Marc Becker's Home Page


Trip Reports
Find on

Acteal Commemoration Photos 

December 2000

We traveled to Mexico on December 14 just as the Popocatepetl volcano started to blow its top.  This caused United Airlines to cancel our flight and we had to switch to Mexicana de Aviación.
We arrived in San Cristóbal in the highlands of Chiapas on December 18.  The cathedral was the location of peace talks between the Zapatistas and the Mexican government in 1995.
Cloudforest Initiatives organized our trip, and there were a total of 10 people on the delegation in addition to Tomás and Iris, our leaders.
The weather in Chiapas was cold and rainy, so we enjoyed any opportunity we had to sit in the sun and warm up and dry off.
Ethnobotanist Héctor Mejía took us on a visit to the Huitepec Cloudforest Reserve.
In the reserve, we learned about the native flora and fauna in Chiapas.
Taking a picture of Kevin taking a picture of Hans.
We had the privilege of visiting the Tzotzil-Maya autonomous community of Magdalenas de la Paz.
At Magdalenas de la Paz we visited a women's literacy program which builds on Paulo Freire's pedagogy of the oppressed.
We watched while Tómas and Iris led study groups.
We also visited an ironwork project at Magdalenas de la Paz.
This and other development projects at Magdalenas de la Paz are designed to foster self-sufficiency.
Cloudforest Initiatives also works with Mut Vitz, a cooperative that grows and markets fair trade coffee.
Kate Bobrow, a fair trade exporter living in Chiapas, explained the significance of textiles to us.  Here she is holding a backstrap loom.
This bag features vulture designs.
Maya women from autonomous communities in Chiapas have organized a store "Mujeres por la Dignidad" to market their products.
The highlight of the trip, of course, was the visit to Acteal. 
The sign welcomes us to the third aniversary commemoration of the December 22, 1997 massacre.
While waiting to enter the community, military vehicles passed by on the road and took pictures of us.  The intimidation continues.
This is the ravine where the paramilitaries killed members of the Bees.
The 45 massacred people are buried in this crypt which is decorated with murals and altars.
The community plans to build a new church on the top of this crypt which is located in the ravine where the massacre happened.
45 people holding candles formed a cross as the commemoration service began.
In a cold drizzle, a crowd gathered for the commemoration.
The commemoration.
Las Abejas leader Alonso López coordinated the commemoration.
Participants brought gifts to an altar on the stage.
Four church leaders were present at the commemoration: Gonzalo Ituarte, head of the Dominican order in Chiapas; Felipe Arizmendi, the new Bishop of Chipas; Samuel Ruiz, former Bishop of Chiapas; and Raúl Vera, who was in line to be Ruiz's successor but was overlooked.
Called "Tatic" (Father) by the Maya and the Red Bishop by his distracters because of his support of Indian causes, Samuel Ruiz was forced to resign as Bishop of Chiapas because of the mandatory retirement age of 75.  He returned to lead the commemorative mass.

Raúl Vera, who was to take Tatic's place in Chiapas, and Felipe Arizmendi who did.

Survivors of the Acteal massacre fled to the refugee camp at Polhó, located just up the road.

When we left Mexico on December 23 Popo was much calmer, though experts claimed that the pressure may be building for another larger explosion.
Click on images to view larger photo.
2000 Acteal Commemoration /

| Marc Becker's Home Page | |