Indians of Chiapas, among the displaced indigenous groups in Latin America

From Dorset Solidarity

UNAM researcher highlights the importance of the human rights of the vulnerable groups of the continent.


From Mexico to Brazil the greatest number of people forced to move from their territory are individuals from indigenous communities, said Katherine Isabel Herazo González, professor at the Faculty of Psychology (FP), UNAM.

This can be seen in Chiapas, with the Zapatista movement; in Nicaragua, with the miskito; in Colombia, with the Nasa and Embera Katio, or in Peru, with the Ashaninca, each associated with a socio-political process, said the graduate of the Postgraduate Programme in Latin American Studies, Faculty of Arts and Letters (FFyL), UNAM reported.

The difficult situation extends to countries in the region through community, political and economic conflicts. The phenomenon begins to occur as a way to win internal wars, in other words, displacement becomes a political-military strategy.

She said she worked with Tzotzil and Tzeltal populations and that in the first group their language has no words for human rights, marking the first epistemological dilemma, because they conceived of them as something remote, coming from the West.

"From their cosmovision, human rights are not only built by regulations or human regularization, but there are others in existence, customary in nature, based on uses, customs and ways of understanding reality," she explained.

That notion is strengthened in their political affinity, as in the civil society group Las Abejas, who are defending their land, autonomy and territory, but peacefully. When they are displaced, ethical and religious elements play a fundamental role.

"Their way of cohesion and living together in community allows them to generate support networks, which are very important when they have to move from their place."

About the title of her thesis, the academic explained that for these people Chiapas the term to be displaced does not exist and those who this happens to are described as those who fled. "The way of naming the world reveals the particularity of conceiving it; for them, those who departed did so due to fear, terror and harassment."

The Prize

The researcher was in first place in the V Thesis Prize about Latin America and the Caribbean 2013 – convoked by the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CIALC) – Doctoral category.

In her work for her degree: Those who fled (jataveletik). Social representations and human rights of the displaced indigenous, the university researcher argues that these movements change as social forces and hegemonic and counter-hegemonic powers become in tension.

Herazo González rescues the history and the voices of those who were forced to leave their home place and establishes that human rights are a pillar to strive for.

"If someone is displaced they lose not only their land but also their social fabric and history, which cause a breakdown of identities. In addition, for the indigenous their relationship with their territory is sacred," said the academic in a statement from the highest seat of learning.

The graduate of the Postgraduate Programme in Latin American Studies, Faculty of Arts and Letters indicated that there are also other non-indigenous displaced populations, although research is focused on that nucleus, being historically the most vulnerable.

"At a micro level my idea was to highlight how they experienced individual guarantees in these communities, how vulnerable they are and to study their social representations in the field. This showed why the debate over their rape and violation persists."


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