Les Mayas et Cancún,(French edition)

Lucie Dufresne writer, novelist, adventurer

Presses de l’Université de Montréal, Montréal, 1999. (Essay)

Resume: The essay presents a brief history of the Yucatan peninsula. First, it takes a quick look at the evolution of the Maya civilization and, then at the colonial era. The Maya tribes’ resistance against the conquistadores and the Catholic clergy was fierce, in fact stronger than anywhere else. Opposition to domination also burst out after Mexican independence. The Mayas initiated the Caste War in 1847 against land-owners, generally, white hacendados. The conflict continued well into the 20th century. While Mayan peasants, the milperos, were confined to the traditional growing of corn, the hacendados around Merida were exporting sisal to the United States, and Quintana Roo was sending chicle for chewing gum. Though the Mexican Revolution did not affect the large estates in Yucatan, the agrarian reform that followed succeeded in dismantling many of them. An agricultural crisis, with falling prices for sisal, chicle and subsistence crops, was threatening social stability. The creation of Cancun and the Riviera maya acted like a magnet drawing workers from all over, but mostly from Yucatan state. Mayan peasants participated massively in the construction boom.

For the period from 1980 to 1998, the essay focuses on two cases : Akil, a rural orange-growing municipio, and Dzonotchel, a Mayan community with ejido status. The former retained its population, while the latter expulsed it. The migration of Mayan peasants raises a question : will these Mayans be able to maintain their cultural specificity in urban areas, where the broader Mexican culture and language predominate? The essay shows the conclusions of three different research projects undertaken by the autor : a Ph.D investigation conducted between 1980 and 1988, a post-doctoral research done between 1990 and 1995, and surveys at the case study villages in 1996.

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