Friday, March 24, 2017
San Cristobal de las Casas and Na Balom - Day 4
to provide sanctuary for the Lacandon peoples of the rainforest who Frans discovered (or they allowed themselves to be discovered by Frans) in the late 1940's. These people had hidden and lived in the rainforest away from civilization since before the Spaniards arrived. They were never captured by the Spaniards. I remember reading in National Geographic as a child about these people. My fascination with the nomadic peoples of Mexico began then........
Frans discovered Palenque in the late 1920's, returned to the USA to Harvard to get a degree in Archaeology at Harvard and an advanced degree at Tulane where he got funding for further work at Palenque.
Gertrude was a famous documentary photographer from Switzerland and was on her way to the rainforest to photograph the peoples of the Lacandon area when she met Frans. Initially they both lived in Mexico City where they met the Golden Circle of peoples such as Rivera, Kahlo, Mondotti, Weston and Lechuga, to name a few. Soon, they decided they could not continue their research from Mexico City, found this abandoned hacienda on the outskirts of town in San Cristobal and lived in it while using pack mules or a Cessna from Ocosingo to go into the rainforest.
published by the Museo Franz Mayer and Artes de Mexico called Ruth D. Lechuga - Una Memoria Mexicana.
Ruth began photographing the peoples of Mexico in the 1940's. One year after she arrived from Europe escaping the war atrocities. Her photography, her knowledge of the indigenous peoples and her collections of masks and textiles can now be seen at the Frans Mayer Museum in Mexico City. Her collection of photographs is well over 14,000. It was such an honor to sit and talk with her for almost three hours one day at her home and museum prior to her death. Her life's work wasdocumented and turned over to the museum.
In the first post about this trip, there is a photo of one of these skiffs or pirogues (which was the name of them when I was growing up in Louisiana). It is on display at Na Balom.
As I quietly sat for a while at the end of my visit to NaBalom, I was overwhelmed by the idea that two people could save a whole culture from extinction. That is exactly what Frans and Trudy did, thankfully.
Today, I'm told, there are about six hundred Lacandons living their lives nomadically in the rainforest of Chiapas.