Two hundred two thousand metres above sea level, between forests, valleys and mountains silhouetting on the horizon: it ‘s the area of Chiapas that Pope Francis visited on the fourth day of his trip to Mexico, a poor State in the far south-eastern region of Mexico, a land of indigenous people and a gateway of South American migrants. The vanquished without history: the indigenous peoples, with their cultures and traditions; forgotten defeated people, despised and excluded. Pope Francis’ stop in San Cristobal de las Casas brings to mind the history of relations, often turbulent, between the Church and Aboriginal populations. Mindful of this past
the Pope asked these men and women for forgiveness, for much of their tradition and culture was annihilated.
Today most of these traditions are but performances for tourists, like the case of the Voladores. The ritual consists of the climbing of a twenty-meter pole from which four-men – according to the original tradition, more to please the current demands of the tourists – launch themselves head down from a rope secured around their waists. It was originally a religious rite, linked to the subject of fertility. The four Indios descend slowly swirling around the long pole to the beat of a drum and flute music. They complete four circles around the pole, for a total of 52 circuits, the years of the Aztec calendar. In all likelihood it is the request of a new circle of life for indigenous populations. Initially only three types of trees could be cut down to be used as the ritual’s pole. Also the cutting-down of the tree used to be part of a religious ceremony that took place far away from the lands of origin of the indigenous populations, accompanied by a request for forgiveness for having inflicted this wound to nature.
In his homily in San Cristobal de las Casas Pope Francis rightly said that we still have a lot to learn from these populations who care for nature and consider land not as a commodity but as a gift of God and of the ancestors.