Chiapas Part 1
July 30, 2003
Chiapas is a state in the
southeast of Mexico, with a diverse population of indigenous communities
The EZLN (Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional or National Zapatista
Liberation Army) founded its struggle in the highlands of Chiapas. The EZLN
trained members in combat and insurgency techniques, gradually building an armed
revolutionary force. However, the EZLN has matured over many years, and the
focus has shifted from armed insurrection to autonomous organizing of society.
In this program we begin to review some of those efforts at building a new
society in the territories in rebellion.
First, we examine some of the threats to the civil and human rights of people in
the Montes Azules autonomous communities.
Then we will begin our look at alternative institution building and links to
communities and their efforts at social change back in the US.
New Developments in EZLN Territories
The EZLN has been and continues to be one of the leading voices of the worldwide
critique of neoliberal globalization projects, starting in 1994 with the refusal
of NAFTA and continuing to this day with resistance to the Plan Puebla Panama,
the latest neoliberal plan for the region.
A flurry of communiqués in the last few weeks has signaled the return of the
Zapatistas to public activity. Six communiqués in an ongoing series have been
released over the past few weeks outlining some restructuring efforts in the
governance of the autonomous territories in rebellion.
The new structure mandates that donations and aid must not come to Chiapas with
specific destinations and families, but instead, be divided up with need in
mind. The indigenous communities will only accept aid for community-generated
plans aimed at developing new social infrastructure. These plans must
remain under the autonomous control of the communities and serve their specific
Zapatista Communities Resist Relocation
In December of last year, Mexican government officials evicted a small community
of indigenous people from their home in the Montes Azules or Blue Mountains in
the state of Chiapas. And the government is threatening to mete out the same
treatment to forty other indigenous communities who live in this
federally-declared conservation zone in the rainforests of southern Mexico. The
government says these communities are destroying the rainforest with their
agricultural techniques. The communities deny they are responsible for
all the destruction and point their finger at the wide-scale destruction caused
by logging and large privately-owned cattle ranches. Whatever the case, the
Mexican government's threat to evict these peoples would constitute a violation
of the rights of indigenous peoples guaranteed by the International Labour
Organization's Covenant. And it would break Mexico's own agreement with its
indigenous peoples. Luz Ruiz, of the
Chiapas Indymedia Center,
traveled up to the Blue Mountains to talk to people there and hear more
Autonomous Indigenous Schools
Education internationally recognized as an undeniable human right, but the
government of Mexico failed to provide this for the many indigenous communities
across Mexico, including the predominantly Mayan Indian communities of Southern
Schools for Chiapas has worked with the autonomous communities in the region to
build schools under community control because Mexican educational policy has
left the indigenous communities without educational infrastructure geared to
their specific collective needs.
Their approach to course development, teacher training, and classroom culture
have created many innovative new educational practices.
Keith Rozendal of KCSB in Santa Barbara brings us a glimpse of these alternative
Bikes for Chiapas
In Chiapas, Zapatista teachers and health workers do not receive any salary.
They're given some level of support by the community, usually in the form of
corn or food; sometimes they'll have help building a house. But to earn the
money for clothes and shoes, they must often have a second job in the city, as a
gardener or a housekeeper. Unfortunately, the roads are so bad, it can
take a day on foot to get from the countryside where they provide health care to
their jobs in the city, on roads that are too narrow and windy for the use of a
car. Bicycles are a solution, but its often hard to get them and keep them in
good repair. That's why, in Upstate New York, a group of volunteers and
activists have banded together to send 5000 bikes to Chiapas over the next five
years, as well as providing exchanges in learning about Southern Mexico and
bicycle repair, as Jessie Lind reports from Ithaca Community Radio.