Las Abejas de Acteal Statement on the 25th Anniversary of the Acteal Massacre

Las Abejas de Acteal Civil Society Organization

Sacred Land of the Martyrs of Acteal

Municipality of Chenalhó, Chiapas, Mexico.

December 22, 2022.

To the National Indigenous Congress

To the Indigenous Council of Government

To the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

To the Believing People of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas

To Human Rights Defenders

To Free and Alternative Media

To the national and international media

To national and International Civil Society

They killed us small and defenseless;
now, we are memory, we are infinite light.

Sisters and brothers:

Today before the sacred mountains as witnesses, we give our word aloud, on behalf of our ancestors who have fought for a dignified and just life and, on behalf of our Martyrs of Acteal, together with the survivors and relatives of the victims of the Massacre and the members of the Las Abejas de Acteal Civil Society Organization.

Our heart is the guardian of the memory of our own history and path as peoples, that is why we do not forget that on a December 22nd we were born as Las Abejas. So today we celebrate our 30th anniversary. Also our heart, like a monument, marks the tragic event of the Acteal Massacre. So time and memory, birth and death as transfiguration mark us on this day of December 22nd, commemorating our 45 massacred brothers and sisters and the four unborn babies taken from their mothers’ wombs at this Acteal site; all of them were massacred by PRI and Cardenist paramilitaries from the municipality of Chenalhó, Chiapas, on December 22nd, 1997, within the framework of the counterinsurgency war of the Chiapas 94 Campaign Plan, designed by the Secretary of National Defense and the PRI government of Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León.

So today the Spirit of life and death marks our cycle, today we celebrate birth and death at the same time. It seems that death is the great end of everything, but it turns out that it is the beginning of the victory of memory and as one of the great teachers said: “Do this in memory of me.” So we are commemorating our birth and death as a perpetuity of remembrance and memory, a memory that is our own history and journey.

It seems that the tragedy has marked us in different ways. Injustice and abuse of power gave us birth. In movement and walking we began to see the light as “Las Abejas” Organization, on December 22nd, 1992. The light of our conscience was already there and that pushed us to make a pilgrimage from Chenalhó to CERESO (Center for Social Readaptation ) No. 5 in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas. This non-violent political action was to demand the release of our five brothers from Tzajalch’en, unjustly accused of having murdered a person, who were arbitrarily detained on December 10th, 1992. The combination of the outrageous events and our action gave rise to the birth of our Las Abejas Organization. And as Believing People of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, convinced and inspired by the life and work of Jesus, we opted like Him for the non-violent struggle to transform our realities.

That is why sisters and brothers, that today in this Sacred Land that holds us and embraces her baby like a mother, we come to commemorate the memory of our Martyrs of Acteal, but at the same time celebrate the Life and Struggle of Las Abejas; because despite so much pain and suffering that we have gone through throughout our 30 years of walking, here we continue in resistance and with dignity held high.

Sisters and brothers, feel at home, may the Peace of our Martyrs be in your heart for each and every one of you.

The 30 years of our journey has not been easy and we know that we did not do it alone, nor could we have continued without the accompaniment of God the Father-Mother, who through his envoy the prophet and Pastor jTotik Samuel Ruiz García, to whom our thanks fly from the mountains of Acteal and reach heaven where we know he now lives with God the Father-Mother and our Martyrs of Acteal; because as jTotik Samuel and other servants of the liberating church taught us to read the Bible that God gives us His love, His peace, His justice and His freedom to any inhabitant on the face of the Earth.

Every day that the father sun is born in the east, before preparing our steps to walk in peace, to build justice, we thank Him and ask Him to enlighten our walk in moments of darkness and uncertainty.

Just as when the Acteal Massacre happened, our catechist brother Alonso Vázquez Gómez, days before the Massacre, said to the women and men here in Acteal, that there is no need to be afraid, but we must ask God for strength and faith ; because that is the teaching of Jesus our Master and that is the method of struggle of Las Abejas; we must ask for spiritual strength, we must ask for wisdom because we want to live in peace, we want there to be justice in our town, we want our daughters and sons to run, play, and grow up free and happy in our own lands.

Some of the components of our option for peace and our being and of assuming non-violence as a life commitment, have been fasting and prayer. That is why in those difficult years due to the counterinsurgency war, our sisters and brothers from Acteal were fasting and praying. They had already been there for two days when the paramilitaries came to slaughter them with viciousness, premeditation and treachery on December 22nd, 1997. Both in the past and in the present, the plan of the rich, politicians, governments and the Mexican Army is to exterminate us, because we bother them and they despise our struggles and the defense of Mother Earth, the defense of Human Rights and Life.

Twenty-five years have passed since the Acteal massacre and to date this State crime remains unpunished. As we have been denouncing month after month for a quarter of a century, the governments, whether they are PRI, PAN, or MORENA, instead of applying justice, have created strategies and policies of attrition towards our organization. That is how their custom to bury truth and bury justice has been. The only thing that characterizes us is the tenacity and stubborn long-term memory that we have woven.

From the strategies and policies of attrition of both the State and governments, we can point out that during the PAN government of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, he allowed the so-called National Court of Justice to release the paramilitaries who were the material authors of the Acteal massacre. He released those responsible for the Acteal massacre en masse on August 12th, 2009. The intention of this action was to cover up the masterminds such as Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, Emilio Chuayffet, Julio César Ruiz Ferro, Gen. Enrique Cervantes Aguirre, Gen. Mario Renán Castillo, Uriel Jarquin Gálvez, Jorge Enrique Hernández Aguilar, David Gómez Guzmán among others.

The other strategy of the State has been the postponement of justice that has caused two divisions in our organization. The first in the year 2008 and the second in the year 2014. With these divisions it has sought to antagonize us, weaken us and make us abandon our non-violent struggle. But the government and its accomplices ignore and forget our stubbornness and tenacity that have become a virtue to re-exist and imagine a dignified Life. They also forget that we are descendants of the wise Mayans, awareness and resistance live in our bowels.

Since 2005, when we saw that the Mexican justice system did not have the capacity and political will to investigate and punish the material and intellectual authors of the Acteal Massacre, we decided to go before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), so that the Mexican State would recognize that the Acteal Massacre is a State crime and that those responsible be investigated and punished. But the IACHR has been slow to issue the background report, which was ready since 2015, that is to say that since that year it could have issued that background report, avoiding wear and tear on both the survivors and the relatives of the victims of Acteal and in Las Abejas. We are now informed that the background report of case 12,790 Manuel Sántiz Culebra et al. (Acteal Massacre) is already listed with the IACHR. So at any moment the background report will be issued and finally the Mexican State will answer for the crime it has committed here in Acteal.

The 25 years of impunity in the Acteal Massacre has generated endless conflicts in the Chenalhó communities towards the members of our organization Las Abejas. The municipality of Chenalhó has been dominated by violence since 1997.

The current municipal president of Chenalhó from the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico, originally from the Puebla neighborhood (also the cradle of paramilitaries such as the Miguel Utrilla Los Chorros neighborhood), where its inhabitants and community authorities have displaced members of our organization on several occasions, maintains several conflicts unresolved, such as the dismantling of water and electricity services to families from Las Abejas in the communities of Campo Los Toros and Bach’en, and the constant discrediting of our resistance and our different way of thinking from theirs.

Impunity in the Acteal Massacre has not only brought sadness and destruction of the social and community fabric in Chenalhó, but has caused unimaginable violence throughout Mexico. We can no longer just say that the Mexican justice system is rotten, but that it is going from bad to worse. It seems that the paramilitaries and organized crime have joined forces; when the Mexican State cannot directly send its soldiers to assassinate a defender of human rights and life, it asks or allows an organized crime hitman to do the dirty work. This is what happened with the defender of human rights and life, Samir Flores Soberanes from Amiltzingo, Morelos. And a year ago, on July 5th, 2021, our partner and brother Simón Pedro Pérez López was cowardly murdered. These cases and like many others that we have not finished listing, is the response that the Mexican State offers us the survivors of the Acteal Massacre, instead of true justice.

The crime against our comrade and brother Simón Pedro continues unpunished, the justice administrators in charge are delaying the justice process. The justice system has not changed at all in a government that claims to be of the Fourth Transformation or of the “left”. Prisons are still full of poor and innocent people or human rights defenders, environmentalists who were charged under torture and inhumane treatment. But instead, the ex-governors and politicians responsible for the Acteal Massacre, the forced disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, the femicides and other atrocities, enjoy total impunity, or have public positions or from their comfort plan looting and dispossession of lands and territories of organized native peoples.

Sisters and brothers, the impunity agreed by the State, the death full of discrimination and indifference, the vulgar lies and traps as a continuation of the counterinsurgency that we have experienced during the 25 years of the Acteal Massacre, have made us stronger. It has reaffirmed our awareness and conviction in resistance and in the construction of a more just and humane world, they have matured and flourished in our journey. Pain and death have led us to be defenders of human rights, of Mother Earth and of Life. We will not give up on peace and justice. Although it makes the masters and supreme governments uncomfortable, our word will always be true, it will always be light in the dark times of life in Mexico.

Today it is time to recount our life and struggle; it is time to celebrate our achievements and the fruits of our suffering and effort, to learn from our mistakes that we have risen from there to grow our dignity and not to twist the path that those who gave their lives have left us so that today we have greater clarity of our path as organization.

The Acteal Massacre made us structure our organization well. We decided to have a Board of Directors as legitimate authorities of Las Abejas. We decided to have our own commissioners responsible for resolving land problems; we decided to have our own judges in charge of solving family problems. Likewise, we created areas of Health, the Acteal Choir, Theater Group, Artisan Women, Women’s Savings Bank and Communications. We also created productive projects such as: cattle, beehives, chickens, vegetables, etc. We also have water and energy care works, although some works are slow, but we are aware that they are part of the construction of a more humane world and of our autonomy and self-determination, which are the fruit of Mother Earth that clothes us.

Today a cycle of our struggle closes, but it does not mean that our path stops here. The fight has no end, it has no limits, it has no expiration date. Just as the Word of God Father-Mother never ends.

Acteal will always continue to be the Sacred Land. Acteal, has become the House of Memory and Hope.

The spring of water that emanates from this Sacred Land is a symbol of the inexhaustible conviction of non-violent Struggle.

And we, Las Abejas, are and will be the guardians of Memory and Hope, of the history that we have inherited from our ancestors, in this commitment to be builders of Peace and Justice.

Today a cycle closes. Today new paths are opened to the truth. Today new hopes are born.

25 years ago here in Acteal it was “the saddest Christmas”, as our Tatik Samuel said. Today, we affirm with our 30 years of walking as Las Abejas: 30 times our dignity shines in giant fragments of light in the midst of the sacred mountains that keep the heartbeat of the people and under the sky that covers the dreams and hopes of Acteal.

This has been our word after 25 years of Memory and construction of Another Justice that dignifies our Martyrs of Acteal and on the day of the celebration of our 30 years of recognizing ourselves as peacemakers in the long walk in the non-violent struggle.

From Acteal, House of Memory and Hope.


The Voice of the Civil Society Organization Las Abejas de Acteal.

          For the Board of Directors:

Manuel Pérez Jiménez, President

Antonio Ramírez Pérez,Secretary

Victor Manuel Lopez Gomez,Treasurer

Mariano Sanchez Diaz,Under Secretary

Original version in Spanish at
Translated by Schools for Chiapas.

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