Gertrude Duby Blom: La Reina de la Selva

Imágenes de dos siglos

Un proyecto fotográfico de Gerardo GarciacanoGregorio Vázquez

 Apertura: 14 de marzo 2024, Embajada de México en Suiza, Berna
        Ver  AQUÍ fotos y video del evento 
6 de junio 2024, Museum Kleines Klingental, en Basilea Suiza, en cooperation con Expolat
5 de julio 2024, Asociación Cultural Na Bolom, San Cristóbal de las Casas, México

En cooperación con Asociación Cultural Na Bolom.ch,  Asociación Cultural Na Bolom en México, y la Embajada de México  en Suiza.
Este proyecto fue posible con el apoyo de  Kanton Bern, Burgergemeinde BernTemperatio Stiftung.

El texto introductorio de Meike Powroznik, curadora de las Américas en el Museo Etnográfico de la Universidad de Zúrich, en alemán, está AQUÍ.

Nahá. Sin fecha. ©Gertrude Duby Blom
"Nuk, Mariana, and Nuk Yamilet," Nahá, 2023 ©Gerardo Garciacano
 

“Hachakyum, dios de dioses, creó los cielos y las selvas. En el cielo, sembró las estrellas, y en la selva, plantó los grandes árboles. Las raíces de todas las cosas están entrelazadas entre sí. Cuando se corta un árbol en la selva, una estrella cae del cielo.”

Chan k’in Viejo (1900-1996)

SOBRE EL PROYECTO
 

El proyecto es un diálogo fotográfico entre dos siglos y dos fotógrafos. Al yuxtaponer las imágenes capturadas por Gertrude Duby Blom en el remoto pueblo lacandón de Nahá en la segunda mitad del siglo XX con mis propias fotografías del mismo lugar en el siglo XXI, se despliega una narrativa que revela una delicada interacción entre tradiciones, globalización y supervivencia.

ANTECEDENTES

Este proyecto se ha inspirado en el trabajo fotográfico de Gertrude “Trudi” Duby Blom (1901-1993), abarcando su tiempo en México desde la década de 1940 hasta su muerte en 1993. Trudi dedicó los últimos 50 años de su vida a preservar el paisaje y las culturas del estado sureño de Chiapas, estableciéndose como una de las primeras activistas ambientales del siglo XX. Trudi fue una periodista, antropóloga social y activista suizo-mexicana temperamental e indomable, conocida en Chiapas como “la reina de la selva”. El nombre, acuñado en la película documental de 1989 por Robert S. Cozen, Reina de la Selva, Gertrude Blom: a Portrait, lleva consigo algo de la ambivalencia del papel de Trudi visto en retrospectiva desde una narrativa postcolonial.

Cuando Trudi encontró por primera vez a los lacandones en 1943, estaban muy aislados del concepto más amplio de civilización. Su forma de vida tenía más similitudes con los grupos indígenas de la cuenca del Amazonas que con el resto de México. A partir de mediados de la década de 1940, Trudi comenzó a concienciar activamente sobre la deforestación causada por madereros, colonos inmigrantes, comúnmente conocidos como “ladinos”, la industria petrolera y las acciones del gobierno mexicano. A través de su trabajo fotográfico, llamó la atención sobre el impacto perjudicial de la deforestación, destacando no solo el daño a nuestro planeta, sino también la amenaza inmediata que representaba para el modo de vida de los lacandones.

Mis retratos tienen como objetivo construir sobre el legado documental de Trudi al capturar la generación actual y las circunstancias del pueblo lacandón de la remota región de Nahá-Metzabok. Ilustran cómo esta comunidad ha estado lidiando con el impacto de la modernización y la influencia de un mundo cada vez más globalizado.

“No tan sólo hablan mal de mí: me odian. Son mis enemigos. Como los forestales, la gente
del Banco Rural que destruye las selvas con créditos para el ganado; los ladinos que no
quieren a los indígenas… Que sigan hablando. Solo el que no hace nada no tiene enemigos. Que
crezca el mito de Gertrude Duby Blom. Más tarde, cuando no esté aquí, podrá verse la
verdad de las cosas, y mi existencia en esta zona de magia.
Gertrude Duby Blom 

Trudi and Gerardo

The parallels between Gertrude’s life and my own have played a pivotal role in catalyzing this project. While Trudi was a woman from the Bernese Oberland who emigrated to Mexico, where she spent the latter part of her life, I grew up in Mexico and later moved to Europe in pursuit of my career as a classical singer and have lived in Berne since 2008. Also, both Trudi and I transitioned into photography later in our lives. Her photography primarily served the purpose of documentation and raising awareness about the destruction of the jungle and its cultures. My primary interest in photography is an artistic one. In my portraits I experiment with the juxtaposition of the posed, studio-lit portrait, with the flux and aleatory nature of street portraiture. While Trudi was a Swiss woman documenting ethnic groups in Mexico, I am a Mexican man documenting social groups in Switzerland in my Street-Portrait Series. Trudi and I also share the fact that, for the Lacandons, we are both Ladinos or foreigners. My home town of Nuevo Laredo in the north of Mexico must feel as far away as Bern in their view.

Gertrude Duby con Chan K'in viejo. Nahá. Sin fecha. Autor desconocido
Gerardo y Bohr "Mudo", Nahá 2019 @Gerardo Garciacano

“My fame as a singer quickly spread throughout the jungle. Whenever I arrived at different villages, one of my main duties was to sing. Once, to dispel Mateo’s anger because we hadn’t brought the desired phonograph, we found no other means than my singing.”
Gertrude Duby Blom

ABOUT NAHÁ

“Hach Winik”,  the “true men” and the guardians of the biosphere

The Lacandons are believed to have inhabited the region between Yucatan, Chiapas and the Peten in Guatemala since ancestral times. During the Spanish colonization, when other ethnic groups were being converted to catholicism or annihilated, they fled to remote places of the jungle to preserve their traditions. Many anthropologists believe that they were one of the purest indigenous people of Mexico until the second half of the 20th century when roads for timber companies made the jungle more accessible. That coincides with the time that Trudi Blom first arrived in Chiapas and her photos bear witness to the destruction of the jungle. About 80% of the Lacandon jungle, the only rainforest in North America, is believed to have been lost to deforestation.

The Lacandons call themselves “Hach Winik” which translates as “true men” and they have been designated as guardians of the Nahá–Metzabok Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO site since 1998. Since 2004, Nahá has also been a RAMSER protected site. The reason for these designations is that some 40,000 species of fauna and flora exist in these habitats, and the area is considered the most important site for biodiversity in North America. The Nahá and neighboring Metzabok (another Lacandon community) regions represent only 0.4% of Mexico’s surface, but it contains 48% of the bird species, 33% of the bats, 11% of the reptiles and 25% of the mammals in the country. Nahá now has a population of about 270 inhabitants, around 60 families. They belong to the Mayan indigenous group and speak the Lacandon language

Culturally, most of the Lacandons have become alienated from their own traditions. One group converted to the Southern Baptist religion, while another embraced Seventh-Day Adventism. However, the community at Nahá, led by its charismatic chieftain and spiritual leader, Chan K’in Viejo, remained steadfast in preserving the flame of traditional Mayan religion and culture. Trudi developed a close friendship with Chan K’in, holding deep respect for his knowledge of Mayan oral traditions and its intricate moral and cosmological aspects [4]The current spiritual leader (Ut’ohir) of Nahá is Don Antonio, son of Chan K’in Viejo.  With two new evangelical churches in the small community Don Antonio, now over 90 years old, unfortunately has only very few followers and no one has been trained to replace him.

“They came from the other side of the sea and found us living here. And these people brought their own god: Akiantó. That’s why now there are many people and missionaries who worship the god of foreigners. They often built churches with the stones from the houses of our gods and in the ruins of our temples. They took many beautiful sacred objects that we never saw again. So many sacred things that our gods left us were burned and destroyed, and they are lost forever.”
Chan k’in Viejo (1900-1996)

Don Antonio con hombrecitos de barro. Nahá. Sin fecha. ©Gertrude Duby
"Don Antonio, the last chaman" Nahá 2023 ©Gerardo Garciacano

“My bitter experience from all the fights for many years is: the forest will go, the planet will go, and, what I don’t care about, humanity will go. We deserve to disappear.”
Gertrude Duby Blom

Gertrude Duby Blom

Gertrude Elisabeth Loertscher was born in Innertkirchen and grew up as the daughter of a religious minister in the small village of Wimmis near the Swiss alps. She led an extraordinary life that diverged radically from the norms of her rural Swiss background. In her twenties, she joined the Socialist Party and became a fierce journalist who wrote against fascism in 1930s not only in Germany but also in Switzerland, Italy and France. Due to her political activism, she was arrested five times, incarcerated three times, and sent to a camp for undesirable foreigners in France before eventually moving to Mexico.

Gertrude Duby Blom, autor desconocido

In 1943, she volunteered to join an exploration expedition led by the government to the southern state of Chiapas. The expedition was the first of its kind in one hundred years and it was mainly on horseback. This presented a challenge for Trudi, who had never ridden a horse before. In the Lacandon jungle, she encountered Frans Blom, a well-known Danish archaeologist and cartographer, whom she later married. It was during this time that she started her socio-political work, advocating for the environment and the communities of the Chiapas jungle.

Initially, her interest in the group, much like her husband’s, was primarily anthropological and sociological. They collected artifacts to prevent their loss, vaccinated the Lacandons to protect them from devastating diseases from the outside world, and, in general, sought to shield them from the destructive influences of that same outside world. Within a few years, however, it became evident that, even if Lacandon culture might be defended in the abstract, the relentless forces of economic change were condemning these gentle people to extinction [4]. Trudi began then to see herself as the protector and saviour of the Lacandon.

Gertrude con lacandón de Najá. Autor desconocido. Najá c. 1948

In 1951, Trudi and Frans Blom purchased a house in San Cristobal, which they named Na Bolom (“house of the jaguar” in Lacandon). The 22-room house, originally built in 1891 as a seminary, transformed into a research center with an extensive library containing specialized works on Chiapas, Mexico, and Mesoamerica. Trudi managed the day-to-day operations, and after Frans passed away in 1964, she established the Asociación Cultural Na Bolom to ensure the protection of Lacandon culture and provide them with a home away from home when they visited San Cristobal for personal or professional matters. Trudi passed away on Christmas Eve in 1993 and was laid to rest in the San Cristobal cemetery. In 2010, the remains of both Frans Blom and Trudi Duby were moved to the sacred cemetery of the Lacandon people in Naha. This emotional journey marked the final expedition to the jungle, fulfilling Trudi’s last wish.

“We must return. I believe, as the hunters believe, that people who have entered that jungle are lost; they must return, leave, but always come back until their bones remain there, trapped in the bosom of Mother Earth, under the emerald roof of its giant trees…”
Gertrude Duby Blom

Special thanks to Kyra Nuñez de León-Johnsson for providing invaluable information and her help editing the text in this website. 

SOURCES AND EXTERNAL LINKS

[1] Rostros y rastros de una leyenda: Gertrude Duby Blom by Kyra Nuñez de León-Johnsson. Consejo Estatal para la Cultura y las Artes de Chiapas. publicaciones@concecultachiapas.gob.mx

[2] Gertrude Blom Bearing Witness by Alex Harris

[3] Gertrude Duby Blom.  Alias Trudi Lörtscher, Pfarrerstochter zu Wimmis 

[4] Encyclopedia.com Duby-Blom, Gertrude (1901–1993)

[5] Fotostiftung Schweiz

[6] Karussel -Xunan-The Lady SRF Interview

[7] Garrick Wilkie: Chan K’in Viejo: El Sabio de la Selva Lacandona. Prof Mex Films

 

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