“There are 113 topes on the road between the colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, and the Maya archaeological site of Toniná, just fifty kilometers to the north. One hundred and thirteen concrete obstructions across the highway, designed to slow you down. There are round topes, flat topes, ribbed topes, wide topes, high topes, reversed topes, and if you try to pass through Chiapas oblivious to her ongoing struggle, your heart will be wrenched out, bent, folded, punctured, and you will slow down and see beyond the curtain of tropical flowers and the pyramids and palaces of the Maya past.”
– Jeanne Simonelli, Uprising of Hope, 2005.
Today we all experienced the topes. Though we were tourists at a historical site, the background of the past few days has given us the ability to see firsthand and also reflect upon the struggle Dr. Simonelli is talking about. The cooperatives we have visited, and surely the ones we will be visiting soon, were started for reasons that include events we have not experienced personally in the United States. The massacre of 45 innocent people while they were praying in church incited the start of Maya Vinic to help those who lost family members and who were desperate for a sustainable life. The theater performances and workshops of FOMMA has given Maya women a chance to not just express themselves as humans but also the skills necessary to create a sustainable and independent life. These are unique educational experiences that are showing a true side of the effects of development, and will be the basis of our instruments for change.
Below Camille Morgan discusses her excitement about visiting Toniná:
“Mayan archaeology is one of the reasons I chose to participate in this class and alternate spring break. Today we traveled to Tonina to visit the archaeological remains of a Mayan city-state. To say I was excited would be an understatement. After having a very early breakfast we loaded into the vans around 8:00am and took a two hour drive to the site. The roads were thankfully wider and considerably less sickening than previous van trips. We had the privilege to follow an amazing tour guide who showed our group all that Tonina had to offer. To experience that great civilization and to touch the walls of their magnificent structures was truly an honor. Live music being played in the valley could be heard echoing throughout the walls, really making the ruins come alive with the Mayan spirit. Our group made it up to the eighth level, the top most point of the pyramid; from that point we were able to set eyes on the whole valley below. It was an incredible sight. We headed to lunch after roughly two hours of exploration, finished our meals and took a look at the museum. After another two hour drive we were home again and certainly glad of it. It had been a long day. We had braved the heat and the height s to experience Mayan culture in all its majesty. Only time will tell if we eluded the chiggers!”