Back to Index

Chiapas - Geroge and and Jane Collier

     WAIS extends across the political spectrum and across the rainbow of disciplines. This leads to different interpretations and even disagreements as to facts. The world visions of political scientists, economists, anthropologists, sociologists, etc. all vary.
     I was once the reader of James Frazer (1854-1951), the famous author of The Golden Bough (1890). He was a bookish, classsical scholar, crabby and anti-social, dominated by a termagant of a French wife. (Incidentally, look up the fascinating etymology of "termagant").
     Since his time, anthropology has changed completely. No longer bookish, it is based on field work. Anthropologists live with primitive areas, the real world as far as it goes. Urban studies tend to be left to sociologists, whose work is less descriptive and more statistical. That world is equally real and is displacing the primitive life. Anthropologists tend to justify all aspects of a "culture," indeed to idealize it. Only recently for example has a more realistic interpretation of ancient Mayan culture emerged.
     George and Jane Collier are both respected professors of anthropology at Stanford. We are linked by our common interest in Spain and Mexico. I know both countries well, but, although I have travelled tnhroughout their hinterland, I have concentrated on the urban civilization and politics, whereas the Colliers have devoted their lives to remote rural areas, in the case of Mexico Chiapas, where they have again spent several months. I do not know anyone better informed about it. They see Mexico from the Chiapas viewpoint, I from the national and international perspective.
     Their recent stay has resulted in a book entitled ¡Basta!, an angry "that's enough!" It is a detailed, well-documented account of the politics of the area, with many interesting sidelights. For example, the cult of Zapata and the name Zapatistas is relatively new to the area. Was it promoted by the same outsiders who have spread it in the United States, where there is now a "Zapata House" at Stanford and in other institutions?
     I hope that WAIS benefits from Colliers' knowledge of Chiapas. We can expect some interesting discussions.

Ronald Hilton - 08/01/99