Maya Death in Chiapas

by Jeeni Criscenzo

She prayed with the other women in the church,
in this makeshift place that is not home,
this place that offers nothing except a respite from terror,
from the thugs who have burned and raped and murdered
the thugs who waited and watched while the coffee plants grew,
watched the Maya farmers tend their delicate plants,
watched the coffee prices rise,
watched her belly grow round with child while she worked in the field.

She prayed with the barefoot mothers and children,
her man missing, like many others,
held at gunpoint to harvest his crop for thieves,
for the PRI-istas who loaded trucks with their plundered harvest,
the PRI-istas who have pillaged their future,
stolen the fruits of months of toil,
stolen their only hope for survival in the coming year,
stolen their strength to resist enslavement.

She prayed with the shivering refugees,
beseeching her ancestors and saints with prayer,
to protect those hiding in the forest who have taken up their cause,
to defeat a government who strategically arms their enemies,
those pariah who call no one mother and father,
those wild ones who have given their souls to the PRI,
forsaken their heritage for the awe a weapon wields,
forsaken their ancestors for the bandit’s life,
forsaken their community for the promises of thieves.

She prayed with her fellow Maya near Acteal, Chiapas,
three days before the celebration of Christmas,
while warm, well-fed children in far away places prayed for toys,
she turned to the deadly hack of fifty government issue AK-47s
aimed at a church full of unarmed people,
she turned from the hail of machine gun fire
set on a community of helpless victims,
she ran for the cover of bushes by the river,
ran from a barrage of bullets named “politics” and “greed”,
ran for the futile chance her unborn child would survive.

But she could not run faster than their bullets.

She laid on the ground with the other bodies.
Her blood-soaked huipil could not conceal
that her attacker was not satisfied to gun her down with forty-four other innocents.
Her eyes wide with death watched the vermin as he thrust his machete into her womb.
The last thought to move through her mind, a question:
“What threat was this infant to your PRI? Jacinto Arias Cruz?”
“What threat was this infant to your PRI? Licenciado Julio Cesar Ruiz Ferro?”
“What threat was this infant to your PRI? President Zedillo?”

Words are my only weapon - please read this and if it moves you, copy and pass it along so that as many people as possible will know what is happening in Mexico:
Copyright 1998 Jeeni Criscenzo. Permission is given to reprint and pass along this poem in any media with this copyright notice and permission included. Your feedback can be sent to

Conflict in Chiapas: Understanding the Modern Mayan World
by Worth H. Weller, Ben Weller (Photographer), Julia Weller (Photographer)
$16.95, Paperback, March 1, 2000
Rebellion in Chiapas : An Historical Reader
by John Womack (Editor)
$14.36, Paperback , March 1999
Voices from Exile : Violence and Survival in Modern Maya History
by Victor Montejo
$18.17, Hardcover, October 1999
©Copyright 1997-2000 Jeeni Criscenzo