Munich, June 2016 “Últimos testigos. The Last Rebellion of the Maya in Yucatán. Photographs by Serge Barbeau” is the title of a special exhibit in the Museum Fünf Kontinente that will open on July 1rst, 2016. It takes place within the framework of the dual year 2016/17, planned as a symbol for the Cultural exchange taking place between Mexico and Germany. While other exhibition projects focus on Mexico’s Pre-Columbian culture, the exhibit in the Museum Fünf Kontinente concentrates on the remaining living descendants of the Maya.
Serge Barbeau, a Canadian photographer who has been living in Mexico for many years, has made moving portraits of these people, documenting their dignity and their will to be independent.
The political background for this opulent photographic project is “La Guerra de Castas”, the so-called caste war. It took place from 1847-1901 on the Yucatán peninsula. It was a war of independence between the Maya population and the “white” upper class because of high taxation, cruel forced labor, social injustice and increasing land robbery. The Maya could not win this war. The descendants of these Maya still suffer from the consequences of this conflict because they have to lead a life full of economic, social and cultural hardships.
Personal accounts of the sometimes more than 100 year old portrayed Maya that were documented during the photography sessions, show how deeply rooted they are in their faith, in which the spiritual heritage of the Maya and the Christian religion melt into one. The question often arises whether the “Guerra de las Castas” is still ongoing until today. Anastasio Estrada May (105) of the community of Melchor Ocampo sums it up: “I was about 12 years old when Evaristo Sulub and his corporal fought in Xyatil against the federal soldiers. That was the last time the Maya shot at the federal army, until today…”