View Full Version : Wal-mart in the shadow of Quetzalcoatl

03-14-2005, 10:22 AM
The audacity (and futility) of Wal-mart sullying this sacred place is utterly reprehensible. As the author notes at the end of the article, Quetzalcoatl will long outlast the profane materialist shrines of modern captialism.

Wal-Mart à la Mexicana
Mon, 14 Mar 2005 09:20:22 -0600


By John Ross
Republished from Alternet News

Wal-Mart puts down roots in the shadow of the Pyramid of the Sun in San Juan Teotihuacan. Is the global leviathan any match for Quetzalcoatl?

Each winter solstice, tens of thousands of revivalist Indians, New Age acolytes, and just plain tourists don cameras, feathered head dresses, or simple white cottons and tramp to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun in San Juan Teotihuacan to soak up the rays and revitalize their bodies and souls for the coming year.

Teotihuacan flourished for nearly a millennium between the second century BC and 700 AD. In the year 500, half a million people lived in the city, which covered an expanse of eight square miles, larger even than Rome. Having harnessed underground streams, the rulers of Teotihuacan created Mexico’s first corn culture. Queztalcoatl, the plumed serpent, a deity ubiquitous in ancient Mesoamerica, ruled over Teotihuacan, and his priests maintained the balance of the agricultural seasons and upheld the sun in the sky through human sacrifice.

As I climbed the 247 steep stone steps divided into four narrow tiers to the pyramid’s summit, many of my fellow pilgrims expressed their umbrage at the new Wal-Mart, in plain sight down below, just 2,000 meters away.

“It is like an invasion, a new conquest,” opined Rafael, a young computer technician from Cordoba, Veracruz.

“Falta de respeto” (a lack of respect), a middle-aged woman missing her two front teeth spat. “This is Mexico, you know.”

“What a horror! They insult the Gods! Quezalcoatl must be furious!” said Mexico City grade school teacher Xenia Marquez, extending her arms towards the weak December sun at the very apex of the Pyramid of the Sun. Her tirade was interrupted by the tingling of her cell phone.

The saga of the resistance to the Teotihuacan Wal-Mart is a picaresque footnote in the battle against the global leviathan. “Wal-Mart has profaned the City of the Gods, and there are no deities in Mesoamerica that can protect it,” darkly warned Miguel Limon-Portillo, the celebrated translator of Aztec poetry. Whereas in the U.S., such disputes are apt to be settled before permit appeals and zoning boards, the Teotihuacan Wal-Mart touched a raw national nerve, and so this war was fought à la Mexicana.

Having jumped the gun on NAFTA by buying into the 122-store Bodega Aurrerá chain here in 1992 and taking it over five years later, Wal-Mart now owns 687 superstores in 71 Mexican cities under the marquee logos of Wal-Mart, Bodega Aurrerá, Superama, and Sam’s Club – plus 52 Suburbias (a more upscale department store chain) and 235 Vips restaurants. Total Wal-Mart sales of $10.8 billion in 2003 dwarfed the $8 billion taken in by the next three retailers together. And Wal-Mart, the largest U.S. employer, is also Mexico’s biggest job generator, accounting for 101,000.

As in the U.S., the bottom line is gospel for Wal-Mart in Mexico, and no unions or other troublemakers are tolerated on the premises. Non-union Mexican Wal-Mart “associates” earn an average of 13 pesos an hour (about $1.20) as compared to $9 for their non-union U.S. counterparts.

“It is not good for our sovereignty that all our clothes and our food come from another country,” asserts Vicente Yanez, director of the National Association of Self-Service Stores. (More than 2,000 McDonald’s also stain the Mexican landscape.)

A full decade after NAFTA kicked in, the commercial physiognomy of Mexico is often indistinguishable from that of its neighbor to the north.

Not many months ago, polleros (people smugglers) in Tapachula, Chiapas, on Mexico’s southern border, wheedled $5,000 each from six Guatemalans and two other undocumented workers whom they promised to deposit safely in the United States.

Moving through Mexico stealthily in an old bus with its curtains drawn and slipping immigration officials the obligatory mordida (little bite, or bribe) to ease through the checkpoints, the smugglers arrived in Chihuahua City, 100 miles south of the U.S. border, drove out to an upscale suburb, and dropped their load off in front of an enormous Wal-Mart, informing the clueless clients they had arrived on “the Other Side.” The Wal-Mart shared the gleaming mall with a Wendy’s, a KFC, even an Applebee’s, and the ten-plex “Hollywood” Cinema.

“It looked just like how it looked on television” a rueful indocumentado told Froilan Meza of the local Chihuahua Herald.

The Civic Front to Defend the Teotihuacan Valley (Frente Civica) first got wind of Wal-Mart’s plans very late in the game after concrete trucks started pouring a foundation less than two kilometers from the pyramids. Activists immediately suspected a deal had been cut between the conglomerate, the municipal government, and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), without whose permission the project could not go forward.

On Oct. 1, 2004, Lorenzo Trujillo, a middle-aged teacher, the self-styled “spiritual guide” Emma Ortega, and Emmanuel D’Herrera, a poet and professor, set up camp at the Wal-Mart site, rolled out their petates (straw mats), lit copal incense to the guardian figure of Coatlicue, a sort of Aztec Shiva, and, in classic lost-cause Mexican struggle posture, declared themselves on hunger strike. Their sacrifice made an impact in a nation that bridles at dubious NAFTA encroachments and has been galvanized by the plight of its Indian cultures after ten years of Zapatista rebellion.

Mexico State Governor Arturo Montiel, a dark horse presidential hopeful of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ran Mexico for seven decades and would like nothing better than to take back power in 2006, was a big booster of the new Wal-Mart store. He boasted it would bring 3,000 new jobs to this run-down region. But local street sellers and market vendors figured their livelihoods were jeopardized by super-store competition and joined the fray. Street fights ensued between those who opposed the project and those who did not want to bus 20 miles away to other towns to do their shopping. When the Frente Civica camp was attacked by angry construction workers, the three hunger strikers moved to the ruins. A second strike began on the sidewalk outside the INAH’s Mexico City offices.

By now, lots of fingers were being pointed at the INAH for having declared the Wal-Mart site of “no archeological value.” One fired construction worker, Martin Hernandez, told the national left daily La Jornada that he had seen broken pieces of pottery and other items being hauled from the construction site and was ordered to keep quiet about the destruction.

Soon Rigoberta Menchú and Subcomandante Marcos were commenting on the desecration. The Teotihuacan Wal-Mart was a ready-made flashpoint for indigenous organizations such as the National Association for Indigenous Autonomy, which pointedly asked if the Catholic Church would allow a megastore to be thrown up at the door to the Vatican.

Francisco Toledo, Mexico’s most luminous painter, who had single-handedly kept a McDonald’s out of Oaxaca city’s colonial plaza (which like Teotihuacan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site), drew pictures of monkeys pushing shopping carts beneath the pyramids of “Teotihualmart,” as social critic Carlos Monsivais tagged it. Union leaders came to express their support of the hunger strikers and to remind the press of Wal-Mart’s anti-union bias. Anarcho-punks, anthropologists, and comedians expressed their outrage, and cabaret star Jesusa Rodriguez told of the “Hualmartas, a tribe from the north.”

As the uproar mounted, Wal-Mart worked around the clock to get the new store up and running before October was out. And as the deadline approached, tempers flared. On Oct. 24, militant farmers from nearby San Salvador Atenco, who had fought off a proposed international airport with their machetes three years previous, clashed with police just outside the ruins. A police car and three motorcycles were torched.

When on Oct. 30 Wal-Mart was finally ready to throw open its doors, there were 70 customers in line before 9 a.m. A sound truck had been circulating through the small city for days advertising free gifts and big bargains. But just before opening time, a team of INAH workers appeared on the scene and demanded entrance in order to drill for last-minute samples. Two meter-deep holes were perforated between cash registers six and seven as store stockers stopped to gawk. The samples yielded only sand and fragments of 20th century brick, and Wal-Mart received the INAH’s blessings to open for business.

But the perforations had left a gaping chasm in the megastore’s floor, and Wal-Mart public relations officer Claudia Algorri decided the inauguration would be postponed until after the long Dia de los Muertos weekend, Mexico’s traditional celebration of its dead.

Over the weekend, the Frente Civica built altars to their ancestors and prayed that the gods of Teotihuacan were tuned in.

When customers once again flocked to the megastore the following Tuesday morning, 250 riot cops were on hand to greet them. The first scuffling occurred after the mob tried to take the doors, and Wal-Mart officials had to calm the public with free Cokes, French fries, and “little cakes,” according to La Jornada. Then the link to the satellite, which would connect the Teotihuacan cash registers with Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., went down – the gods must have been listening. For six hours, the crowd hung around the parking lot under the blazing sun. A family quarrel broke out and noses were bloodied, the Jornada reporter noted. Finally, at about 3:30 p.m., customers were allowed to grab a shopping cart, and the consumer frenzy was consummated. But sales were not brisk. Many people had come just to gander at the marvels of modern merchandising contained within this temple of plastic.

That night, a band of toughs dismantled the Frente Civica encampment by the ruins. D’Herrera, then in the fourth week of his hunger strike, was rousted from his petate, and three students were slashed by a razor-toting thug. The Teotihuacan Wal-Mart was officially in business.

By December, the Teotihuacan Wal-Mart was booming. Although “Nueva Wal-Mart” (the corporation’s Mexican handle) has posted no outside store sign to avoid controversy, the interior is unmistakably a prototypical Sam Walton-style emporium stocked to the roof beams with mostly Chinese-made items.

Given the season, the toy aisles were packed with parents shopping. Of six customers questioned, all fervently concurred that Wal-Mart prices were the lowest in town. Princess Barbie was on sale for 288 pesos (about $20), He-Man action figures for 162. But a giant yellow Hummer toy weighed in close to 4,000 pesos. A miniature Wal-Mart megastore marked down to 988 pesos was drawing oohs and ahs. Elsewhere in the aisles, Black & Decker irons were going quickly at 97 pesos, and U.S. grown tomatoes and apples were holding their own against local produce.

Miguel Angel Nieves, a young custodian whose father worked rebuilding the Pyramid of the Moon in the 1960s, exalted the prices and the products. “Before Wal-Mart opened, we would shop in the street or in the central market, which is owned by one man,” he said. “The prices were high – and, well, it wasn’t very clean.”

Out in the parking lot, Victor Acevedo, a local anthropologist who affects handmade Indian accessories, was sheepishly loading merchandise into his battered Volkswagen bug. “I don’t like the idea of Wal-Mart being so close to the pyramids,” he said, “but where else am I going to shop?”

Mexico is a four-millennium-old civilization with a culture as obdurate as granite and obsidian. When the Europeans came, they pulled down most of the Aztec temples. But the majestic pyramids of Teotihuacan remained. And so they will remain long after all the Wal-Marts in Mexico crumble into dust.

Veteran reporter John Ross has lived in Mexico City’s old quarter for many years. His latest volume, Murdered by Capitalism: A Memoir of 150 Years of Life and Death on the American Left, is published by Nation Books.

Agent Smith
03-15-2005, 09:53 AM
well i know how the Aztecs would have handled this...


04-03-2005, 12:17 PM
In your thread starter post,U presented to this shortlived idea/meme:

"The current transition is, simutaneously,
a return to origin
the original matrix of this new world reality
is the ecstatic limitless of your own being.
This world -any world- is the ground for a
certain level of being"

I was half-way expecting the serpentine manner of how things tend to manifest, to be that coiled serpent metaphor. Not some wormhole theory

I was thinking, as it seems the general overview is, as mankind 'fell' from grace...so did he too, lose (in the sense of atrophy) those ESP, telepathy, 6th senses, tele-kinetics, OBEs, 2d sight,empathies,etc etc...or in your words 'ecstatic limitless of your own being'

As mankind steadly divorced itself from the
GodHead and his 'certain level of being'...
man found he had to develop technologies , which mimic those natural but-lost, G-d endowed abilities & characteristics.

The 'return' of the Quasi-quatal wouldn't be so much an anthrophomorphic?sp? concept.
But a type of 'turning-back-the-clock' idea...
the many different manifestations of a '666'
would just be the violent, destructive means
toward that End. (see a serpentine aspect here?
the world reality has sunk to a base density
that it must create its own Armegeddon from the
Pandoras Box of advanced science & technologies
which were about to advance beyond the kindergarden phase of Gene manipulations/stem cell/DNA/cloning/chimeras/ etc etc...and do the cyborg, man-god SinS like in the past)

? the Sophia or Giaia?
may be spurring Islam or CapitalistEmpire into
conflageration (or any # of other agents that may develop)to Stop the 'increase of knowledge'
and destroy the infrastructures of Empire and have the world-reality revert to a more primitive, 11th century state of affairs, which can then be built upon to try & restore to a Pre-IceAge Atlantian/Shambalah utopian age??

who knows, the story presented, went the way of new-age thinging. i still sorta like it though
thanks for you ear & eye for that space of time


04-03-2005, 12:39 PM

i really don't think we go back to the 11th Cent, i think we go forwards. Technology is an aspect of a process of psycho-spiritual evolution. We just need to place it in its proper relation to the earth. Walter Benjamin said the purpose of technology is not the mastery of nature but the mastery of the relation between man and nature.

About 666, from The New View Over Atlantis by John Michell:

"The number 666 is that of Teitan, a solar deity. It represents an eternal, natural principle, transcending any moral category." Teitan – Cheitan, in the Chaldean language – was the snake god who brought knowledge to humanity. As mythic polarity gave way to mental duality, this deity was reduced to a baleful influence, given the name Satan in the Bible. While the superstitious Christians associated the number with evil, the gnostics within the Church "recognized the number for what it was, an essential element in the true cosmic scheme, and in laying out their mystic citadels they allowed 666, the number of solar power, to occupy its due place in the numberical order."

For the Puritans, "the beast represented some absolute principle of evil, irreconciliable with the iron rule of humanly created morality," Michell wrote. "The beast, like the dragon, had to be suppressed."

According to the Gnostic version of the Biblical tale, the serpent in the Garden of Eden was actually an apparition of Christ, bringing knowledge to humanity, seeking to liberate them from the wicked demiurge who kept them in ignorance. The "Great Beast" of the Apocalypse, first popping up in Revelation 13, possesses an intricate ambiguity, linking him to these older traditions.

04-03-2005, 01:11 PM
HA! Wal-Mart vs. Quezaquatal. Now that's a bar fight! I don't know. I think my money's on Wal-Mart. I don't believe the great circle of cosmic elders who stand outside of space, time and fate ever quite excused that pyramid of the sun business. Sort of like when they marched the stones of the Roman coliseum across town to make the Vatican. "All right fellas--you think all this blood is pretty cool don't you . . . well then . . . take a look at this . . . " Render unto Caeser what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. I think Tiotihuacan will survive Wal-Mart provided Wal-Mart pays its workers a fair wage and decent benefits. Then they'll take their lunch break on the steps of the pyramid, and look up at the sun and smile.

04-03-2005, 02:44 PM

i'm afraid the post i had made
was a response to another topic
not this wal-mart thing.

I'm also humbled by your (or anyone elses) not bringing me up on the carpet...
whatzzat, beginners luck?
i think it(the reply) had to do with the <previous\next> prompt key,
as I was reviewing the 9 pages about 'Q' and your book progress~impasse.

as far as the proximity of wal-mart to a 'sacred site'...well, i'm handling electricity and/or
chemicals many times throughout a day...nothing
detrimental happened yet, directly or indirectly.
...i see no big deal, its another type co-existence, no?

shaman sun
04-12-2005, 05:30 AM
To me it seems to be ambiguous. There are benefits to the people's quality of products, etc... But at the same time, the sacredness is something being forgotten, looked over, perhaps unintentionally, as the modern lifestyle shadows over the ancient one.

More and more, I hear "well, we can give this up...". Sort of like the innocence and freedom of childhood, let go piece by piece as you enter into a world of money, capitalism and servitude. We are giving up the sacredness, the spirituality, not truly out of disrespect and ignorance, but out of necessity. Those starving and living poorly in Mexico will gladly welcome a Wal-Mart as an outlet from some of their troubles, a way to improve their lifestyle. To have decent food and items for their homes.

At the other end of the coin there are those who refuse to be helped, who refused to be starved out by these corporations and in the end be forced to surrender to them.

I don't justify what they are doing, but I know that we have turned areas of our world to such slush and grimey filth (metaphorically and literally speaking) that some do not feel they have a choice anymore. Perhaps this is one of capitalism's dirtiest tricks.

To siege a temple, starve its occupants, and force them to leave, one by one, so that they may build their empire of false wealth.