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Chiapas, South Mexico – around 1910 (1)

Trapped to work in the jungle camp


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(Photo: James Gaither)

Chiapas, South Mexico.

“Damn it!” Celso jumps up. Suddenly, he understands he will not be able to marry the girl of his dreams. Only five minutes ago he felt perfectly well, but now he is sadder than ever.

Don Gabriel has bought him out of the police cell. He should have stayed there at least for three months because he did not have enough money to pay the fine the judge had imposed on him the day before.
Three men had attacked him. One of them had sprung on him. When Celso was rolling with him on the ground, the two others called the police. The first man had a big cut from a fight at the pub. At the court, the cut was the 'proof' that Celso had tried to kill him with his knife.
Celso had recognized the men immediately. They were coyotes, recruiters, who by order of don Gabriel had to trap strong Indians to work on a monteria, a jungle camp to cut down mahogany trees.


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(Photo: Colleen)

Chiapas, South Mexico.

The police cell was a terrible place for Celso. He was disgusted with the lice, the dirty food, the vomit of the drunkards, and especially the absence of fresh air. All his life he had been in the open air: in the village where he had grown up and at a coffee plantation where he has worked two years.
The rural life is not a joke. You have to work hard, and you don't earn much. That is true. But you are in the fresh air. You see the trees, you smell the plants, you hear the birds twitter. Sometimes you can catch an animal, to roast on the fire. In the night, the stars are there.
He was as happy as a child when don Gabriel bought him out. However, he had to sign a contract for the monteria. But anything is better than languishing in such a stinking cell.


for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Nigel Voaden)

Chiapas, South Mexico.

But now Celso realizes that he can forget his marriage. Two years he has toiled to collect enough money for the bride price for his beloved girl. Now he has lost all his money. He will have to work hard for two years to repay his debt to don Gabriel and then another two years for the bride price. So long the father of the girl will not wait. He will marry her off to another guy.
One day he will catch these coyotes and kill them. He has nothing to lose anymore.

_______________________

Source
In March to the Monteria (1933) the German author Ben Traven pictures the life of Indians who almost like serfs have to work in the mahogany jungles. It is volume three of the series of six Jungle Novels or Caoba cycles. ('Caoba' is the Spanish word for 'mahogany'.) Since about 1924 Traven lived in Mexico. Undeniably his sympathy goes out to the Indian peasants, which he describes colourfully and lifelikely.



Go to next page: Aunty Modesta - Chiapas, South Mexico – around 1910 (2)
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