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MEXICO: the rule of law without formal government

Raśl Escalante comments on the article describing popular justice in a Mexican village where an alleged murderer was buried alive without formal trial: "Interesting article, gory details aside. The questions raised about the autonomy of indigenous communities are extremely important. In general terms, the left takes for granted that autonomy and the right to keep traditional ways of government is unquestionable (this is a populist stance that builds on the paternalistic attitude most Mexicans have towards our indigenous communities). The PAN (as the PRI did before), is more preoccupied with making laws that are practicable and don't hinder development, to the degree that it is sometimes insensitive to the issues. People preoccupied with human rights should recognize the dilemmas".

My comment: We have a similar problem in the US., allowing Indians to do things which are otherwise forbidden: running gambling casinos, killing eagles for their feathers, smoking peyote. Pretexts are Indian usage, religious practices, sovereignty. I do not know of cases of popular justice like that in Mexico. My own position is that Indian communities in both countries should be integrated into modern society. There are powerful obstacles, like those of bullfight promoters in Mexico (see previous posting). What do anthropologists say about that?. Using the reasons given, anthropologists block progress. I am incensed by naturalized American Jewish anthropologists, who escaped from Hitler's death machine telling us not to be judgmental about human sacrifices in pre-Colombian Mexico. I imagine Mexican anthropologists have a similar attitude and defend the popular justice described above. We are properly critical of what is wrong in our society, and Indian society should not escape similar criticism.

Ronald Hilton - 3/22/02