CSC’s 2nd Delegation to Mexico.
Three members of the Chiapas Support Committee’s Mujer A Mujer Delegation left San Francisco on March 22, 2001. While we were en route to Mexico City, the Chamber of Deputies voted to let EZLN representatives address them regarding the San Andres Accords. We saw the news on TV when we arrived. We read about it in La Jornada the next morning on the way to the airport to board a plane for Tuxtla Gutierrez, the state capital of Chiapas. EZLN representatives spoke to the Congress on March 28 while we were in the EZLN Aguascalientes of La Garrucha. We listened to their speeches on the radio inside the women’s collective store. The dates for this year’s women’s delegation were changed to accommodate the EZLN March. Originally scheduled between March 1 and 10, we moved the dates forward so that some of us could also accompany the comandantes on their trip to the Zocalo.
There was no way we could have predicted that the our timing was to coincide with the Zapatista’s historic speech to Congress and their return to San Cristobal. The vote in the Chamber of Deputies was the major topic of conversation when we arrived in Chiapas. There were now 5 of us. We met with representatives from the Emiliano Zapata Proletarian Organization (OPEZ-BPP) and its human rights association, a project assisted by the Chiapas Support Committee. They thought the EZLN March was successful in pressuring a previously closed tribunal to open its space to listen to the nation’s indigenous poor. On March 24, delegates had time for a boat trip through the Sumidero Canyon before OPEZ leaders took us to Jardines del Norte, an urban land takeover on the outskirts of Tuxtla for a meeting with community members.
By the time we headed for San Cristobal the next morning, we were 7 delegates. Before traveling East towards Ocosingo and the entrance to the Lacandon Jungle, we visited K´inal Antzetic, a non-profit which works to empower indigenous women. We also visited Jolom Mayaetik, an indigenous women’s weaving cooperative which produces exquisite traditional clothing and accessories. We arrived in La Garrucha, county seat of Francisco Gomez, just three days after (president) Fox ordered the withdrawal of the Army camp there. We visited with women from the Guadalupe Collective Store, met their extended families and were treated to a traditional temescal (sauna). We toured and photographed the abandoned military camp. New murals and a new church decorated the center of the village. This was the first time seeing the new autonomous primary school program in operation. We played with the children after school. We also met peace campers from Stanford and several long-time friends with connections to the region.
While in La Garrucha, we had interviews with two regional health promoters, a member of the Autonomous Council, two regional education promoters and Raymundo, who is in charge of the regional store. The content of those interviews will be reported in Chiapas Update and at our Report Back on July 26.
The Chiapas Support Committee assists two projects in the Autonomous County: the women’s collective stores and the health clinic. Before leaving the region, we had the opportunity to spend some time at both the women’s store and the primary school in San Jose del Carmen, another Zapatista community in the autonomous county of Francisco Gomez. Upon our return to San Cristobal, we attended the Ballet Folklorico de Camaguey, Cuba. This delighful performance was sponsored by the city of San Cristobal and held in the Civic Auditorium. It was open to the public free of charge. An amazing experience!
On our last day, we drove through the Chenalho area, where paramilitary violence drove thousands of pro-Zapatista families into the refugee camp at Polho. Other families sought refuge in Zapatista communities farther away. We met several of the children from Chenalho attending the San Jose del Carmen school. Several of us stayed 2 extra days; three women going to the famous archaeological ruins of Palenque and three staying in San Cristobal. On Sunday, April 1, we learned that the Zapatistas were stopping in the plaza of San Cristobal sometime that afternoon. We waited patiently for several hours, listening to the corridos of a folksinger named Andres Contreras. The EZLN bus arrived around 4:00 PM. I was in the front row filming the songs and speeches as those behind me jostled for position. Afterwards, the comandantes were on their way to visit four of the Aguascalientes and we were on our way back to the Bay Area, energized by a political and cultural learning experience mixed with a little fun and relaxation.
For more information on our interviews, our projects, or to find out more about our Report from Chiapas on July 26, contact: CHIAPAS SUPPORT COMMITTEE P.O. BOX 3421 Oakland, CA 94609 Tel: (510) 654-9587 email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.chiapas-support.org