THANK YOU for Walking Beside Us -Our Work

Dear compañeras, compañeros, compañer@s,

Our hearts right now are strewn across the globe, crying out for the children ravaged by senseless war, feeling the pains of a planet and her creatures under duress. We condemn the systems that have created these atrocities, and we continue to struggle in the face of them, but we know from watching organized communities EVERYWHERE, that liberation begins with building the alternatives. These are the pathways (and there are many of them) that flow together to mingle and create other worlds.  

It is within those pockets of resistance, where communities are constructing new ways of relating to one another, of organizing essential systems of governance, of health care, of education and sustainable economic production that the peoples take refuge and find strength. And these are the examples and inspiration that guide our work.

Chiapas is a territory increasingly under siege, as we have shared. Cartels battle for trafficking routes and strongholds in multiple areas along the border and throughout the state. This, in tandem with State-sponsored counterinsurgency programs and militarization, regularly disrupt and endanger indigenous livelihoods and lives, particularly in the autonomous communities. 

In the 30 years since the Zapatistas recuperated the land and began to build, time and time again, their tenacity of spirit and creativity prevails.  As we have heard the compas say many times, “ni modos, hay que seguir” (Whatever! We have no choice but to keep going). And as long as they keep fighting for that little girl 120 years from now, so will we. The gaze of seven generations is one that we are learning from our indigenous compañer@s, and one that we aspire to let guide our work.

This year, with your amazing support, we have continued to fortify our principle lines of work.

Education for Peace and Solidarity:
Photo: Kate Kunath
Our emergency fund for communities in the face of violence provides urgent support and/or medical aid to families in need.
  • Sendas – The development of programming and relationship-building in Sendas, a collaborative educational and cultural center we co-founded with ImagenArte, has been one focus of our work this year. Along with the joint coordination of exhibits, political cinema nights, book releases and more, Schools for Chiapas hosts bi-weekly conversation groups (Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4) on social movements, the current political context in Chiapas, and more. We look forward to expanding these kinds of opportunities to a broader audience in the coming year.
  • Human rights – In our work with Frayba Human Rights Center, we are ALWAYS seeking Spanish-speaking volunteers who want to come to Chiapas to participate in the Civil Observation Brigades (BriCO) in one of two current encampments. Schools for Chiapas orients new volunteers to meet the requirements for involvement, also offering guidance to understanding Chiapas. This year we have trained 7 groups of human rights observers.
  • Action alerts and information – Ongoing violence against communities in resistance requires constant vigilance and dissemination. Through our blog and newsletters we follow the developments locally in Chiapas, nationally, and internationally, working with organizations and networks to bring attention to the issues, and participating in calls to action.

We invite you to volunteer with us to help  spread  the word, post and share on social media, and organize community events!

Education for Health and Buen Vivir:
  • Accompaniment in holistic health – Working alongside experienced community health promoters to train new promoters and to strengthen knowledge base, our accompaniment comes in a variety of forms, from supporting the teaching of community diagnostic techniques, to bringing in experts that can provide new medical information, to donating  educational materials and supplies. This year, we have facilitated 17 workshops on a wide range of topics, working with promoters serving 102 different communities.
  • Traditional knowledge sharing and plant medicine – The global health emergency of COVID-19 prompted a recovery of traditional plant medicine knowledge and practices in the communities, where prevention and nutrition was emphasized. Our role as allies has been to facilitate gatherings and sharing between communities, and when there is a need, to help source seed and plants, and/or supplies for preparations.
  • Food as medicine and diversity as medicine for the planet We understand the knowledge of originary peoples to be integral to the defense of ecosystems, plant diversity and life on the planet.
Health promoters in La Realidad in 2014 during the presentation of SupGaleano. Photo: Paco Vazquez

Our fund for Autonomous Health supports ongoing learning and sharing, educational materials, equipment and supplies that serve dozens of communities.

Women’s Organizing and Autonomy:
  • Organizing against gender violence – Violence against women’s bodies is a symptom of violence against Mother Earth. In a climate of escalating violence, where indigenous women and non gender conforming people are often the first targets, women’s organizing is vital to the well-being of families and communities.
  • Defense of territory and autonomy – Indigenous women in resistance are not only on the  frontlines of  territorial defense, speaking out in the face of pervasive violence and dispossession, but also in the construction of systems of autonomy and mutual support.

Our fund for Women’s Organizing and Autonomy supports the building of these networks and women’s organizing through gatherings and dialogues of knowledge between women of different regions.

Education for Just Economies:
  • Solidarity markets – In collaboration with ImagenArte in Sendas and in our solidarity store online, we promote artesanía, coffee, accessories and clothing from Zapatista collectives, and work to expand opportunities to other collectives and communities.
  • Support for value-added and sustainable production – Local market access for agricultural products within the communities is often limited by lack of access to appropriate technologies that reduce labor or add to the value/marketability of their products (eg. solar dryers for fruit, mechanization for raw sugar processing, etc.) In collaboration with collectives in resistance, we are working to seek solutions through sustainable and accesible technologies.

Purchasing gifts from our online store directly supports Zapatista collectives, providing resources for improvements in production and commericalization.

And finally, an area of our work in its nascent stages:

Education for Literacy in Resistance:
  • Support for community educators – Starting in November we are beginning a pilot project of providing training and materials for community literacy promoters. Violence toward communities in resistance has created widespread insecurity, cutting children off from schools, and therefore the basic education of learning to read.

    We will keep you posted on the developments in this work!

Our fund for Community Literacy Promotion will support materials, evaluation training, and pedagogical support for sustained community-based literacy education for both children and adults.

Friends, though we might strain to see it sometimes, 120 years down the road, there is a world where little girls (and others) all over this beautiful planet are free to decide where to go and who to be. Through listening and sharing and mutual learning from one another, we are making our way toward that world. We want to thank you for making all of this work possible, and for sticking by us in building the path. 

We are humbled and honored by your vision and support.

Please help us continue our work and share with your friends, family and communities!

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