The Tailenders

PBS Premiere: July 25, 2006Check the broadcast schedule »

Film Update

An Indigenous Response to The Tailenders Documentary

It has been almost a millennium since Western Civilization began to map the world. In this quest to map the world with Western knowledge and Western thoughts, Western cultural practices and Western religion, they declared war on the many cultures that exist around the world. Through a philosophy of all or nothing, master and slave, Christianity (civilized) versus savages (primitive), they set out to conquer the world. "The Tailenders" focuses on the continuation of this conquest.

The Western conquest began with Marco Polo. Polo portrayed a world full of human perversities; a society that lacked "organized religion" and humans with animal characteristics (according to Polo, he saw man of hairy characteristics). With this notion circulating in Europe, it was not surprising that Christopher Columbus portrayed a world similar to Marco Polo's. Columbus painted a world, again, of savageries; a world lacking organized society, a world lacking the knowledge of god, a world that must be turned into a mirror image of Western civilization.

As they invaded and occupied, Westerners gave themselves the authority to Christianize and "civilize" those that were considered uncivilized. "The Tailenders" examines both the outcomes and the continuation of Western conquest on indigenous culture. The Evangelical missionaries don't realize that in the process of spreading the word of "god," they are destroying the diverse cultures that mankind has built.

For example, in Mixtec civilization, language, religion and cultural identity is intertwined. One element does not exist without the other. In fact, language dictates how an individual must conduct himself or herself in any given community. In the film, Philip, one of the recording technicians, admits that there are problems when Bible stories are translated from English to Mixtec. What he does not understand is that the two culture's worldviews are very different. This becomes obvious when Mario Garcia began to record (the Bible stories). In the Mixtec culture, the concept of sin does not exist, nor does the concept of punishment or pain. The Mixtecs have a different concept of good and evil. The two cultures, Christians and Mixtecs, are under a different realm of divinity.

I was born and raised in this colonial system, and I believe the "godly" world that they promise is not realistic. I think that most of the missionaries carry out their duty to save their own soul. That is a job that they have to do to guarantee their entrance in what they call "heaven." They come from a society that puts emphasis on the individual.

"The Tailenders" sheds light on the divisions that missionaries create in the indigenous community. Their work in no way improves the condition of the indigenous people. Instead, they are destroying a culture, a society that organizes itself through the concept of collectivity. Their work is an attack on the diverse cultures that exist around the world. The evangelical missionaries must understand that no matter how hard they try to mold us into who they are, they will never succeed. The divine force created a world diverse in knowledge, culture, language and religion. The human species have survived and developed precisely because of our diversity. The Evangelical missionaries must stop their attack on the world's diversity.

— Tisu'ma Juan Salazar