Pope Francis in Chiapas mass denounces exclusion of Mexico’s native peoples – Los Angeles Times

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In a Mass sprinkled with indigenous languages and customs, Pope Francis Monday gave recognition to the “misunderstood” and “excluded” native peoples long repressed by Mexican power.

Traveling to the heart of indigenous Mexico, the pope presided over a sun-drenched religious ceremony in San Cristobal de las Casas, in Chiapas state–Mexico’s poorest, on its southern border with Guatemala.

“On many occasions, in a systematic and organized way, your people have been misunderstood and excluded from society,” the pope said.

While the powers of the moment dismissed indigenous values as inferior, he said, they also stole or contaminated the lands belonging to the indigenous.

“How sad this is!” the pope said. “Exposed to a culture that seeks to suppress all cultural heritage and features in pursuit of a homogenized world, the youth of today need to cling to the wisdom of their elders!”

Prayers and scriptural readings were given in Tzotzil and Tzeltal and other indigenous languages. The pope spoke a few words in Tzotzil: “The law of the lord is perfect, and his word revives the soul.”

The southern state of Chiapas, once a stronghold of the Mayan civilization, has one of the country’s largest indigenous populations and is also home to many ancient Mayan ruins, including Palenque and Bonampak.

After arriving via helicopter from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital of Chiapas, Francis made a round in the pope mobile through the legions assembled at the sports stadium in San Cristobal where the mass was being held. 

Inside the sports stadium, thousands of indigenous people in local dress watched as the pope presided over the solemn mass.

Some of the invitees gathered in a patch of grass with their musical instruments—tubas, drums, trumpets—for a post-service performance of local bands, or bandas. Huge  screen to either side of the stage projected the pope’s image.

One large indigenous band came from the southern state of Oaxaca.

The streets of this colonial town were thronged from early morning with tens of thousands assembled to hear the pope’s message.

The line outside the stadium stretched for miles, winding through streets where vendors sold atole de arroz, a hot rice drink, along with coffee, hot chocolate, tamales and tortas. And, of course, there were the now-familiar entrepreneurs hawking pope calendars, flags, T-shirts and other pontiff paraphernalia.

At the entrance to the stadium, excited invitees showed their tickets to security officials to gain entry. Many had been waiting six hours or more for the gates to open.

Thousands of people, many of them indigenous, have descended on San Cristobal for an opportunity to hear the pope. Churches and schools provided places for them to sleep, though most left in the pre-dawn hours to join the huge lines.

Many came from outlying, mostly indigenous towns and were decked out in their best native dress — the sheepskin outfits of San Juan Chamula, the colorful, hand-sewn blouses and vests of Zinacantan and the straw hats with colorful ribbons favored by the men of Tenejapa.

Outside the cathedral, Veronica Lopez Perez, 62, waited for the mass to start with a green, handcrafted wooden cross she hoped the pope would bless. She, her brother and her mother all came from San Juan Chamula, a mostly indigenous town outside San Cristobal. The green cross had an image of San Juan’s colonial-era church emblazoned on the front.

“We heard he is a good man — he cares for the poor,” said her brother, Ricardo Lopez Perez, 39, who wore a broad-brimmed straw hat, a white sheepskin vest and polished cowboy coots. “We never thought the pope would come to see us here.”

Many of those invited to the afternoon event in the cathedral were disabled. People in wheelchairs and on crutches were among those waiting.

“This is like a dream for me,” said Maria Magdalena Munoz Robledo, 49, from the city of Comitan de las Flores, who was among those waiting outside the cathedral. “Francisco is a man of the people, like St. Francis of Assisi.”

She wore a double rebozo, or shawl, one yellow and one white — the colors of the Vatican — along with a straw hat, protection from the sun that would break through later in the morning.

“We have to wait, but who cares? It’s worth it.”

Pope Francis in Chiapas mass denounces exclusion of Mexico’s native peoples – Los Angeles Times