Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Thunder Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Thunder Doesn't Live Here Anymore: The Culture of Marginality Among the Teeneks of Tantoyuca

Anath Ariel de Vidas
Translated from the French by Teresa Lavender Fagan
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 456
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Thunder Doesn't Live Here Anymore
    Book Description:

    Now available in English, Thunder Doesn't Live Here Anymore explores the highly unusual worldview of the Teenek people of Tantoyuca, Veracruz, whose self-deprecating cosmology diverges quite radically from patterns of positive cultural identity among other indigenous groups in Mexico. The Teeneks speak of themselves as dirty, dumb, ignorant, and fearful, a vocabulary that serves to justify the Teeneks' condition of social and spatial marginality in relation to their mestizo neighbors. However, as Anath Ariel de Vidas argues in this masterful ethnography, this self-denigration - added to the absence among the Teeneks of emblematic Indian features such as traditional costumes, agricultural rituals, specific ceremonies, or systems of religious cargos or offices - are not synonymous with collective anomie. Rather, as Ariel de Vidas demonstrates, their seeming ontological acceptance of a marginal social and economic condition is - in its own peculiar way - a language of indigenous resistance.

    eISBN: 978-0-87081-858-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures, Maps, Tables, and Myths
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Davíd Carrasco and Eduardo Matos Moctezuma

    The editors of the Mesoamerican Worlds series are enthusiastic in introducing Anath Ariel de Vidas’s Thunder Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: The Culture of Marginality Among the Teeneks of Tantoyuca, containing excellent and surprising interpretations one of Mexico’s most marginalized indigenous groups. More than any of our other publications, this book focuses on contemporary indigenous Mexican peoples and their complex, even astonishing ways, of expressing identity.

    This tour de force of the “local knowledge” movement in scholarship works to unravel a conundrum. How can an indigenous community that, for centuries, maintained interethnic links with other indigenous peoples of the Central Mexican...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Phonetic Transcription of Veracruzan Teenek
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  7. INTRODUCTION: Is the Sparrow Hawk Dying?
    (pp. 1-16)

    “Why aren’t you studying the Nahuas instead?” I was asked when I told employees at the Instituto Nacional Indigenista (INI) in Chicontepec of my plans to undertake a research project on the Teenek Indians of Veracruz, Mexico. I was asked this question over and over by many people—teachers, civil servants, activists with peasant organizations, local scholars, even anthropologists—during my two-and-a-half-year stay in the region of Tantoyuca, and I asked myself the same question during the many moments of despair and exasperation that marked my fieldwork.

    The Teeneks do in fact have a bad reputation. Early on the Aztecs...


    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 17-20)

      My neighbors in Tantoyuca, who saw me in town from time to time, were often astonished at my lengthy stays in the ranchos. They had vaguely understood that I was doing a research project in the surrounding Indian villages, but were always surprised that I spent more than one day there. They asked me what I ate, where I stayed, and how I got to the villages. A group of mestizo high school students involved in a “community study” project had come to see me in Tantoyuca to ask me how to begin their work. My suggestion that they go...

    • CHAPTER ONE The Natural and Social Landscape of Tantoyuca
      (pp. 21-68)

      As witnessed by a foreign observer, Tantoyuca—“place of wax” in Teenek—is unusual in many ways. Multilevel apartment buildings—a unique phenomenon in this rural region—exist alongside small rustic houses with roofs made of palm leaves or corrugated iron. In the streets of this town, with a population of around 23,000 (1990), the “rich,” well shod in their cowboy boots, cruise around in shiny new trucks with tinted windows while talking on cell phones, which they brought back from their most recent trip al otro lado—to the United States of America—approximately 375 miles to the north....

    • CHAPTER TWO Teenek Alliances
      (pp. 69-100)

      Contemporary Veracruzan Teenek kinship is based on cognatic or bilateral descent and on the kindred. The classification of kin between parallel and crossed lines suggests a complex structure in the sense proposed by Lévi-Strauss (1981)—that is, without marital prescription; there exists a strong tendency to endogamy within the local group, and the related terminology may refer to a restricted (sister) exchange as well as to a Dravidian system (with distinction between consanguine and affined relatives), although there is not always a clear distinction between crossed and parallel kin. Solidary relationships in this society are based on the kindred, organized...

    • CHAPTER THREE A Problem of Boundaries
      (pp. 101-126)

      One of the indelible traces the colonial era left in Mexico—one that continues to haunt the daily lives of Indian groups—is no doubt that of the continued despoilment of their land and, consequently, of the inextricable complications placed in the way of the Indians’ recovery of that land. Yet although the regional history is filled with tales of agrarian controversies, struggles, and claims by indigenous groups dispossessed of their land, those groups ultimately had to retreat to less desirable locations, generally located high in the hills. Over the years these places of entrenchment formed enclaves whose boundaries not...

    • Conclusion to Part One
      (pp. 127-128)

      The analysis of the Teenek community universe and that of the relationships maintained locally between the Teeneks and the mestizos emphasize a certain feeling of cohesion among the Teeneks based on ties of kinship, territoriality, the sharing of a minority language, and a system of values; in other words, it reveals a certain cultural identity. The definition of this notion, or rather the explanation of the process of its formation, shifts in the anthropological literature basically between two poles: on the one side there is the essentialist approach, which focuses on the reality of the ethnic object by exploring the...


    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 129-132)

      Imelda, my neighbor in Loma Larga, was complaining one day while she was vigorously rocking her grandson’s hammock/cradle about the bad mood of the baby, who cried all day long, didn’t want to eat, and was particularly agitated. Given the baby’s age, I suggested that he might be teething, and that was perhaps why he was so agitated. The grandmother and the mother of the young boy looked at me in astonishment and asked, ¿A poco duele cuando crecen los dientes? (Does it really hurt when teeth are coming in?). It was my turn to be flabbergasted: Was it possible...

    • CHAPTER FOUR The Reality of the Baatsik’
      (pp. 133-154)

      Apolinar, who was happy to give me Teenek lessons and who was delighted when I called him maestro—a profession he had always wanted to pursue—one day decided to complete my meager, recently acquired knowledge of the underground beings that roamed all around us. I had shown him one of my reports in which I had mentioned the existence of such beings within the framework of collected Teenek tales. “Those aren’t tales,” he told me in a rather reproachful tone when beginning our daily lesson, which he called “the reality of the Baatsik’”—a title I am using for...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Teenek Etiology
      (pp. 155-226)

      Encounters with the Baatsik’ are inevitable and generally occur on the paths, near wells, or in gullies, hollow trees, or caves. The Baatsik’ are found in particular in places where the earth’s surface is uneven—that is, in the hills and ditches they themselves created by burying their heads in the ground. In other words, as Tousignant (1979: 356) notes referring to similar characters among the Tzeltals (Mayas) of Chiapas State, they are found in any cavity, crevice, or topographical protuberance that permits communication with the underworld. In these places the Baatsik’ appear in the form of visions and frighten...

    • CHAPTER SIX Teenek and Baatsik’: Terms of Coexistence
      (pp. 227-246)

      In Loma Larga large stones identified as dhakil border the path that goes along the entire crest of this long hill. Like a backbone, the Baatsik’s route reflects the entire spatial and social connection of those beings from the past with the inhabitants of the contemporary world and their Christian beliefs. This connection is the foundation of a principle of conviviality between humans and chthonic beings that is essential for their sharing land and a life together on the same site. One day I asked Apolinar to take me to see a particularly reputed Baatsik’ place. He told me when...

    • Conclusion to Part Two
      (pp. 247-260)

      Thus, we see through the principal rituals still practiced by the Veracruzan Teeneks that the belief in the existence of an earlier universe whose masters were different from those that rule the current world vigorously persists. In other words, the current Teenek religion consists on the one hand of the somewhat relative recognition of the power of the Christian God and the Catholic saints while maintaining on the other hand an allegiance to the masters of the past. Teenek beliefs of autochthonous origin, along with those coming from Christianization, form a single religion—if one considers religion to be a...


    • [PART THREE Introduction]
      (pp. 261-264)

      We have seen in previous chapters how in Teenek thought, the reality of the Baatsik’ functions as a principle of alterity and subordination. The advent of “the light” separated these prehuman ancestors from modern Teeneks, and in so doing it established the initial pair of opposites, setting up the “us” of the present against the “them” of the past. And this “otherness” is at the core of Teenek identity, since the Baatsik’, as ancestors, forged Teenek history. Moreover, even while belonging elsewhere, the Baatsik’ remain the guarantors of Teenek morals here below, through the mechanism of envy and illnesses that...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN “Hell Is Other People”
      (pp. 265-320)

      In the Teeneks’ universe the Others constitute several social groups: neighboring social groups with which they are in constant contact (the Nahuas and above all the mestizos, who represent the closest and most present/ponderous cultural alterity), groups who are not as close by but who are known (the Teeneks from the state of San Luis Potosí), and those who live very far away and whom the Teeneks know only through hearsay. A few ethnic groups located on the periphery of the Teenek region are known, but the commentaries about them do not go beyond mentioning their names, which reflects what...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT The Space of Memory
      (pp. 321-374)

      In the preceding chapters we have seen that the universe of the Baatsik’ and the beliefs associated with those ancestors who became beings of the underworld function as a principle for the Teenek conceptions of social and corporeal misfortune, as well as for the perception of Self and the Other. From this point of view these beliefs and the practices tied to them represent the tangible vestiges of an ancient religion that today has been reduced primarily to the realm of illness. If we start from the principle of the three cosmic stages around which the life of humans is...

    • Conclusion to Part Three
      (pp. 375-386)

      In conclusion, let us return to the mountain of dhak chook ch’een—“the mountain of the white divinity of Thunder, of Lightning, and of Lightning bolts” that rises to the south of Loma Larga. Curiously, in San Luis Potosi there is a mountain near Tamaletón locally called ejek tsook ts’een, which means “the black mountain divinity of Thunder, of Lightning, and of Lightning bolts.” Ejek among the Potosino Teeneks means “black” in the negative sense (the color black is called t’unu’ and in Veracruzan Teenek t’unuy), and the term is applied to mestizos who lack respect for the Teeneks, who...

  11. CONCLUSION: The Culture of Marginality
    (pp. 387-394)

    The goal of the present work has been to account for the construction of Teenek identity through historical and social processes confronted with indigenous discourse on social marginality.

    In the general introduction the Veracruzan Teeneks were presented as an ethnic group that, apart from its language, demonstrates few emblematic markers of its differences. But the absence of apparent ethnic characteristics within this group (the lack of traditional clothing, agricultural rituals, a system of civil and religious hierarchies, and similar delineating elements) has nevertheless not plunged the Teeneks into a state of anomie because they have preserved their language and certain...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 395-406)
  13. Glossary of Acronyms and Foreign Terms
    (pp. 407-410)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 411-422)
  15. Index
    (pp. 423-436)