dorset chiapas solidarity

February 17, 2015

Five lights amidst the fog of the Bachajon conflict

Filed under: Autonomy, Bachajon, Corporations, Displacement, Human rights, Indigenous, La Sexta, Movement for Justice in el Barrio — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 9:04 pm


Five lights amidst the fog of the Bachajon conflict

by Aldabi Olvera


First Light: the project for a “Cancun for Chiapas”

A “Cancun for Chiapas”, the “Entrance to the Mayan World”, “the Mayan route, the end of an era, for you, a new journey”: all of this in the northern zone of Chiapas, a key location for the economic development plans of the state government. In 2007, media coverage took off with the announcement of the CIPP (Centro Integralmente Planeado Palenque, or “Palenque Holistically Planned Centre), a development that had been mothballed for eight years. The plan aimed to bring together a series of mega projects, taking in the waterfalls at Agua Azul and Misol Ha, the beaches at Catazaja, the Mayan ruins at Palenque and the surrounding Lacandon Forest. The concept included not only hotel developments, a theme park, golf course and residential and commercial development, but also an airport for Palenque (opened in 2014) and a motorway connecting San Cristobal de Las Casas and Palenque. This development prospect would affect at least seven municipalities in Chiapas: Catazajá, Chilón, Ocosingo, Salto de Agua, Tumbalá and Palenque.


Information obtained in a Point of Order in the federal senate, regarding the progress of the overall mega project as of 2010 (in Spanish)

Article in Spanish on the proposed San Cristobal – Palenque highway

Article in English from the Financial Times about the Agua Azul conflict


There is however an obstacle in in the way of these projects and their implementation, one which also lies between the ambitions of hotel and construction companies and the abundant nature of the region. This obstacle is the ancestral territory and the ejidos of the indigenous peoples of the region, in particular the Tseltal Mayans of San Sebastian Bachajon.

The Second Light: Ejido Territories and Defending the Land

It’s enough to flick through the novel Balun Canan to get a sense of the contempt of the colonisers, as well as the struggle for the land, which has been the experience of the Tseltal people for 522 years. After the Mexican revolution of 1910, land was redistributed to peasants through the communal structure of the ejido. This was also achieved after the 1994 Zapatista uprising, when indigenous people across Chiapas managed to recover other lands from the hands of big land-owners.

Today, these ejidos and communally-owned territories still exist. Some are forest; others are used for cattle ranching or for the cultivation of maize or coffee.

The Tseltal people of San Sebastian Bachajon were late in obtaining official recognition for the lands of their ejido, which only took place in 1980. The ejido’s lands cover around 70,000 hectares, making it one of the largest ejidos in the country. As in all ejidos, power to make decisions over any part its territory lies only with the ejido’s general assembly. The position of ejido commissioner (today occupied by Alejandro Moreno Gomez) has a role limited to executing decisions made by that assembly.

The current conflict in the ejido dates back to the launch of the CIPP project, and worsened with an armed eviction that took place on 2 February 2011. This was carried out by a group from the villages of Pamala and Xanil, headed by Manuel Jimenez Moreno and Juan Alvaro Moreno respectively, with the support of around 800 state and federal police. Following this, in March 2011 Franciso Guzman Jimenez, ex-commissioner of the San Sebastian Bachajon ejido, made an agreement with ministers from the government of ex-Governor of Chiapas, Juan Sabines Guerrero and with representatives of the village of Agua Azul, which handed over an area of land to the Chiapas state government and to the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas (CONANP, from its initials in Spanish). Under this agreement a tollbooth was set up on the road leading to the waterfalls, at the point where the ejido’s lands border those of neighbouring Tumbala municipality. None of this was done with the free, informed and prior consent of the ejido members.

In response, ejido members, including women, children and old people, set up their own tollbooth, pledging their support for the Zapatista movement’s Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Forest.

In February 2014, the Los Llanos ejido, located in the municipality of San Cristobal de Las Casas, and inhabited by Tsotsil Mayans, applied for an injunction against the new motorway which had been announced in November the previous year by the state Government Secretary General, Eduardo Ramirez Aguilar, on the grounds that it would affect their lands. In August 2014, an assembly in the ejido of San Jeronimo Bachajon (neighbouring the San Sebastian ejido) gave an emphatic no to the construction of the San Cristobal – Palenque motorway. From these actions arose the Movement for Defence of Life and Territory. On October 12, the Los Llanos ejido celebrated a day of resistance with indigenous peoples from other settlements and organizations, including those from San Sebastian Bachajon.


Third Light: Aggression and Violence by the State

Juan Vazquez Guzman, spokesman and coordinator of the Supporters of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Forest (“La Sexta”), was assassinated on 24 April 2013. The authorities have yet to shed any light on his murder, or to arrest anyone in connection with it. And then on 21 March 2014, Juan Carlos Gomez Silvano, the new coordinator of La Sexta in Bachajon was also murdered.

More than 120 members of this group have been detained by the municipal and state police at various moments since it was founded in 2007. Currently three political prisoners remain incarcerated in State Prison Number 12, at Yajalon, Chiapas: Juan Antonio Gomez Silvano, Mario Aguilar Silvano and Roberto Gomez Hernandez.


Tseltal Mayans Arrested and Tortured in Chiapas (in Spanish)

Testimonies of Four Indigenous Prisoners in Chiapas (in Spanish) Tejido testimonial de cuatro presos indígenas en Chiapas


Coinciding with the start of the Festival of Resistance and Rebellions against Capitalism on 21 December 2014, members of La Sexta decided to re-occupy the land where the toll-booth had been installed. On 9 January they were evicted by more than 800 police. Last weekend, they again decided to recover the toll-booth by blocking the Ocosingo – Palenque highway at the turn-off for Agua Azul. This was achieved, at the cost of being attacked with rubber bullets and firing of live ammunition. Helicopters hovered over the area, and over the houses of La Sexta members, taking photos. At the current moment, according to the available information, police and persons linked to the ejido commissioner have control of the Agua Azul waterfalls.

Fourth Light: Legal Battles Occurring alongside Territorial Defence

No-one has consulted them, no-one has asked if they need, or are in agreement with the planned mega-projects. Not to speak of respecting the autonomy that they have over their ancestral lands. For this reason the legal defence of Bachajon is based on agrarian law, on Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and on Chiapas’s Law for Dialogue, Conciliation and A Dignified Peace. These grant indigenous peoples the right to free, informed and prior consent in relation to their lands and natural resources, and the right to free determination of their affairs, among other things.

Mariano Moreno Guzman, an elderly member of the community and an ex-ejido commissioner who was one of the ejido members who secured the original registration of its lands, has represented the community in a legal appeal (case reference 274/2011) to the Seventh District Judge in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the state capital of Chiapas. On 29 September last year the Third Collegiate Tribunal in Tuxtla ruled in favour of sending the dispute for adjudication to the federal Supreme Court, noting the following:

“The appeal is justified on the grounds that its legal case seeks to defend the collective rights of the community against the complicity of the ejido commissioner with the expropriatory acts of the federal government and State of Chiapas. Various claims are made in it, including denial and lack of access to justice by indigenous peoples, their right to be consulted, and the need for their free, prior and informed consent”.

On 19 November, the Second Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, decided not to accept the case. As a result, the case was returned to the Third Collegiate Tribunal in Tuxtla Gutierrez so that this body could rule on the issue of the alleged violations of indigenous people’s rights.

20150208_095003_Mx_Chiapas_Bachajon_w1024_par_ValK (1)

Fifth Light: Counter Propaganda and the Free Press on the Bachajon Case

Various media in Chiapas have visited Bachajon to research news stories and documentaries on what is going on there. Websites such as Koman Ilel, Kolectivo Zero and Pozol, as well as Subversiones and Radio Zapote (in addition to other networks) have published bulletins, videos and photos about the area. Members of La Sexta in Bachajon have also worked with the Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio in New York, as this organisation has supported the ejido since 2011, maintaining a blog for denunciations, petitions and opinion pieces (see

A year ago Másde131 [which originally published this article in Spanish] made a documentary which explains the wider context [available at this link in Spanish; English subtitles can also be selected when viewing the video] The Struggle for Life and Death at the Agua Azul Waterfalls.


Translated by Fionn O’Sullivan





December 31, 2014

Yaqui, Acteal, Ayotzinapa: The Covenant in Xochicuautla during the Festival of Resistance and Rebellion

Filed under: Indigenous, Zapatista — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 12:00 pm


Yaqui, Acteal, Ayotzinapa: The Covenant in Xochicuautla during the Festival of Resistance and Rebellion

By: Aldabi Olvera 


Photo: Erika Lozano


More or less, this was what the Yaqui spokesman said in Spanish:

“We come here to uphold the oath we made in Vícam in 2007:

An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Earlier, the spokesman had spoken in Yaqui and among the message of his tribe could be made out: “mourners,”,“Ayotzinapa,”  “Mario Luna,” “Fernando Jiménez.”

Then: “This December 6th was the hundredth anniversary of the storming of Mexico City by the revolutionary armies. We are sure that the Yaqui group which has come should perform a ceremony like this.  This custom that carries deep meaning is not performed just anywhere“.

Ten o’clock, World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion, Ñatho community of San Francisco Xochicuautla, Lerma, State of Mexico, the arbour where the Yaqui Tribe twice performed the Deer Dance before the deeply moved gaze of those who attended to share the festival; the Yaqui ceremony on lands worked by the people and collectives in labour so that this covenant could be made.




And a circle of colours, of people with different clothing, people with very different words; a circle with the colours of the Otomí-Ñatho peoples, the Triqui peoples, the Nahua from Tlanixco, Tsotsiles from Acteal, Tseltales from Bachajón; a circle where the deep pains of Mexico are in fellowship. On the one side, under the arbour, the Yaqui Tribe, and on the other side, looking at the tribe, being with them, other indigenous peoples. Groups of adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle and the free media make the halo which listens and will carry this message to other sides. In the middle of all of them are a cross and a painting of a virgin of Guadalupe which says: “Rebellion. Resistance.”

Different colours. The deep pains of Mexico. The same pain.

A few minutes after the start of the ceremony, the families of the 43 normalistas from Ayotzinapa come to stand behind the indigenous peoples.


“We understand you” said the voice of the Yaqui to those in pain.

They understand them. Porfirio Díaz sent the Yaqui Tribe into exile in the south of the country. Álvaro Obregón massacred them. Here they continue.

“It is our duty to fight for those who fought, who even gave their lives so that we could be here, and it is our duty to leave the conditions so that we will still be here in 200 years. We should be afraid, not for ourselves, but for what we cannot do for the future.”


Tomás Rojo, the spokesman who was leading this word, called a day before the ceremony for the mandate and petition from the traditional authorities of his tribe. Tomás has spent several months exiled from Sonora, touring the country to disseminate the story of his people:

“We are going to propose an embrace.”

The Yaqui are beginning to embrace, one by one, advancing to the members of other peoples. At the end, they also embrace the fathers and mothers of Ayotzinapa.

The covenant closes.

“It seemed that they made the shape of a snake,” says someone from my collective.



“With this ceremony we signed a sacred covenant of solidarity with the sisters and brothers from the different original peoples of Mexico and the families of Ayotzinapa (…)”

“(…) A sacred covenant that requires no papers, only the word and the true commitment, the territory of the tribe has been marked, this means that here the struggle will go on forever as brothers and sisters.”

During the ceremony, the Yaqui performed the handing over of a reed mat:

“We tell you our archive, because here are all the scenarios of our ancestors, cultures, heritages, territories, struggles and wisdom, the four cardinal points, all of this is the meaning of the ceremony. It is not done just anywhere, but as now is struggle and war, we do it here so we can have the strength of nature, our ancestors and our forebears, the first inhabitants who fought so we could have Land and Freedom.”

Also, as in the time of the Spanish invasion, they drew a line in the territory of Xochicuautla:

“Now it is marked here and that means that for centuries and forever the struggle of the Yaqui peoples and the covenant will remain in these lands, any fight or confrontation with the bad governments and we will be here (…).”

These quotes were taken from a text which the Tlachinollan Mountain Rights Centre entitled  The Yaqui Tribe Strengthens the struggle of the families of Ayotzinapa and the Peoples of the CNI. The words are from Don Librado Valenzuela Valencia, member of the Council of Elders of the community of Vicam.

Mole and carnitas, pork in green sauce and mash, romeritos, vegetable soup, atole of oats and corn, of guava, tea and coffee: the food that is brought by the people of Huitzizilapan and Tlanixco, the food of the Yaqui Tribe and Xochicuautla; the six prisoners who are defenders of the water, the voice of the children of the Nahua who are shut away in government prisons, while the paramilitaries responsible for the Acteal massacre in 1997 are released, the gasping voice of the former prisoner Alberto Patishtan: “Thanks to you, here I am free,” the story of his hunger strikes, La Voz del Amate and the appeal from prison from the prisoner, also Tsotsil, Alejandro Diaz Sántiz.

The blankets that head off the frost, the white grass of Xochicuautla, the warmth of humanity against the “hard and strong cold of this territory,” the songs of the night, the dances that warm the spirit, the fires, the Temazcal, the documentaries about the fishing in resistance of the Cucapá community, the opening film about the struggle of the Otomi peoples against the road; for all this Xochicuautla thanked and exalted with a small white bag full of native seeds from the Otomi-Mexica Forest. They are to be sown throughout the world. They travel with that commitment.

And also the gathering, the covenant of these peoples with those who resist in and from the City, the collectives from the schools such as UAM, the story of the Mexican Electricians Union, “several of our compañeros have fallen on the way,” the history, the meeting with the whole world, the voice of those who come from France fighting an airport, from Canada fighting mining, and memory from Argentina facing dispossession today and dictatorship yesterday.

Finally, the people of San Salvador Atenco share their word against the new airport Peña Nieto announced this year:

“Here we continue, the peoples of Lake Texcoco.”

There is always joy in resistance. The Dance of the Muledrivers of Xochicuautla is heard again. The mothers and fathers of Ayotzinapa eat, and look with attention to the indigenous peoples. Because our pain must be like the death of a tree, the destruction of a river, the death of a partner; for just as you care for your land, how will we not fight for our children. Because I’m also indigenous Mixtec and my brother is going to teach the children of the sierra who do not speak Spanish.

My brother is Mixtec. He is disappeared.

The sound is heard of the Dance of the Muledrivers of Xochicuautla, which represents the struggle of the serfs against the masters and against the thieves (Carlos Salinas, Enrique Peña Nieto on this occasion). The sound is heard of the Dance of the Muledrivers of Xochicuautla and the mothers and fathers of Ayotzinapa come close to the profound dance of the indigenous peoples.

And their seeds are carried in small white bags.

And a banner with a picture of Emiliano Zapata:

“Land and Freedom.

No more ecocide.

San Francisco Xochicuautla.”

“We hope so much it’s now over,” says a compañera from Huitzizilapan, which is, like Xochicuautla, defending their territory against the Toluca-Naucalpan highway, concessioned to the Higa Group of Armando Hinojosa Cantu.

“Rather, now comes the good,” says a compañero from DF.

The next day, Christmas Eve, it starts raining continuously, insistently. The water from the sky highlights the colour of the new murals which carry the face of David Ruíz García, an indigenous Otomi who died on the return trip from the homage in La Realidad, Chiapas, to José Luis Solis, “Galeano,” the Zapatista murdered on 2nd May 2014.

A member of the cooperative #AlertaXochicuautla says:

“The mountain is sad because all the compas left.”

The social networks answer:

“We are still in Xochi!”

The covenant is sealed. The new territory of resistances has been defined. As the song which was sung by the choir of children from Xochicuautla says:

“Their way of death will not pass.”




December 21, 2014

Indigenous from Bachajón reclaim the land at the entrance to the Agua Azul Waterfalls on the eve of the Festival of Resistance and Rebellion

Filed under: Bachajon, Displacement, Indigenous, La Sexta, Paramilitary — Tags: , , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:50 pm



By: Aldabi Olvera



San Francisco Xochicuautla, December 21, 2014 – The Tzeltal people of San Sebastián Bachajón, Chiapas, decided in assembly to recover the lands where they had a toll booth, on the way to the waterfalls of Agua Azul. At seven o’clock this December 21, the date of the opening of the #FestivalRyR in Xochicuautla, State of Mexico, the indigenous began to gather at the place.

The people of Bachajón, adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, released a communiqué when they reclaimed their territory. The communiqué reads:

“We hold the three levels of bad government, represented by the paramilitary leaders Enrique Peña Nieto, Manuel Velasco Coello and Leonardo Guirao Aguilar, responsible for any aggression against our compañeros and compañeras who will be guarding the recuperated lands which legally and legitimately belong to the Tzeltal people of San Sebastián Bachajón and not to the bad government, for this reason we demand that they refrain from approaching with their police or paramilitary forces.”

Since they began to defend their ejido, two members of the Sixth from Bachajón have been killed. Juan Vázquez Guzmán, the 24th of April, 2013, and Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, the 21st of March, 2014. Three more are imprisoned in the CERESO at Yajalón, Chiapas: Juan Antonio Gómez Silvano, Mario Aguilar Silvano and Roberto Gómez Hernández.

In the communiqué, the adherents to the Sixth ask the peoples and communities of Mexico and the world to remain aware of what may happen to them.

The territory taken from the Tzeltal indigenous of Bachajón borders the municipality of Tumbalá. On February 2, 2011, about 800 members of the police took the tollbooth that the people of Bachajón had to obtain resources (five pesos per car) for various community expenses.

The former Commissioner Francisco Guzmán Jiménez gave this part of the territory (a quarter hectare) to the municipality without consulting the people, in a March 2011 agreement.

The adherents to the Sixth decided to present the amparo 274/2011 under the designation of “surrogate representation” exercised by Mariano Moreno Guzman, elder of the community and founder of the ejido.

On September 29 the Third Collegiate Court in Tuxtla Gutierrez, on resolving the Amparo in Review 224/2014 against the dismissal of amparo 274/2011 issued by the Seventh District Judge in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, unanimously reversed that judgment and ordered the case to be sent to the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation.

resistirBachajón’s lawyers have provided a copy of this resolution to Másde131 with the file number 564/2014.

“This is configured correctly, due to the legal action which seeks to protect the collective rights of the people faced with the complicity incurred by the ejidal Commissioner, with the acts of dispossession by the authorities of the federal government and the State of Chiapas.”

The Collegiate Court, in addition to recognizing the legal and legitimate legal action brought by Mariano Moreno Guzmán, determined to refer the matter to the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, for purposes of exercising its power to resolve the basis of the matter raised by the ejidatario Mariano Moreno Guzmán, adherent to the Sixth Declaration.

“He notes that the authorities carried out the dispossession of commonly used land of the ejidal nucleus, in the presence of agents of public safety, by the responsible authorities.”

“Relevant aspects arise, such as the denial and lack of access to justice for indigenous peoples, the respect of their right to consultation, and the granting of free, prior and informed consent.”

It speaks about the guarantee of “the protection of the human rights of those facing harassment and intimidation by state authorities” and “the protection, use, possession and enjoyment” that people have of their territories, rights guaranteed in the international instruments, Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Law for Dialogue, Reconciliation and dignified Peace in Chiapas.

It also says of the text of the Collegiate Court:

“The resolution of this case would open the possibility of issuing guiding criteria regarding the scope of the rights of indigenous peoples and the effects that the implementation of government projects could have on them, which could put their territories at risk.”

The court therefore asked the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation to exercise its power of resolution in the knowledge of the application for review.

The Second Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation is analyzing the request made by the Third Collegiate Court of Tuxtla Gutierrez. It started with the review of the record number 564/2014; this was referred for the drafting of a report as to whether or not they review the matter, to the Minister Margarita Luna Ramos.

However, the Supreme Court decided not to take the case on November 19, 2014 and to return it to the Third Collegiate Court in Tuxtla Gutierrez to proceed to resolve the matter.


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