dorset chiapas solidarity

February 9, 2017

Call for the jTatik Samuel jCanan Lum 2018 Recognition Award

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 10:45 am



Call for the jTatik Samuel jCanan Lum 2018 Recognition Award


samuelPhoto@Denuncia Publica

On January 26, in San Cristobal de Las Casas, the call for jTatik Samuel jCanan Lum 2018 Recognition Award was launched. This call is extended to social and civil organizations, churches and religious groups, groups and grassroots organizations to participate in the promotion and presentation of candidates to receive this recognition in 2018 as part of its sixth instalment.

The “JTatic Samuel jCanan Lum” Recognition aims at recognizing the work of women and men, organizations and groups that have been characterized by their contribution to the people in the construction of community and/or regional alternatives, as well as their work for unity and peaceful social transformation, as well as spreading and encouraging this work.

The sixth instalment will take place in January 2018. The recognition has its roots in the year 1999, when after 40 years of service in the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas, of accompanying and defending the then smaller ones of the Mexican southeast, the Zoque, Chol, Tojolabal, Tsotil, Tseltal peoples of Chiapas, recognized Tatik Samuel Ruiz as jCanan Lum/Caretaker of the People.


March 2, 2016

Visit of Pope Francis to Mexico and San Cristobal de Las Casas

Filed under: Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:54 am



Visit of Pope Francis to Mexico and San Cristobal de Las Casas



Photo @ Alejandra Carrilo


A few days ago the bishops of the diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas published a letter about the visit of Pope Francis on February 15, including criticisms of the organization of the event: “it still pains us in our hearts that many of you, indigenous and mestizos, from near and far, could not enter the place where mass was celebrated, in spite of having arrived very early, having your entrance ticket, and having made a great effort to come. We do not know if it was only disorganization of the Presidential General Staff, on whom entrance depended, of if there were other perverse and exclusive intentions. What happened was unjust, inhumane, inexplicable, and very painful. This did not depend on the diocese, but on the federal civil authorities. We express our solidarity with those who couldn’t enter and make our word known to those responsible.”

On another note, it is important to mention that during the Pope’s mass in San Cristobal, which included some common rituals in the indigenous religious ceremonies and which had parts in regional languages such as Tsotsil, Tseltal and Ch’ol, religious celebration in indigenous languages was formalized by papal decree.

Another act of Francis, which had very little media coverage, was the visit to the tomb of Samuel Ruiz Garcia, who was bishop of San Cristobal for 40 years. “This visit, even if short and undervalued, is a very important sign to understand the type of church that Pope Francis wants to promote. With this visit, Francis is supporting the more than 40 years that Samuel had as bishop promoting an autochthonous church in Chiapas, a church where being Catholic does not imply ceasing to be indigenous. This church, more coherent with the message of the gospels than with the dogmas of Rome was criticized and attacked by his ‘brother’ bishops for a long time. With this visit Francis says Samuel and his episcopal practice were correct, five years after his death.”

The other notable locations that the Pope visited during his trip to Mexico from February 12 to 17 were the State of Mexico, with high levels of femicide; Ciudad Juarez, also known for its high levels of femicide and the exploitation of workers in sweatshops; and Michoacan, which stands out for violence related to organized crime.



February 21, 2016

On the Occasion of the Pope’s Visit, Remembering Don Samuel Ruiz

Filed under: Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:24 pm



On the Occasion of the Pope’s Visit, Remembering Don Samuel Ruiz

By Laura Carlsen


Pope Francis, with Bishop Raul Vera, visits the tomb of Bishop Samuel Ruiz


A Man of Peace: Don Samuel Ruiz 1924-2011

Note: On February 15, Pope Francis visited the southern state of Chiapas. It was here that indigenous peoples rose up against the neoliberal system and centuries of injustice on Jan. 1, 1994.  In another gesture that showed that this Pope is not the traditional Vatican company man, the Argentine pope visited the grave of Don Samuel Ruiz, the Bishop of San Cristobal de las Casas, who took up the indigenous cause for justice as his own and as an obligation of the church. Who was Samuel Ruiz? And why did the Catholic Church’s highest authority pay reverence to a man who in many ways defied the church hierarchy? I attended the mass on the death of Don Sam in 2011. Here is the account:

It was a remarkable mass for a remarkable man.

The news spread rapidly yesterday morning of the death of Bishop Samuel Ruiz. He died at the age of 86, the day that marked 51 years since his ordination as Bishop of the Diocese of San Cristobal. By 2:30 the Mexico City church had filled with an unusual group of religious leaders, peace activists and figures who have marked Mexican politics over the years. All recalled their work alongside Tatik (“father” in Tzeltal) with a bittersweet blend of loss and gratitude.

I sat in the pews, listening to the first strains of “métale a la marcha, métale al tambor, métale que traigo un pueblo en mi voz…” (Join the march, join the drum, join in, I carry the people in my voice…) watching the faces of hundreds of committed people who in various moments of a long and full life walked alongside Don Sam, El caminante. A history that changed Mexico forever flooded into the room.

Bishop Raúl Vera recalled that Samuel Ruiz arrived in the state of Chiapas to face a reality he had not imagined, a reality that many in Mexico didn’t know existed. He set out to travel to the far corners of the region– not an easy task–and saw with his own eyes the scars of the plantation-owners’ whips on the backs of indigenous men and heard the accounts of how young girls were routinely forced to have their virginity “tested” (lost) by the owners when they decided to marry, among other terrible examples of the feudal conditions his new parishioners suffered. He encountered a system of oppression and brutality that changed his life and he decided the system had to change, through the word of God and an intense social commitment.

It’s worth mentioning that Bishop Raúl Vera came to know his counterpart when the Church sent him as a “coadjutor” to Ruiz in 1995, presumably to temper his radical influence. The opposite happened. In what Vera describes as a conversion experience, he encountered the conditions that led Don Samuel to embrace a church of and for the poor. He soon became a partner in bringing the church down to the people and building a movement for its indigenous members to gain their rightful place in the church, and in society. To this day, Don Raúl remains a successor to the work of Don Samuel. Now based in Coahuila, his is a strong voice in defence of human rights as Mexico suffers a new phase of violence and repression.

Father Heriberto Cruz recounted that the discussion among some members of the church, initiated in large part by Don Samuel based on his experience in Chiapas in those early days, did not just centre on the ecclesiastical concern of how the church could alleviate the burdens of its members. Ruiz and others began to ask themselves what role the church itself played in their oppression, and how to break that oppression. A deep critique of the role of traditional methods of evangelization in suppressing indigenous culture followed. Ruiz learned to speak Tzotzil and Tzeltal and became conversant with other indigenous languages of the region. He insisted on respect for indigenous cultures–another factor that would bring him into conflict with some elements of the Church that criticized what they viewed as the excessive syncretism of his theology and practices.

Don Samuel Ruiz formed part of and led a movement within the Roman Catholic Church that based its theology on the Vatican II commitment to greater lay participation and the “option for the poor” that shifted attention to the need to serve the historically downtrodden. It also put forth the idea that the church cannot ignore injustice without being complicit.

These would become the principles Don Sam acted on.  As mediator in the Zapatista indigenous uprising of 1994, Ruiz helped create the conditions for the new indigenous movement that marked not only Mexico but the world. His work as leader of the National Mediation Commission (CONAI) led to an unprecedented dialogue that resulted in the San Andrés Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture, signed and later violated by the federal government.

Today, the Accords stand as a tribute to his work and the work of scores of indigenous leaders. They also stand as a tragic reminder that the word of the powerful cannot be trusted. But the spirit of emancipation and peaceful dialogue codified in the Accords survives in the individuals who gathered at the mass for Don Samuel Ruiz, one of the principal architects of the peace process. It also lives among the thousands of indigenous people who awaited to receive his remains in his beloved state of Chiapas.

Don Samuel insisted that the church of the poor needed a human rights organization in Chiapas, faced with the extreme human rights violations taking place. In 1989, he founded the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Centre for Human Rights. The Centre’s mission is to “walk alongside and at the service of the poor, excluded and organized people who seek to overcome their socioeconomic and political situation, by taking direction and strength from them to contribute to their project of building a new society where people and communities fully exercise and enjoy their rights.” The mission embodies the strong belief that the church cannot be separated from the struggle for social justice and that it should play a supporting role rather than pronouncing from on high.

These beliefs often put Bishop Ruiz at odds with the powers-that-be in government and the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. They also made him a target of the local caciques, or rural bosses, who ran Chiapas with an iron hand and lorded over the lives of indigenous peoples. He faced aggressive attacks on his character with magnanimity, and patiently continued to build from below. The Diocese became an example of the leadership role of indigenous peoples in defining a new church and empowering communities. The 1994 Zapatista uprising catapulted his patient labour onto a world stage, as the long-ignored demands of indigenous peoples became the lens through which to conceive of a new society.

There were, of course, efforts to dismantle the deep processes of empowering indigenous people within the church and within society. The Mexican government sent in troops and launched military offenses against the communities well after the so-called truce with the EZLN. Meanwhile, the Vatican began to attack the practice of making indigenous men deacons within the church–a centrepiece of efforts to break down the distance between indigenous communities and a distant and privileged hierarchy, to literally change the face of the church.

When the Roman Catholic hierarchy decided not to name Bishop Vera to the San Cristobal diocese following the retirement of Don Samuel, which would have been a natural choice but for the politics involved, it was seen as an indication of the desire to suppress the progressive religious movement in Chiapas. More recently a plan to divide the San Cristobal diocese has led to suspicions that the hierarchy seeks to weaken Mexico’s only diocese guided by the Second Vatican Council’s decision to promote a closer relationship to the social and political context of parish members.

There was a deep sense of loss among the those attending the mass, but few tears. Over the years, many people feared that Don Samuel would become a martyr rather than die a natural death. He received death threats and created enemies among those who abhorred the idea of a church that championed the rights of the poor and indigenous peoples, since their own power and wealth rested on preserving near-slavery conditions.

Bishop Ruiz accepted the risk to his own life. His death at 86 ended a journey on earth that was consistent and effective in following his convictions, and that touched and inspired thousands of people who will carry on. The liturgy on Monday did not dwell on the loss, but rather emphasized the meaning of his life and the Catholic belief that he passed into a higher realm.

Bishop Samuel Ruiz’s remains have been sent to San Cristobal, Chiapas to be buried in the Cathedral. He will be welcomed there by the indigenous people he walked alongside over the years. Some fifteen thousand indigenous people came down from the mountains to bid him farewell in 2000 when Ruiz left Chiapas, in a testament to the relationships he forged and his role in their lives and their movement for liberation.

This final farewell reminds us that Don Samuel’s deep commitment to indigenous rights and social justice is not some folkloric moment in Mexico’s colourful past, nor is his life merely a chapter neatly written into our religious and social history. His is not a legacy. Something that hasn’t died leaves no legacy.

Although many of the people present at his mass have gone on to other battles and fronts, Don Sam’s death is a reminder of the enormous tasks still pending. Bishop Vera began the mass by stating “in these dark times, a star has been lifted.” Sombre nods from the congregation–mostly human rights defenders and Catholics who work with the poor–reflected agreement that Mexico faces one of the worst moments in recent history for the poor, indigenous and vulnerable, and that Don Sam’s example gives hope and strength.

This reminder brings a renewed sense of responsibility to act. It encourages us to see through the darkness of the times and seek each other out, just as he helped bring together the many diverse individuals that went out to honour him yesterday. The passing of the “Bishop of the Poor” urges us to keep walking the path he cleared and to forge new paths of peace and justice.



The Pope’s Encounter with Indigenous Mexico

Filed under: Frayba, Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:12 pm



The Pope’s Encounter with Indigenous Mexico

By Orsetta Bellani

PAPA150216OB19-300x169Pope Francisco’s visit to San Cristobal de Las Casas in the southern state of Chiapas was perhaps his most symbolic visit on his six-day tour of Mexico last week. Here the Bishop of Rome held mass with indigenous peoples, in a city internationally known for the uprising of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation in 1994, which inaugurated an era of indigenous self-government in parts of the state.

When he found out the pope was meeting with indigenous peoples, Julian Lopez Canare was surprised. “It’s the first time that a pope turns his attention to native peoples, or toward the poorest of the poor”, Lopez Canare, a member of the Nayeri people, observed.

PAPA150216OB17-300x169Thousands of people, mostly indigenous, flocked to San Cristobal’s sports arena on Feb. 15 to listen to the pope’s mass, spoken partly in Mayan languages. Pope Francisco delivered the mass from an altar decorated with Mayan Tzotzil craftwork, in front of a large backdrop depicting the city’s central cathedral.

They came from remote corners of México and Central America. Many arrived before dawn and formed long lines in the intense cold of the Chiapas highlands. As they waited for the pope, from the stage speeches reminded the crowd of the pastoral work of the former bishop, Samuel Ruiz, and the San Andres Accords–an agreement negotiated in 1996 that set the framework for indigenous rights and autonomy. The federal government signed the document, but never made it law.

PAPA150216OB11-300x169“Your peoples have been misunderstood and excluded from society. Some have considered your values, your cultures, your traditions, inferior. Others, deluded by power, money and the laws of the market, have robbed you of your lands or have carried out actions that pollute it,” the pope affirmed in his mass. He asked for forgiveness of the original peoples. At the conclusion, he delivered a decree that formally authorizes the celebration of liturgical ceremonies in indigenous languages.

Pope Francisco’s visit to Mexico, and especially to Chiapas, is strategic for the Catholic Church. Mexico is the ninth nation in terms of contributions to the Vatican, according to Forbes magazine, and the second in the number of Catholic Church members, with 96 million. However, many people are leaving the Roman church. In Chiapas, only 58% of the population declares itself Catholic.

PAPA150216OB18-300x169Mexican Catholicism varies from practices in other countries. Yaredh Marín Vazquez, anthropologist at the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH), explains, “The religion has a strong cultural connotation here. The practice of Catholicism in Mexico is called “Popular Catholicism”—it’s a mixture that includes local practices of the peoples who existed before the conquest. Catholic saints mingled with the pre-Hispanic gods and gave rise to new figures,” she says.

“For example the Virgin of Guadalupe (that the Pope prayed to in Mexico City) is a merger between the Catholic Virgin and the goddess of the earth. It is a useful fusion, because when they pray to the Virgin of Guadalupe, indigenous people also worship their goddess. The Catholic Church has no choice but to recognize these saints, because when they impose their doctrine they confront not only spiritual implications, but also economic.”

el-papa-francisco-en-mexico-2160036w620-300x198The papal visit aroused enthusiasm and reproaches in Chiapas. The Popular Assembly of the Chiapas Highlands (APACH) criticized the expenses incurred to meet the Pope in the poorest state in the country. In the highland region of Los Altos, where the city of San Cristobal lies nestled in the mountains, 88% of the population is indigent.

A much different group who call themselves “the real coletos” (“coletos” is the term for residents of San Cristobal) also criticized the pope’s visit. Conservative mestizos, they criticized the pope’s visit because “it does not benefit the city”, since he only came “to hang around with the Indians,” according to a report in the newspaper La Jornada.

PAPA150216OB6-300x169These townspeople virulently opposed the presence of indigenous people in the city centre during the Zapatista uprising. In 1995, the “real coletos” came out to stone and throw eggs at the Cathedral of San Cristobal, to protest against then-Bishop Samuel Ruiz, whom they considered a “subversive.”

The Catholic Church hierarchy frowned on Ruiz’s pastoral work alongside indigenous peoples, for his adherence to the theology of liberation, his preaching in Mayan communities, and his participation in negotiations between the Zapatistas and the federal government.

PAPA150216OB15-300x169For this reason, Pope Francisco’s decision to pray at the tomb of the former bishop raised controversy. “The Pope’s visit to Don Samuel Ruiz gives a boost to the work of Liberation Theology, the preferential option for the poor,” said Jorge Hernandez of the Human Rights Centre Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, founded by Ruiz. “It’s the recognition that his work was valid and still is. It’s the recognition that the bishops are not princes, but have to get their hands dirty, walk with the people.”

PAPA150216OB5-300x169For groups and individuals who have reproached Pope Francisco for not meeting with the parents of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students or other victims’ organizations, the visit to the tomb of Samuel Ruiz was the most appreciated gesture of the papal visit. According to some analysts, the Pope’s messages were lukewarm and too general, and avoided touching on the specific problems of the country or naming names.

“You know, if you’re in hell, you can’t not mention the heat. But you also have to refer to the devils,” wrote journalist Alvaro Delgado in Proceso magazine.




February 18, 2016

Pope Francisco honours Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, defender of the poor

Filed under: Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:43 pm



Pope Francisco honours Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, defender of the poor



Pope Francisco visits the tomb of Bishop Samuel Ruíz García. Bishop Raúl Vera is next to the Pope.

By: Isaín Mandujano

Today, Pope Francisco put an end to decades of exclusion of a Church that opted for the poor, rescued native ancestral roots and inculcated a liberating vision.

At the interior of the Cathedral of the San Cristóbal de las Casas Diocese, Pope Francisco prayed today in front of the tomb of Bishop Samuel Ruiz García and blessed it, which has been interpreted by those closest to jTatik Samuel [1] as an integration or vindication of the work he constructed for 50 years.

“The fact that Pope Francisco has a moment of silent prayer in front of the jTatik Samuel’s tomb is extremely significant, it’s endorsing a work, a path of 40 years. Very similar to the defender of the poor Bishop Fray Bartolomé de las Casas at the beginning of the colonial epoch,” said the parish priest of Bachajón, José Javier Avilés Arreola, a member of the Company of Jesus.

The priest that came to Chiapas in 1984 and was adopted by the indigenous Tzeltal communities, remembered that jTatik Samuel was walking with the people, converting their hearts, letting himself be a pastor for his people. “Thank God that jTatik Francisco has asked to come to this poor Diocese, a Diocese that economically speaking has little to offer. But with a great richness of walking in defence of their rights, an integral pastoral that we have led for many years, that is what comes to strengthen jTatik Francisco, to speak to us about forgiveness, to tell us that we can continue walking with the illusions of this people, to continue being free and to continue fighting for their own land, for their resources, from the word of God, from the gospel, from the fast, from communion, from forgiveness. jTatik Pope Francisco invites us to that,” said the religious man also known as Father Pepe Avilés.

Avilés remembered that Bishop Samuel Ruiz García was a misunderstood bishop, so much so that the Vatican cancelled the ordination of married deacons, and for 14 years there were no ordinations. It was thanks to the effort of current Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel that Pope Francisco lifted the veto at the end of last year and the ordination of deacons started again.

He explained the importance of those deacons, and that it’s not the deacon that one sees assisting in the masses because the ones in this Diocese are real pastors that lead their community, but there are also women pastors, because the Deacons walk with their spouses.

“The deacons don’t conceive of service that is individual, the two walk together, they are in communion. In that meaning of gender equity the West would have a lot to learn because they know how to work as a couple,” he emphasized.

According to Father Heriberto Cruz Vera, the Pope’s gesture recognizes that Church that was constructed with an option for the poor. What Papa Francisco now proclaims –he added– Samuel Ruiz already did and made known in the indigenous communities of Chiapas, but Juan Pablo II and Benedict XVI, never wanted to support it.

Cruz Vera pointed out that for many years, the Vatican considered the Church that Samuel Ruiz constructed as an “irregular Church.” Many governors wanted to expel him from Chiapas and many religious hierarchs inside the Catholic Church itself did everything to remove him but while they were not able to get him out neither did the Vatican do anything that Pope Francisco just did: vindicate him.

Just like Cruz Vera, two of Samuel Ruiz García’s other close collaborators, Joel Padrón and Gonzalo Ituarte emphasized Francisco’s visit, the arrival of a Pope for the first time in its almost 500 years of creation.

Today, Pope Francisco ate where jTatik ate for 40 years, from this Cathedral where Bishop Samuel Ruiz García consolidated and framed his pastoral line with the Diocesan Synod from 1995 to 2000 that the same Bishop Samuel Ruiz headed.

A Synod that framed the standard to follow among all the faithful and the religious structure of the Diocese, in such a way that any Bishop that comes here would not be able to break apart or change theRuiz García’s heritage.

“The Pope’s visit is encouragement, hope and strength to renew our soul in a Diocese that has opted for the poor for more than 50 years, not excluding all the rest, but it is very comprehensible,” concluded Father José Javier Avilés Arriola, parish priest of the Bachajón Mission.

[1] jTatik means Father in a Mayan language, Tzeltal (also spelled Tseltal).


Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo

Monday, February 15, 2016

Re-published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee




February 16, 2016

Pope to Indigenous, ¨Forgive Us, Forgive Us”

Filed under: Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:35 pm



Pope to Indigenous, ¨Forgive Us, Forgive Us”




La Jornada: Bernardo Barranco V.

Your people have been misunderstood and excluded from society, the Pope said to the indigenous of Chiapas. Before a breathtaking scene, full of the colour of the indigenous peoples, the Pope issued a profound message and had at the same time, the sensitivity to hear his words in different languages. Francisco spent time with indigenous and ordinary people. There were touching moments.

For the first time on this tour, the powerful and wealthy did not capture the privileged places to see the Pope. Francis spoke to the poor and the most abused groups in our country. Bergoglio ate with representatives of various indigenous groups and then visited and prayed at the tomb of Samuel Ruiz, “Tatic” [“Papa” in Mayan tongues], an important gesture in the face of government pressure that he not carry out the act. Therefore, Francis chose to do it in a discreet and sober way. The Pope stopped in front of Ruiz’s tomb, the defender of the rights of indigenous, and placed some flowers.

The mere fact of having been there has far-reaching implications, both for the political culture and the religious, because it had to do with a religious player so reviled by politicians, the governments of Salinas and Zedillo, as well as by the Catholic hierarchy, headed by cardinals Juan Sandoval [Cardinal and retired Archbishop of Guadalajara] and Norberto Rivera [Cardinal and Archbishop of Mexico City]. How can one forget the acid accusations made by media analysts who today fill their mouths with praise for “Tatic”. Like Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador [assassinated in 1980, beatified by Pope Francis in 2015], five years after his death, Samuel Ruiz is awaiting a profound redefinition.

APTOPIX Mexico Pope Indigenous

In this Jan. 16, 2016 photo, a Tzotzil Indian lay woman distributes Holy Communion during a Catholic Mass in honor of the Christ of Esquipulas in Chajtoj, Chiapas state, Mexico. Pope Francis travels to Mexico Feb. 12-18, that includes a one-day visit to Chiapas, where he will celebrate Mass and lunch with indigenous people. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

In San Cristobal, Francisco gave a profound, critical homily in a gentle manner. The beginning could not have been more symbolic, with the Exodus, the classic text of liberation theology and widely used by Samuel Ruiz. He says:

“A people who had experienced the slavery and despotism of Pharaoh, who had experienced suffering and abuse, until God says ‘enough’ until God says ‘no more!’ ‘I have seen the affliction, I heard the cry, I’ve known your anguish’ (Ex 3: 9). And that the face of our God is manifested, the Father’s face that suffers seeing the pain, abuse, inequality in the lives of his children; and his word, his law, became a symbol of freedom. ”

The exodus as an indignant intervention by God in search of the freedom and dignity of indigenous peoples. In this search for the indigenous dawn, the Pope cites the Popol Vuh:

“the desire to taste the promised land, where oppression, abuse, devaluation is overcome by brotherhood, injustice is defeated by solidarity and violence is silenced by peace.”

Francisco denounces that, in many ways, we have tried to silence and shut down this indigenous longing, numb the soul “with the insinuation that nothing can change or that they are impossible dreams … The violence in the human heart, wounded by sin, is also manifested in the warning signs of disease in the ground, the water, the air and living things. Therefore, among the most neglected and abused poor is our oppressed and devastated earth, ‘groaning in travail’ (Rm 8, 22).”

Francis reproaches the contempt that considers their indigenous values, cultures and traditions as inferior. Some, dazed by power, money and the laws of the market, have been stripped of their land or have performed actions which have contaminated it. The Pope exclaims:

“How sad! How well we would all do to do some soul searching and learn to say, ‘Pardon, pardon, brothers!’ Today’s world, stripped by the culture of the disposable, needs you.”


It was an emotional ceremony. Attendees chanted when the pope made social references such as “the people suffer” or his testimonies to human solidarity.

…There was nothing new in Francis’ preaching on the family. The event started with concrete cases of families in various conditions: the solidarity of parents with a teenager who has disabilities, divorced people who seek to remarry, a single mother who had abortions and an elderly couple celebrating 50 years of marriage. Francisco encourages each case in a colloquial manner, making jokes and repeating his teachings about the threats to the family and his opening regarding the divorced and remarried, who hugged and praised his commitment.

The silences were remarkable: the Pope did not address the issue of women or abortion, much less the new gay couples. The Mexican conservative Catholic right has to be disappointed by the voluntarist message and, above all, by the omission of condemnations that, until recently, were common in Catholic speeches.

The social pitch of the visit has gone up. Many criticisms of an aggrieved society remain. Will Francisco respond to those expectations?


Translated by Reed Brundage



February 11, 2016

Pope Francis Visits Mexico: Significance of His Planned Encounters in Chiapas

Filed under: Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:10 pm



Pope Francis Visits Mexico: Significance of His Planned Encounters in Chiapas

sinembargo: Francisco Ortiz Pinchetti



I am convinced that the visit of Pope Francis to Mexico, which starts in one week, will leave a mark on our country. Contrary to what the sceptics think, the presence of the Argentinian pontiff who is the first Jesuit and first Latin American to occupy San Pedro’s throne, will have an unprecedented impact on the spirit of the people through his humble manner, the simplicity of his message and his peculiar charisma. He is going to surprise us.

Personally, I am filled with great expectation regarding the event. I think that the central message of his visit will mean a shift for the church, particularly, in terms of evangelism to the poor. Since the agenda of his trip to Mexico was announced, I was struck by his interest in going to Chiapas, particularly to San Cristobal de las Casas, to meet with the indigenous communities. I was further struck when the Pope himself confirmed in an interview that this particular part of his visit had been decided by him personally.

Few people know that during the early seventies, as young 33-year-old, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was in the highlands of Chiapas. It was soon after being ordained as a Priest (1969) and before being appointed as Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus in Argentina (1973-1979); he visited the Jesuit mission of Bachajón, founded in 1958, which was a Tzotzil-Tzeltal community in Altos de Chiapas. His fellow co-religionists, who started this mission as charity, relief work, had inevitably moved towards a commitment to liberation theology.



This transition began at the arrival of Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia at the Diocese of San Cristobal. The Jesuits became increasingly active in their participation with diocesan priests and catechists and Marists raising awareness of indigenous communities. As a result, this led firstly to the creation of the First “Fray Bartolome de las Casas” Indigenous Congress in the old royal city in October 1974 and secondly, 20 years later it would leaven the armed uprising of January 1, 1994.

Father Begoglio shared their pastoral preference for the poor. Between 1967 and 1970 he studied theology at the Faculty of Theology at the Superior College of San Jose (Colegio Maximo) in the Argentinian city of San Miguel. During his time there he was deeply influenced in his thinking about ‘discipleship’ by none other than Jesuit theologian, Juan Carols Scannone, founder of liberation philosophy and the theology of the people (an autonomous Argentinian stream of liberation theology).

Although there is no detailed record referring to it, during his brief stay in Chiapas the current Pope would have come to know first-hand about the dramatic reality of the Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Chol, and Tojolabal people living in extreme poverty as victims of injustice, segregation, dispossession of their land and discrimination. Perhaps he lived with other priests such as Mardonio Morales, totally devoting themselves to social works and defence of indigenous rights. It is a fact that such an experience has touched him.

However, when Pope Francis began his pontificate in March 2013, conservative catholic sectors celebrated his alleged opposition to the theology of liberating the poorest. They remembered the bishops meeting in 2007 at the Marian shrine of Aparecida in Brazil, where the then archbishop of Buenos Aires, who was in charge of conclusions of the conclave, could have inflicted an “overwhelming defeat” to the Latin American theologians committed to the liberal line.

It was not so. Monsignor Bergoglio criticized, in effect, the “ideology” of the socially oriented pastoral work that seemed to befall a sector of the Latin-American church and rejected the validity of the Marxist analysis of the reality of our nations; but true to his fundamental convictions, he kept his preferential option for the poor as inscribed in the current Argentinian theology of the people. There is sufficient evidence of this.

In a recent article, Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff, co-founder of liberation theology with Peruvian Gustavo Gutiérrez, commented on the current position of the Pope in this regard, based on his own judgement.




“Many have been asking if the current Pope Francis is a follower of the theology of liberation, as he comes from Latin America. This question is irrelevant. What matters is not liberation theology but liberation of the oppressed, the poor and those who suffer injustice. And that is undoubtedly what Francis is,” he wrote.

Boff, who was suspended as a priest during the pontificate of John Paul II, also noted that Pope Francis actually made this choice for the poor. He lived and lives simply, in solidarity with them, and said clearly in one of his first speeches, “How I would like a poor church for the poor!” In the same way, Pope Francis “is carrying out the primary intuition of liberation theology and seconding its trademark: the preferential choice of the poor, against poverty and in favour of life and justice.”

Another telling fact was the beatification last May 23rd of Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the Salvadoran Archbishop who was killed in the middle of mass in 1980 for his commitment to the most deprived. The Jesuit Pope specifically elevated a martyr of liberation theology.

On Monday, February 15, Francis will hold a large mass with 100,000 members of indigenous communities of Chiapas on a baseball field in San Cristobal las Casas. Later, he will eat lunch with Felipe Arizmendi, the current Bishop of the diocese, as well as with 8 representatives from various ethnic groups: a priest, a nun, a seminarian, a young woman, a catechist with his wife and a permanent deacon and his wife. Furthermore, in a highly symbolic act, he will visit the tomb of Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia in the Cathedral. I am sure that this day will be an occasion of transcendent definition. And a historic reunion. Mark my word!


Translated by Reed Brundage




February 9, 2016

Believing People in Resistance await Pope Francisco in Chiapas

Filed under: Indigenous, Migrants, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:25 pm




Believing People in Resistance await Pope Francisco in Chiapas



Banner reads: Believing People of the southeast with Pope Francisco against mining and for the defence of our Mother Earth.


By: Enriqueta Lerma Rodríguez

February 2, 2016

Beyond the condemning discourses about the Pope’s visit to Chiapas, accusing the event of being a form of control of the masses that responds to the need to recuperate the faith of the few faithful Catholics who are left in the region, faced with the increase in the number of Evangelicals and in the desire of government authorities to show the “good Indian,” it’s pertinent to analyse the relevance that the Vicar’s presence acquires for an important percentage of indigenous Catholic believers. If the visit to Tuxtla could be omitted from a profound analysis it doesn’t come out the same with the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, where the largest percentage of the population is indigenous, with a diversified rural economy and grouped together in a diocese that for more than fifty years has shown particularities of significant social resistance.

The influence of the diocese in the region is highly important if one remembers the theological and political tradition inherited from Bishop Don Samuel Ruiz, who presided over it from 1959 to 1999. Many of the political, indigenous and campesino organizations, which currently contend in the state’s political arena have their germination in the 1974 Indigenous Congress, where, for the first time, secular catechists from the different diocesan regions had the opportunity to discuss the common problems about which they complained: mistreatment, discrimination, exploitation on the fincas (estates), dispossession of their land, abuses from those monopolizing crops, a lack of school and health services, threats and violence. The 1974 Congress, organized by the Diocese, was the inaugural parting of the waters for a new stage of resistance and empowerment in the communities, generating campesino movements and the formation of numerous groupings demanding agrarian redistribution.

One could argue against the importance of the Diocese of San Cristóbal with the decrease of Catholics in the state. Nevertheless, while it’s certain that religious diversity has increased in Chiapas, provoking social problems of expulsions and religious intolerance, it’s also necessary to say that despite that the Catholics continue to represent the most numerous religion among the Indigenous population. The data provided by the INEGI in its latest document on the theme, 2010 Panorama of Religions in Mexico, contradicts the diagnostics that point out that Indigenous Catholics have been exceeded at 60%. It is possible to observe that in a population of 1,209,057 speakers of any indigenous language, Catholics represent 50.35% with 608,819 followers; on the other hand, the total of Presbyterians, Evangelicals, Protestants, Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Jews and Muslims is 450,257, in other words 34.25%; the rest don’t point out any religion. Nevertheless, in opposition to the heterogeneity that religious secularization represents, Indigenous Catholics, even with their doctrinal particularities, compose a more cohesive sector, the majority subscribed to the universal church, which has permitted an important number of them to mobilize constantly in order to work in favour of social justice and for the defence of native territories. This organized sector is recognized as “Pueblo Creyente (Believing People);” a name that Bishop Samuel Ruíz designated in his time for the indigenous people of faith that demonstrated in the streets against the unjust incarceration of the parish priest of Simojovel, Joel Padrón, who in 1991 would denounce the numerous human rights violations in the northern part of Chiapas. He was accused of conspiracy against the government, criminal association, plunder, robbery, threats and provocation, among other crimes. Pueblo Creyente’s tenacious resistance attained his freedom despite all the state pressure.

Pueblo Creyente, now with more strength, has added itself to different processes of resistance and solidarity. However, the history of struggle and congruence for the social welfare was made palpable years ago. For example, in the 1980s, during the period of Guatemalan refugees, through the diocesan Solidarity Committee, camps, basic education courses, workshops for artisans and for analysis of the reality were organized and steps were even taken for the definitive stay of some Guatemalans on lands acquired by diocesan agents. These same agents accompanied the organized return to Guatemala, earning the respect and gratitude of thousands of former refugees forever, a recognition that not even the United Nations High Commission for Refugees attained.

The mediation of the Church of Don Samuel has been so important in the region and so polemical that during the juncture of expulsions of “Christians” in San Juan Chamula, the diocese condemned the acts perpetrated in said municipality, promoting dialogue. That also provoked the expulsion of the Catholic Chamulan followers of Don Samuel and the rupture with the Diocese of San Cristóbal, since the expellers opted for the Orthodox Catholic Church. Within this context the Diocese promoted religious tolerance and supported the re-accommodation of those expelled, thereby showing their first practices towards ecumenism.

The very same territory of this diocese has been the scenario of the Zapatista Uprising, which is not a simple fact: it’s enough remember the notes of Jan de Vos, who Subcomandante Marcos assured in an interview that the meeting between the guerrillas and the catechists of Don Samuel, in the middle of the Jungle, permitted the first ones to transform their “squared” vision of the world into “round.” It’s not too much to say that the tijwanej method of “receiving and returning the word to the community” and “discussing among everyone to interpret the reality and to carry out actions” is a contribution from liberation theology to Zapatismo and not the inverse. At the same time, it’s appropriate to remember that the rebellion in the Cañadas (Canyons), had its germ in the migration of indigenous campesinos, supported by the Jesuits, to the Jungle from the fincas of Ocosingo, Altamirano and other places and that many catechists and church agents were accused, after the Zapatista Uprising, of being promoters of the revolt, as Andrés Aubry, Carmen Legorreta and Xóchitl Leyva point out. The nomination of Samuel Ruiz to participate in the dialogue with the federal government as part of the CONAI was also a demonstration of the analytical ability of the church’s agents and of the trust that the communities had deposited in the Catholic Church, especially in its bishop.

Among other work of great importance the diocese also founded the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre; the civil association Economic and Social Development of Indigenous Mexicans (DESMI, its initials in Spanish), in charge of incentivizing and advising agro-ecology production in various communities; and the Support Commission for Unity and Community Reconciliation (CORECO) that since the Zapatista Uprising had the charge of promoting the resolution of inter-community conflicts through dialogue and promoting peace.

The response to the diocese’s attempts at pacification and justice, however, has awakened little sympathy in the state and federal governments. It’s appropriate to point out the case of Father Miguel Chateau, the parish priest of Chenalhó, extradited by the federal government after having denounced the characteristics and type of training had by the paramilitaries who perpetrated the massacre of Las Abejas in Acteal. The response was the deportation and condemnation of the diocese for its intervention. Stories like these are repeated in all corners of diocesan territory. There are the recent threats against Father Marcelo Pérez of Simojovel, who is opposed to the increase of organized crime, the cantinas, the sale of drugs and prostitution. Pueblo Creyente supported him with a pilgrimage of dozens of kilometres through various municipios, given that his “enemies” offered a reward of up to a million and a half pesos for his head. Pueblo Creyente’s request that Father Marcelo meet with the Pope to tell him the crime situation in Chiapas was blocked from the current top leadership of the San Cristóbal Diocese: he will not be able to interview with the Pope, although he DID achieve being present at the papal mass as animator of the event.

Beyond the complicated conjunctures, which are not few, it is also necessary to point out the important work that the diocese carries out on a daily basis. Organized in its seven diocesan zones (central, south, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Chol, Chab and southeast), the pastoral agents, secular deacons and catechists, carry out different tasks: through the social pastoral work they attend to specific problems in matters of human rights; gender equity –from the women’s commission, CODIMUJ-; youth advisory; support to migrants, among other actions. With the recently created Mother Earth Pastoral they seek to coordinate efforts in defence of territory, opposing the sale of land, the monoculture of non-indigenous species, the use of genetically modified organisms, the construction of highway and hydraulic mega-projects, the mining extraction, dispossession of land and migration provoked by the poverty that disarticulates the family nucleus. At the same time Pueblo Creyente demonstrates with pilgrimages against the structural reforms, against the genocide reflected in the country’s clandestine graves, against the disappearance of students like in the Ayotzinapa case, against femicides and against the private guards that subject the peoples. On this list of objectives Pueblo Creyente has also added the project of the New Constituent, feeling proud that Bishop Raúl Vera is one of its principal promoters.

Pueblo Creyente nurtures its spirituality starting from Indian theology and continues –to the grumbling of the diocesan leadership and against the suspension dictated from the Vatican- ordaining permanent indigenous deacons: men from the community who serve at the side of their wives and with the support of their families the ministry of imparting the sacraments and of reading the word of God in light of the times; men and women committed to their communities in the project of achieving spiritual liberation, and pledged to eliminating social oppression. Nevertheless, perhaps the biggest challenge that Pueblo Creyente has is the equal proliferation of currents inside the diocese, where renewed and charismatic Catholics are opposed to the tasks of the pastoral agents who seek to construct a liberating church. The dispute inside Catholicism in San Cristóbal is between these two projects: a liberating church or a conservative one. An example of this contradiction was observed this January 25. Diocesan authorities were opposed to the pilgrimage in memory of the fifth anniversary of the death of Don Samuel Ruiz, with the justification that it was better to channel efforts to the Pope’s visit, but Pueblo Creyente, loyal to their pastor, who they call Caminante, [1] went to remember his work and honour it with the continuation of his work. During the event differences were evident between the current bishops that seek to discourage the Pueblo Creyente organization. For example, before starting the mass, the faithful that showed hand-painted signs in defence of territory were asked to put away their banners and slogans.

Among other questions, this is the context that the Pope will encounter during his visit to Chiapas: a Catholic community in resistance starting with the base church communities and a sector of Catholics who seek to finish off Don Samuel’s project. Because of that the controversies are now harsh and unpleasant in San Cristóbal, where the “coletos” [2] feel excluded because the Pope decided to meet only with eight indigenous for sharing food.

The Pope’s visit in San Cristóbal without a doubt represents a key moment for Catholicism in the diocese of San Cristóbal. Pueblo Creyente hopes that he has knowledge of the problems that affect the weight of the indigenous population in the region, that he knows about the work that they have carried out in favour of justice and for the defence of their original territories, that he is witness to the importance that the permanent indigenous deaconship holds for the communities and that he authorizes their ordainment. They hope that the balance inclines in their favour and they attain giving continuity to the path traced by jTatik Samuel Ruíz. And surely the people of faith hope that what they cried out in chorus to Felipe Arizmendi when he started his participation in the fifth anniversary of the death of Don Samuel happens: “We want a bishop on the side of the poor, we want a bishop on the side of the poor!”

[1] Caminante – a walker or, one who walks, a wayfarer

[2] Descendants of the Spanish invaders


Originally Published in Spanish by Desinformemonos

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Amazing photos of Pueblo Creyente’s demonstrations:

Re-published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee





February 5, 2016

Indigenous struggle in Chiapas will come ‘out in the open’ for Pope Francis’s visit

Filed under: Acteal, Human rights, Indigenous, Marcos, Uncategorized, Zapatistas — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:59 pm



Indigenous struggle in Chiapas will come ‘out in the open’ for Pope Francis’s visit

The pope’s plans to address legacy of violence, discrimination and poverty in southern Mexican state is bound to rouse Mayan people – and the Zapatistas



A woman and child walk past a billboard welcoming Pope Francis in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas state, Mexico. He will visit Mexico between 12 and 17 February. Photograph: Moysés Zuñiga/AFP/Getty Images


David Agren in Acteal, Mexico

The killing began when masked paramilitaries burst into a Catholic prayer meeting and opened fire. Those who escaped the initial attack were chased for hours through the canyons and cloud forests which surround this Tzotzil Indian community of corn and coffee farmers in southern Mexico.

Forty-five people died in the assault on a Catholic activist group known as Las Abejas, or the Bees; 21 were women, 15 were children. The perpetrators were linked to the then (and now) governing Institutional Revolutionary party.

The 1997 Acteal massacre was one of the worst mass killings of Mexico’s recent history, and it remains a potent reminder of indigenous struggle in Chiapas, a state still suffering from widespread poverty, discrimination and political corruption.

“Eighteen years have passed … and we continue denouncing grievances committed against us by party officials, who are manipulated by a government that keeps causing us pain and suffering,” said Las Abejas leader Sebastián Pérez Vázquez.

Indigenous Mexico’s fight for recognition and respect was symbolised by the Zapatista uprising which burst into the open on 1 January 1994, the day the country entered the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) – an arrangement the government insisted would vault Mexico into the first world.


3000 (1)

Indigenous women of the Las Abejas civil society commemorate the 17th anniversary in 2014 of the massacre of 45 Tzotzil people in the Acteal community. Photograph: Alamy


Later this month, Pope Francis – who has put the poor and excluded at the centre of his papacy – will come to Chiapas as part of his six-day visit to Mexico. He will celebrate mass in several Mayan languages and address the injustices facing indigenous people, who in recent years have departed the Catholic church in droves for evangelical congregations and even mosques started by Muslim missionaries.

Two decades after the emergence of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), he will find that the state and its indigenous population remain firmly on the periphery of Mexican society.

Federal government figures show poverty, inequality and hunger rates have remained stubbornly high – despite billions of pesos spent on roads, schools, clinics and a spate of social programmes.

Critics in Chiapas contend that the wave of spending has been as much about controlling rebellious communities as raising the population from poverty.

“The situation here in Chiapas has not changed over the last 20 years,” said Pérez. “Even though the people are wiser to the situation, things have stayed the same.”

Pope Francis will arrive in southern Mexico as a somewhat unwelcome guest. Priests in the diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas say the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto wanted the pope go elsewhere, proposing the placid state of Campeche on the Yucatán peninsula as an alternative. The government feared that the papal visit could stir up latent indigenous discontent, the priests said.

“The visit is going to give an opportunity for everything in Chiapas that’s simmering under the surface to boil over,” said diocesan spokesman Jesuit Father Pedro Arriaga. “It’s going to again show that the Zapatista movement is still here, that indigenous marginalisation continues, that poverty persists, that [government] health clinics are very deficient. All of this will come out into the open.”

Sources in the federal government say its concerns over the papal visit to Chiapas were logistical, not political.

Churchmen in Chiapas also see the visit as a vindication of the work of the state’s former bishop Samuel Ruiz, who led the diocese for 40 years until his retirement in 2000, but ran afoul of land-owning elites, politicians and the Vatican.

Pope Francis plans to pray at the tomb of Ruiz, who shared a similar pastoral approach. He rode to remote Indian pueblos on mules, preaching in their local languages and organising them into Catholic communities – behaviour seen as a challenge to the rule of local landowners. He trained hundreds of catechist instructors and ordained married, indigenous deacons – a solution to perpetual shortages of priests – as he built a church which incorporated and appreciated indigenous cultures. The Vatican banned such ordinations in 2001, but Pope Francis has permitted the practice to resume.

Some of Ruiz’s catechist instructors and deacons subsequently joined the Zapatistas, though the bishop opposed violence. He was appointed a mediator in the conflict and helped broker the San Andrés peace accords between the EZLN and Mexican government – an agreement the Zapatistas allege was never fully respected.

“The government never understood that the Zapatistas preferred to live with dignity than live with refrigerators,” says Dominican Father Gonzalo Ituarte, a former diocesan vicar. “The problem that we had with the Zapatistas [is that] what they proposed is the same thing we had proposed for many years.”

The Zapatista struggle won worldwide attention, while its pipe-smoking spokesman, Subcomandante Marcos, became an icon of the anti-globalisation movement. Thousands of foreign “Zapaturistas” poured into the state, providing a presence some analysts suspect kept any army excesses in check.



Zapatista rebels stand in line during a rally in the early 1990s in the main square of San Cristóbal Las Casas’ cathedral. The Zapatista National Liberation Army launched its uprising on 1 January 1994. Photograph: Reuters


Today the Zapatistas have largely withdrawn to their autonomous communities though they can still mobilise their masses. An estimated 40,000 Zapatistas emerged unexpectedly for a march in five municipalities coinciding with the end of the Mayan calendar on 21 December 2012.

Perhaps not coincidentally, a month later, Peña Nieto went to the Zapatista stronghold of Las Margaritas to launch his landmark social program, The Crusade Against Hunger. Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was brought in to lend legitimacy to the launch.

In a New Year’s 2016 message, EZLN spokesman Subcomandante Moisés said Zapatistas settlements were “better than 22 years ago”, but also better than those in non-autonomous communities, which have been supported by government programmes. But some observers say government money has already caused the movement to splinter.

The offers can be enticing for the inhabitants of impoverished communities as government officials and political parties hand out everything from sheep to bicycles to bags of fertiliser – especially at election time. (Mexico’s social development secretariat did not respond to interview requests, though it says in adverts that programmes are non-partisan.)

The social investments have produced some successes. “Thanks to this programme, we were able to study,” said Margarita Martínez, a Tzotzil linguistics professor.

“[But] it’s also a form of control on the part of the government,” she added. “In the campaigns, there are times in which they tell people, ‘If you don’t vote for this party, they’re going to take away your benefits.’ It’s not true, but people believe it.”

And while grinding poverty persists, change of a different kind is slowly happening in Chiapas.

Martínez, 35, recalls coming to San Cristóbal de las Casas as a girl and not being allowed to walk on the sidewalk. Those prejudices persist – when she arrived at her university wearing traditional costume of a woollen skirt and colourfully embroidered shirt, security guards presumed she was a cleaner – but nowadays, more indigenous people have trained as professionals or occupy prominent places in commerce.

Parents are still teaching native Mayan languages such as Tzotzil and Tzeltal to their children, but young people are also using it to produce poetry, rock music and even hip-hop. Parents dress their children traditionally for Catholic events such as baptisms and first communions, too.

Indigenous art is also flourishing. Painter Saúl Kak opened an exhibit in the Casa de la Cultura in the state capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, showing the struggles of the displaced Zoque people. His paintings touch on political topics and including a piece with the familiar Coca-Cola font spelling the words, “toma con conciencia”, (a word play on the familiar slogan, reading, “consume with consciousness”,) to protest mindless consumerism.

“This would have never happened 25 years ago,” says John Burstein, director at Galería MUY, which represents Kak. “There’s no way the Casa de Cultura would have brought in an indigenous artist.”

Back in Acteal, members of Las Abejas say they see some small signs of hope in their struggle, too.

“Many people,” Pérez says, “have stopped selling their consciences for a little bit of money or a sack of corn flour.”




January 31, 2016

Community of Faith pilgrimage to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of jTatic Samuel

Filed under: Indigenous, sipaz, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:48 am


Community of Faith pilgrimage to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of jTatic Samuel




On Monday, January 25th, some three thousand members of Community of Faith (Pueblo Creyente) of the diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas held a pilgrimage to remember the struggle and path of jTatic Samuel Garcia, ex-bishop of Chiapas, who died five years ago. They reiterated their identity as Catholics and their defence of land, autonomy and social justice. In their pilgrimage they carried banners with texts rejecting structural reforms, the privatization of electricity, mining, dam building, the San Cristobal-Palenque motorway, and they recalled the disappearance of the 43 student teachers from Ayotzinapa.

Before mass, which was held outside the Cathedral of San Cristobal, some members of Community of Faith read out a letter sent to Pope Francis in which they asked him to join the project for life of the communities: “Above all we want to ask you that you continue to pray for us, for the State of Chiapas, that you do not abandon us as the indigenous people of Chiapas, that you do not tire of supporting the poor, that you continue to encourage and give hope to the community of faith, that you continue to denounce injustice, that you go forward, that you continue to drive and motivate us in the struggle for the poor, that you do not forget your indigenous brothers and sisters. We also ask that you engage in dialogue with the government so that it is aware and that it is capable of seeing the extreme poverty in which the people live and that it stops deceiving them.”

Community of Faith and the priests of the diocese of San Cristobal preached and practiced the teachings that over 40 years Samuel Ruiz left, and for whom the point of evangelism was not just to announce the Gospel, “but to build a new community, a new community where we live in justice and peace.”



February 9, 2015

Chiapas: Pilgrimage of the Believing People to observe the fourth anniversary of the death of Don Samuel Ruíz

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:32 pm



Chiapas: Pilgrimage of the Believing People to observe the fourth anniversary of the death of Don Samuel Ruíz.



On Saturday 24 January, the Believing People of the San Cristóbal de Las Casas diocese held a pilgrimage through the streets of this city to commemorate the struggle and path of Don Samuel Ruíz García, the former bishop of Chiapas, who died four years ago.  Close to 10,000 believers, including Ch’ol, Tseltal, Tsotsil, Tojolobal, and mestizo men and women, participated in the pilgrimage which left from two points in the city toward Peace Plaza, where a mass was celebrated in honour of “jTatic Samuel.”  The banners that were carried during the event demonstrated the concern the pilgrims have for Mother Earth and the struggles they are undertaking to defend it, employing texts such as “no to mining,” “no to the highway,” and “our Mother Earth, the life-root of our people, we will defend.”


The pilgrims also expressed their solidarity with the struggle for justice carried out by the families of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa, as their banners also showed.



Several activities to observe the fourth anniversary of the death of Samuel Ruiz García, bishop emeritus of San Cristóbal de las Casas


Beyond the pilgrimage and mass that were held on 24 January, several other activities were organized in observance of the fourth anniversary of the death of the bishop emeritus of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Samuel Ruiz García.

On 27 January, the jTatik Samuel Museum was inaugurated in the El Caminante Communal Center of San Cristóbal de Las Casas (km 1.5 on the road toward Chamulá, passing Esquipulas).  The new space contains five rooms that show the life and work of bishop Samuel Ruiz García, as well as the history and religions of Chiapas, from before the Spanish conquest, Evangelization, and the most recent history after the EZLN’s armed uprising.

Maldonado Quiroga, a member of the administration of El Caminante, detailed that the museum was created after seven years of data gathering by 11 individuals who comprised the council for the space.  All 11 spent time next to Don Samuel during some point of his life.

On 26 January in Mexico City, there was held an event entitled “Sparkles in the darkness: the teachings of jTatic Samuel Ruiz four years after his passing,” in which several persons who were close to Don Samuel participated.

Raúl Vera, the bishop of Saltillo, recalled for example that “he changed my life, because I entered the indigenous world through the heart of Don Samuel.  I never stopped seeing the future that God was building, and I saw that the evidence that we could create a new world was that we were attempting to so at that very moment.”



Call for the 2015 jTatik Samuel Jcanan Lum Award


On 23 January, the 2015 public call to propose candidates for the “jTatic Samuel jCanan Lum Award” was launched.  The announcement was made by Monseigneur José Raúl Vera López, bishop of Saltillo and the honorary president of the organizing committee.

The call recalls that the award has the goal of “making known and inspiring the work of women and men, organizations, and collectives that have distinguished themselves by their contribution to the people in the creation of communal and/or regional alternatives, as well as by their work directed at unity and peaceful social transformation […].  We want to recognize their love for the people, their resistance, their service, their search for alternatives amidst the suffering and marginalization of their communities, amidst the destruction of the Earth, the defence of human rights, the defence of the dignity of all, and their struggle for peace, justice, and liberation.”

“jTatic Samuel jCanan Lum” is a charge that the Mons. Samuel Ruíz García received in the community of Amatenango del Valle by Ch’ol, Tojolabal, Tseltal, Tsotsil, and Zoque peoples on 14 October 2009.  There, he was recognized as the protector of their people, who love and defend him for being someone who cares for life, nature, and the Earth.  With reference to the same, the jTatic Samuel Jcanan Lum Award seeks to support individuals or groups and stimulate them by giving voice to their social work.

The proposals must be made in writing, physically, or electronically before 31 October 2015 to the following address: Calle Brasil No. 14, Barrio de Mexicanos, CP 29240, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, México. Tel. and fax: 967 6787395, 967 6787396 E-mail:

The awarding of the next wave of Recognitions will take place in January 2016 in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, in observance of the Episcopal Anniversary of jTatic Samuel Ruiz García.




March 30, 2014

Frayba began to speak 25 years ago with the words “This shouldn’t be like that!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:55 pm


Frayba began to speak 25 years ago with the words “This shouldn’t be like that!

 ** Although it started in Chiapas, its action has contributed to local and national evolution

** With the Zapatista Uprising, the centre was in the eye of the human rights hurricane

By: Hermann Bellinghausen,

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, March 28, 2014

The Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba) is the pioneer in Mexico in the exercise of this defense, which today no State that calls itself democratic can ignore. Founded in March 1989, by Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, in 5 de Febrero Street of this city, the centre was born in a local context of alarming inequality, discrimination and exploitation towards the Maya peoples of a still feudal Chiapas. The life of an Indian was worth no more than that of a chicken, according to the expression of a cattle rancher at the end of 1993. Until very recently, serfdom, the droit de seigneur, deliberate brutalization and slavery existed here.


Demonstration of Zapatista support bases in Chiapas against the “drug” war undertaken by the Felipe Calderón government in the last six-year term. Photo: Moysés Zúñiga Santiago

But an every day less isolated process was also developing, of conscience, organization, vindication of identities and collective rights among the Tzotzil, Chol, Tzeltal and Tojolabal peoples. The bishop and the very original organization of his diocese were key players in this process, in the initiative from the Vatican II Council that in time would be known as “of liberation”; also independent campesino organizations linked to national movements. Another actor, controversial, were the Christian Churches, the majority initially spread through US missionaries, promoting the search for prosperity under individualistic values, in contradiction to the ancestral communitarianism that Catholicism did not eradicate.

Presided over by the combative Raúl Vera López, former auxiliary bishop to Samuel Ruiz and now the bishop of the Diocese of Saltillo, Frayba has become independent of the church structure and inserted itself into the citizen space in the mountains of Chiapas without betraying its original objective of 1989: “the defence of the rights of persons in their individual and community dimensions, with a preference for the poor.” The six-year term of Carlos Salinas de Gortari begins, and in Chiapas also the term of Patrocinio González Garrido.

The first thing that Frayba denounces is “the undemocratic and unconstitutional character of the December 1988 reforms to the penal code” in Chiapas, and describes the situation of the hour, taking as a turning point the National Indigenous Congress held in San Andrés Larráinzar in 1974, where many analysts place the beginning of the process of liberation of the peoples. It cites the reprisals: “This situation finds its high point at the beginning the decade of the eighties, when the population in Wolonchán is savagely repressed resulting in several deaths (there is no one to count them) and injuries. In El Paraíso, Venustiano Carranza, nine campesinos are cruelly massacred.”

The “black history” of Chiapas, Frayba said on its first day, “is difficult to measure.” According to “public sources,” just between January 1974 and July 1987 “4,731 cases of repressive actions were presented: of the murdered, injured, wounded, detained and imprisoned, kidnapped and tortured, disappeared, attacks, expulsions of families, rapes, beatings, evictions, home break-ins, looting of offices and archives, police cordons, robbery of agrarian documentation, repression of marches and meetings, destruction of houses, churches and schools;” all on a theme. The work would be to combat the silence.


Señor José Torres López shows the photo of his murdered son, José Tila García, when participating in the Permanent Tribunal of the Peoples, which met last December in the community of Susuclumil, municipality of Tila, where the paramilitary group Paz y Justicia perpetrated crimes against the Chol population. Photo: Moysés Zúñiga Santiago

Indignation and Rebellion

“We face an unjust and dehumanizing reality which provokes an indignation and a rebellion in us that makes us say: “That cannot be, it should not be like that!” These are the first words of Frayba 25 years ago, when a team, in which Concepción Villafuerte, Gonzalo Ituarte and Francisco Hernández de los Santos participated, begins to tell the stories and awaken memories of the offence and illegality of power.

Similar centres emerged in the country’s capital. The same “modernizing” government had to establish its National Human Rights Commission. But the defence in Chiapas was almost as dangerous as the struggles and the mere existence of the Indian peoples. Without the umbrella of the Catholic Church it would not have been viable. In January 1994 the centre’s circumstances changed dramatically with the EZLN Uprising and the Bishop’s participation in the mediation between the rebels and the government. Frayba, directed by the then priest Pablo Romo, was in the eye of the hurricane. Now it had to defend the rights of the peoples in the middle of a war which, while the fighting lasted 12 days, the militarization and covert war had been developing without respite for 20 years on multiple fronts.

In recent days Gonzalo Ituarte, a close collaborator with don Samuel, celebrated Frayba’s contribution “to the evolution of Chiapas and of Mexico, to the action and thinking of the peoples, the communities, civil society and the Church itself.” Besides covering the field of the promotion and defence of human rights, “it has contributed with its action to the strengthening of popular initiatives, non-governmental organisations, mediation efforts –particularly with the Conai (National Commission of Intermediation)–, with a very relevant and not sufficiently analyzed role in the complexity of the unresolved armed conflict in Chiapas and its multiple collateral effects.”

Increasing legitimacy

Since 1996, Frayba is made up only of lay people, some of them indigenous. Two women in succession (Marina Patricia Jiménez and Blanca Martínez Bustos) directed it. It faced the great tragedies of the period (Chenalhó, El Bosque, the Northern Zone) and increased its legitimacy with the poor, including the Zapatista peoples. The State is obliged to take it seriously and it becomes an obsession of successive governors, like everything that comes from their propaganda radar. Roberto Albores Guillén, Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía and Juan Sabines Guerrero, as well as the federal intelligence services, spare no effort to watch, threaten and defame it. The attempts at co-optation are intense and two former directors (Marina Patricia Jiménez and Diego Cadenas) join the state governments, which only reinforces the independence of the collective project as voice, companion, advisor, legal defender of peoples and individuals determined to shake off oppression, abuse and humiliation.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Saturday, March 29, 2014

En español:

English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the International Zapatista Translation Service






March 22, 2014

Frayba: 25 years

Filed under: Displacement, Frayba, Indigenous, Zapatista — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:38 pm


Frayba: 25 years

Gloria Muñoz Ramírez, Los de Abajo

La Jornada, 22/3/2014

Mexico would be more unprotected without organisations such as the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre, better known as Frayba, which turns 25 radically defending its positions and declaring itself, unequivocally, on the side of the poor, excluded and organized people.

Frayba reaches this anniversary with Bishop Raúl Vera at its head, recognizing that the country which saw its birth in 1989 is not the same now, and that to the violence and threats from paramilitaries in Chiapas, which were previously from the white guards belonging to large landowners, must be added the dispossession of territories in order to plunder their natural resources like minerals.

Chiapas is also not the same. The abandonment, ridicule and violence suffered by the indigenous peoples of the state had a strong ‘up to here’ in the territories organized around the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), where nothing is the same as it was before. The Zapatista ‘Ya Basta’ detonated in the centre of what Frayba was denouncing.

But it must be recognized that the work of Frayba, far from being over, is increasing along with the institutional and paramilitary violence in the state where it is housed. Today, as yesterday, the centre, created through the initiative of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, contributes to the construction of a society with full rights for all. That is the goal.

Although the state government denies it dialogue (while it gets closer to those who formerly served the centre, and who now institutionally hide what on another occasion they denounced), Frayba highlights the abuses of which the victims are the Maya peoples. The most recent, for example, the forced exile of the inhabitants of the ejido Puebla in Chenalhó, who had to flee their homes when faced with the return of the murderers of Acteal, released by the Supreme Court of Justice. Or the dispossession of the ejidatarios of Bachajón, who they persecute and murder so they can steal their land.

Don Raúl Vera says that the main challenges for human rights in Chiapas are autonomy and peace, which are related to the implementation of the agreements of San Andres, the same accords which the government signed with the EZLN and then afterwards betrayed. The Zapatistas implement them in their communities, but in others they remain the goal to achieve in order to defend their territories.

One of the greatest achievements of Frayba, says the man who is also Bishop of Saltillo, is that “the centre no longer works for the communities, now it belongs to them.” For this and many other reasons, the celebration of Frayba is also the celebration of the people from below.




March 21, 2014

Pastoral Congress for Mother Earth

Filed under: Indigenous — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:27 pm

Pastoral Congress for Mother Earth


“Amidst the power of the transnational firms and the governments allied and complicit with these, […] it is necessary that we have the courage to stand up to them […].”













Song at the Congress for Mother Earth

In January 2014 there was celebrated the Pastoral Congress for Mother Earth as organized by the San Cristóbal de las Casas diocese in Chiapas. This congress was held to commemorate the Indigenous Congress of 1974, which carried with it both a past and a future for the diocese, as for the lives of the indigenous peoples of the region. The Congress for Mother Earth also coincided with the third anniversary of the death of jTatik Samuel Ruiz García.

Altar at the Diocene Congress for Mother Earth, January 2014 © Diócesis de San Cristóbal de Las Casas

Altar at the Diocene Congress for Mother Earth, January 2014

The Indigenous Congress was held on 14 October 1974 in San Cristóbal de Las Casas towards the end of celebrating the 500 years since the birth of Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, the first Catholic bishop in the zone who is known as a “defender of the Indians.” In that time, the Congress was organized for and by indigenous peoples. An estimated 250,000 indigenous people participated, under the guidance of jTatik Samuel (or “Father Samuel” in the indigenous languages), bishop of the San Cristóbal diocese. For the first time, Tsotsil, Tseltal, Tojolabal, and Ch’ol individuals met each other and realized that they faced very similar problems in terms of economic, political, and social marginalization. The meeting gave rise to the birth of different indigenous and campesino organizations such as Quiptik, the Rural Association of Collective Interest (ARIC), the Independent Centre of Agricultural and Campesino Workers (CIOAC), the Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization (OCEZ), and also the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).

The land was a central theme in both congresses, given that, though some aspects of the lives of indigenous communities have changed in these 40 years, many problems continue. The objective of this year’s congress was described in these terms: “Amidst the increasing aggression and destruction directed against our Mother Earth; and inspired by the word of God , the leadership of the Church, the diocene pre-Congresses, and the Indigenous Congress, we [seek to] share the situation and reality of our Mother Earth today and the experiences that are being taken to care and defend for her, to identify the challenges that this reality is presenting to us, and to suggest agreements and actions to promote the defence and care of our Mother Earth, who gives life in abundance.”

At the event more than a thousand persons participated, coming from different parishes in the state of Chiapas, in addition to those invited from other countries of the continent, such as the bishop of Patagonia, Argentina, who shared his reflection regarding the theme of “Energy resources, megaprojects, and water.” Álvaro Ramassini, bishop of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, spoke of the movement against mining in his pastoral zone.

Pilgrimage of the Believing People at the close of the Diocene Congress for Mother Earth, San Cristóbal, January 2014 © SIPAZ

Pilgrimage of the Believing People at the close of the Diocene Congress for Mother Earth, San Cristóbal, January 2014 © SIPAZ

The analysis of reality allowed for the identification of new environmental problems such as deforestation, soil erosion,forest fires, the drying-up of rivers and arroyos, mining projects, and above all the construction of highways. In the communities, governmental assistance projects and megaprojects are often considered as death projects due to their impacts on communal life, unity, and organizational processes. Moreover, it was denounced that the indigenous are rarely consulted in accordance with international law, such as Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), as the government is obligated to do. It was also noted that gender equality has progressed little if at all. Some participants noted that “We also have the task of constructing the reign of God.” Furthermore, it was stressed that generational problems have been exacerbated, thus limiting the participation of youth. Specific work-tables were arranged for these two groups, considered vulnerable for multiple reasons.

The document arranged for the pre-congresses held last year in the pastoral zones notes that “The crisis situation we are experiencing we could compare with a large fire. Given the measures that have been taken during these five years (billions of dollars invested to rescue the banks and large firms), these have served only to try to put out a fire that rages everywhere. But later it will become necessary to review the house and take account of the damages caused, to see what will be needed for reconstruction, and to analyse if the existing structures will function adequately or if they will need to be remade from the ground up. We must think hard on how to rebuild this house.”

Among the agreements made by those participating in the Congress are found those of raising the consciousness of families and communities regarding existing problems, organizing communities to care for and defend Mother Earth, pursuing unity among political, ideological, and religious differences, and articulating and reorganizing all the parishes to observe the agreements taken at the Congress. In this way, it was decided to block mining operations and governmental policies which negatively affect the interests of communities: “We oppose megaprojects and devastating mineral exploitation. We oppose the structural reforms proposed by the government to promote the interests of the dominant classes, in opposition to the people. We pronounce ourselves in resistance to these more than 20 years of neoliberal agrarian reform which has ignored us completely as indigenous peoples, campesino communities, and Mexicans.”


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