Chiapas Delegation Report
November 11 – 19, 2015
Colleen Berk, Delegation Leader
Nine AWIU members visited Chiapas as part of a delegation from Nov 11-19. Chiapas is a Mexican state that borders Guatemala. The population of Chiapas is 30% indigenous and as high 80% in the mountains near San Cristobal de las Casas. This delegation was unusual in that it was limited to visiting a region within a country.
We began in Palenque which is known for Mayan ruins. According to the World Heritage Committee: ”The archaeological site of Palenque in the state of Chiapas is one of the most outstanding Classic period (500-900 AD) sites of the Maya area known for its exceptional and well conserved architectural and sculptural remains.” While in Palenque, we visited with CAM an NGO that provides health care and other services to women in the indigenous communities.
After 2 days in Palenque we travelled to San Cristobal de las Casas where we spent a week. En route we visited Casa de Migrante El Caminante Don Samuel Ruíz García which is a Migrant center . This apolitical center provides as little as a meal and bed for the night or as much as a place to stay for those in the process of seeking asylum in Mexico.
San Cristobal is a beautiful colonial city situated on a plateau surrounded by mountains. Our time there was a mix of meetings, sightseeing, a lecture, museum visits and a visit to Acteal, an indigenous community in the Mountains.
Museums: Sergio Castro museum of ceremonial costumes and other artifacts. For decades Señor Castro has provided burn care at no charge to the impoverished. He has been given the costumes by grateful patients.
Don Samuel Ruiz Garcia was the bishop of Chiapas for decades. The recently opened museum traced his life story with emphasis on the work he did for the Indigenous while he was bishop.
Lecture: Miguel Pikard, a political analyst, brought us up to date on the sociopolitical situation in Mexico today. Topics included migration, political reform and free trade agreements.
Meetings: Melel Xojobel is a children’s rights group. The streets of San Cristobal are full of young children selling handicrafts. Memel Xojobel’s goals are: reducing the risks of the street such as car accidents, seasonal illnesses and child trafficking; educate about rights; helping children enter and remain in school. They also have a day care program and an early education project.
Kinal Antsetik – A Women’s Weaving Cooperative.
CODIMUJ – A Women’s Rights Group. It is sponsored by the Catholic church and the advisors are Catholic nuns.
An important goal of the delegation was to coordinate the efforts of the Delegation Committee with those of the Grant Committee. AWIU Chiapas Delegation will work to help some of the organizations that they met apply for grants from AWIU.