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By Gustavo Castro Soto
"We are a group that started with the problem of the PROCEDE program. We were from communal lands and when PROCEDE entered the communities, the problems and divisions began with the comrades"
You cannot talk about the history of Chiapas without women. It is in the indigenous and peasant communities who have stopped the advance of the military. But they are also the ones who sustain the most work. It depends on them that there is firewood in the house; the supply of water for the family; the care of children; the preparation of tortillas and other foods as well as the care of chickens and other domestic animals. It is on their shoulders that the wealth of the maquiladoras, enriched by the exploitation of their labor force, rests. They are also the victims of domestic violence as in all corners of the world, and they bear the heavy burden of family alcoholism. When the husband and children go north in search of work, they are the ones who are left alone and without land, without protection and many times they no longer see their husband back. But still, they are the victims of the worst crimes and femicides from Chiapas to Tijuana. Despite all this, it is they who also resist and seek alternatives to neoliberalism. Next we leave the floor to Cecilia to tell us her story, a peasant woman from the municipality of Comitán, Chiapas.
But first we want to clarify some elements to understand this experience. The Certification Program for Ejidal and Urban Solar Rights (PROCEDE) is the mechanism by which peasant and indigenous lands, whether communal or communal, but also urban plots, become private properties. With this, the property tax increases for the poor; the hills and mountains that become federal property are eliminated from their property; they are moved away from water sources or forced to pay more taxes for having a river; and they are removed from the "territory" confining the population to a piece of land and without access even to firewood and the regional environment that supports them. Having the Procede certificate is now the requirement for many procedures or credit applications. This land privatization mechanism allows corporations to rent or buy indigenous lands that sustain great biological wealth, hydrocarbons or other minerals, water, or to plant large tracts of socially and ecologically unsustainable monocultures and agro-export borders such as palm. africana and eucalyptus or transgenic soy plantations.
On the other hand, to cushion the poverty caused by these neoliberal policies, the World Bank (WB) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) finance the populist program called "Oportunidades", formerly "Progresa". This program is also used for electoral and political purposes; the poor receive the crumbs from the multilateral banks in exchange for sterilizing indigenous women; the delivery of food, support for education or health, and even if they sweep the community are conditioned. However, more money is put in by poor migrants who managed to pass to the United States in order to combat poverty in their own families than the multilateral banks themselves.
Well, but let's leave the floor to Cecilia: "We are a group that began with the problem of the PROCEDE program. We were from communal lands and when PROCEDE entered the communities, problems and divisions began with the companions. They proposed that each who was going to give them their agricultural certificate, who were going to give their share to each one, so that they could divide up their parts of land that they had to. That had an impact, the program came to disrupt agreements. Because if before it could not be sold Well, now yes. Because that is what PROCEDE consists of, which you can sell with whatever you want. There were manipulations of the agrarian reform delegates, and one graduate wanted a lot of money. Only 12 colleagues did not enter the program and stayed in resistance, seeking The way to organize themselves. But those who entered the PROCEDE program were more and they declared themselves against those who made the resistance, and said that they were going to take away their lands and put in the ca rcel and scrub them because they did not enter the PROCEDE program. So in order to resist, they joined an independent organization.
"From this program there has been a lot of division in the community, there are no longer communal agreements with the lands. Now the authorities no longer take us into account, and the authority is just for them, not for us. Now each one goes in their own interests, since they have already divided into two groups. All this is because of PROCEDE. We have not been able to solve this process. It has not been moved either by those of us who are in resistance, nor by them as PROCEDE. This program entered this community four years ago, but it is in the last two years that the relationship between us has dropped the most, both in the assemblies and in community work. What is sad is that before no one could sell the land and now They have already sold them with the city. The 12 who resist have tried to seek reconciliation and unity, but the others do not want to dialogue or unify. With this government program it is very difficult to unite. The relationship has even ended. with the family to both own and the community.
"Since President Salinas de Gortari changed Article 27 of the Constitution, this project came, and since then everything agrarian has changed. Pressure came directly from the Agrarian Secretariat and from the Attorney General's Office that they needed their deed to that they could receive help for projects, or so that they can rent or sell and that they have ease with that policy. Some said, "Yes, we entered." Others said "No! Because the communal relationship is better. "The 12 were the ones who resisted. That is why they want to evict them from the community. But they said," We are going to fight because it is our community! "Currently the communal assemblies are over and the 12 that were left are discouraged.
"In agriculture now agrochemicals are used and we are working on the pastoral care of the land, because we have seen that everything that comes is from the large companies that have been sweeping the communities. Engineers and technicians who come to promote the fertilizer and come to sow land to make a demonstration plot of how the cornfield will work very well with their fertilizers ( agrochemicals from the Monsanto corporation). But it actually affects the corn crops and the land as well. We must conserve the seed and not put chemicals on it. Those who have plague now want to put it fumigated. We have a culture of how to combat it, because with those pesticides they sterilize the land, and with what they do, they not only affect our Creole seed crops, they affect us all and even the environment, water and everything. The water is all contaminated with plastics, containeres. Before we used to drink water and now a lot of garbage comes and we cannot drink it. In the milpas you can see the containers thrown away with the liquids and all that is carried away by the water. Before there were no fertilizers, no chemicals. What we did is that in the summer when it did not rain, we went to the hill to collect animal manure, from herds to fertilize the land. First we would put it together and put a fist on each posito, that's how it was done. But later, when the fertilizer compost began and when the liquids came to fumigate the land that, according to so that they produce more and that gave results, and one gets used to it because they see it easier. But now we see how it affects us.
"At that time there were no pests, because everything was treated naturally. But now they are treated with those fertilizers and insecticides. The more they use agrochemicals, the more the pests come. There are ways to prepare fertilizers, but we get used to those agrochemicals to lose traditional agriculture. When I was little, the peasants made their well in the milpa and when they raised the harvest, they lit the fireworks, offered flowers etc., to thank Mother Earth for the harvest. But she began to see that change in the land. people, and now the pinch is over and he left, and he did not thank the one who gave us the beans. In the pastoral they tell us that we have to rescue what is being lost, that there are ways in which we rescue agriculture so that we do not lose the customs. It seems difficult because almost the majority use agrochemicals in the milpa and the flavor is felt in the harvest. But to detoxify the land it is more difficult. It is for the same reason that large companies continue n coming.
"At first, we women tried to organize ourselves at a religious level and we had the concerns of planting soy collectively. The last two years it turned out very well for us when soy was very large, and we continued the work of soy pure women. We worked collectively, some They tore up the mountains, others were looking for where to sell it, and it was working very well, because we delivered it to other parishes. But it was a pity that it was no longer possible. The work in the milpa is hard and discouragement began and very few of us stayed working and we said to ourselves and now What are we going to do if there are too few of us and we will no longer be able to work the cornfield in soybeans. When we were so few, then we left it. We are five women working in the group. On Sundays we have reflection in the temple and more women arrive. We have talked that despite the fact that we are few, God has given us a lot of strength in the jobs we have had, because when PROCEDE came, women and young people joined forces to see what ibam What to do to avoid entering that program, because most were convinced to enter it. But we saw that we were going to be wrong if we went into that and discussed PROCEDE, in different meetings and spaces, and they gave us words of encouragement, strength and ideas and we came to apply them in the community, but we did not have much echo . But at least we managed to rescue the group that was left of the 12. They too had little to sign, but we managed to rescue our husbands and fathers. We managed to rescue the communal assets and we have them stored in the common property papers.
"We have seen other things that have been affecting us such as alcoholism. The community is small, but they tried to sell us alcohol and the group of women with the support of young people joined us. Lately there is a person who has always been the most rebellious in the community And he tried to sell it. It was difficult for us, because it is harder for someone from here in the community to be. But we said, we are going to meet men and women to see what steps we can take, so that this does not happen in the community. In the other communities they take a lot and it affects us a lot and the men told us, take the first step as women, "if we confront them they will attack us, because men and men hit each other." So you face that problem, they told us. The men. And three women commissions came out who were going to speak, telling her that if she did not understand, she would be worse off. There were three commissioners and the rest of us accompanied them. At first she treated us badly, but we got to speak well. Will. Thank God he understood us and stopped selling it. We have seen that despite being few, we are solving problems with the support of young people. We are taking the steps and doing the fights.
"As women, we do not receive the government's OPORTUNIDADES program. Through the church, we have talked that they are just trying to deceive us, because on the one hand if they give the money, but on the other they have well pressured us, because they have to be punctual to the clinic talks ( of health) and they have to go to the clinic even if they are not sick. And if they don't go, they are fined with taking away half of what they are given from that OPPORTUNITY program. They are under great pressure because they have to be in control of what those people tell them. And you have to think about the consequences of that, that's why we have resisted. They say that there they give vaccines to children, that the ladies get Pap smears and how they receive that, since they are already dominated by them. We have meetings and it is seen in the church that is what we are going to deal with and they no longer arrive or no longer participate because they have to go where they are summoned with that program and they dominate them.
"The day that there is reflection of the women is when they summon the meetings of OPORTUNIDADES ( the government, so that women do not attend the women's meeting) and how money is taken from them if they do not attend there, since they have to go so that they are not taken away. With that program you cannot have a TV, refrigerator, stove, you have to be a person without income ( poor). Now they are counting the poorest and giving them balls and sports fields so that they can be in the talks; Those are the government's goals for youth. Last week, some women from a community who helped us sow told us that they could not come to meet because they were going to register the homes and that they could not sow because they had to be there when they told them to be there, or to go to a certain place, and with all that, you divide the community.
"There was a need for transportation in the community, for a tractor, but they could not be organized. It has been making it difficult for both women and men. The principles of collective conscience are lacking. That is why our community has They have been promoting collective work. Political candidates do a lot of promoting support. They tell us that they are going to give us 20 or 25 chickens, but we, as a women's organization, can put the chickens and make them produce. They want to come and tell us what we have. What to do, but we already know it. "What if a chicken farm and sell the ranch eggs, to no longer buy in the city." That is the common work between us and we do not want to give it up. We have drinking water for everyone There, the community was reunited with the drinking water assembly. In assemblies and representation or in church work they also support us. In agricultural promotion, the companions invite the community. It is seen that a few do not q They want to lose the community. That is why we want to rescue him, where the possibility is seen to strengthen the organization.
The husbands really had us used to not participating, and when we got to know the work, we said "we are free to participate, we are also called by God to work in assemblies or meetings," and we were rescuing our value that we have as a woman. In that way, it didn't seem like it to the spouses and personally it cost me a lot. I had to ask my husband for permission 15 days before and he didn't say yes or no. But when it came to going out, even when he told me go away! I started towing with my children, as if saying "no longer fence!" But I ignored her and I rescued my courage as a woman and went to meetings in Mexico, Veracruz, Tuxtla, in San Cristóbal and even went to a women's congress on the border.
"As now we have more freedom to leave the house for three days, but we had to raise awareness with the husband as well. In the assemblies with the community members, the women were not valued. They said that their word was not valid, and the husband had They had to pay a fine if their wife spoke because they were told that women did not have to do anything in the meetings. But with the PROCEED problem, we women faced it and recovered our place. They saw that the woman was useful in the assemblies and We were already giving the word and suggestion and we faced them and they already saw that we women had value. There we saw the entry of the value of women in the community. The men then said "we are going to present the whole family as community members, as what we are, as husband and daughters; We are all going to participate in the assembly. "From there they rescued the community and began to bring their wives and children and rescued their value as a woman and as community members.
"Young people say:" it is seen that there is such a change in the community that we can no longer work. We have to emigrate from the community to look for a job. Parents can no longer support us, we can no longer do what we did before and individualism enters. Our grandparents told us that the milpa and agriculture were done with mutual exchange and help. We made the land collective. Nobody worked his land alone, because there was unity. But the development began with their ways of working and individualism began. The one who had more no longer wanted to help the other. Before you had to help clean the land, in the works and if it worked. What came to divide us are government programs. That is the same problem that we live. This is what has come to break our communal relationship. Because in our group if there is a need we do it together and the other group is no longer going to come to help us and that is what has already been broken. So one objective of the community is to recover this common life on earth with the animals.
"When we started the youth area, a lot of young people used to get together. I was almost a girl, but I went with my sister. Almost all the young people in the community got together and lived very well, we took turns in each house and formed groups and We reflected on the word of God. There were games, dynamics and songs. But since the PROCEDE program entered, there were contradictions between parents and children and little by little they moved apart and then almost did not get together. Everything came to affect when PROCEDE entered , because there began to be divisions, and as those of us who got together we were the children of the community members. The others moved away because they avoided the coexistence between the youth of the community members and the youth of the other group. From there the youth division began and began to lower the number of those who attended, even if they were invited. They no longer attended the meetings. And there were very few of us who met as companions, but it did affect the young people who met also a lot. well. and so far it is disabled because we hardly meet anymore. We hope we get it to restart again.
My most cherished dream is to reunite the community colleagues. In those months we met and visited the sick every Saturday with our companions. That is the illusion and dream of those of us who used to get together again, and my desire is to make a choir and integrate more colleagues into the community. We would like to be more organized to have new ideas and new jobs in common, but we have to work a lot too. For me the dream, above all that has been hit in the community, is to be young from reflection and awareness, to take action; of being a committed, responsible youth, where I denounced and acted as youth in the community and reject the death project. Where unity can be seen, do not leave the moms or dads we want to work with alone; that our rights and words are respected and from there begin to act. From there was born, from reflection, wanting to organize being in a group making a more real analysis from society. We must unite to demonstrate in the face of what is damaging us, in the face of injustices to our community. Take actions and be aware of what we are experiencing, of a problem that comes to us in our communities. We talk about self-esteem, sexuality, human rights, relating everything, above all the impact of young people. Emigration, those of us who are here, can do a project as young people. About two chickens and from there start working. A dream of being able to unite the group to be able to work in community.
"We have a youth area that organizes young people in a collective community doing common work or accompanying the different work areas. The human rights area is a commission that works to train itself to support the communities in the area in their problems. The Area of alternative health and alternative natural medicine is where I work. We are coordinated with San Cristóbal, Margaritas, Comalapa, Chicomuselo, Salto de Agua and more municipalities. From the same areas, there are also the economic actions that carry the coordination of the groups that There are in the area. The interests and needs of the communities are seen more. Organic production is promoted in the collectives and there is a person in charge for each group to form a commission of agricultural promoters who are being trained. Young people have a photography group , because sometimes union photographers would go and charge more than it is.
"We also started with alternatives to agriculture. There the first steps began with this region on what agriculture is - fertilizers, insecticides, how to form the soil, how to control pests, seed, cure the grains etc. We have not cured the bean crop with powders for two years, but with herbs, and in the case of pests, chemicals were no longer applied. There are four of us who received advice and we are looking at the weeds, uproot the mountain and clean, what is done. We are trying to advise the communities in the area and impart to the communities also not only in the collective, and we are with other municipalities with Independencia, Comalapa. In the community live 60 families and There are about three to five members per family. In the community the group has a cooperative store for pigs, chickens and rabbits. The women are the ones in charge of the cooperative in charge and the men of the animals. In another community the group is from a mill, pigs etc. In another there is a grocery cooperative collective and another has a transportation and sheep collective. These belong to the same zone. Of these groups, organic fertilizer was promoted and one from each group left to form that commission. The same for photography. It is called "The Collective" because the money is in common. It gathers in a savings bank of the same group to support the needs of the group or the partners or the people of the communities. It is something that is in common of all and that from the needs, something can come out. It is not individual but collective gain in jobs. They also have a turn each. They are rolled to go to sell, the same is rolled to attend the animals one day a week, the pigs, another the chickens, etc.
"In the organization that works with the Cooperative Registry, education has not been given much function. There is an education appointment, but they are not taking it. The school in the community is just a classroom. Before they went to primary school. to Rosario, but now they already have a classroom. All grades are in the same room and there is one row for each year. A teacher comes to teach them. In the photography group they talked about how to get involved in a tortilla project with corn organic of the region. How to start? And we saw it very far. We are eight partners and we said a good resource is required and set the objective because we want to do it and we said we do not do it. But it was our vision, because now the one that He produces corn and takes it to the market and buys tortillas at the Maseca store. It was a dream of the collective, to do something alternative, to produce organic corn and tortilla, but we get discouraged. We don't have a place to work, the money we have is not enough. and cam we biamos the project for another. We bought equipment to make brochures for the computer areas, a copier and an enlarger for black and white photographs.
"From our community what we can say is that politics has been from wanting to manage with the projects that they send to the communities and control, the divisions that this causes. They manage and buy dignity. The right to say a word gives you A project in exchange for you doing something or not saying anything. There is a violation of freedom of expression, because if I speak up, they vote for me. Fox's project grabs our country as if it were its Coca Cola company; think about its resources economic but not in humans. In the meetings of presidents of countries their interests are to extract the wealth that we have: water, land, and the humans themselves, and that affects us because it exterminates our social and human life, and before that policy in our municipalities there are many problems. There are five candidates for each party and they cut the people into little pieces. The same system controls us and dominates us, whatever they want, because there is a lot of confusion about this. But there is a lack of housing, electricity, habitation. ion, food and they make us enter that program. The parties of that are grasping. The Zapatistas are poor people like us. They have known how to resist and value their rights as poor and have not allowed themselves to be manipulated by governments. They have autonomous communities, where they name their authorities of themselves and do common work for their communities, but for themselves not for other peoples. Peasants are an example for us. They did know how to defend themselves and organize themselves. Few have been able to resist and many have allowed themselves to be manipulated by the gifts they give from the governments. As in the case of the candidates and who offer many things when they are not seated, but afterwards, they do not pay attention to the poor people. Many candidates are going down to the communities but they give you something in exchange for you to give them your signature and we have to think about that as poor peasants that we are.
"Due to the same need we have, the need to work collectively calls us. Then, because we have had reflections of the word of God to work together and collectively we work together and have coexistence together and we form the collective. We sow together. We are few of them. that we are resisting. Most take the government's issue and there are few of us who reject. Sometimes they get discouraged and say better we receive and that's it, well, we are only fighting. But we said no, there are many people who are resisting and the same need has made us The Zapatistas have not sold their dignity even though they are poor. They do not have what we may have: corn and beans. They do not even have a home, but they say they are not going to leave and are working with what they have. achieved and lived together. The women and children are learning from what they are doing. We are closer to the city and we lose what the communities see further inside. We move to the urban and we lose many costu mbres and we are losing identity. The same system shows us a city and you immerse yourself in it. Communication is difficult in the communities and also in the city. The Zapatistas keep many valuable things very well organized, they do not wait for it to arrive from outside. They themselves, their way of receiving a person, a job and the decision is made by them collectively and we are used to that decisions come from outside, from the government, and they tell us they are going to see what others say because you have already voted. And not with the Zapatistas, because they participate in an assembly with children, women, and men. In a confrontation since 1994, women and children were those who defended their right to life. That is why they promote autonomy, because it is their own decision and way of life. They do not want to depend on a government, but they themselves decide their way of life and that we must learn from them.
We want to make a collective of chickens because the men want to work in agriculture, and they can do it. The important thing is to see the reality that we are living, and the coexistence that feeds the community is very important for us. "
So far Cecilia's narration. There is no doubt that another world is possible.
* Gustavo Castro Soto
Center for Economic Research and Community Action Policies