Michelle Evers
University of Kansas

Indigenismo, Testimonio, and Self Representation:
Performing Ethnicity in Jesús Morales Bermúdezís Ceremonial

 

Ceremonial, the 1992 novel by Jesús Morales Bermúdez, tells the story of a Tzotzil Indian and his familyís history in Chiapas. Writing the Indian through testimony, as Bermúdez attempts in Ceremonial, is a phenomenon whose roots reach back to Ricardo Pozasís Juan Pérez Jolote(1948). Critics seem to applaud each new wave of indigenista writing as a more accurate and "authentic" depiction of the Indian condition.

The present study of this neoindigenista novel examines the Indian peasantís changing literary representations in Mexico, as well as its changing image as perceived by the rest of the world. A closer look at the literary context situates Ceremonial among other models within its genre, demonstrating how this particular text provides a closer characterization of the Indian than in the work of previous indigenista authors. A factor outside the literary realm that allows for a rethinking of the Indian as a subject surges from the 1994 Chiapas uprising, occurring two years after the publication of Ceremonial. This event provided an arena for the indigenous population to resist their old script, written by history and literature, in order to write their own.

While both of these phenomena indeed employ different means--one being a novel and the other a political spectacle that captured worldwide attention--performance underlies each of these attempts toward depicting the indigenous population of Chiapas in an enlightened manner. This study shall examine the role of performance in creating a new image of a previously misunderstood and misrepresented people.