Archive for La Garrucha

A Visit to Chiapas in March 2009

Posted in Commentary, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2009 by floweroftheword

After the three of us finally arrived in San Cristóbal, we began our drive to the Cañadas east of Ocosingo. Getting to Ocosingo from San Cristóbal is a unique experience: the paved highway consists of one “tope” (speed bump) after another. That makes it sort of hard to pass those giant trucks that belch black smoke in your face or the slow lumbering farm trucks. By the time we arrive in Ocosingo, we’re ready for a break at the Hotel Central’s delicious restaurant, aptly named Las Delicias. Next stop is the Ocosingo Market to buy some water and a blanket to replace a sleeping bag remaining somewhere in the labyrinth of the Mexico City Airport waiting to be claimed by someone who is already in San Cristóbal. It’s late in the afternoon as we exit Ocosingo, take the turnoff for La Garrucha and realize that we won’t arrive until after dark because the road is a bit difficult.

Well, the road isn’t the only reason we won’t arrive until after dark. We have friends along the way and we stop and visit a little. The little visits make it a happy trip and more than compensate for all the holes and ruts in the road. It’s warm and dry. No rain. By the time we get to Garrucha, it’s dark and the Good Government Junta is tired. The folks in the Vigilance Committee tell us the Junta will see us in the morning. They take us to the “Hotel Garrucha,” our tongue-in-cheek name for the space underneath the big stage erected for the Comandanta Ramona Women’s Encuentro (Dec. 2007). It now serves as the resting place for those of us who visit Garrucha. The Hotel’s tenured hostess greets us warmly. A kind of permanent peace camper, fluent in both English and Spanish, she helps out everyone who arrives there and doesn’t exactly know what to do. For some of us old-timers who sort of know what to do, she swaps stories with us.
The Junta received us first thing in the morning, but we hung around Garrucha anyway, confused about transportation to Zapata (San Manuel’s municipal headquarters). Folks who recognized us soon began to appear and strike up conversations. We visited with several friends at their homes and, when it was finally confirmed that there was no transportation available, drove our little car over the somewhat challenging road to Agua Dulce, and then on to San Manuel. The weather remained beautiful: warm, dry and sunny. It was late Saturday afternoon and the council decided to wait until Sunday to meet with us. We had lots of time to talk, eat, tell stories and get a good night’s sleep.

On Sunday, we met with San Manuel’s autonomous municipal council and some of the county’s other authorities. What we learned was very helpful and, in part, surprising. Importantly, we were able to clarify the new policy on projects in the region. It seems that there was a decision reached regionally to equalize the distribution of projects among the 4 autonomous municipios (counties) within the Caracol of La Garrucha. It is each county’s responsibility to present a project to the Junta. The Junta puts that project in a file cabinet, according to the category it falls into (economic development, production, health, education, etcetera). When an organization comes to the Junta and says it wants to help in a certain category of project, the Junta goes to the file drawer for that category and looks at the proposals. The Junta selects the proposal submitted by the county that is the farthest behind. The selection is made by the Junta and not by a regional assembly as we were told during our January visit. The person who told us that was in a position to know, but either did not communicate the policy correctly or we misunderstood what was communicated. This is just a temporary policy until the counties are considered more equalized. The hermanamientos (partnerships) continue as before and unfinished projects can be completed. The temporary policy applies to all new projects. This means that those organizations with hermanamientos may work in a county other than the one with which they have the hermanamiento IF they decide to take on new projects. I am not sure who was considered ahead in projects or behind in projects at the time this new decision was reached, but it is obvious that San Manuel is currently considered ahead. I do not know how other money is handled. Our concern was simply to clarify the policy on new projects in order that we could make an informed decision about whether to take on a large new project requiring foundation grants.

There are many factors affecting projects in the autonomous counties. One important factor is the effectiveness of the autonomous council in conceiving a project, getting it approved and in carrying out a project once financing is obtained. Another factor can be the effectiveness of a county’s hermanamiento. Some turn out well and work together effectively and others don’t. The personnel appointed to staff a project also play a decisive role in how much that project really helps the county. In other words, human nature plays a significant role in the degree of success these projects have. It boils down to the differences in human beings. I suspect these innate differences in us play a role in why one county is ahead and another is behind. I don’t think that any policy can equalize the differences in people, but it can certainly try to equalize the number of projects.
We also received important information concerning the secondary school in La Garrucha. The information we received this time is that the building has not been completed. It lacks a second floor. This is totally new information for us. We have asked many times about the secondary school and been told that the building was finished but the teachers weren’t ready. All four of the counties in the Garrucha region have children who have finished their primary school education and are ready for secondary school. But, there is no functioning secondary school within the region and transportation to the secondary school in Oventik is too expensive. Thus, all 4 counties have an interest in seeing this school get up and running. Finding the compañeros to go through the capacity building program for teachers and then go on to work teaching the children may be difficult, but not impossible. The time away from their families and fields is a hardship and keeps some from volunteering, but it won’t deter everyone.

A tour of the primary school in Emiliano Zapata revealed the need for primary school supplies: desks, chairs, paper, pencils, chalk, crayons and pens. I would not be surprised if this were the situation in the majority of schools throughout this region. An experienced education promoter (teacher) told us that it had been decided that each county should have its own capacity building (training) center for teachers. We were told that one of the two counties without such a center was San Manuel. Apparently the construction of these new centers has been approved, but we do not know when they will be ready to ask for funding. Health and education are coordinated regionally and it is not clear to this writer exactly how these decisions are made. We need to probe further into the issue of the secondary school and the capacity building center for education promoters on our next visit to La Garrucha and San Manuel.

The region has seen tremendous advances in health over the past 3 years. Francisco Gómez County now has a Women’s Clinic in La Garrucha (in addition to its regional clinic) capable of providing high-level OB/GYN services to women. This was part of the huge Basque Country health care project that also constructed a basic clinic in each of the 3 remaining counties: San Manuel, Ricardo Flores Magón, and Francisco Villa. All the clinics have dormitories for the health promoters who are on duty there, as well as for those who come for capacity building workshops. La Garrucha has a large building with dormitories to house health promoters from throughout the region when they are in the Caracol for capacity building. San Manuel inaugurated its Compañera Lucha Clinic in December 2008 and it is now serving patients. Francisco Villa plans to inaugurate its new clinic as soon as it gets enough money together to pay for a big celebration. I have no information about an inarguration date for Ricardo Flores Magón, but I have been told that its clinic is complete and operational. As in other regions, the region of La Garrucha has a vaccination program and a maternal health program carried out by its health promoters. San Manuel also has 3 micro clinics, one in each of the 3 canyons that make up the county. Micro clinics are distributed throughout all four counties.

We promised to return in July to follow-up on the Pharmacy Warehouse and to learn more about some of the region’s plans. We are also concerned about the health of a good friend in San Manuel who was sick while we were there.
Oventik and Polhó

We next visited the Caracol of Oventik in order to do a little shopping and also to ask for permission to visit San Pedro Polhó autonomous county (Polhó). After visiting the Junta, we stopped at the Che Guevara store and then continued on to Polhó. A crime against public health is taking place in Acteal, a community within the boundaries of Polhó, which has some displaced Zapatistas living there. Chenalhó County, the name of the official government county, has created a garbage dump adjacent to a camp of displaced Zapatistas in Acteal. The Chenalhó county government dumps all kinds of waste in this open-air dump, including the bodies of dead animals. Acteal is near the county line with Pantelhó, which has also started using the same garbage dump. We asked both the Junta and the representative of the autonomous council what, if anything, they were going to do about the dump. They said they had not yet decided, but it was clear that they would do something. We bought artesanía from one of the two weaving cooperatives in Polhó before returning to San Cristóbal.

We would urge folks who visit Chiapas to take the time to visit the women weavers in Polhó and to buy some of their beautiful artesanía. The purchase of their artesanía enables the women to supplement their family’s basic diet with fruit and vegetables. The women in the two weaving cooperatives are Zapatistas displaced by paramilitary violence in 1997. The basic diet for the camps of displaced people is 3 tortillas per day, one serving of beans per day and meat once a month. The income they earn from selling artesanía goes to supplement that basic diet. One of the cooperatives, Comandanta Ramona, is on the highway, not far from the main entrance gate to Polhó, and it is not necessary to get permission from Oventik to shop there. The other cooperative, Nueva Esperanza, is inside the gate and requires permission to enter.

Although this was a working visit, we were able to enjoy a few meals with friends, dinner at our favorite cheap restaurant, and a cup of hot chocolate at a wonderful place called “Chocolate.” It was also a more “typical” visit than the one in January, in the sense that there were no Encuentros or Festivals. Life was a little slower and people were just going about their daily routines. On the surface, it appeared very calm. We mentioned that to a long-time friend we encountered while in La Garrucha. She raised her eyebrows and rolled her eyes in disagreement with that statement, but did not go on to explain.

Actually, no explanation was necessary.

Given all the fuss and publicity about drug-related violence in Mexico, I feel compelled to add that in spite of what lies just below the surface of daily life in Chiapas, the EZLN’s total ban on narcotics (growing, consuming or dealing) makes its communities an exception to the current drug-related violence experienced by many other (non-Zapatista) communities in Mexico.

Mary Ann Tenuto Sánchez
Chiapas Support Committee
March 2009

Beautiful Hand-Printed posters for Sale!

Posted in Announcement with tags , , , , , , , on September 5, 2008 by floweroftheword

We are pleased to announce that the Wellington Zapatista Support Group is now selling these beautiful hand screenprinted limited edition posters.

Funds raised from these sales will go directly to the Zapatista Autonomous Health System in La Garrucha, Chiapas.

These numbered limited edition A2 (420x600mm) posters have been painstakingly designed by Jen Bell and lovingly hand screenprinted on recycled cardstock by Jared Davidson of The Garage Collective.

There are only 50 of each design, so get in quick! They can be bought at Wellington Zapatista Support Group events, such as our next film night on Wednesday 24 September, or by contacting zapatistasolidarity(at) The price is $15 per poster, all proceeds going to Zapatista healthcare.

For more information about the Autonomous Health System and our group’s relationship with the Zapatistas please see About the La Garrucha Health Project.

Wellington Zapatista Support Group


Posted in Announcement, Event with tags , , , on July 25, 2008 by floweroftheword



FIRST PRIZE: Autographed copy of NOCHES DE FUEGO Y DESVELO an erotic novel by Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, illustrated by Antonio Ramírez (Measures 27cm x 40.5cm or 10.5ins x 16ins)

SECOND PRIZE: Copy of “Filosofia y Educacion” Doctoral Thesis of Rafael Sebastian Guillen Vicente (widely believe to be El Sub. Marcos!)

DRAWN: 08 August 2008 (129th Anniversary of Zapata’s birth), at HAPPY Cnr Tory & Vivian Street, Wellington, New Zealand. (Prizes couriered to any international winners)

TICKETS: $5 each, or a book of ten for $45 Only 1500 tickets available, so be quick!!!!

Contacts for tickets/donations/more info:

Julie Webb-Pullman – (Australia)
Lucia Zanmonti – (New Zealand)


In rural Chiapas, Mexico there is only one doctor for every 25,000 people. Over 70% of the population is Indigenous, and over 70% of them suffer from malnutrition, with 33% of children suffering extreme malnutrition. The majority of illnesses in their communities are preventable, including diarrhoea, intestinal parasites, respiratory diseases such as TB, skin parasites, typhoid fever, skin mycosis and Hepatitis B. The Mexican Government provides services only to those in political agreement them, and whom it can regulate through its international donors. This means that not only do Indigenous autonomous communities not receive these public funds, but also that many of the resources that arrive in Chiapas do not support direct community involvement in the development and provision of health services.

La Garrucha is one of five Zapatista Caracoles who have turned their backs on the Government after 500 years of neglect, and determined to develop and provide their own health services, establishing micro-clinics in every community, and now building larger clinics in each municipality.

La Garrucha Health Project

The micro-clinics are all staffed by health promoters who are members of the community, and continue with their work in the fields and homes in addition to their health practitioner responsibilities. They receive training in health care from NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders and Marie Stopes International, and Mexican and international volunteer health practitioners. There are currently 255 health promoters with various degrees of training and skill – some very experienced with 15 years or more of service provision in their communities, others with only a few months training. They need ongoing training over several years to build up their skills base, and the Wellington Zapatista Support Group is committed to fundraising to finance the necessary training workshops for the health promoters of the La Garrucha caracol in the Selva Zone. Please join us in this important work, helping the Zapatistas construct accessible, acceptable and appropriate autonomous health services.

Come to our next film night – Tuesday 24 June

Posted in Event with tags , , , , on June 19, 2008 by floweroftheword

Hola a tod@s,

The Wellington Zapatista Support Group will show 2 films made by Zapatista communities next Tuesday 24 June starting at 8pm. The venue for the screening is Happy, corner Vivian and Tory Streets, Wellington city.

‘We Speak Against Injustice’ (2003, 34 mins) and ‘The Silence of the Zapatistas’ (2001, 12 mins) tell the story of the popular struggle for the rights of indigenous peoples in Mexico. Military and paramilitary violence against Zapatista communities is seen in the context of globalisation: The state and federal government uses violence to pressure Zapatista communities to leave their land, so that natural resources can be exploited.

Entry to the film night is by koha/donation. All proceeds go towards the provision of health care in Zapatista communities in the caracol of La Garrucha, one of the areas affected by the recent military and paramilitary attacks.

We look forward to seeing you there!


Wellington Zapatista Support Group

Zapatistas defend autonomy, State aggression escalates

Posted in Commentary, News, Otherpress with tags , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2008 by floweroftheword

Zapatistas defend autonomy
State aggression escalates

June 07, 2008 By John Gibler

This past Wednesday, June 4, a military convoy of about 200 Mexican soldiers and federal and municipal police attempted to enter Zapatista villages under the pretext of searching for marijuana plants; something patently absurd in communities that have maintained a self-imposed “dry law,” prohibiting all drugs and all forms of alcohol throughout Zapatista territories for nearly fifteen years.
The convoy first stopped at the entrance to the Garrucha Caracol (the regional seat of the Good Government Council, or Junta de Buen Gobierno). Four soldiers stepped out into the road, others photographed and filmed the Zapatistas from their vehicles, but the community began to draw people together, shouting at the soldiers to leave, and gathering slingshots, machetes, rocks, and sticks. The soldiers quickly got back in their vehicles and continued down the road.

The convoy joined a second convoy down the road where they all descend and set off walking to the Zapatista support community of Galaena. A police officer from Ocosingo, Feliciano Román Ruiz, guides the soldiers through the trails towards the community.

In Galaena, the men, women, and children organized to bar the soldiers’ entrance to the community.

According to the Zapatista communiqué denouncing the events, the Zapatistas shouted at the soldiers to turn back. The soldiers said that they had come to destroy the marijuana plants they know to be near by. The Zapatistas denied growing marijuana and began to gather slingshots, machetes, rocks, and sticks to defend their land.

The soldiers turned back, but warned that they would return in two weeks, and they would enter the community no matter what.

But they did not leave; they walked to nearby San Alejandro where some 60 soldiers had already taken up position around the community, automatic weapons drawn.
The people of San Alejandro, also a Zapatista support community (bases de apoyo) also confronted the soldiers and barred their passage.
Soon the soldiers withdrew.

“People of Mexico and of the world,” the Good Government Council of La Garrucha wrote in a denunciation of these events released on June 4 and published in La Jornada online on June 6, “it will not be long before there is confrontation provoked by [President Felipe] Calderón, [Chiapas governor] Juan Sabines and Carlos Leonel Solórzano, municipal president of Ocosingo, who send there dogs of repression…”

Aggressions against Zapatista support communities have been building steadily since Calderon took office in December 2006. The military bases in Chiapas have been restructured to include Special Forces and air-borne capacity throughout the state. The government has reorganized various paramilitary organizations.
This has been extensively documented by the San Cristóbal-based organization CAPISE (Center for Political Analysis and Socio-economic Investigation).

Paramilitary organizations have invaded Zapatista territories throughout the state, often attacking Zapatista support communities.

In recent weeks the aggressions have escalated.

On May 19, federal agents and soldiers, arriving in helicopters and military convoy, entered the community of San Jerónimo Tuliljá, in the Caracol of La Garrucha, breaking into houses and pushing people around without explanation.

On May 22, a large group of armed men from the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) invaded the Zapatista Caracol of Morelia, cutting off the community’s electricity and attacking people in their homes throughout the night. The gunmen wounded over 20 Zapatistas, six of whom were taken to the hospital in serious condition.

But the aggressions are almost daily: kidnapping Zapatista supporters and taking them to local jails on invented charges, contaminating local wells, invading lands, cutting corn plants, leaving death threats for the community.

“It is as if we are seeing the preparations for what will be another Acteal,” said Subcomandante Marcos in a recent interview published in book form in Mexico, referring to the December 22, 1997 paramilitary massacre of 45 indigenous men, women, and children gathered in a church in the community of Acteal.
“But now they are not looking for a conflict between aggressors and defenseless people, but really a confrontation,” he said.

Zapatista autonomy is not only a threat to the perceived legitimacy of the state, but it is the structure of resistance that maintains and protects Zapatista territories, land recuperated through the 1994 uprising and cared for and cultivated since.

Ernesto Ledesma of CAPISE says that over 74,000 hectares of Zapatista territory are under thereat of invasion. The federal, state and local governments, and all three national political parties in Mexico, including the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) have joined together in the aggression against the Zapatistas, he says, using direct paramilitary land invasions, bureaucratic trickery through the federal secretary of agrarian affairs, and through federal expropriations.

“We are not drug traffickers,” the Good Government Council of La Garrucha wrote, “we are what we all well known to be, brothers and sisters and Mexico and the world. It is clear that they will be coming for us, the Zapatistas; they will be coming from the three levels of bad government, and we are ready to resist, and if necessary to comply with our slogan, which is: live for the fatherland or die for liberty (vivir por la patria o morir por la libertad).”

This is a brief and dramatic lesson in autonomy: with slingshots and machetes the Zapatistas are ready to refuse entrance to their communities to the soldiers and federal police. Most of the daily work of autonomy goes unseen and unreported: collective land management, autonomous schools and health clinics, community dispute resolution. But autonomy also means rejecting the authority of the state, rejecting the legitimacy of the state; and this rejection comes not only in the form of eloquent communiqués, but also staring down the soldiers with nothing other than a farm tool in hand.

John Gibler is a Global Exchange Media Fellow and author of Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt, forthcoming from City Lights. Gibler has been living and writing from Mexico since 2006. He has reported for Left Turn, In These Times, ZNet, Z Magazine, New Politics, Common Dreams, Yes! Magazine, Colorlines and Democracy Now!.

To read the Good Government Councils communiqués, Enlace Zapatista:

CAPISE is organizing observation brigades in Zapatista territories:
A long interview with Subcomandante Marcos was just published in book form in Mexico: Corte de Caja,

Background information on the aggressions against Zapatistas in English:

JBG Camino del Futuro denounces incursion of solidiers, police into Zapatista towns

Posted in denuncia, EZLN Communique with tags on June 17, 2008 by floweroftheword

The Road to the Future Good Government Council denounces the military incursion of 200 soldiers, along with local, state and judicial police into the Zapatista towns Hermenegildo Galeana and San Alejandro, in La Garrucha Caracol.




JUNE 4, 2008


From the Road to the Future Good Government Council (Junta de Buen Gobierno El Camino del Futuro)

To the people of Mexico and the world, to the comrades in the Other Campaign in Mexico and the world, to the national and international news media, to human rights defenders, to the honest non-governmental organizations

The Road to the Future Good Government Council makes the following denunciation:

1. A column was sighted consisting of a military convoy and public safety police, municipal police, and judicial agents at 9:00 in the morning southeastern time; there were 2 big trucks and 3 small trucks of soldiers, 2 public safety trucks, 2 municipal police trucks, an anti-riot tank, and a truckload of judicial agents.

2. All in all there were around 200 provocateurs.

3. Before entering the town of Garrucha, the headquarters of the Caracol, about 30 meters from the edge of the town, 3 trucks from the convoy stopped and 4 soldiers got out of a truck as if to outflank the town of Garrucha by using the road to our collective cornfield. The people reacted and organized themselves to eject the convoy. The soldiers immediately got back in their truck and continued along the road. Those in front were intimidating the people, taking photos and filming them as they waited for the other provocateurs.

4. Arriving at the spot where the soldiers from Patiwitz were stationed,another military convoy joined the column, which continued on its way to engage in another provocation.

5. They arrived at Rancho Alegre, a community known as Chapuyil.

6. They got out of the trucks and headed for the town of Hermenegildo Galeana, where all the people are Zapatista support bases, accusing the townspeople of growing marijuana in their fields.

7. People throughout the Zapatista area of Garrucha, including the autonomous authorities, are witness to the fact that no such fields exist. The Zapatistas here work in their cornfields and banana plantations. They are willing to struggle for freedom, justice, and democracy and resist any provocation whatsoever.

8. Around 100 soldiers, 10 public security police, and 4 judicial agents headed for the town of Galeana. All the repressors painted their faces to confuse people and to avoid being recognized in the hill country. They walked for a while on the road and then went into the hills on their way to the town.

9. The federal column was guided by a person named Feliciano Román Ruiz, who is known to be from the Ocosingo municipal police.

10. The townspeople of Galeana (men, women, girls, and boys) organized themselves to eject the troops, come what may.

11. They met up with the troops in the middle of the road and the melee began. All the Zapatista women, men, boys, and girls told the soldiers in no uncertain terms, “Go back to where you came from, you aren’t needed here. We want freedom, justice, and democracy -not soldiers.”

12. The soldiers said, “We came here because we know there’s marijuana here and we’re going on ahead come hell or high water.” That’s when the people took out their machetes, shovels, rocks, slingshots, ropes and whatever was at hand, and drove them back.

13. The soldiers said, “Well, this time we’re not going any further, but we’ll be back in two weeks and we’re going in there come hell or high water.”

14. They took another road down to the village of Zapatista support bases called San Alejandro where 9 vehicles with 40 soldiers and 10 policemen were waiting for them.

15. On their way down, they trampled the cornfield, which is the town’s only food source.

16. In the Zapatista town of San Alejandro, the 60 repressive agents took up their positions, ready for a confrontation.

17. The people reacted and used everything at hand to drive back the federal forces.

18. Soldiers from Toniná, Patiwitz, and San Quintín participated in the confrontation.

19. People of Mexico and the world, we want to tell you that it won’t be long before another confrontation occurs, provoked by Calderón and Juan Sabines and Carlos Leonel Solórzano, the municipal president of Ocosingo, who’ll call out their dogs from all the forces of repression. We are not drug dealers. As you know, we are brothers and sisters of Mexico and the world. It’s clear that they’re coming for us Zapatistas. All three levels of the bad government are coming after us, and we’re ready to resist them if that’s what’s necessary, just as our slogan says: We’ll live for our homeland or die for freedom.

20. People of Mexico and the world, you know that our struggle is a peaceful, political one. As it says in the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, it’s a peaceful, political struggle known as the Other Campaign. Just look where the violent provocation is coming from.

21. Comrades of the Other Campaign in Mexico and other countries, we ask you to be on the alert because the soldiers said they’ll be back in two weeks. We don’t want war. We want peace with justice and dignity. But we have no other choice than to defend ourselves, resist them, and eject them when they come looking for a confrontation with us in the towns of the Zapatista support bases.

22. All we can tell you is to look and see where the provocation is coming from. We’re now informing you of what’s going on, hopefully in time.

That’s all we have to say.


La Junta de Buen Gobierno

Elena Gordillo Clara Claribel Pérez López

Freddy Rodríguez López Rolando Ruiz Hernández