Francisco Chávez Guzmán
MexicoFellow since 1989

#Nahuatl#Natural environment#Aztec#Nahua peoples#Mythology#Mesoamerica#Mexico#Environment

The Person

Paco Chavez has been working as a war correspondent for German television for the past three years, principally covering the situation in Central America. As well as having studied filmmaking and social communications, Paco is also an anthropologist. He now wants to combine these three strands of his life experience to show a positive, hopeful future for mankind by using culture in its deep sense as a vehicle for social change. Paco was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1989.

The New Idea

Francisco (Paco) Chavez is proposing to produce a set of educational materials in video that rescue and give meaning to ancient and contemporary myth and legend in Mexico, while at the same time, call attention to Mexico's grave environmental problems.So much produced and shown on Mexican TV is inspired by images created outside of Mexico's national cultural heritage. Chavez maintains it has little meaning for rural communities viewing programs. He also feels if there is to be a substantial change in people's attitude toward the environment, education should encompass the deeper levels of Mexican culture.

The Problem

Mexico's environment, as those of most other countries, is suffering not only through ruthless exploitation, but also through ignorance of the environmentally harmful economic activities carried out by small-scale rural communities. What Paco proposes is to attract audiences through video and the use of myth and legend to explore the harm being done to the life of the planet. Chavez, however, faces problems in funding his independent video project. Since most film makers in Mexico are attracted to the commercial possibilities of their profession, they either work for the state or for the big private TV company. As a result, the freedom to carry out experimental work or to make films that are potentially change-making is limited. Without international funding of some sort, little independent filmmaking can be carried out.

The Strategy

Paco's work will have in its first phase a strongly investigative nature, drawing upon both written and oral sources of information. He proposes to focus initially on Nahuatl myth --the Nahuas being the largest ethnic group in present-day Mexico and the direct descendants of the Aztecs. He intends initially to work with the theme of the forest and the Nahuas. For this, he will rely on firsthand observation of Nahua communities and the interconnecting links related to the forest and its ecological cycle. Local myth will be documented and used to dramatize situations relating to the forest. Finally, characters based on real life and mythical figures will be chosen and the sequence made into a film for mass distribution.