Monday, August 18, 2014
The Voices of Mexico's Indigenous Peoples are being Heard Anew
Representatives of Mexico’s indigenous peoples have
issued a new declaration and announced upcoming mobilizations to further their cause. Unveiled on August 9, the UN-celebrated
International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, the declaration followed a week-long meeting between the Zapatista
National Liberation Army (EZLN) and the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) in the southern Mexican border state of Chiapas.
Detailing 29 points, the Declaration
of the Plundering of Our Peoples blasted the Peña Nieto Administration, big corporations and capitalism in general
for threatening the culture and survival of indigenous peoples.
Couched in historical terms that reference the sacrifices made by indigenous people and small farmers for a
Mexico that was denied to them, the statement was read by Venustiano Vazquez Navarette, an indigenous resident of Tepoztlan,
Morelos, in the Zapatista base community of La Realidad.
It read in part: “Capitalism has grown from plunder and exploitation since the beginning. Invasion and
plunder are the words that best describe what is called the conquest of America, plunder and robbery of our lands, our territories,
our knowledge, our culture. Plunder accompanied by war, massacres, jail, death and more death….”
The declaration accuses “neoliberal capitalists,”
together with the U.S.-advised Mexican government, of opting for military and paramilitary methods in stripping indigenous
Mexicans of their patrimony.
to the powerful, to the companies and to the bad governments, headed by the criminal chief of the paramilitaries, (President)
Enrique Peña Nieto, that we do not surrender, we do not sell out, and we do not give up,” the statement vows.
More than 1,600 people attended the gathering
in the Zapatista base community of La Realidad, including 1,300 Mayan Zapatista supporters from Chiapas. Coming from all corners
of the nation, the CNI delegates represented more than two dozen indigenous groups, among them the Raramuri, Huichol, Purepecha,
Mixteco, and Tzotzil Maya.
In a competing
event of sorts, President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was on his way back to Mexico from a trip to Colombia, participated
in an August 8 ceremony commemorating the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People in the Mayan town of San
Juan Chamula, Chiapas,
is an ally of the indigenous peoples and respects its traditions,” Peña Nieto insisted. In his remarks, Peña
Nieto, who was attired in traditional Chamulan dress for the occasion, insisted that his administration’s education,
telecommunications, tax and energy reforms would benefit indigenous Mexico.
As an example of favorable policies, the Mexican president cited an agreement between the official National
Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (CDI) and the Federal Electricity Commission to bring power to 150 communities.
Attended by representatives of the nation’s 68 indigenous groups, the San Juan Chamula event featured a speech by Chiapas
Governor Manuel Velasco who recognized the historical importance of indigenous movements, including the 1994 Zapatista uprising
that shook Mexico.
“Today the indigenous
peoples are ready to accompany the transformation,” Velasco said.
According to the 2010 Census, Mexico’s 15 million indigenous residents make up 14 percent of the total
population. An estimated 76.8 percent of indigenous Mexicans live in poverty, while many suffer disproportionate rates of
illiteracy and insufficient access to health care. The National Human Rights Commission recently calculated that legal due
process was absent in 80 percent of the cases of 8,334 indigenous prisoners the federal agency studied.
Federico Navarette Linares, history professor at the National
Autonomous University of Mexico, said the socio-economic conditions of indigenous Mexico deprive the nation’s original
peoples their identity and historical integrity.
is a paternalistic, racist and discriminatory vision that has no place in modern society,” Navarette said.
The August 2014 La Realidad meeting came at critical historical
junctures for the EZLN, CNI and indigenous Mexico as a whole.
Symbolizing the passing of the torch, EZLN Subcomandante Marcos, whose iconic style and literary voice came
to personify the Zapatistas in the world limelight, was “retired” and “reborn” earlier this year as
Subcomandante Galeano, a personage who was created in honor of a recently murdered teacher and Zapatista leader. With Marcos
now history, the EZLN’s public relations desk has been mainly handled by Subcomandante Moises.
Set to celebrate its 21st birthday next November, the EZLN
has stood the test of time, recently undergoing a generational transition with the emergence of younger activists and leaders,
who were very young children or not even born at the time of the Zapatistas’ armed revolt on New Year’s Day 1994,
which occurred on the very same day the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect.
Renewal is likewise on the agenda of the CNI, an organization which enjoyed a national presence after the Mayan
Zapatista uprising articulated the aspirations of Mexico’s indigenous peoples.
receding from the political scene, the CNI is challenged to once again become an important actor at a moment when localized
indigenous struggles are erupting throughout the country. Particular to each region, the struggles nevertheless all have common
issues of land, water and cultural survival.
this vein, more than 100 members of Sonora’s Yaqui tribe are completing a protest caravan scheduled to arrive August
15 in Mexico City. The Yaquis are battling an aqueduct promoted by the Sonora state government that they contend will leave
the tribe high and dry and destroy their agricultural base.
In an effort to halt the aqueduct, the Yaquis have repeatedly gone to court, winning some favorable decisions,
and organized intermittent blockades of Sonoran highways. The Yaqui fight has now become a national one, garnering the support
of former Mexico City mayor and three-time presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, poet and National Movement for Peace
and Justice leader Javier Sicilia, human rights activist Miguel Concha, historian Adolfo Gilly, and other prominent public
On August 16 and 17, the
Yaqui caravan is scheduled to participate in a national gathering organized for the defense of land, water and energy resources
in San Salvador Atenco near Mexico City.
the run-up to the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, different actions were also reported in the state of Guerrero.
On August 7, activists occupied the offices of the CDI and Secretariat of Communications and Transportation in the state capital
of Chilpancingo in a protest against alleged government slowness in repairing infrastructure damaged by last year’s
devastating Tropical Storm Manuel.
an August 8 press conference in Chilapa, members of the Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon Human Rights Defense Center, and the indigenous
women’s organization Noche Zihuame, sharply criticized the lack of governmental consultation on issues of natural resource
exploitation, environmental contamination, the deterioration of social services, out-migration, and the imprisonment of several
leaders of Guerrero’s community police forces.
want to live in peace and continue maintaining our diet, our clothing, our language, and our territories,” said Noche
Zihuame activist Brigida Chautla Ramos.
August 9, hundreds of indigenous and mestizo protesters marched in the city of Tlapa. The demonstrators expressed grievances
ranging from the official lack of attention to climate disaster victims to reforms by the Peña Nieto administration
they charged would hand the country over to foreigners.
“It just can’t be that the indigenous people who are affected by Manuel and Hurricane Ingrid continue
in a state of abandonment ten months later,” said Arturo Roman Garcia, a member of the Community Front for the Defense
of Collective Rights.
For the months
ahead, more movement events were laid out at the conclusion of the EZLN-CNI meeting in Chiapas. From September to early January
2015, mass gatherings are on the agenda for Mexico City as well as the states of Morelos, Mexico, Oaxaca, Yucatan, and Chiapas.
The events are part of a process of inter-communal story-telling, information sharing and strategizing that is expected to
result in another major declaration early next year.
encounter should be the beginning of a walk together as brothers,” said EZLN Comandante David as the La Realidad meeting
wrapped up. “This encounter should mark the direction and horizon of our destiny as peoples, and the construction of
a new society that we need and deserve.”
Sources: El Sur, August 10, 2014. Article by Carmen Gonzalez Benicio. La Jornada, August 8, 9 and 10, 2014. Articles by Angelica Enciso, Fernando Camacho Servin, Gloria
Muñoz Ramirez, Helio Enriquez, and editorial staff. El Universal, August 8, 2014. La Jornada (Guerrero edition), August
7 and 8, 2014. Articles by Margena de la O and Arturo de Dios Palma. Proceso/Apro,
August 4 and 10, 2014. Articles by Isain Mandujano.
with authorization from Frontera NorteSur, a free, on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news source; translation FNS.
Frontera NorteSur (FNS)
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico