Kelly and I took a road trip out to the Lagos de Montebello last week. The road through the park is also the road that leads to Bonampak and the Usamacinta river in the jungle another 5 or so hours away. It was such a nice day and the road was in such good condition we decided to drive past the lakes in towards the deep dark jungle, but not that far in. There was an interesting sign just past what seemed to be the last of the lakes for some waterfalls. Being suckers for a good waterfall we pulled in to take a look.
The Crystal Falls are more of a very steep set of rapids verging on waterfalls, at least this time of year. They are still quite beautiful and empty into a very nice wading pool by the side of the dirt access road. There is a place to park, a refreshment hut and a little stand selling movies. From here you can take a fairly short hike into 2 of the lakes nearby. We didn’t take the hike that day. We did walk in about a quarter mile along the stream and enjoyed the water babbling by.
Kelly noticed the poster on the video stand was for a Zapatista movie, and considering we were were in Zapatista territory here on the outskirts of the jungle, I figured it would be one with a definite Zapatista perspective. The movie was 60 pesos, about 5 dollars, and came in a nicely printed cardboard sleeve. When we opened it at home a piece of film fell out which was an actual clip from the movie. How cool, to prove it’s not a bootleg they put some of the actual film in the package, no bootlegger would have that. A nice little bonus gift too.
The movie is part documentary, part fictionalized reality, part propaganda and the closest thing to depicting the actual daily life of Maya families in Chiapas and the highlands of Guatemala I have ever seen. The basic plot is that a young girl in a small Zapatista community ends up romantically involved with a guitar playing Zapatista soldier who is operating with troops in the area, but is not from her little village. The actors are all indigenous Maya from Zapatista territory and the setting is a real Maya community.
This is not a movie to watch for a complicated plot line or stellar performances. The Zapatista troops riding horses through the jungle with well armed regular patrols might be pushing the envelope of reality slightly, but this movie does its level best to show you the way life is from the Mayans own perspective. There are stressful flybys from government helicopters, Mexican military driving through town and a generally ominous tone whenever the military shows up. The rest of the movie is full of traditional village life. Grandmother is stressing the value of hard work and sacrifice while helping raise the grand children and still contributing to the family in a multitude of ways, even in her obviously advanced years. The young girl is questioning her role in society and feeling the pressures of doing tings the way they have always been done verses following her heart.
When it was all said and done I was really glad we bought the movie. Though it’s a bit of a propaganda piece and shows mostly the best aspects of life in the country (other than the whole being in armed struggle with your own government thing) the movie opens a window to the daily lives of the Maya people. From the interactions of people in the village to the importance of tradition and community, to the stress of being in occupied territory in your own village, this movie provides plenty to think about. The movie is best viewed as slices of daily life depicted well in the framework of a simplistic yet elegant plot-line. I won’t give away too much of the plot, but I will say the movie left me smiling.
The biggest problem with this movie is that there are no English subtitles, hopefully there will be eventually. Even if you have very poor or no Spanish at all, you can follow the general plot and see a window into some ways of living that perhaps you would never see otherwise.