Forced Displacement Affects Indigenous and Rural Communities in Chiapas

Families flee from the violence they face in their municipalities. Photo: Jhonatan González | El Heraldo de Chiapas

From 1950 to date, violence, agrarian conflicts, natural disasters, and also government megaprojects have caused the displacement of thousands of people in Chiapas.

Forced displacement in the state of Chiapas continues to be a worrying problem that affects thousands of people, marking decades of conflicts generated by criminal organizations, paramilitaries and agrarian disputes. The resulting violence has caused massive population displacements, a phenomenon that has its roots since the 1950s, according to data from the Sustainable Development Goals Fund.

What is forced displacement?

Forced displacement is defined as the situation in which people leave their homes due to conflict, violence, persecution and human rights violations. This phenomenon can manifest itself individually, family, collectively or massively.

The first documented cases in Chiapas date back to the 1950s, related to the installation of mega-development projects, such as hydroelectric dams and oil wells, as well as religious intolerance and natural disasters. However, it was during the 1990s when the problem gained notoriety due to the armed uprising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). In that period, thousands of people were forced to leave their communities due to bombings, clashes between the EZLN and the National Army, and conflicts derived from political differences.

Displaced people take refuge in the mountains. Photo: Jhonatan González | El Heraldo de Chiapas

What has caused forced displacement?

From 2011 to the end of 2022, the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Center for Human Rights Center documented a total of 40 conflicts in Chiapas, which forced nearly 14,796 people to leave their homes. Many of them have not been able to return and remain in shelters, such as those displaced from the Santa Martha sector, who, after fleeing the violence perpetrated by paramilitary groups, now reside in a Zapatista community without being able to return to their homes.

In this context, Manuel Gómez Velasco, spokesperson for the displaced from the Santa Martha sector, in the municipality of Pantelhó, stated in an interview that those affected continue to be victims of harassment, threats, intimidation and persecution perpetrated by paramilitary groups.

Reynaldo Pérez Pérez, Human Rights Defender of displaced people, declared to this medium that displaced people in Polhó face inhumane conditions, highlighting the scarcity of food and the insufficiency of the groceries provided. Furthermore, in previous statements he warned of death threats against him due to his work as a defender of the displaced people of Santa Martha.

Families walk through the jungle to avoid criminal gangs. Photo: RedTDT

How many displaced persons are there in Mexico?

According to the IDMC’s Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID), 9,200 displacements were recorded in Mexico in 2022. Criminal violence was the main factor, with close to 90% of these displacements concentrated in the states of Chiapas, Michoacán and Zacatecas. In Chiapas, violence caused around 4,300 displacements, with La Trinitaria and Frontera Comalapa being the most affected municipalities.

The Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights has registered at least 3,816 displaced people in 2023, as a result of violent events in Chicomuselo, the Lacandon Jungle, Motozintla, Mazapa de Madero, Frontera Comalapa, Las Margaritas and Oxchuc.

However, forced displacements due to violence have also been documented in the municipalities of Siltepec, Maravilla Tenejapa, Amatenango de la Frontera, Chenalhó and Pantelhó, without counting a specific number of families that have fled the violence.

Original article at
Translated by Schools for Chiapas.

Want to receive our weekly blog digest in your inbox?

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top