Climate Change

We are just beginning to explore the possibilities of working with indigenous peoples on the topic of climate change, as part of a larger interest in how indigenous peoples work to have a sustainable human relationship with nature. This also ties in with considerations of longevity in indigenous religious belief.

Some elders are entrusted with watching weather change and interacting with the elements and the spiritual world to see if they are able to intervene to improve conditions for agriculture.  In Spanish, and in some communities at least, these individuals are called “tiemperos” (from the Spanish word tiempo, referring in this case to weather, rather than time, although the two can be inter-related). Some such individuals bear the name graniceros (from granizo, Spanish for hail). They are entrusted by their communities to control rain and hail.  They are perceived to have a gift (don in Spanish) and a special relationship with the spirits or deities that affect rainfall and, therefore, agricultural fertility.

Students in Puebla (north of Oaxaca) speak of witnessing offerings being left at the tops of sacred mountains in greater number, for example, in response to drought conditions.  Videos are emerging about tiemperos on Popocatepetl in Iztaccihuatl, the volcanoes that can be visible from Mexico City.  It would be marvelous to find and interview some tiemperos, but at the moment we have not yet contacted any.  We will be watching for such opportunities in the state of Oaxaca.

Applying critical thinking and analytical observation to these videos provides a challenging exercise for students.  What are the questions these films raise for those who might be more scientifically inclined or for those who come to listen with pre-conceived religious beliefs of a different nature? How are Mexican journalists and college students capturing these stories and presenting them to us?