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El Indio by Gregorio Lopez y Fuentes
a synopsis, with 11 illustrations by Diego Rivera



Chapter XIX -- The Leader

All the peasant children of the region converged on the [school] very early in the morning . . .the poor afoot, the children of the rich on burros. A bi-lingual native replaces the first teacher, who has given up in the face of no support from the authorities. The new teacher discovers the inequities the Indians face: every Indian from the moment he reached the age when he was barely able to perform the simplest chores was enrolled as a taxpayer by the precinct judges in charge of collecting the [illegal] head-tax, unlike the practice in the towns. Altitude is a factor of social class: the difference is measured by the levels of the rancherias; they correspond to the traditional fear between the creoles and the Indians, which, fed by persecution and exploitation, is like the thermometer of mistrust. The Indians, who in their obscure wanderings went along the banks of the rivers and founded cities in the valleys, had retreated into the sierras from the domination of the whites; and now came down only when persuaded by confidence.

The new teacher becomes a leader who continues to fight for the Indians' rights, and the council of elders put themselves in his hands. Thus ended a very ancient tradition.

Chapter XX -- Politics

The villagers from all the rancherias become politically active and armed, thanks to the efforts of their leader. Land reform has led to conflict with former landlords, who have become a White Guard to counter the revolution. An election campaign is underway. Impending threats to burn the rancherias elicit the leader's request for funds from the villagers in order to buy ammunition for defense against the White Guard. The cripple, being insignificant, was sent down to watch from the bushes at the edge of the highway, and signal if the enemy approached. Some want to run away to the hills. Violence escalates with a new style of attack: ambush. On election day, when long lines of Indians went through the fields on their way to town, the old men, as they passed the best lands, lamented not having had time to clear them, let alone to sow. The words cintli and etl, the maize and the bean, were pronounced with a certain fear: the traditional fear of a people that has suffered hunger.