Colonización Patriarcal y Patriarcado Colonial: Violencias, Despojos y Resistencias por Aura Cumes

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Aura Cumes (Kaqchikel Maya)

Patriarchal Colonization and Colonial Patriarchy: Violence, Dispossession and Resistance

28:04 min to 37 min

The ways in which coloniality and patriarchy intertwine and attack the Mayan sense of existence.

Colonization brings with it a form of patriarchy, this is very clear, one that was forged in European societies through extreme violence towards women, peasants, nature, […] and, as my colleague asked a while ago, why don’t we talk about the way in which women in Europe were subjected to be burnt at the stake for at least three hundred years? …which Silvia Federeci talks about in her book “Caliban and the Witch”. This is important because the Europe that did all of that, was a Europe that at that time was persecuting women. And if we want to use the concepts we use now, feminists like Silvia Federici speak of a genocide against women. At that time, the same thing was happening, and the Europe that arrived here, applied these same modalities in the lands of what is now Latin America.

But, on the other hand, what gets constituted as a patriarch on our soil is not going to be just any man, and this is very important to observe, the colonial patriarch in our land, is the incarnation of the man-human. And if he is the man-human, then what place do indigenous men have in this patriarchal construction?…which is also built on the dispossession and degradation of the dispossessed.

Several centuries of persecution against European women–accused as witches, tortured in the Inquisition and burned at the stake–were necessary to subject them to the domestic space, understood as the place of nothingness. European women, as Breny Mendoza suggests in her analysis, at this time of persecution of women, [began] losing their human condition.

But there was not, in Mayan lands, a process of systematic torture or a slaughter of women similar to that which took place in European societies. […] For example, when there are feminist colleagues who say: ‘if you want to observe the pedagogy of cruelty, observe the Mayas and the Mexicas’…but we say [in return] that if we want to observe the pedagogy of cruelty against women, let us observe that Europe, at that specific moment. Because as Silvia Federici also says, in that moment of [changes] from feudalism to capitalism, that genocidal violence against women was useful to articulate a capitalist force, which is what later arrives to what is now America, where women and the family nucleus are subordinated and men are paid for the work of an entire family nucleus. And this makes a lot of sense for the way in which work is organized in Latin American societies.

Silvia Federici argues that the forces of the peasant movements were weakened when they accepted the feudal patriarchal ideology that constituted women as enemies. This made possible the persecution, rape, torture and killing of women in their own family circles. And thus having weakened peasant movements, the advance from feudalism to capitalism was facilitated.

So, we find an important moment of the constitution of patriarchy. This is why, we seriously should not be thinking of societies as essences, as what it is, but rather as societies that are constituted at a certain moment. Just as a Latin American or mestizo person […] may not suffer racism here, but if she goes to the North or to Europe, she immediately finds herself racialized. It was exactly the same back then, women were persecuted over there, but when they arrived here, as long as there was a hierarchical constitution with inferiorized subjects, women recovered part of the humanity lost in Europe. This is why the way in which gender, ethnicity, sex and race take form to constitute hierarchies in Latin American societies makes a lot of sense. [….]

For patriarchal colonial thought, then, nature is ‘female’; it is wild, capricious, unintelligible, irrational, rebellious; it needs a superior force to be tamed, subdued and made available to whoever knows how to take advantage of it. And, according to what Fernando Mires says, in order to carry out the process of subordination of nature, the patriarch is forced to split from it, which means to denaturalize himself. Mr. Francis Bacon, precursor of industrial science, conceived as the supreme aim of science to put nature at the service of man […] forcing it, even torturing it, to reveal its secrets…in the same way women were tortured in Europe, to put an end to their powers so that they could be privatized in the capitalist system.

In the Mayan sense of what life is, or in their cosmovision, there is no […] word for ‘nature’, although it has been adopted. From the Mayan cosmovision or sense of existence, everything that the West would call nature–stones, valleys, forests, ravines, rivers, lakes, seas, air, sun, moon, star–everything has a life of its own. Jun winaq, or people, even less so men, are above all.  We, people, are only one more thread in the fabric of ruwach’ulew or the earth, or what others would call ‘universe’.

There is a tendency to associate women with Mother Earth. But this Mother Earth is venerated and respected. When this no longer happens, we are facing a breakdown of the meaning of life. At present, for example, among the Maya people, especially in rural areas, they continue to use such important expressions as lok’olej, we do not find a translation for this, but ‘sacred’ is the closest thing, to refer to everything that gives life. Lok’olej ulew, which would be the sacred earth in this case; lok’olej q’ij, the sacred sun; lok’olej ya, the sacred water; lok’olej juyu, the sacred mountain; lok’olej ixin, the sacred corn. And when I say ‘lok’olej’ it means that I cannot trample a corn, because if I trample a corn it is a profanation of something that gives me life. I cannot mistreat the sun, mistreat the water, the rain, because it is what gives me life. I cannot relate in that way against everything that gives me life, because otherwise I am provoking my own destruction.

Everything also has a k’u’x, everything has a heart, a rajawal, and this, I believe, is common to all the indigenous peoples of Abya Yala. Thinking, for example, of the rajawal ya, the heart of the water; the rajawal juyu, which is the heart of the mountains; or what I explained, the [tzul ta’a], the heart of the valleys and the mountains. None of these can be seen, however, the colonizers saw or named them as ‘demons’ or ‘bad spirits’, not having the capacity to understand the existence of other beings that are energy and not matter. 
Well, with all this that I am mentioning, invocations are made in the sowing, after eating, before bathing in the temascal; with the [tux], for example, in small daily actions in which the principle of gratitude is exercised; for everything related to the care of life and existence. A sense of life is evidenced, in this case, opposite to the West, which is in our lands.