||Third Anniversary Acteal Commemoration|
From December 18-23, 2000, we traveled to Chiapas, Mexico on an Acteal Commemoration Delegation organized by Cloudforest Initiatives and Michigan Peace Teams. Acteal, a small Tzotzil-Maya village in the municipality of Chenalhó in the highlands of Mexico's southern state of Chiapas, was the site of a December 22, 1997, massacre of 45 people, mostly women and children, by paramilitaries affiliated with the ruling PRI government. This massacre was particularly insidious because the massacred were members of Las Abejas, The Bees, a Christian pacifist group who had been praying for peace in the region when they were assassinated with high-power automatic weapons originating in the United States.
Three years ago we traveled to the neighboring community of Oventic Aguascalientes II shortly after the massacre to help build an autonomous Maya secondary school. During that trip we interviewed survivors from Acteal and other PRI-sponsored attacks in the refugee camp of Polhó. In a very small way we also experienced during that trip a sense of the terror under which the Maya live as a threat from a paramilitary band to attack our camp caused us to evacuate under cover of night and seek refuge in the mountains.
This trip allowed us to witness changes in Mexico since the December 1 inauguration of Vicente Fox, the first president to take power in over 70 years not affiliated with the PRI, and to observe the current situation facing the Maya Indians in Chiapas. Reports in the United States indicate that Fox is making positive improvements to the situation in Chiapas, but people told us that these changes are superficial and insignificant unless they are accompanied by deeper structural changes. Specifically, we observed the following:
On December 22, Fox began the first military withdrawal by dismantling a base in the community of Amador Hernandez and on December 30 seventeen accused Zapatistas were released from prison. While some may see these as hopeful signs that Fox will comply with the San Andrés peace accords, it is clear that we need to remain ever vigilant if true peace with justice is to come to Chiapas.
Here are some pictures from this trip and a talk "In the Footsteps of Martin Luther King: The Bees and Non-Violent Resistance in Chiapas, Mexico." Please let us know if you have comments or questions.