The San Manuel Pharmacy Warehouse Project     

 San Manuel Autonomous Municipality, Chiapas, Mexico 

In a March 10, 2001 interview by Julio Scherer of Proceso Magazine, Marcos was asked:" how do you picture misery?” Marcos responded: “A girl that died in my arms; not even five years old, she had a very high fever; this was in Las Tazas,a community where not a single mejoral (common antipyretic medicine in Mexico, similar to aspirin) was found to reduce the fever; I had her in my hands when I lost her. We tried to lower her temperature using water, moist clothes, we bathed her and all, her father and I. We lost her. She needed no surgical intervention, no hospital. She needed a little tablet, a mejoralito... (like baby aspirin). It is ironic, because that girl had not even been born, she had no birth certificate. What is more miserable than to be born, to die, not having been known by anyone?”  

Las Tazas is a  community in what is now San Manuel Municipality, an autonomous

Pharmacy Warehouse Under Construction.


municipality of indigenous people  and a sister municipality to the Chiapas  Support Committee of Oakland. Before the  January 1, 1994 Zapatista Uprising,  there had been many centuries without life-saving medicines in San Manuel, in fact, in the entire Canyons region to the east of the city of Ocosingo. The region’s cattle ranchers did not provide medicines to indigenous workers; nor did the government provide clinics with medicine.  A lack of health care was an important factor in the Uprising and is now a top priority in the construction of autonomy. 

The goal of the San Manuel Pharmacy Warehouse Project  is to provide a sustainable source of medicine to remote communities in the Canyons. There is currently almost a complete absence of medicine. While this is not a new problem  in that part of the state, it was temporarily alleviated by the presence of an International Red Cross  Clinic. That clinic pulled out of the region more than two years ago, as did Doctors Without Borders and Doctors of the World, leaving indigenous communities to fend for themselves. It became clear that the communities in the Cañadas had to become self-sufficient with respect to  their supply of medicine. They could not remain dependent on international NGOs. How does a county of subsistence farmers living below the poverty line accomplish this? 

San Manuel’s autonomous municipal council  got together with its  health care promoters and came up with a solution: a Pharmacy Warehouse. Included in the cost of the project are: 1) construction costs;  2) capacity building in the handling and management of medicine;  3)  training in  warehouse  management;  and  4) the  cost of the initial purchase of medicine.   Land and labor will be donated by the residents of San Manuel.  Pharmacy staff will  donate their labor to their municipality and will not be paid.  They will sell medicine by prescription in the front part of the building  and will keep a large supply in the warehouse for use by  local health promoters. Buying medicine in large quantities saves money.  Having a  pharmacy in the municipality saves its residents the cost of  transportation into town. It also enables  the health promoters in their work. It is anticipated that the stock can be replenished from sales and that any small profits will help to supply the micro clinics. 

The site selected for the  Pharmacy Warehouse is Emiliano Zapata village, the municipal headquarters. Emiliano Zapata  is located in the valley of the  Jataté  River in the center of the municipality, thereby making it accessible to all of the 60 communities in this large rural municipality. 

The  San Manuel Pharmacy Warehouse Project is designed by San Manuel’s municipal council and its health promoters,  with  support from the Chiapas Support Committee and our donors.