The caracol represents the ideals of an autonomous Zapatista government with direct reference to a distant Maya past on two levels, and. Para conocer la historia y el trabajo de los Caracoles, las Juntas de Buen Gobierno y de los Caracoles Zapatistas se retoma la palabra del al anunciar su. Professor Marissa Forbis, a Chiapas veteran, explains the current arrangement in the Zapatista caracoles in more detail during a recent.

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A series of articles on indigenous autonomy in the Zapatista communities of Chiapas. The Translations are by Laura Carlsen. We are producing this page in honour of the tenth anniversary of the Caracoles, as the articles were originally produced to mark the completion of their first year.

The rains have flooded the land, mud has washed out the roads, the maize has been harvested, and the indigenous people have doubled their stores of maize seed. A white cardboard sign advertises different methods of contraception and vaccination campaigns for kids and adults.

In the line, women carry vaccination cards issued by the autonomous government for their children. Most recently, the biggest achievement in health has been the inauguration of an operating room.

Meanwhile, the woman who recently had the operation is recovering well. Health is one of the areas where the most progress has been made here in Zapatista territory.

Celebrating the Caracoles

This jungle area on the Guatemalan border is not without its problems, both internal and external, but preventive medicine campaigns are multiplying. For example, health commissions in many communities now clean latrines with lime on a weekly basis. This zone has one of the two largest autonomous hospitals in rebel territory. It serves the four autonomous townships but, like all resistance projects, it has caused plenty of problems for the Zapatista communities.

But the hospital exists and now competes with the big state hospital in Guadalupe Tepeyac that was established injust before the Zapatista uprising, by then-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari. This white elephant was run by the Red Cross until Februarywhen it was scandalously taken over by the Mexican Army without any action by the Geneva Convention before eventually being handed back to the state health authorities.

It is common to find members of the PRI and other organizations in the autonomous hospital. The challenge of providing healthcare not only to members of the base communities, but to all the population in the area is gigantic.

It was built with the support of an Italian organization and has dental and herbal clinics and a clinical lab. In the entire zone there are health promoters dealing with primary illnesses in the same number of community health houses. In the main hospital, in the three municipal clinics, and in the community health houses, the base communities are provided with free consultations and, when available, free medicine.

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The health promoters explain that up until several months ago the hospital functioned zzpatistas health promoters who were economically supported by the four townships. They were given pesos a month each to stay at the hospital full time. In total, the communities spent more thanpesos over three years.

The money came from a warehouse project in the zone.

Three men and three women answered the call, and they left their families and are now working as interns. The Board supports them with food, travel, shoes, and clothes. These interns are conscientious and working for their people and benefiting from the opportunity to learn about health.

There is a new building nearly ready in La Realidad. It is an herbalist lab and center for preserving foods, and it forms part of a health project that is the pride of this zone. The project has meant the empowerment of more than women herbalists, bone healers, and midwives.

What is Zapatista Autonomy? | Schools for Chiapas

They know how to cure bones and sprains, the use of herbs, and how to deliver children, but all this tradition was being lost because of the use of pharmaceutical medicines. So we agreed in the villages to make a call to those men and women who know traditional healing.


They said it was a gift that could not be passed on because it comes from within. We then started discussions on health in the villages to raise awareness, and as a result many people changed their minds and decided to participate in the zapaitstas. There were 20 men and women, great people from our villages, who were appointed as teachers of traditional medicine with pupils, most of them women. As a result, the number of midwives, bone healers, and herbalists in our communities has multiplied.

The new herbalist laboratory has a story behind it. The village understood and agreed that it was fair to use the money for the health of everyone.

The second step was to talk to the donors. Another area that zapatistqs communities have been working on, despite all zaatistas and overcoming internal obstacles and governmental counter-insurgency campaigns, is education.

The idea came about because most of us have not been zapayistas, or if we have, it was a very bad official education. And seven years later we now have three classes zqpatistas education promoters able to give classes in their villages. In our schools we teach the history of Mexico, but real history—what has happened to those who struggle in this country. In and we taught other groups of promoters and finished with more than indigenous people able to teach classes in their villages.

While the interview with the Good Government Board was taking place, a course with more than 70 promoters was coming to an end in La Realidad.

In the four rebel municipalities in the jungle zone there are 42 new community schools: The schools have cement floors, wooden walls, and laminated roofs. They all have a blackboard, desks, the Mexican flag and, of course, the Zapatista flag, and some have tape recorders and other teaching tools.

We do not blame the government teachers, but they leave their classes a lot because they say they have to attend meetings. The Good Government Board is composed of seven men and only one woman. Three out of the four autonomous councils do not have a woman member and only one autonomous township—Tierra y Libertad—has a woman member.

The other two townships in this zone, General Emiliano Zapata and Libertad de Los Pueblos Mayas, do not have any women responsible for education. The area of health is no better for women. There are only seven female promoters in the four municipalities—five in Libertad de Los Pueblos Mayas and two in Tierra y Libertad. We need more women to participate, but the change must begin in the family.

Unfortunately, there is still a belief that if daughters leave the village they will get up to no good. Because of this we need to strengthen discussion and work. Sapatistas so we need to raise awareness more among husbands and fathers. They need to get it into their heads that men and women have the same rights. In the community of Veracruz, the Zapatistas run a warehouse that supplies hundreds of small community shops, both Zapatista and non-Zapatista.

After the success of this store, another one was opened in Betania and another in Playa Azul. The stores supply the villagers throughout the zone with oil, soap, salt, sugar, beans, maize, and coffee. During the past three-and-a-half years, the profits from the Veracruz store—overpesos—have gone to support the health promoters in the main hospital.

The profits also go to support the travel of the autonomous councils and other parts of the organization. In total,pesos were spent to support various activities. In these stores, maize bought by the Board is traded in a project aimed at stopping intermediaries coyotes from buying up maize at low prices and selling at high prices.

They also have a passenger truck that travels from Las Margaritas to San Quintin. Its first profits went toward the creation of a regional food store. What we feel most is that we have a lot of responsibility. This is a rebel region, a place of poverty and extreme marginalization, and also the Zapatista territory most visited by people from all over the world. In the first year of autonomous self-government, 4, visitors came here from across the globe.


It has a long central street running through it, where new buildings seem to pop up all the time—cooperatives, the offices of the autonomous municipality and of the Good Government Board, the health clinic, an auditorium, and dormitories. They explain that education is one of the demands of the EZLN, and since the Zapatistas have looked for a way of organizing education in their communities.

In the beginning, they contacted teachers who worked in the state schools and invited them to participate in Zapatista-style education. After analyzing the problem, the Zapatistas invited a group of young people to Oventic on Dec. They were students who had not yet grown accustomed to earning salaries.

Nineteen young people arrived that day who were convinced of the need for education, and agreed to receive training over the next two years before enlisting in the secondary school. Planning for the courses was carried out collectively. There zapatsitas endless meetings where people from all over the zone discussed the needs of the communities and planned the courses and study programs. The secondary school now offers classes in language, communication, math, social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, the Tzotzil language, and production.

What csracoles is that here they gain the tools to be able to recognize their rights and to stand up for themselves. Without a doubt, education motivates our struggle and strengthens the autonomy of our people. Official education tells us carwcoles there are poor people and rich people and that poverty is our lot. We all have a right to be educated.

In Los Altos, when students finish their secondary education they are asked as part of their graduation what they can do to help their community. They choose to help in areas such as agro-ecology, primary education, working in the trade offices, working in pharmacies, etc.

Two classes of students have now graduated. In the first, of 21 pupils only three were women and only five women were in the second group of 19 pupils. But little by little women are waking up and realizing that they have a right to take part in other experiences. And it is precisely through education that Tzotzil women are beginning to see other opportunities.

Autonomous education is the basis of the consciousness of our communities, and arising from that we can change the situation of indigenous women, because they are capable of doing any kind of work, not only being mothers and making handicrafts. This is the only one of the five zones that began organizing its autonomous education programs with a secondary school the other four started with primary schools. Now some of those who graduated from secondary school give classes in the newly created primary schools.

In the last year, since the advent of zaaptistas Good Government Board, they have organized a single education system for carafoles whole zone.

Now more than education promoters give classes in as many communities. The problem in this zone is different from that of other townships, since here many official teachers abandoned the schools and the schools were opened again by the autonomous governments.

Many other schools have been built in the meantime and more are under construction. The secondary school was built through the U. This project faces many challenges and has had its problems.