Indigenous Autonomy of the Chiapas The Women are Missing By: Rosa Rojas
The Missing • In the 1970s under the historical leadership of the Independent Council of Agricultural Workers and Peasants (CIOAC), with the uprising of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) as a catalyst, they began to take the Indians of the northern regions of Chiapas
The Northern region of the Chiapas Tzotzil, Zoque, Chol, and Tojolabal
Struggle in the Chiapas • The people of the Chiapas region want autonomy • Mexico is worried that because the Chiapas is near the border that they will break free • Leading to succession
Quotes about the struggle • "we are certain that we have to govern ourselves. If that means autonomy, then we want autonomy.” • "we are not equal, we are different;" "we are tired of the government treating us like garbage.“ • the rebellion and the anger generated by the racism and exploitation to which the indigenous people have been subjected by the mestizo society of Chiapas for all these centuries: "we aren't worth anything to that bunch of cacique bastards,"
Challenges faced by indigenous Maya • Social exclusion • Land struggles • Poor health conditions • Natural disasters • Restricted political activity through civil rights abuses and military presence in Mayan regions • Language discrimination (as recently as 2002 courts used Spanish and did not supply interpreters for non-Spanish speakers)
Actions Taken • seizing town halls in Sayaló, Simojoveland Huitiupán • blockading highways • closing schools, stores, and public offices • with the demand that the municipal authorities be disavowed and that multiethnic councils be created- as well as by new land occupations, in several regions of the entity
Actions near the border • In Margaritas and Comitán- during the month of August villages started making declarations • Going on strike • No one foreign or unknown allowed in the territory • Not paying: • taxes • electric light • water • government loans
The President Refuses: Autonomy Carries the Risk of "Secession" • With regard to the declaration of the constitution of autonomous regions, the acting substitutogovernor of the entity, Javier López Moreno, affirmed on October 27 that there are groups which intend by their action to "corral" the governor of the state • Some with more invasions • Others by going to Mexico City with their demands • And others by proclaiming "inadmissible autonomies.”
Presidential interview (rejecting the idea) • "To be sure, this [autonomy] is not the proposal of the immense majority of communities. They consider themselves Mexican in the first place . . . but to propose autonomy, especially there in Chiapas, which borders on another country, would run the risk of a secession from the territory, and we Mexicans would never accept that, not even the immense majority of indigenous people who live together in that region,"
And the Women? "Their Struggle for their Rights is Going to Take as Long as Ours Has" • In his analysis, the indigenous women have been conspicuously absent • Not only do they still have no right to land, but despite the conceptual leap which the "Revolutionary Law of Women" of the EZLN represented, their contributions in this process are still brushed aside and their proposals are often regarded as a product of manipulation by mestizowomen. • The same people who say this, who are considered "progressives,“ criticize it as "racism" when others refuse to recognize theoretical elaborations by the indigenous men.
Who were the true authors of the demands • For the right to decide • How many children to have and when, "because one suffers a lot when one has a lot of children;" • For respect as women; • For pay equal to men's pay for their work; • Or for punishment for those who mistreat them -including their fathers and husbands
Example of men’s control: forced marriage/ incest • sometimes the fathers want their daughters or stepdaughters to be their women for a while and not go with their boyfriends, and therefore, even if the boyfriend whom the woman likes pays for her, they don't let her get married.
Example of failed law • There is laxity on the part of many social organizations • in the face of the accusation that three young Tzeltal women were raped by soldiers at a military roadblock in Altamirano, • despite the seriousness not only of the deed itself, but of the precedent which would be set if a civil crime were judged in military courts, as the military authorities intend.
Inequality of rights and of discrimination against the women • They "have to take part in decisions," • the reality is that, for example, there are women's committees in only two communities of the autonomous region of Las Margaritas • And there is no community where they have the right to land.
Women & Work • women can only participate in the administration of the corn mill and the Conasupo store. Another source tells us that as soon as the mill in the ejido Veracruz started producing income, the men took over its administration from the women.
President view on women • When asked directly, Hernández offered his vision of the participation that women have had in the process of autonomy: • "The women suffer just as much lack of recognition as we, as Indian people, do. And the women in the Indian villages are even less recognized, because the Indian men don't pay attention to the women, there is a big problem of machismo and discrimination. It is now a well-established illness there.
Political Reform and "A True Agrarian Reform" • Antonio Hernández explained that they intend to carry out a true agrarian reform in the autonomous indigenous regions, pointing out that that would in no way imply the disappearance of authentic small property, but that now "the people must take charge of respecting" small property. It would, however, affect the latifundios, which, he assured us, are still spreading in Chiapas.
"Yes, but who is the Nation now?" • "Now government officials are showing up: the federal government, they are the ones who have ruled and have prevented the Mexican people from moving toward democracy. That's why these great riches of our people are concentrated in the hands of the government and the rich people. So we think that the Nation can exploit these natural resources, but with a prior agreement with the government of the regional peoples."
Institutional Vacuum in the Autonomous Regions • in the mountainous northern region, one notes a power vacuum of the institutions -state and federal- which, however, does not express itself in anarchy, due to the presence of the other powers
After the uprising of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN) • Now, they publicly gave a name to their decision to govern themselves: autonomy. In this process "the action of the EZLN is fundamental. In Chiapas the peasant and indigenous organizations had gotten a little worn down and lost perspective. Our methods of struggle weren't working, they were worn out and we didn't find any solution."
After the uprising of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN) • On one hand, the traditional mestizo cacique power which, after it was practically evicted from the semifeudal plantations, went on to control the levers of economic and political power • On the other hand, indigenous power, based in the authority of traditional community institutions, which has been conquering more and more visible spaces in the public sphere
Final thoughts • Hernández emphasized that in a future dialogue or negotiation, the federal government and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation "have to take into account" the participation of the indigenous and peasant social organizations and take up the question of autonomy.
establish • new economic and political relation with the federal government. • the municipality can continue to maintain itself as a structure of government inside the regions. • it would only have economic administrative functions. • It would not be like it has been up to now, telling the villages what they want to do • Now it would be the other way around: they would only have power over the fate of their municipality
Conclusion • Although some of the mestizos in many villages already understand and even participate in the indigenous movements, the traditional centers which hold economic and political power in the region continue to resist conceding more rights to them.