Trouble in Maya Village: Racism or Territorial Rights?

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Updated: June 22, 2015

This past weekend social media lit up after photographs of a black man in handcuffs and rope, surrounded by a group of Mayans were posted. The debate raged over whether it was racial discrimination or the Mayans simply enforcing their customs.  Today a release from the Toledo Alcalde Association said it was all in an effort to defend the Uxbenka (USH-BENKA) Maya sacred site.  According to the TAA, the action to restrain Rupert Myles was taken as a last resort for him to dismantle an illegal structure built on the archaeological site. They say Myles built the structure on the archaeological site without the consent of the village even after he was informed. They allege he went further and bulldozed a road to the sacred site and extended the structure. On Saturday, things came to a head according to the TAA, before the traditional fajina, Myles stormed to the front of the room and slammed his hands on the head table. They said he told them he had a firearm outside and so when he went to the vehicle that was when the alcalde instructed the village police to restrain him. Myles reportedly resisted and that was when other villagers got involved to subdue him. The TAA says even though Myles was detained, he was not arrested because he agreed in writing to remove the structures and his belongings within two weeks.  For his part, Rupert Myles told Love News, the long and short of the story is racial discrimination.  He said since last August he went to live in the village with his partner; he spoke to us of Saturday’s event.

RUPERT MYLESRupert Myles

“I just followed out what she was doing and watched it and when I asked them, “if the land belongs to you, the house belongs to you; knock it down … but I will sue you for every last thing there. So take it down”. So I walked out of the meeting and when I did that there was a young man who came behind me and swung at me with the machete. When I made my way over to Mr. Estephan’s vehicle and tried to get in it, Christina Coc said, “Arrest that man”.  The people piled up on me; one of them hit me with the handle of their machete, they pushed me on the ground; a whole pile of men grabbed my feet. I managed to turn around with my face up to see who the person who was holding me and putting hand cuffs on me. One of them tied up my feet like a pig. When I managed to stand up three of the men pulled the rope and so I fell again. I managed to free one foot. I told them that it was not necessary since I didn’t have a weapon and that I had rights but I know it was coming to this from the first time I told that chairman that I would contest; that is illegal and this thing that I had to prove that they are racists.”

The TAA says for over 10 years the area has been managed as an archaeological site by Uxbenka Kin Ajaw Association in partnership with the University of New Mexico, Uxbenka Archaeological Project that has been excavating the site.