The Third Assembly of Women in Defense of Mother Earth and Our territories gathered in Tonalá February 10-13, 2023.

Tonalá, Pueblo Nuevo, Cooperativa El Paraíso

10, 11, 12, 13 of February, 2023 

We address the women, peoples and organizations that struggle and organize for life.

We, women of the Zoque region, North-Palenque, Coast and Highlands of Chiapas once again convene to give continuity to our General Assembly of women. We have invited more women and we have had a favorable response, now there are more of us who are convinced of organization, autonomy and the defense of Mother Earth and our territories. We have agreed to do it by listening, looking at each other and recognizing each other, with respect, joy and affection.

As women of the Zoque, Ch’ol, Tseltal, Tsotsil, and mestizo peoples of Chiapas and the Zapotec people of Oaxaca, Mexico City, as well as the south of Argentina, we reaffirm our will to follow our principles from the political-organizational autonomy, the defense of Mother Earth against the projects of death, consciousness in personal care and collective healing, the participation of women in decision making, the rejection of all types of violence against women, the articulation and political solidarity among peoples, networks, collectives of the EZLN, CNI and the Sexta. And our commitment to continue practicing the Assemblies with no hierarchies and in a decentralized manner.

As a first moment we held our opening ceremony to honor our ancestors, the seven directions and ask permission from the Sea. In a second moment we decided to share the contexts we are living as women. Then we carried out collective healing activities, as well as workshops on communication, political-community organization, solidarity economy and products for personal and collective self-care. We closed our Assembly with our pronouncement and thanking the seven directions, offering seeds, flowers, tobacco to the Sea. And, thanking the joy and love that sheltered us.

We share what we are seeing/experiencing in our territories.

Coastal Region

We continue to defend Mother Earth against the imposition of 50-year mining and hydroelectric concessions. We observe the increase of bee farms that process products that contaminate our rivers and the water in our homes. The rotten smell and contamination of the water in three years has caused serious symptoms in our bodies, such as migraines, bone pain, tiredness and depression.

Organized crime is everywhere. There is an increase in the sale and consumption of chemical drugs (fentanyl, crystal meth, tacha, etc.), which according to the youths takes away the sensation of hunger, then they begin to “swallow their bodies” and then die. Also the increase in the traffic of weapons in safe houses and extortion calls. We see the increase of migrants, we notice large caravans, mostly made up of women with babies in their arms and with small children, whom we help as much as we can. 

Zoque Region.

 We are women who are most concerned about the plight of Mother Earth. We denounce the abandonment of the roads of Francisco León, Chapultenango and Viejo Nicapa, Pichucalco, which are evacuation routes in case of contingency in the Chichonal Volcano, which has become more active in recent years, it is about to be 41 years since that tragic 1982 where more than 2000 people died and the roads are still abandoned. The Chichonal Volcano is not only for tourism, it is home to thousands of families who have lived there for more than 3500 years. We see that tourism and water exploitation are becoming a problem for the continuity of dignified life in our villages. There is an increasing overexploitation of water due to extensive cattle ranching and land use change. The increase in drug addiction is linked to the growing presence of organized crime and the problem is increasingly advancing into the communities.

Northern Region-Palenque.

Drug and alcohol addiction among young people is increasing. Shootings have increased. Kidnappings of young people are happening. We see bodies of young people dismembered. In another region the municipal police enter the communities, bring alcoholic beverages and once they are drunk they take the young and not so young men and then ask for money to free them. We see how people from the government come in to cut down trees for the construction of the misnamed Mayan Train. We are defending the river, the water and the land because that is where we grow corn and beans.

In the urban region there are constant shootings by young people in most of the fiestas. There are suicides and disappearances of young men and women. We have noticed in Palenque that where there are National Guard checkpoints, people are being detained, mainly men who are imprisoned, fabricating crimes, sometimes they release them and say “it was a mistake” and sometimes they do not know where they are being taken. This causes us women to be emotionally exhausted all the time because we don’t know where our boys and girls are. The construction of the so-called Mayan Train continues, the two bridges have already been built. Signs appear advertising the “Mayan Train Corridors”. We are noticing that more and more land is being taken from us and then sold at high prices. There is a constant criminalization of those of us who are questioning the construction of the Train. Only where there is organization does the Train not advance.

Tsotsil of the Altos Region.

In some communities they have reached an agreement that the military will not enter. There is fear because of what we see and hear about organized crime. We women cannot go out alone, we are afraid that something will happen to us.

In one of the regions it has been identified that internal conflicts are being caused by bad government programs and through people close to officials, and it is being proposed to the population that Organized Crime should be the way to solve the needs and problems. This discourse and dynamic allows them to access and expand their territorial control to other regions. In this same region, widows and single mothers denounce being excluded, by the same community, from access to basic goods for our daily needs.

In another region, in 2014 there began to be problems on the part of an organization that is linked to bad government officials. They installed an office next to the space where we participate, officials arrive there with their guards/police, and in that place they receive support from the bad government. They took photographs in the sacred place where our family members were murdered in the massacre of December 22, 1997. We were able to put up a boundary so that they would not come near, since they do not respect the sacred place.

Urban Region of the Altos Zone, Jobel Valley.

Tourism projects in the Jobel Valley have been generating dispossession, displacement, and increasing the cost of common spaces and goods. In 2022, 19 million tourists are expected to arrive and generate a high production of garbage (220 tons per day), which is then deposited in nearby ejidos. Water wells, wetlands/swamps, which are the bodies of water that supply the city, are destroyed to generate real estate developments, and are becoming a commodity that is controlled by organized crime.

As women we are experiencing different types of violence generated by organized crime, groups of young people are engaged in transportation, sales, assaults, kidnappings and disappearances. Creating a sense of daily terror, where there is fear and uncertainty. In the main markets of the city, the sale of drugs and weapons is becoming a constant, as well as the promotion, sale and networks of pornography and child prostitution.

In Oaxaca

In this territory, the megaprojects of dispossession of the Interoceanic Corridor and the wind farms are present. We see the problem of the plundering of water and therefore the drought affecting our territories. The privatization of pieces of Mother Earth, called “natural reserves”. While in the cities the generation of garbage becomes a problem due to high consumption and tourism. We see how schools are favoring control, consumption and individualism. There is a continuous problem of detentions, forced disappearances and criminalization of defenders of Mother Earth who are resisting Megaprojects. The confrontations of organized crime lead to an increase in the number of National Guard checkpoints that generate terror both inside and outside the city, using the criminalization of migrants. We see the need to recover safe public spaces such as parks for children to play and run.

Mexico City and Argentina denounced the persistent rape and sexual abuse to which we continue to be exposed as women. As women students we are against the intervention of the National Guard in the control of public transportation services, such as the Metro.

In short, we agree that in many of our regions we are still not respected, we are not listened to, we are discriminated against for being women. That is why we agreed that it is important to come together as women to be heard among ourselves. We see the need to give security and self-confidence to young women so that they can participate and organize themselves.

Another constant that we see and live as women in the countryside and in the city is that the increase of organized crime in our regions does not stop, they want us to be locked up in our paths of life without tranquility, without joy, they want us locked up. We see in all regions the increase of bars, distribution, sale and consumption of drugs and alcoholism, which put the lives of young people at risk, the dynamics of crime lead to losing them and their lives.

We also see that Mother Earth suffers pain, and we women also carry it in our bodies. Pain goes through us, we perceive it, it is like seeing a Mother who is suffering. For this reason, we believe it is important to heal ourselves with Mother Nature through medicinal plants and food. To recover our knowledge and reconnect with her. But to heal ourselves together with her we have to defend her, take care of her and at the same time heal our lineages, our collective memories, our spirit, and do it from the strength, joy and affection to recognize our power as women.

For us peasant women, when we say Mother Earth, we speak of care, of not abandoning our plots. We must work our own land and not the land of others as slave labor. For us it is better to harvest to know how to value our land, that is our life, that is why water is life, as peasant women we do not want to migrate, we better take our machete and go to the cornfield. That looks nice, to work on our land and not somewhere else. It is our sweat that makes it beautiful. And we have to value that, not the pay.

For this reason, we will continue to work to raise awareness and protect Mother Earth, especially among young people who are more controlled by technology. We used to educate our children. Today we are threatened by our own children. There is no respect. That is why we are convinced that we must strengthen the organization and generate more political participation among young people, broadening the coordination. To give each other love, to know our rights, to live together, to go out without fear. To care for and not pollute the water, reduce the use of plastics, to know our needs, to have information about what is damaging us in our bodies and territories; to know our seeds, to make visible how they are creating femicidal violence, to spread the word about what is happening.

Beyond this violence and criminal dynamics we are and we leave with energy, will, firmness, joy. We will continue organizing. We will be vigilant, attentive and alert to our dignity. We will maintain the rebellion from creativity. We will take care of hope. We will attend to our needs. We will protect our roots.

Finally, as the Women’s Movement in Defense of Mother Earth and our Territories, we join the Caravan of the South Resists, which will take place from April 22nd to May 5th. We leave with a date and place for our next Assembly in 2023.

Defensoras de Nasakobajk

Defensoras del colectivo Tsijilba Bij

Red de Mujeres de la Costa en Rebeldía

Colectivo de mujeres defensoras Antsetik Tz’unun.

Mujeres de la región Altos Tseltal

Mujeres organizadas de Acteal

This statement was published in Chiapas Paralelo on February 15th, 2023. https://www.chiapasparalelo.com/noticias/chiapas/2023/02/tras-encuentro-de-de-pueblos-originarios-denuncian-incremento-de-la-inseguridad-y-la-violencia-en-chiapas/
English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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