A Sea of Dancing Light

Our gratitude for all you do… this past year, and going forward

In the kitchen–a tiny room of wooden boards marked by hundreds of stories –we sit warming our wet feet by the stove, as Jorge tells us of his experiences as a community education promoter in the Zapatista autonomous education system. As he speaks, the glow of the fire and rising smoke sends us each back to our own days in school, so very different from the world where we now sit.

Jorge’s earnest eyes reflect the resolve of his commitment to his work. He shares how they [Zapatistas from different regions, traditions, languages] understand their common struggle, and how the children are raised understanding that collectivity, and how that learning has broken with the perceptions from the colonial past…the machismo, the roles between men and women, the violence…. What he has seen compels him to continue. He goes on,

The artisan work of Zapatistas (women and men) has practical domestic use, and is also a source of income to families and collectives.

“Girls who are in school become strong women, women who demand their rights in actions, not just words. Women who read, analyze, take care of the family, travel to meetings with other women, build their spaces, have collectives where they build, talk, share, and teach. They are leaders who seek men who are on the same path for their work. Partners, not husbands. They are health promoters who go from house to house attending to patients not only with diagnosis and treatment, but also with words, with embraces, with the strength of the struggle.”

These leaps in education, organization, community leadership and collective work, and the incredible self-empowerment of women are what motivates us to continue our accompaniment of these processes – it is one that goes beyond solidarity. It is a process of sharing knowledge and building from a common struggle toward a vision that accommodates all of our beautiful differences. And it is an honor.

We want to thank you for joining us in this journey, alongside the communities in resistance. And we are thrilled to share with you the advances achieved this year with your generous contributions.

At the close of 2022, we have:

  • Donated $100,000 to the Zapatista caracoles for the ongoing processes of autonomous education, health, agroecology, and productive projects. 
  • Provided autonomous health clinics with PPE,  medical supplies (otoscope-ophthalmoscope diagnostic kits, fetal stethoscopes for babies, tinctures, and medicines) and provided technical support, educational materials and workshops related to the pandemic, as well as preventive and primary care.
  • Expanded  our nursery with varieties of medicinal plants and nourishing foods while donating fruit trees and shrubs, medicinal plants, vegetable plants and seeds to communities in resistance.
  • Donated food, medical supplies, building materials to autonomous communities suffering invasion, destruction and life threats from paramilitary groups.
  • Along with ImagenArte, a Chiapas-based collective in resistance, we opened Sendas, a gathering space and educational cultural center in San Cristóbal de las Casas, opening a pathway for building autonomy while creating a market for Zapatista productive projects such as value-added foods, herbal products, and artisanry.
    And last but not least, we
  • Expanded our local coordination in Chiapas in order to deepen relationships and respond to the increasingly complicated and violent environment faced by communities. 

Thanks to this dedicated local coordination, we have deepened our capacity to work in several key areas — a daily presence and participation allows us in Schools for Chiapas to contribute to collective endeavors in very meaningful ways.

*On that note, we are excited to share several avenues of our work in 2023:

Education for Peace and Solidarity

  • In Sendas, a community cultural space, we will be organizing bi-monthly educational and community- building events and workshops, hosting conversations, promoting distribution of Zapatista collective products, and facilitating participation from the communities.
  • Supporting FrayBa and local human rights organizations to provide training to human rights observers and facilitate logistics of travel and security. We continue to provide emergency support for autonomous communities suffering invasion, destruction, and life threats from paramilitary groups.
  • Collaboration in an initiative to build a center for higher learning in community health, human rights, and land and territory for students in resistance.
  • Increasing the involvement of volunteers in political awareness-raising, and exploring the possibilities for educational delegations.

Education for Health and Buen Vivir

  • Providing ongoing support of the autonomous health clinics, including equipment, supplies, medicines, educational materials workshops, and skills-sharing in preventive and primary care at the request of the communities.
Your contributions toward the advancements of women will be specifically dedicated for the purpose of supporting indigenous women in resistance.
  • Adapting and expanding the capacity of our nursery for the propagation of perennial food sources, medicinal plants and seeds
  • Developing a small-scale demonstration laboratory for conducting workshops for the communities in medicinal plants and the production of tinctures, medicinal infusions, soaps and creams. 

Building autonomy

  • Strengthening women’s participation in networks of economic development, territorial defense, and community organizing by providing funds for transportation, space for meetings, and childcare for the attendees.
  • Offering workshops in self-diagnosis and providing tools for autonomous communities to assess their priorities while supporting strategies for autonomy.
  • Development and training in appropriate technology for value-added production, labor reduction, and improving lives according to the needs of Zapatista collectives such as:
    – solar dehydrators for fruit
    – minimalist and ecological mechanization to reduce labor in raw brown sugar production, wheat processing, etc.
    -solar stoves to reduce respiratory illness and also firewood consumption.

*In 2023, we have decided that our work in all of these areas, while always for/with communities as a whole, will lean especially toward elevating the participation and voices of women and girls. Whether in the defense of their families to the defense of seeds, or in the struggle against environmental devastation, women lead the way in this struggle for life. In the face of an epidemic of violence affecting women throughout Mexico, the time is nigh for us to bear this all in mind and take action.

Friends, as you know after 3 years of pandemic, (and so much else) there remains a great deal of uncertainty in our world. And as our compañerxs Zapatistas face more hardship than ever, our role is to walk in tandem with them, to be imaginative, to create that other world in our own geographies, and to support one another mutually in doing so. 

So we leave you with what compañero Jorge shared with us,

“…we know that we are not alone in this journey. How many compañeros and compañeras have come to these lands of ours to share their knowledge, to teach us and for us to teach them, how many have dedicated their whole lives to sharing our thinking, to look for ways to support us in this struggle that is not only ours. Thanks to this support we can continue to build our schools and clinics, develop materials, and have access to medical equipment that allows us to treat our patients…Without this, despite all the vision we have, we could not have survived. It is beautiful that there are people who share this vision of equality in the world, and that is why with all the energy we have, we invite you to continue building together.”

And we echo that sentiment. It is beautiful.

As the flame from one candle lights the wick of the next, and the next and so on, we find ourselves amidst a sea of dancing light. Examples from Zapatista resistance ignite that belief in another world, and inspire the construction of new autonomies from below and to the left.

From the deepest part of our hearts that believe another world is possible, we thank you and hope you will continue to build with us in the coming year.

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