, San Cristobal, they were told by the village school director that — as non-conformists — they had no right to attend classes.  The State Humans Rights Commission’s “Defensor de Pueblo” has sought the Governor’s personal intervention, and the Commission has issued a recommendation that teachers in the federal system “abstain” from sanctioning students for their religious beliefs.  And… oh yea…by the way, teachers should be reminded that the right of religious association is in the Mexican Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Evangelicals were the oppressors in Jicaral, Oaxaca where local authorities bulldozed eight sacred rocks, and took a chainsaw to a sacred tree, destroying a shrine to the local rain god.  In this instance, it appears municipal leaders took the action without consultation with the community, whose inhabitants’ religious beliefs are a combination of  both pre-Hispanic and Roman Catholic ones.

I’m one of those who thinks the “usos y costumbres” clause in the Mexican constitution was badly written and codifies abuses of individual rights, as in the Chiapas incident.  The destruction in Oaxaca, however, seems to have been instigated by people with no respect for “usos y costumbes”, which doesn’t make anyone even… what Mexico got right was separating religion from public life, though — given the complexity and multi-cultural nature of this country, one legal code does not fit all.

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