A group of Jehovah’s Witnesses with unknown identities have vandalized an ancient indigenous religious sanctuary known as Mayonikha in Hidalgo, Mexico that is still used for sacred rituals by the Otomi people. The vandals, who destroyed around twelve stone sculptures serving as altars, were motivated by primitive religious convictions that Mexico’s indigenous peoples practice idolatry that offends the Christian God.
There are few intact indigenous sites in Mexico, after centuries of systematic cultural extermination by the Spanish conquistadors. Almost all that remain are closed off by the government and billed as tourist attractions. The several millennia-old Otomi site was unique in that it is still used for rituals by the Otomi to honor saints, ancients, and Mother Earth, as well as used by other indigenous peoples for marriages and baptisms.
The Otomi sanctuary is one of the last living remnants of indigenous history in Mexico, a country whose history and cultural was ravaged by the intolerant and viciously jealous demands of Catholicism. To this day, it appears longer safe from intolerant brands of Christianity.
The New York Times interviewed Luis Perez Lugo, a professor at the University of Chapingo, who spoke to local residents just after the vandals attacked:
“I was there, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses said they had done it,” Perez Lugo said, noting some were recent converts to the religion who used to go to the site for Otomi ceremonies. They said it (the pre-Hispanic ceremonies) weren’t in their Bible, and, in their words, they said it was piggish, garbage that wasn’t in the Bible, and so they went to clear out what was offensive to their God.”
Otomi elders say that they have reached an agreement with the vandals. The New York Times suggests that this could be an attempt to keep the Mexican government away, so that it does not secure the site from vandals, but in doing so would also restrict the Otomi’s access to their sacred sites.
Indigenous peoples across the Americas have suffered generations of cultural violence that seeks to invalidate their traditions and belief systems. The attack on Otomi sacred altars shows that indigenous cultures are still subjected to prejudice and hatred and are still at risk from the intolerance of white Christians.
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.